Spring Break to Maui: The Road to Hana

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Emily:  On our second last day in Maui, Daraius and I woke up early for the “Road to Hana” day long excursion.  The Road to Hana is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in Hawaii.

It is a 40 mile stretch of highway with winding roads, lots of one lane bridges, several waterfalls by the side of the road, hiking trails, and swimming holes.

We completed the entire drive in 1 day, but we should have stayed in Hana for 1 night for a less rushed trip.


On The Road to Hana

Trip Report Index:

We set the alarm for 6:00 am, actually got out of bed at 6:30 am and were out by 7:30.  We took a day pack with:

  • sun screen
  • bug spray
  • hiking shoes
  • jackets
  • lots of water
  • snacks
  • swimsuits
  • towels

We had breakfast at Kihei Caffe

The Road to Hana

Breakfast At Kihei Caffe

And then started our drive to Hana.

The Road to Hana

Dairy Road

Our first stop on Hana Road was the Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand.

The Road to Hana

Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand

Not much of a view besides trees and bushes, but they sell smoothies and fruit.

The Road to Hana

View Of Trees And Bushes

Our next stop was the Waikamoi Nature Trail, which is a 30 minute loop through the forest.

The Road to Hana

Waikamoi Nature Trail

We were greeted by a chicken as soon as we got out of our car.

The Road to Hana

Chicken Greeting

Of course, it brought up the age old question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  But it wasn’t telling!

The Road to Hana

Chicken Thinking About Crossing The Road

We followed the trail…

The Road to Hana

Start Of The Waikamoi Nature Trail

..some of which were made of roots!

The Road to Hana

Trail Of Roots

There were beautiful views along the way…

The Road to Hana

Beautiful Views

Everything was so lush and green!

The Road to Hana

Lush And Green Landscape

…and Daraius and I saw wild pigs searching for their breakfast (luckily it was not us!)

There was a “Quiet, Trees at Work” sign to remind us to be contemplative.

The Road to Hana

Shhh, Trees At Work

My hiking shoes came in handy here because the trail got a little wet at times and was full of rocks, but Daraius was fine in sandals.

The road to Hana is a two lane road, but there are places to park along the road.

The Road to Hana

Cars Parked On The Road To Hana

On one occasion, we saw a waterfall feeding a natural swimming pool.

The Road to Hana

Waterfall And Swimming Pool

There was even a rope to swing into it with.  Neither Daraius nor I were feeling very adventurous though, so we kept walking and climbing over large rocks to see the next view.

The Road to Hana

Large Rocks

There was an even larger waterfall and swimming hole.  It was gorgeous!

Our next stop was the Kaumahina State Park.  There are clean restrooms here, in addition to a gorgeous view of the coastal scenery.

The Road to Hana

View From Kaumahina State Park

We also saw about 10 cats and 5 chickens that have made the park their home.

The Road to Hana

One Of 10 Cats

The entire drive was just beautiful, with lots of windy curves.

The Road to Hana

Curves On The Road to Hana

Our next stop was Honumanu Bay, or a black rock beach.

The Road to Hana

Honumanu Bay

The bay was gorgeous, but we didn’t jump in for a swim.

The Road to Hana

No Swimming for Us

We decided to take an unnamed road to see where it went…

The Road to Hana

Venturing Down An Unnamed Road

…and we were happy to find the gorgeous views it supplied.

The Road to Hana

Gorgeous Views

Whatever bay the road led us to was beautiful, but there were too many large rocks so I couldn’t swim.

The Road to Hana

Large Rocks Meant No Swimming


The Road to Hana

Rocks & Water

The crashing waves were so peaceful, I could have stayed here for hours, but we had only driven about half-way.

The Road to Hana

Enjoying The Peaceful Crashing Waves

At around 1 pm, we reached the half-way point: Ke’anae. Ke’anae is a small village with gorgeous views.

The Road to Hana

Views From Ke’anae

We also stopped to get banana bread.

Not a lot of churches can say they have this kind of view.

The Road to Hana

Views From Kinea Church

We continued driving, passing Nua’ailua Bay.

The Road to Hana

Nua’ailua Bay

The views were enticing so we decided to see what else Ke’anae had to offer.

The Road to Hana

Lush Views

We first went to the Ke’anae Arboretum.

The Road to Hana

Keanae Arboretum

We saw the natural rainbow colored eucalyptus and smelled the lemon eucalyptus.

The Road to Hana

Rainbow Colored Eucalyptus Trees

There was also lots of bamboo and huge trees to admire.

The Road to Hana

Huge Trees To Admire

We stopped at another large lookout area with lots of other cars and marveled at the views.  The other view we appreciated was the Huli Huli chicken shack.  The cook offered us chicken fresh off of the grill, and it was very tasty.

The Road to Hana

Huli Huli Chicken

We only had a little taste because we heard Jen’s Thai food near Hana was good, and wanted to save our appetite.

That was a mistake because Huli Huli Chicken was the best food out of all of the half way points, and Jen’s is open later and would have made a great return stop on our way back from Hana.

After the lookout and sampling chicken, we took the Ke’anae road to visit the Ke’anae Peninsula.  There are spectacular views of waves crashing into huge rocks, and we even saw a whale off the coast.

You can also buy local banana bread and other snacks at some stalls by the road.

The Road to Hana

Banana Bread

After visiting the Ke’anae Peninsula, we saw a pull off with what views, so we got out.  It was the Ke’anae Peninsula Lookout, and it gave us a beautiful view of the jet black lava coast and patchwork taro plantations.

The Road to Hana

Is That a Church?

Our next stop on the tour was the village of Nahiku.  This small shopping street has a great café with cute little gifts and souvenirs.  We stopped to eat at Jen’s Thai food, and ordered a papaya salad and chicken curry.

The papaya salad was so nice!  Daraius didn’t seem as excited with his chicken curry.

The Road to Hana

Chicken Curry

Our final stop was the Wai’anapanapa State Park.  We saw old caves that had a sad legend tied to it.

The Road to Hana

Wai’anapanapa State Park

We also saw several lava caves draped with ferns.  The water was a bit too chilly for us to swim, but we saw others jump in!

We went to Pa’iloa Beach which is supposed to be the prettiest (albeit small) black sand beach in Maui.  It was beautiful, and I especially liked the smooth black rocks on the ground.

The Road to Hana

Pai’iloa Beach

Turn one way and you have a black rock beach, turn the other way and you have green landscape.

The Road to Hana

Opposite View From The Beach

And then sometimes you get a little bit of both: black rock beach and green landscape.

The Road to Hana

Black Rock Beach And Green Landscape

There’s also a cave nearby that you can enter and see beautiful view on the other side.

The Road to Hana

The Road to Hana

On our way back, we stopped at Jen’s Thai for another papaya salad.  It was so good (or we were hungry) we decided to have it as our dinner as well, and then drove back to the hotel.

We did not want to be out at dark with the windy roads, so made it a point to turn back from Hana at 4 pm.

The Road to Hana was our favorite activity in Maui!

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29 responses to “Spring Break to Maui: The Road to Hana

  1. Sucks about the cloudy day. Nothing quite like doing that trip on a beautiful day.

    “We did not want to be out at dark with the windy roads, so made it a point to turn back from Hana at 4 pm.”

    Oh no. Please tell me you didn’t skip returning via the back route (Pilani Highway). That was by far the coolest and most exhilarating part of the trip. Riding back as the sun sets along the coast, virtually no other cars on the road.

  2. Thanks so much for the tour. We will be returning to Hawaii soon, and specifically Maui, and the Road to Hana is on the top of our list. Glad to hear you had a great time.

  3. Awesome activity! Did you let Emily do any driving? 🙂 This was definitely one of our favorite things to do in Maui too. My wife was worried about the curvy driving……and took a Dramamine pill before the trip. It worked great. She didn’t want to drive though! We rented a Jeep Wrangler for our time in Maui. Really recommend highly. It made the road to Hana even more exciting having the top down while driving through all the lush landscapes.

  4. Thanks for sharing! Will be doing this next week 😀

    Any thoughts or suggestions on how is the theft situation and how to deal with it?

  5. I was just there last week and did the Hana Highway as well. Francis was right about the Pilani Highway. If you didn’t do it, you might have missed some great sights. Guidebooks say to skip it, but its such a drastic difference. Plus, its a faster way to get back. No cars, great lava flow views.
    Aside from a few mile stretch, the roads are good.
    Don’t miss that side of the island next time!

  6. I have read so much about this but it i nice to see picture and good commentary.

    We go to maui next week with our daughter so we will see how we do.

    I personally like the black rock beaches (they stand out so much).

  7. Did you go down to Oheo Gulch? If not you missed the best part. The best drive IMO is from Hana to Oheo Gulch. And Oheo Gulch itself is amazing!

  8. Looks like we did a lot of the same things, the Road to Hana was definitely the highlight of the trip! Here’s my trip report http://romsdeals.com/2013/04/10/a-week-from-beach-to-beach-exploring-maui/.

  9. We still have a couple months to go but appreciate the tips. The food looks great, we love those little Mom & Pop food stands and that huli huli chicken sounds great! The brekkie looks good too.

  10. Hey Dariaus….we did the whole Road to Hana thing ; honestly, I wasnt impressed…the weather was cloudy and it felt like we were back in Oregon really. We have more impressive waterfalls than the ones they told us to visit. Nonetheless, a great trip report! Great Job!

  11. @ Francis- We did turn back but will try your suggestion next time!

    @John- Thanks! I am sure you will enjoy it.

    @Ryan- Daraius enjoys driving more so I let him have all of the fun. 🙂 Daraius bought Dramamine for me too, but because we were going around the curves at relatively low speeds, I didn’t need it.

    @LX- We made sure to put all our belongings in the trunk, and not no issues with theft.

    @ marc- Thanks for the tip! It gives us yet another reason to go back. We loved Hawaii!

    @asar- We did not go to Oheo Gulch but thanks for the tip!

    @romsdeals- I agree, the Road to Hana was my favorite activity in Hawaii. Thanks for sharing your report!

    @Tara @ Miles to the Wild- The food was delicious, especially the huli huli chicken. Have fun!

    @Ozaer N.- Thanks for the feedback and glad you enjoyed the post!

  12. We drove back in the dark but it was worth going all the way to hike the Seven Pools trail up to the bamboo forest and finally the waterfall (2 hours roundtrip), locals suggested we skip all other stops. Glad we did. Love the black sand beach too.

    • @Francis – Yeah, we turned around. But will certainly go back with the back road the next time.

      @asar – We’ll add that to our list for the next time as well!

      @Ozaer N. – Maybe we should plan a trip to Oregon then!

  13. Thanks for the post Darius. I love seeing the ways you and your wife use your miles. Your post inspired me to get off my butt and finally book a Hawaii trip. I used 150k AA miles to fly business class from MSP and will use SPG and Hyatt points for hotel stays in Maui and Honolulu. My wife and I are looking forward to our trip and we plan on driving the Highway to Hana just as you did. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  15. Love all the postings on Hawaii — now I want to go! Quick question: I tried getting two award business class seats on United and no availability, but they do have availability for January. Should I book one first and then wait and see if the next seat would come up, or is that risky? Or, should I book an economy award for one seat and then try to upgrade later? I don’t want to risk not getting two seats and then having to cancel and pay $200 to redeposit my miles. Any suggestions?

    • @minsy – If 2 seats on the same flight is the most important criteria, I’d book 2 seats. If you book 1 in business and 1 in economy, you will have to pay the change fee to move from economy to business.

  16. @Daraius: as of right now, only one saver award business class is available. Would it be risky if I booked one seat now and hope that another seat would come up? Any ideas when they release seats? I just realized united doesn’t even have a economy saver eat available on the same flight…

  17. Looks like you had a great day even if you did not go all the way around. The Kihei cafe is definitely my choice for a good breakfast prior to hitting the road (although it’s often packed). No matter how you go, every visitor to Maui should take a day to make the journey to Hana!

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  23. Daraius,
    Can I ask what kind of camera did you use for these pictures? Gorgeous pictures.

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  25. I have actually been on the Hana Highway 3 times in my life… I love driving the back way out of there (even tho they say you shouldn’t) It is certainly one of the most scenic roads in the world!