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I have always loved beaches and the ocean, yet when we were planning our trip to Maui, the one distinct thing I knew I wanted to do was the Road to Hana.
This coastal drive on the eastern half of Maui has long been both beloved yet loathed. Beloved for its lush offerings and photogenic views, loathed for its hairpin turns and narrow one-way bridges.
In fact, the full Hana Highway is said to have more than 600 curves and more than 50 bridges. But it also has more than enough awe-inspiring views and idyllic vistas to make it worth your while.
The best stops on the Road to Hana
With hundreds of turns along 50+ miles, there are endless combos of potential spots.
Stop wherever your heart desires (and where it’s safe to do so), but if you’ve got limited time, here are the best stops on the Road to Hana.
Close to the town of Paia is Ho’okipa Beach Park and Lookout.
A popular spot for windsurfers, this place is also home to many sea turtles. Stop by around sunset (on your way back) to see them sunbathing on the shores.
Home to the most popular waterfalls on the Road to Hana (due to their proximity to the start of the drive), Twin Falls is, as its name states, a pair of waterfalls.
Though not monumental like the world’s largest waterfalls (like this one in China), these waterfalls are nonetheless worth a visit.
The walk from the parking lot to the waterfalls is less than 5 minutes, though you could spend quite a bit more time exploring the quirky and pretty flora on the property. Apparently, you used to be able to follow the path and hike behind the property, but that’s closed off now.
Na’ili’ili-haele Stream & Waterfall
I wish we’d spent more time here, but we didn’t because we got a little lost and didn’t find the main waterfalls and pools. Regardless of how much time you spend here, your visit is sure to be full of two things: bamboo and the constant fear of falling.
Also known as Maui’s Bamboo Forest, this highlight on the Road to Hana is one of the hardest to find. There are literally no signs.
Instead, you sort of have to plug it into your GPS so you have a general indication of how close you are to it, and then just look for the parked cars along the road.
There’s a small opening among all the greenery that leads you into the forest. Once inside, there is bamboo for forever.
And there’s also very slippery terrain everywhere, so adequate footwear is much advised.
We didn’t read up on Na’ili’ili-haele before we started on the Road to Hana (and we basically had no cell signal during the drive), so we were definitely confused when we got to the area.
We followed a trail through some bamboo groves and to a pool, but since we were limited on time, we did not continue to hike further in. Like many things on the Road to Hana though (and in life), it’s supposed to get better and better as you explore further.
Just before the halfway to Hana point is the unincorporated community of Keanae. Here, coastal rocks formed by lava jut out into the ocean, teasing the waves to create momentous crashes that can make those watching them filled with emotions.
When you’ve had enough of the waves, take some time to check out the community’s parks and church, and maybe grab a snack from Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread.
Hana Lava Tube
Almost every place on the Road to Hana is free to view, but if you’re curious about geological formations, it’s worth paying $12.50 to see the Hana Lava Tube.
Located just before you (finally) reach Hana, this cave was created hundreds of years ago by lava flow.
The self-guided tours here allow you to explore approximately 1/3 mile of the funnel that happens to be under the owner’s property. The full length of the tunnel runs through multiple personal properties as well as government land.
While I’ve been inside much more impressive caves during my travels, I’d never seen one formed by lava. Was it a little pricey for what it is? Yes. Was it still cool as hell? Also yes.
And of course, you’ve got to at least spend a little bit of time to check out Hana, the place you’ve spent all day driving toward.
There are so many cute roadside vendors and shops around town, but the major draw of Hana is just outside of town at Wai’anapanapa State Park, aka Maui’s black sand beach. I’m also told that the last quarter of Hana Highway is even more heart-stopping — both in terms of its views and the drive itself.
So if you have the opportunity, I’d highly suggest staying a night in Hana as well to really explore a side of Maui that’s way less visited. There aren’t too many options in town though, so make sure to book ahead of time!
What to bring on the Road to Hana
There are some essentials to bring before you hit the Road to Hana.
- Gas. After Paia, you’re out of luck on gas until you get to Hana, so make sure to have a full tank of gas before you venture into the jungle.
- Water and food. While there are a few vendors along the way, there aren’t too many options, especially if you’re picky. So make sure to have some provisions in your vehicle, lest hangriness ruin your adventure.
- Cash. Have more than just plastic in your pockets because some of the spots where you can buy drinks and food only accept cash.
- Offline maps. Cell signal can be pretty poor or nonexistent along various parts of the road to Hana, so download your maps ahead of time. You won’t get lost on the way to Hana since the only large road is Hana Highway, but offline maps can help you pinpoint various key sights.
- Proper footwear. If you plan on getting out of your car at all, it’s a good idea to have sturdy, athletic footwear. There are easy hikes just as there are strenuous ones, but rain and mud are regulars for both.
- Motion-sickness meds: If you’re prone to car sickness, you better gear up with some motion-sickness medications. While taking it slow on the road can make it easier, it’s better to have the emergency stash with you just in case.
Who’s ready to drive? I call shotgun!
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