Exploring the Road to Hana: Comprehensive 2-Day Itinerary and Tips | Must-See Spots | Is It Worth the Hype?

Road To Hana | Introduction

The Road to Hana located on Maui is a coastal highway approximately 103 kilometers long, renowned for its winding roads and breathtaking scenery. For travelers visiting Maui, the Road to Hana is undoubtedly a must-see destination. This journey includes over 600 curves and 50 bridges, with numerous natural sights worth seeing along the way, such as spectacular waterfalls, black sand beaches, and unique rainbow eucalyptus trees.

The unique aspect of this road for Americans is that it showcases tropical landscapes rarely seen in the mainland United States. As you drive along this road, you can see dense tropical rainforests, spectacular waterfalls, and magnificent coastlines, which are natural sceneries not often encountered on the continental U.S. National Geographic has called it one of the most beautiful roads in the world. However, if you are a traveler from a tropical region, your expectations for this road should be tempered. I think its beauty is quite similar to the scenery found along Taiwan's North Coast and Northeast Corner areas. If you are familiar with these places, set your expectations accordingly. The Road to Hana is a worthwhile journey, but it may not revolutionize your impression of coastal views.

Speaking of which, the Road to Hana is also the only way to get to the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park. If you have the stamina to hike the Pipiwai Trail, spending four hours round trip on this trail is absolutely worth it. Remember to bring your swimsuit and towel, as there are some spots where you can swim.

Road To Hana | Transportation

The best way to travel to the Road to Hana is by renting a car and starting from Kahului, the main airport location on Maui. Drive east along Highway 36 (Hana Highway). This road traverses the northeastern part of Maui, with the section from the town of Paia to Hana being referred to as the Road to Hana. If you plan a day trip, it is recommended to start before 7 AM to avoid the crowds and have enough time to make stops along the way.

The Road to Hana features over 600 curves and 50 bridges, making it impossible to drive quickly. It's easy to encounter slow-moving vehicles ahead, so drivers need to be patient, follow traffic rules, and yield to oncoming traffic. Because the Road to Hana is narrow and winding, many sections can only accommodate one vehicle at a time. It is recommended to choose a small car. Many foreign tourists opt to rent a jeep, but a small car is entirely sufficient. With some mountain driving experience, it's not difficult at all.

Before setting off, fill up your gas tank in Kahului or Paia, as gas stations are scarce along the Road to Hana. There are also limited stores and restaurants along the way, so it's best to bring water and food. Additionally, cell phone signal here is unstable, so it's recommended to download maps in advance or use offline navigation tools.

Road To Hana | Accommodations

If you plan to take a day trip on the Road to Hana, it is recommended to stay in Kahului or Paia the night before, so you can avoid the morning traffic peak.

Find a stay in Kahului?

Find a stay in Paia?

If you want to thoroughly visit each attraction, especially if you plan to spend more time in Kipahulu, it is recommended to find a place to stay overnight on the Road to Hana. The lodging options along the way are relatively limited. Hana town is the ideal place to stop, with several good hotels available.

Find a stay in Hana?

If you prefer a closer experience with nature, you can consider the camping areas within Waianapanapa State Park. Camping requires advance reservations and you need to bring all the necessary camping equipment.

Accommodation Review | Waianapanapa State Park

  • Camp Comfort: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Camp Space: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Facility Cleanliness: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Location Convenience: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Waianapanapa State Park is already quite close to the end point of the Hana Highway, the small town of Hana, so it is a very practical choice as an accommodation option.

The campsite at this state park is very limited; it's just the large grass lawn you see in the photo. Cars need to be parked in the spaces next to the grass. Compared to California, the parking spaces here are very small, and the campsites are not separately designated—you can choose your own spot to set up camp. However, once your camp is set up, lying on the grass is quite comfortable. The weather is humid and cool. Although it tends to rain frequently and the winds are strong at night on the island, a good night's sleep is still possible.

Overall, the public facilities are maintained quite clean. However, although the website mentions shower facilities, it actually refers to the common beach park shower setups rather than a dedicated shower room in the camping area.

The camping area is actually right next to the main beach trail in the park, making it very convenient to get to the beach. Like other attractions on the Hana Highway, there are no restaurants within the park. The nearest restaurants can be found in Hana.

Road to hana, Road to Hana 1

Road To Hana | Attractions

The Road to Hana starts from Paia and leads to the small town of Hana. After passing Twin Falls, the road gradually becomes narrower. Along the way, you can see sugarcane fields and tropical rainforest landscapes. In the latter half, there are numerous waterfalls along the route, but most of them can only be viewed in passing as the road is too narrow to stop and admire them. Since there are many scenic spots worth seeing, I won't detail each one. For areas where stopping is not possible, I'll use photos of some of my favorite waterfalls along the route as examples. My favorite, the Three Bears Waterfall, is also right by the roadside.

The following provides a detailed account of the attractions we stopped at along the way.

Holopika Beach Park

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Holopika Beach Park is a beach park and the first stop on the Road to Hana. Turn left into the park from a gap, and once you turn left, you will see a parking lot on the right at a viewpoint. This is the easiest place to find a parking spot. If you want to be closer to the beach, there are more parking spaces along the one-way road parallel to the beach, but it requires more luck.

From the vantage point, we first gaze upon this beach; even early in the morning, the white sandy beach already has quite a few tourists. This place is considered suitable for swimming and surfing; however, the northeastern seaside is windy, and if the waves are too strong, one must still be cautious about safety.

The main reason why it's worth stopping here is that it's very easy to see sea turtles. As you walk down to the beach, you can see entire groups of sea turtles basking in the sun on the sand. There are warning signs and markers next to the sea turtle habitats, so please be careful not to disturb them.

Twin Falls

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Twin Falls is a frequently recommended attraction on the Road to Hana, located approximately 2 miles along this route. This site is on private property, and an entrance fee of ten dollars for parking is required. If you enjoy waterfalls, it might be worth a visit, but personally, I don't consider it a must-see destination.

Twin Falls gets its name because two waterfalls cascade down from different heights. After entering from the parking lot and walking for about five minutes, you will reach the base of the waterfalls. Beneath the waterfalls, there is a natural swimming pool where you can swim. The trail continues upward to the upper waterfall, where you can dive and swim. The entire trail features tropical rainforest scenery. During times of high water, the trail may require wading through water, so it is recommended to be prepared before coming. We initially planned to hike to the top, but halfway through, we found that wading was necessary, and since we were not in the best physical condition, we decided to turn back.

How to get ready? Check out these on Amazon: Keen Hiking Sandals

Wakamoi Nature Trail

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wakamoi Nature Trail is located around the 10-mile marker on Hana Highway, with only a few parking spaces available by the roadside. The signage for this trail is not very clear; generally, it is a loop trail with signposts only indicating "loop trail," and it is approximately 0.8 miles in length. The trail is surrounded by dense tropical vegetation, including native trees, ferns, and various wildflowers. Along the way, hikers will also pass through a bamboo forest.

The circular trail offers a view of both sides from the entrance. Upon actually walking through, it's evident that the right side of the trail is better paved. You can see bamboo groves and trees, giving a feel similar to the Redwood National Park in Hawaii. I think it is worth recommending.

The left side of the trail is relatively slippery and entangled with tree roots. Although there are several viewing points marked on the map, they are somewhat dated and don't actually offer a good view of the distant coastline. If you have limited stamina, it's recommended to stick to the right side. For the left side, it's best to come prepared with hiking gear.

How to get ready? Check out these on Amazon: trekking pole

How to get ready? Check out these on Amazon: hiking boots

Kaumahina State Wayside Park

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Strictly speaking, this park is actually more of a rest area. However, it is not just an ideal rest stop during your journey; it should definitely be one of the must-see attractions. From the picnic area next to the parking lot, there is a small trail that offers spectacular views of Hana Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and a section of the Hana Road. It is located at the 12-mile marker on Hana Highway, about a 45-minute drive from the starting point. Of course, after taking in the sea views, don't forget to use the restroom before heading off, as finding a suitable rest spot later won't be easy.

Ke'anae Arboretum

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are actually several arboretums on the Road to Hana, but I only recommend the free Ke’anae Arboretum. Ke’anae Arboretum is located at approximately mile marker 16.5 and is quite easy to miss as there is no sign at the entrance. There are a few parking spaces available across from the entrance, and after parking your car, you will need to walk a short trail to enter.

The reason I recommend this place is that although this botanical garden is privately owned, it is open to the public for free. Here, you can see the Rainbow Eucalyptus, whose trunk displays a variety of vibrant colors, resembling a spectacular rainbow. Despite the lack of signage due to its free admission, the garden boasts a wide diversity of plant species, featuring many tropical plants from around the world. In addition to the Rainbow Eucalyptus, you can find taro, bananas, bamboo, mangoes, pineapples, coffee, and various flowers, among others.

Kaenae Lookout

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

After leaving Ke’anae Arboretum, if you want to take a break, you can take a detour to Kaenae Peninsula to enjoy the sea view. There is a famous banana bread shop here called Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread, but unfortunately, it was closed when we visited. There are some historical buildings here, retaining the traditional Hawaiian farmland landscape. After passing a small chapel, you will reach the best spot for viewing the sea, Keanae Lookout. The waves are particularly strong along this coast, and from this spot, you can admire the turbulent waves crashing against the black volcanic rocks.

Wailea Valley State Wayside

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Located at the 19-mile marker, this roadside small park stands on a high point, offering a spectacular view of the Wailua Valley waterfall canyon inland, as well as the coastline in the other direction. The weather in Maui is quite variable; at the same time, the valley may be shrouded in fog and mist, while the seaside enjoys clear blue skies and white clouds.

Wainapanapa State Park

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Wainapanapa State Park is located at the 32-mile marker and offers a variety of stunning natural landscapes, including black sand beaches, sea caves, and ancient Hawaiian burial grounds. Currently, the park requires advance reservations to enter, and the management is very strict. Be sure to make a reservation online in advance ( link here ) and manage your arrival time carefully. Even if you're coming to camp, there are restrictions on entry and exit times, and the beaches and trails close promptly after 5:30 PM.

Wainapanapa Coastal Trail in the park extends along the coastline. From the trail, you can see the black sand beach formed by volcanic rock fragments. The sand presents a unique black color that contrasts sharply with the blue sea. Along the coastline, there are many spectacular sea erosion landscapes scattered. The trail stretches for 2 miles, but only the first half near the black sand beach is paved and easier to walk.

There are quite a few tourists on the black sand beach; however, the waves here are usually quite large. Only on days when the waves are smaller is it suitable for swimming.

Next to the black sand beach, there is a short Lava Tube that you can freely explore.

From the other end of the beach, you can connect to the Ke Ala Loa P Pilani Trail, which extends about 1.7 miles westward. Although it is somewhat difficult to traverse, the coastal scenery is spectacular, and along the way, there are many Hawaiian coastal plants.

Hana Bay Beach Park

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hana Bay Beach Park is a seaside park in the small town of Hana. It is a local historic landmark, featuring a famous statue of a queen that commemorates an important figure in Hawaiian history, Queen Ka’ahumanu. Queen Ka’ahumanu was originally born on the island of Maui and was the wife of King Kamehameha I, the first king to unify the Hawaiian Kingdom. She holds a significant place in Hawaiian history.

After the death of King Kamehameha I, Ka’ahumanu essentially became the regent of Hawaii, co-ruling the Kingdom of Hawaii with King Kamehameha II (Liholiho). She promoted the abolition of the original social control of the Hawaiian Kingdom, instead supporting the introduction and reform of Christianity. Under her influence, churches and schools were established, land reforms were promoted transitioning aristocratic ownership to private ownership, which profoundly impacted the subsequent economic and social structure of Hawaii. Without these reforms during this period, the Kingdom of Hawaii might not have been as deeply influenced by Western culture, nor ultimately become a part of the United States.

Hamoa beach

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hamoa Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. With its beautiful white sandy beach and clear waters, it is a very popular spot for water activities. If you want to enjoy the water, it's recommended to arrive in the morning to avoid the crowds and easily find a parking spot.

Wailua Falls

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Located at the 45-mile mark of the Road to Hana, Wailua Falls is one of the very few waterfalls where you can stop your car to admire it. This waterfall is indeed the most beautiful and spectacular waterfall on the Road to Hana, with powerful streams of water cascading down from a height of approximately 24 meters, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation.

Haleakala National Park Kipahulu Area | Ohio Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) | Pipiwai Trail

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Many people believe that Ohio Gulch is the last attraction on the Hana Highway. After passing through the small town of Hana, you need to keep driving further down to reach it. Of course, after driving such a long distance, the actual end of the road doesn't matter much anymore. If you drive directly to the entrance of the Kipahulu Area of the national park without stopping midway, you will have already been driving for two hours by the time you get here.

Ohio Gulch, also known as Seven Sacred Pools, is located just by the seaside after entering the national park. However, I strongly recommend that if you have already made it here, don't miss the somewhat strenuous but absolutely worthwhile Pipiwai Trail. For more detailed information, I've already provided an extensive introduction in my previous Haleakalā National Park article, so I won't go into much detail here. If you're interested, please check out this article.

Side Trip | Makawao | Hawaii Cowboy Town

Although not an attraction on the Road to Hana, due to its close proximity to Paia, it wouldn't hurt to visit Makawao, this cowboy town, on your way to the Road to Hana. This town is uniquely known as a Hawaiian cowboy town and is definitely worth exploring.

In fact, Makawao was initially just an agricultural center during the Hawaiian Kingdom period. In the mid-19th century, someone brought a few cows from California as a gift for the King of Hawaii. The king liked them very much and allowed these cows to breed. Eventually, their numbers became too large, so cowboy trainers were brought in from distant California to train a group of local Hawaiian natives to manage them. These individuals later became known as Hawaiian cowboys (Paniolo). It is said that they were quite different from American cowboys; although they became cowboys, they still retained a Hawaiian touch, herding cattle while weaving flower garlands.

Therefore, Makawao town has been influenced by American Western cowboy culture, featuring cowboy culture and many historical buildings with a Western style. If you have never visited a Western town before, this is an interesting little town where you can experience cowboy culture and feel very refreshed. However, compared to other Western cowboy towns in the United States, walking through this town, you will distinctly notice the cool, moist sea breeze and fish hanging by the roadside, distinguishing it with a Hawaiian vibe.

The small town has many art galleries, craft shops, and studios showcasing the works of local artists, making it a great place for shopping and buying souvenirs. I particularly like the handmade glass shop in town, where the artist blows glass right in the store, and the artworks are very beautiful.

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