The 68-mile Hana Highway takes you back to the early days of Hawaii when Maui’s wild, rugged beauty and surfside towns were a way of life. Along the route, you'll find more than 620 hairpin curves, dozens of one-lane bridges, and stunning views of the ocean and waterfalls. You’ll yearn to rent a convertible, but be prepared to put the top up for frequent rainstorms and set out before dawn to catch the sunrise and avoid the tourists.
The Road to Hana Route
Your journey starts in Pa’ia, a small town on the north shore of Maui. Here you’ll want to fill your car with gas and pick up a picnic lunch. About 16 miles into the trip, the series of hairpin curves start. You can also find a number of waterfalls in this part of the trip with frequent places to pull over photos and to take in the guava and ginger aromas.
At mile marker 2, you can find Twin Falls. A path leads you to emerald pools beneath the falls with swimming and photo opportunities. Next stop by Huelo with two quaint churches or Kailua, another rural town. Make a stop at the Waikamoi Nature Trail between mile markers 9 and 10. Follow a short trail through tall eucalyptus trees to reach a coastal vantage point with a picnic table and barbecue. Look for fragrant awapuhi, or Hawaiian shampoo ginger, along the way.
The Keanae Arboretum at mile marker 17 offers a look at the plants and trees of Hawaii, many with signs showing information about each. Take a dip in the Piinaau Stream or a 25-minute hike to reach a forest. Another half-mile down the road and you can reach Keanae Overlook for views of the taro patches against the ocean. Mile marker 21 gives you breathtaking views of Wailua Canyon. Keep walking up the steps to see Wailua Village and a church made entirely of coral that was built in 1860. Next you can see what some call the best waterfalls in East Maui at Waikani Falls nearby.
Kaeleku Caverns at mile marker 31 offers underground exploring. A system of lava tubes in colorful formations greets you. Near this same spot, look for Piilanihale Heiau, the largest prehistoric monument in Hawaii. The temple was built for the 16th-century Maui king Piilani and his heirs. Or take a self-guided tour of the 122-acre Kahanu Garden, a federally funded research center focusing on the ethno-botany of the Pacific Ocean.
While the Road to Hana drive is short in distance, the curves and many stops make it an eight-hour journey to see all the sights. Be sure to return before nightfall or stay overnight in Hana. Driving after dark is not advised.