Updated: Jul 27
One of the most popular things to do in Maui is drive the "Road to Hana". With winding turns, lush vegetation, and vibrant waterfalls, there is so much to explore over these 40+ miles of breathtaking highway. However, these roads are traveled by locals daily. Although Hana Highways has become a popular road for tourists to drive, it is certainly not a "tourist attraction". There are minimal signs for stops, waterfalls, or viewpoints. Most of the incredible stops along the Road to Hana in Maui truly are hidden without knowing where to look.
Road to Hana, Maui
7:00 am: Keanae Lookout
We recommend planning to be at Keanae Lookout by 7am. This means if you are leaving from Lahaina, you will want to leave around 5am. If you are leaving from Kihei, you will want to leave around 5:30am. Although this is early, we highly recommend adjusting your sleep schedule to the sun while in Maui. We woke up just before sunrise each day and went to bed shortly after sunset. This allowed us to fully utilize every day while in Maui.
Around Mile Marker 17 (these mile markers are how you will find these hidden gems since there is limited to no service on the Road to Hana), there will be a turnoff on the left side of the highway for Keanae Peninsula. Take this turnoff and it will lead you to the breathtaking Keanae Lookout. Be sure to stop at Waialohe Park for equally beautiful views as your travel down Keanae Road to the lookout. Aunt Sandy's Banana Bread is also located on Keanae Road. This is a very popular and delicious stop for famous Maui banana bread. Unfortunately, it will be closed at this time in the morning. However, keep this on your list if you are doing well on time on the drive back!
Tip: Reference mile markers & download offline maps on your phone since there is limited to no service along the Road to Hana
8:00 am: Hahiku Viewpoint
About 20 minutes up the road from Keanae Rd is another turnoff to Nahiku Road (Shortly past MM 25). Take this lush and scenic road down to the bottom (1.5 miles; about 11 minutes), leading to amazing ocean and shoreline views, pools for swimming, and a beautiful waterfall. Near the end of the road there will be a closed bridge to vehicle traffic (but not to foot traffic!). Park in front the Nahiku Church (pictured below) and take the 10 min walk down to the shoreline (veer left, there is another road off to the right).
Also Read: Maui Hawaii Complete Guide
We were greeted by two adorable local dogs who led us down the path and showed us their favorite spots. Heading over the bridge, there is a beautiful waterfall leading to a small pool. Further down the path, we had the shoreline completely to ourselves at this hour. It was magnificent, serene, and one of the highlights of our day. This trail can be found on AllTrails.
Tip: This is a true hidden gem you will have to yourself if you arrive early
9:00 am: Waianapanapa State Park
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED AHEAD OF TIME at the State Park Website (as of Nov 2021). Depending on the time of year, tickets for parking/entry can be bought up to a few days prior to your trip. However, we recommend purchasing your tickets at least a week in advance in order to secure the time slot you desire. With four parking time slots ($10 for each slot), you may consider purchasing the first two time slots to allow plenty of time to explore the park (the first ending at 10am, the second at 12:30pm). In addition, there is a $5/person entry fee to the park.
Just past MM 32 is the road to Waianapanapa State Park. In addition to relaxing on the black sand beach and enjoying a picnic lunch (we know its early, but you will be hungry after your morning of exploring), take the 0.6 mile Sea Caves and Black Sand Beach Trail to admire the waves crashing against the beautiful black cliffs. The trail also provides a magnificent vantage point with the beach, deep blue waters, and vibrant lush vegetation. Waianapanapa is one of the highlights of the Road to Hana. This is a stop that deserves a hour of your time.
Reservations: Parking = $10/Time Slot; Entry = $5/Person
10:15 am: Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
Head to the end of Uakea Rd, just past the Hana Ballpark. Per Maui Revealed, the "private property" sign on the road is warning you to keep out of the resort and does not pertain to this trail. Parking is limited on Uakea Road, however, there is ample parking at Hana Beach Park down the road if Uakea Road is full. There will be a yellow gate near the end of the road with a path off to one side. Veer left down this path and across the lawn and you will spot the entrance to the Red Sand Beach trail heading downhill.
Also Read: 2 Week Hawaii Travel Itinerary
We highly recommend only completing this trail when the conditions are dry. This path is very narrow along a cliff side and can become very dangerous when wet. Once you have reached Red Sand Beach, you will be greeted by warm red sand, crashing waves, and a marvelous swimming hole. Although it may be tempting to spend the afternoon at this majestic beach, there is still much more of Hana Highway to see!
Tip: Always park in the correct direction of traffic on Uakea Road otherwise you may receive a parking ticket.
11:20 am: Wailua Falls
The stretch of the highway past Hana begins to become even more rough. The road goes down to a single lane with less shoulder and more blind curves. Be sure to drive the stretch from Hana to the Pipiwai Trail with caution. Right after MM 44 there is a small parking lot off to the left (after the bridge) where you can pull off and admire this 80 foot waterfall! This is a quick and easy stop that is worth doing on the drive out to avoid the crowds later in the afternoon. Wailua Falls is one of Maui's most accessible and majestic waterfalls, it is hard to pass by without taking a photo!
J&L Recommended: Easy Photo Stop!
11:30 am: Pipiwai Trail
The Pipiwai Trail to Waimoko Falls is a 4-mile out-and-back trail. We recommend planning for two and a half hours minimum to complete this hike. Parking for this hike is within the Haleakala National Park and an entry fee ($30/vehicle three-day pass) is required to park and complete this hike. The gate to the parking lot closes at 5pm (you do not want to get stuck on the wrong side of the gate!). Therefore, if you are behind schedule and arrive here much later in the day, we do not recommend starting this trail after 2:30pm.
Entry: Haleakala National Park 3-Day Pass is $30/Vehicle. If visiting the national park, plan to visit within 3 days of Road to Hana to avoid a second entry fee.
This trail was not only one of our favorite stops on the Road to Hana but a highlight of our entire trip. There is so much to see of the two miles leading up to Waimoko Falls including lush vegetation, tropical flowers, multiple waterfalls, a large banyan tree, and a full mile of bamboo forest!
Tip: Do not start this trail later than 2:30pm as the parking gate closes at 5pm daily
Last but not least, this trail leads to one of the most breathtaking waterfalls we have ever seen. Waimoko Falls drops 400 feet and is surrounded by lush greenery as far as the eye can see. It is a magnificent and majestic waterfall that is not only worth the hike, but worth the long journey on the Road to Hana to witness in person.
Also Read: Haleakala National Park Day Trip
2:00pm: Ohe'o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
Starting at the same parking lot within Haleakala National Park as the Pipiwai Trail, Ohe'o Gulch Trail is a half-mile loop trail that takes you to the Seven Sacred Pools. There is a short trail down to swim in the pools, however, it is frequently closed due to high water. The parking attendant will notify you if the trail is closed on the day you are visiting. Nevertheless, the loop trail provides magnificent views of the Ohe'o Gulch and the waterfalls pouring down from the Pipiwai Stream.
Tip: Check with park staff if the trail is open to swim in these pools on the day you visit!
2:30 pm: Begin Journey Back
We recommend taking note of what time the sun will set on the day you are traveling Road to Hana. After driving the Road to Hana all morning, you will certainly see how it will become much more dangerous if driving in the dark. It is best to start your journey back with a minimum of two hours planned to drive the road before sunset.
Of course, there are many places to stop and eat along the way back that you may have skipped the first time in an effort to beat the crowds. Leaving 3-4 hours to journey back will allow you to stop at Coconut Glens for some organic vegan shaved ice made with coconut milk, Nahiku Marketplace with half a dozen food stands to choose from, or Braddah Hutts BBQ Grill for some Hawaiian barbecue.
5:00 pm: Arrive in Paia
If arriving in Paia in the daylight you may consider pulling off into Ho'okipa Beach Park. This is a great spot to watch the crashing waves, spot a sea turtle, and witness some dare-devil surfers hangin' loose during high tide. From here, we made our way to Flatbread Company in Paia where we enjoyed delicious wood fire pizza and a wood fire brownie for two! No joke, we watched them toast the brownie in the wood fire oven.
If you are looking to splurge, Mama's Fish House is one of the most popular restaurants on the island known for stuffing their catch of the day with crab or lobster and baking it all in a macadamia nut crust. If this sounds like it is up your alley, you may consider making a reservation at least a week in advance.
How long does it take to drive the Road to Hana?
From Paia to Hana it takes about 2 hours to drive Hana Highway without stopping. However, there are sharp turns throughout the entire highway, one-way bridges, and attractions to see along the way. Not to mention, even more sites to see past the town of Hana. We recommend planning to spend the entire day to explore the Road to Hana, sun-up to sun-down. It is certainly worth waking up early to maximize the sunlight. We left our condo around 5am (coming from Kihei) and arrived back in Paia for dinner at 5pm.
Is the Road to Hana dangerous?
Yes. The winding curves and sharp turns make the Hana Highway a dangerous road to drive. Using proper caution, driving slowly in the daylight, and traveling on a dry/clear day will allow you to mitigate risk while driving the Road to Hana. Keeping these safety precautions in mind, we think making this drive is a must while in Maui.
Borrow from your local library: Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty
Common ways to drive the Road to Hana
This guide is a single day-trip outline. Below outlines a few different variations of exploring the Road to Hana of which you may prefer:
Spending the Night in Hana
You may consider this option if you do not want to feel rushed or wake up too early. You may also consider this option if you find there are too many stops you would like to make on the Hana Highway than one day allows.
Driving Hana Highway Backwards
(making the complete loop south to north)
You may consider this option to avoid crowds and/or to see the Maui countryside. While there is beauty on the Hana Highway south of Hana, please note that the road becomes very rough and unmaintained in portions of this road, making it one of the most dangerous stretches of the highway. This part of the Road to Hana is sometimes shut down after rain due to hazardous driving conditions. For more information on this route, we recommend reading more in Maui Revealed.
Prefer an Affordable Audio Guide?
Download these audio guides via the top-rated Shaka App for history, stories, music, and navigation. A great alternative to a guided tour!
What to bring on a Road to Hana day trip
Packed lunch & snacks: There is so much to see on the Road to Hana and so many EPIC picnic spots. We recommend packing a lunch to conserve time and stopping at some of the shaved ice or banana stands to treat yo' self on the drive back!
The 10 Hiking Essentials: There are many hiking trails on the Road to Hana. Make sure your bag is property packed with the essentials. Of particular importance is water. Make sure to pack lots of water to stay hydrated in the Maui heat.
Swimsuit & Water Shoes: Although the waves are rough along the shorelines of the Road to Hana, there are several swimming holes, waterfalls, and natural pools that will be tempting you to take a dip!