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S+W Travels | Road to Hana

How to Drive the Road to Hana

You really have to be on your A game and in adventure mode for the Road to Hana. Mr. A and I are usually up for anything, especially on vacation, but this trip was stressful. Granted we saw the most beautiful scenery and looking back, it was a great experience, but never have we ever been so aware of our surroundings.

Starting in Paia, Maui, and ending at the Haleakala National Park (where the Pipiwai trail begins) is 55 miles, 620 blind curves and 59 one-lane bridges one way. The roads themselves are in good condition, with guardrails and nicely paved surfaces. The problem lies in the size. When Hawaii became a state, the government was like, “hey all your roads need to have two lanes” and instead of remaking the roads, a line was put down the middle and called good to go. This wasn’t so much a problem with small cars and mainly local drivers. When you add in the tourists with their rented jeeps and focus on the scenery rather than the roads and the tour buses, it gets a little scary.

Roads aside, you also have to take into consideration that the Road to Hana is on the eastern part of the island; meaning, it’s straight rain forest. It ugly rained pretty much on and off the entire day and from what I understand, this is pretty common. When it’s not raining, it’s humid. Only some of the trails were maintained so you’re going to be hiking through mud and getting wet and sweaty. You really do have to work for the views.

But the work really is worth it. You get a view of the island in a raw, undeveloped state. Chickens wander between your feet as you’re checking out the stops. Eucalyptus trees with their multi colored, peeling bark scatter the byways. You’re hiking through bamboo and sugar cane and feeling all like a character in LOST. The views of the ocean are unlike anywhere else.

eucalyptus tree

Deciding if you’re going to do the drive really comes down to how much time you have, knowing what you’re getting into and if you’re in the mood to hike/get dirty/sweaty/wet. The only way to do it right is to dedicate a whole day and be prepared to be a little stressed out. To fully enjoy the Road to Hana, you have to appreciate the trip, not the destination! If you do decide to make the trek, follow our tips and plan after the jump!

Pack
Bug spray, a little cash (not too much) forthe roadside stands, an extra pair of tennis shoes (your first pair are sure to get really muddy), swimming suit, towel, camera and music for the road.

Get an Early Start
This is the single most important piece of advice I can give. The earlier you get out there, the less people you have to deal with on the road. It only takes one slow, paranoid driver to really pi*s a person off. We were headed out of Paia at 6:00 a.m.

Gas up and Grab some Snacks
Make sure you have a full tank of gas and some snacks. There are roadside stands to stop at along the way, but they have uncertain hours.

Mix Up your Stops
Don’t feel you have to go in order of the miles. My tip would be to start at the stop you most want to visit. There were a few spots towards the end of our trip that I would have loved to see, but we were worn out and just wanted to get home that we skipped them. We also started at the end (this was also the spot we wanted to see the most – the Pipiwai Trail at the Haleakala National Park). Everyone else is stopping as they go, so if you start early and mix up your stops, you won’t be following the herd and will miss the bulk of the tourists. While our trip was a little more stressful that we originally anticipated, we rarely got stuck behinda slow car or dealt with back ups or had an issue finding a spot to pull over at the stops we most wanted to see.

Copy our Trip

Mile 17: Halfway to Hana Banana Bread
We breezed through the first half of the Road to Hana in about 25 min. as again we started early and beat a lot of the traffic and other tourists. There was hardly anyone else on the road! You’ll want to make this a pit stop. They know how to make banana bread. It’s like none you’ve ever had…. The banana taste is much more flavorful, it’s not full of sugar or sickly sweet, it’s light and fluffy and to top it off, it was still warm…. STILL WARM PEOPLE. It was melt in your mouth good and with a cup of coffee was the perfect pick me up to keep us going.

bananabread
church

Mile 19.5: Three Bears Falls
This is a pull off the road, take some pics and get going type of stop. It’s nice because you don’t have to hike, or wade through rain forest to see them; it’s right along the side of the road.

bridge with green
three bears falls

Mile 42: Pipiwai Trail at the Haleakala National Park
This was the main reason we drove the Road to Hana. It’s an eight mile trek (four miles each way), up fairly steep inclines, muddy conditions, rocks and tree roots. But the trail is awesome. It’s challenging, but in a very accomplished way. There is something new to see the whole way: bridges to cross, waterfalls, great views, different vegetation, banyan trees, pools for swimming, bamboo forests and just when you think you’ve seen it all, you reach the end of the trail and it opens up into the Waimoku Falls- a 400 foot waterfall on the side of a giant, green cliff. It’s the best hike I’ve ever been on and completely unreal. Every step is an adventure. In total, it took us about 4.5 hours for the roundtrip.
haleakala national park
state park trail hike1

bamboo1

bamboo forest2

waterfalls

Mile 41: Charles Lindbergh’s Grave
We didn’t get a chance to stop here as we had trouble finding it and Mr. A was ready to hit the road to the next stop, but from the reviews and research, this is definitely one to check out. The lovely church alone looks worth a stop.

Mile 32: Wai’ana panapa State Park
Black sand beaches, lava tubes, blow holes, minimal hiking and gorgeous views. This is a great stop for the adventure enthusiast and general observer alike.

things to do road to hana
black sand beach1

blacksandbeach2

Mile 27: Coconut Glen’s
Made from coconuts, with a variety of flavors, this is a must stop after your adventures. It tastes like the most delicious ice cream, but is mysteriously made from coconuts! A Hawaii must try.

coconut ice cream
coconuts

coconut ice cream2

Mile 2: Twin Falls 
This could be either the first or last spot on your trip. It’s an easy, 3 mile hike with a great little waterfall and pool at the end. This stop has plenty of parking and even better, a little fruit and refreshments stand. Try the mango, sugar cane Popsicle!

twin falls

fruit stands

Bottom line: Some of our most amazing sights and sounds where on the Road to Hana, but the reality is you can see many of these sights and sounds at other places around the island. Do some research before you go and pick the trek that’s right for you!

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