A drive along the Road to Hana takes you on an incredible journey through the spectacular scenery of Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It takes in rugged coastal cliffs, lush rainforests, and stunning beaches as it heads along the eastern coast of the Island to Hana.
Road to Hana starts in Kahului, winding a 63-mile route through rainforests, breathtaking landscapes, and stunning coastline. With panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean, the route skirts rugged sea cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and black sand beaches.
Driving on the Road to Hana is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, taking time to embrace the natural beauty that surrounds you along the route. Continue reading to discover what a trip along Maui's renowned coastal highway has to offer.
Where is Road to Hana located and where does it start and end?
The Road to Hana is situated on the picturesque island of Maui in the state of Hawaii in the United States. Despite being part of the USA, the Hawaiian Islands are situated around 2,000 miles southwest of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.
The route takes you 63 miles along the beautiful eastern coastline of the island where the scenery is simply breathtaking.
The official starting point of the route is Kahului, located centrally and the bustling hub on the island, and takes you south to Hana and then onwards to the popular endpoint of Kipahulu.
It is possible to drive the route in the other direction, by taking the Road to Hana loop, which starts and ends in Kahului and takes you south, passing Pukalani and Kula, then follows the southern coastline east to Kipahulu.
The route then follows the official Road to Hana in reverse, on to Hana, and northwards back to Kahului. Taking the Loop adds a further 50 miles to the journey and takes an extra 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The starting point of Road to Hana
The Road to Hana begins in Kahului, the largest town on Maui, and the commercial hub of the island, and home to Kahului Airport. There are several shopping centers, the most popular being the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, where there are also restaurants and a movie theater.
Maui Nui Botanical Gardens is an impressive showcase of native plants, where you can immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings and learn about the cultural heritage of the Island.
The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum provides further information on the Island's history, where you can learn about the significance of the sugar industry, and the plantations, in the area's development.
The journey begins by heading east out of Kahului on State Highway 36 which skirts the coastline until it reaches Hookipa Beach Park. The road then heads south towards Haiku-Pauwela and once you reach Twin Falls, the fun begins as the route becomes more challenging, twisting and winding its way to Hana.
The end point of Road to Hana
The Road to Hana doesn't actually end in Hana and continues for a further 12 miles along the southeastern coastline of Maui to the town of Kipahulu.
The town itself was once a thriving community, and you can take a look around what remains of the ancient settlements and agricultural systems that once played a prominent part in the area's existence.
The southern coastline with its impressive rugged cliffs offers sensational views over the Maui Channel, and if you're lucky you may get to see Hawaiian green sea turtles as you explore the beaches and viewpoints.
Did Road to Hana change over time?
The Road to Hana, which is also referred to as the Hana Highway, has evolved over time into the version we see today. The original road began life in the 1800s when Native Hawaiians used it as a footpath connecting the towns of Paia and Hana.
The road was developed to serve the sugar industry and to aid the locals in moving goods between the two towns. In the 1900s the path was widened to facilitate horse-drawn carriages.
The Road to Hana was completed in the 1960s. It was around this time when bridges and guardrails were built. As the road's popularity with tourists increased, drawing visitors from around the world to take in the eye-catching views and natural beauty of the island, it has continued to undergo improvements, including resurfacing certain stretches.
Where can I start my Road to Hana trip?
The most popular starting point for a trip along the Road to Hana is Kahului, the main town on the island and where most tourists will arrive on Maui as its home to the main airport.
However, if you are staying elsewhere on the island, then you may wonder how long it will take to complete the trip and our table below tells you all you need to know.
|Major city||Time (Distance)|
|Kapalua||55 minutes (30 miles)||3 hours 40 minutes (100 miles)|
|Kaanapali||45 minutes (30 miles)||3 hours 30 minutes (90 miles)|
|Lahaina||40 minutes (25 miles)||3 hours 25 minutes (90 miles)|
|Kihei||24 minutes (10 miles)||3 hours 20 minutes (75 miles)|
How long does it take to drive on Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana takes you on a 65-mile journey through the magical scenery of Maui, and the journey itself takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. However, the journey will take longer allowing time for sightseeing and exploring the many attractions and the surrounding area.
The journey is one to savor and it's important to embrace as much as you can as you wind your way along the coastline.
Setting off early will allow you to make the most of the day, and making 8 stops, and allowing around 30 minutes for each will add a further 4 hours to the journey time, although you may wish to see much more and choose to stay overnight in Hana and continue your adventure the following day.
It is also important to factor in the traffic, which can further increase your time on the road. The town of Paia can get busy after 7am so it is worth setting off early to beat the congestion.
July and August are the height of peak season and traffic in and around Hana will be particularly busy at this time of year.
Things to know that can impact your driving time
Here are our top tips for driving Road to Hana in the shortest time possible:
- Have two drivers available so you can alternate and stay fresh.
- Choose an economical car, which will help to minimize refueling stops.
- Remember, the roads are very narrow so if renting a car, while an SUV might seem the safe option it can be hard to manage the twists and turns.
- Fill up with gas at Kahului where there are plenty of gas stations.
- Get an early start to avoid Paia before 7am.
- Avoid driving at night if possible. Although there is likely to be less traffic, the Road to Hana has no streetlights so visibility is poor, so it is important to start your trip early in the day.
- If you're short on time, stay the night at Hana to give yourself an extra day to explore.
- You can drive back the way you came or return to Kahului on the Kula Highway through the heart of the island.
- Drive on Sundays, when there's likely to be less traffic.
- Stock up on snacks and in-car entertainment to reduce the need for stops and detours
- Prepare for downpours and bring appropriate clothing. The area is famous for erratic weather, especially when driving through the rainforests.
- Locals use the road and know it better than you, so pull over at a turnout to allow faster traffic to pass safely.
- Most bridges are single-lane, so prepare yourself to be patient and approach with caution.
- If you're concerned about the drive, consider taking a guided van tour to enjoy the route in a more relaxed manner, letting someone else do the driving.
Attractions and scenic areas on Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is blessed with amazing scenery and will introduce you to the natural beauty of Maui. With so much to experience along the way, here are our recommended stop-off points along the route and the best places to enjoy the stunning scenery:
- Ho'okipa Beach Park
- Twin Falls Maui Waterfall
- Garden of Eden Arboretum
- Waikamoi Nature Trailhead
- Waiʻānapanapa State Park and Black Sand Beach
- Hamoa Beach
- Wailua Falls
- ʻOheʻo Gulc
- Kaumahina State Wayside Park
- Wailua Valley State Wayside
- Upper Waikani Falls
- Hanawi Falls
- Makapipi Falls
- Haipua'ena Falls
Maui offers plenty of opportunities to embrace the outdoors and explore the incredible natural landscape. Experiencing the island on foot is a great way to explore the area in more detail. Here are some of the best places for hiking and outdoor activities along the route:
- Baldwin Beach Park
- Ho'okipa Beach Park
- Bamboo Forest Waterfalls Trailhead
- Waikamoi Nature Trailhead
- Hana Lava Tube
- Hamoa Beach
- Waioka Pond (Venus Pool)
- Pepeiaolepo Beach
- Kipahulu Campground
- Jungle Zipline Maui-HI