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7 Stunning Stops on the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the world due to its lush forest, coastal views, and stunning beaches but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. It’s extremely crowded, touristy, and can easily be an overrated attraction if you don’t do it right. Fortunately, in this blog, we’re covering all the tips and hacks to make your trip on the Road to Hana a success.

We drove the Road to Hana on a week-long trip to Maui in February 2020. We were very excited to enjoy the Road to Hana, however, we were a bit overwhelmed with what stops were worth it. The road is long after all, and we knew we had to be picky about where we spent our time. After driving the road and stopping at far too many waterfalls than we should have, we compiled a list of what’s worth stopping at.

7 stunning stops on the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is stunning but it can be extremely crowded, touristy, and easily an overrated attraction if you don’t do it right.

Must-Knows for Driving the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is not all rainbows and sunshine.  Located on Hawaii’s most touristy island, it’s also one of the most touristy highways in the world.

How long is the Road To Hana in Maui

The Road to Hana, which connects the towns of Kahului and Hana, is 64-miles point to point. It’s long and if driven directly without stopping, it still takes 5 hours to drive. But plan on all day because you will want to stop often to take in the views. And start early for less traffic.

Why is the Road To Hana famous?

The Hana highway has 65 hairpin switchbacks, 600+ sharp turns, 59 one-lane bridges, most of the road is one lane with occasional pullouts.

A 1-lane road

Some may get anxious about the thought of a 1-lane road, and some get excited. The truth is, a 1-lane road isn’t a big deal except for the fact that more than 1,000 cars drive the Road to Hana every day!

This is where the next point comes in…

Be patient + Don’t form trains

When driving on one-lane roads, avoid clustering with 3-5 cars as pullouts only accommodate 1-2 cars, causing congestion and challenges for oncoming traffic maneuvering past.

I couldn’t believe how many cars tried to do this on the Road to Hana because they were in such a rush!

Yield to oncoming traffic as often as you can and try to just be patient.  You won’t get there any faster by hanging onto the bumper of the car in front of you. Also, let people behind you pass if you feel rushed.  Remember, it’s about the journey not the destination.

Fill up gas

This one is pretty obvious but in case you forget, be sure to fill up gas in Paia or Kahului ahead of time. There is a gas station in Hana but it’s extremely expensive.

Be selective about stopping

Frequent stops at every gorgeous waterfall can eat up time, hindering your chance to savor the truly spectacular attractions.

Take it in but don’t try to see it all.

Make it a loop

The Pilani Highway, once limited to 4WD vehicles due to its sketchy and remote nature, has transformed since 2018. Now, it’s mostly developed, and paved, with only a few sections of rough, dirt road remaining, situated west of the Seven Sacred Pools on Maui’s southeast side.

The Pilani Highway is far different from the Road to Hana but it’s equally as beautiful. Unlike the lush rainforest of north Maui, this south side of Maui is filled with vast grasslands and pastures with the looming Haleakala summit on one side and the deep, blue ocean on the other.

This side of the highway is also a 1 lane road but you’ll run into only a handful of other cars over here.  The road doesn’t have as many obvious stops but there are so many places to get out and explore.

The Pilani Highway really is a hidden gem and I feel like it’s one of the highlights of Maui that you won’t want to miss.

Spend a Night in Hana

Any blog you come across is going to say the same thing, get up early. I’m here to tell you that that ain’t gonna cut it.  Even if you get up early to avoid crowds, it’s still such a long drive to do in 1 day and you don’t really have enough time to stop and enjoy the views and activities.

I would 100% recommend spending a night at an accommodation in the town of Hana or even better, pack up your camping gear and stay at Waianapanapa Campground, AKA Black Sand Beach.

Waianapanapa Campground is one the best campgrounds in Hawaii and by staying the night there, you’ll get access to one of the Road to Hana’s best attractions, Black Sand Beach, during beautiful and uncrowded times of day.

If camping isn’t your jam, recommended accommodations in Hana include:

If you don’t have time to spend the night in Hana…

Drive it in Reverse

If you don’t have the luxury of a long trip to Maui and you would really like to get the Road to Hana done in 1 day, I recommend that you start early and drive it in reverse. Starting on the Pilani Highway, you’ll have the road to yourself until you reach Hana.

After visiting Hana, you’ll find crowds returning, yet in the morning, the highway is quieter. Arrive early at Haleakala NP for the Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls hike.

7 Stunning Stops (That Are Worth Seeing) on the Road to Hana

Twin Falls

Twin Falls, at mile marker 1 on the Road to Hana, is a popular yet elusive waterfall. Despite its fame, many visitors struggle to locate it due to faux falls along the highway, leading to confusion about the actual half-mile trek to reach this iconic spot.

Twin Falls itself is still crowded, but the beautiful waterfall is worth the crowd. The tall, pouring cascade lands in a large pool suitable for wading and swimming.  The area surrounding is filled with ions and lush greenery.

Secret Bamboo Forest

This stop on the Road to Hana wasn’t even on our initial itinerary but when we drove past a random cluster of cars parked along the side of the road, we couldn’t help but stop and go find out what everyone was here for.

We discovered a hidden gem on the Road to Hana, unlike crowded bamboo forests. This spot, uncrowded and expansive, offers trails leading to a stunning waterfall. Despite the numerous trails within the trees, they all lead to this singular beautiful destination.

The forest is worth a stop in itself but what makes this even better is the secluded waterfall a 5-10 minute hike in.

Tip: Just before reaching the trailhead, on the right (if driving in reverse as suggested), you’ll spot the famous painted forest. It was once a popular photo stop but now has many “do not enter” signs. It’s best admired from a distance.

Coconut Glen’s Vegan Ice Cream Truck

Coconut Glens Ice cream truck

On all the blogs I read when researching the Road to Hana, people raved about Coconut Glens. Being dairy-free, I was just stoked about the prospect of ice cream I could eat, however, I was skeptical since I’m not a big fan of coconut.  After tasting the ice cream myself, I can promise that Coconut Glens is worth the hype.

Though all the flavors are coconut-based and vegan, the flavors are rich, unique, and not overpoweringly coconut-flavored.  I would never think to combine flavors like Lemongrass Ginger and Banana Rum Raisin (and classic chocolate of course) but they were delicious!

There are multiple Coconut Glen’s food trucks scattered along the Road to Hana but these ice cream trucks are mobile by nature which means they may not be in the same places.

When I visited, there was a location at the Twin Falls trailhead, one at about halfway to Hana, and one in the town of Hana. Just keep an eye out for signs on the road because I recommend stopping.

Nahiku Marketplace

While small restaurants and food stands scatter the Road to Hana, this is the only large hub of eateries along the way. Many of the food stands looked delicious but the food at this marketplace looked even better and I liked the community eating area that seemed almost like a farmers market.

Black Sand Beach

I was torn on whether or not to include this stop. On the one hand, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Maui, and on the other hand, it’s totally overrated and crowded.

Even still, Black Sand Beach is worth a visit. The teal blue waters contrast so beautifully against the dark sandy shores and the lime green brush.

As I mentioned earlier, Black Sand Beach would be best experienced at sunrise or sunset and you can do this by spending the night in the town of Hana or camping at the beach itself.

Red Sand Beach

Red Sand Beach, Road to Hana, Maui

This is one of the most beautiful beaches I have EVER seen. While not ideal for beach activities, this spot’s stunning visuals beckon for more time to absorb its vivid colors and vibrant natural surroundings.

The Red Sand Beach in Maui was once a hidden gem but has gained popularity, rivaling the Black Sand Beach. Visiting at sunrise or sunset helps dodge crowds, yet even midday isn’t too crowded.

Tourists often stop briefly at the viewpoint on the Road to Hana, taking a 5-minute hike, but often miss the beach below, leaving ample space for relaxation.

I’d recommend spending at least a half-hour here to take in the beauty.

Haleakala National Park

The 7 Sacred Pools, the last stop, is honestly less spectacular compared to other Road to Hana waterfalls.

The surrounding ecosystem is worth a stop; the main highlight is the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoko Falls (also called the Bamboo Forest). This 3.5-mile round-trip hike takes around 2 hours.

We missed out on the Bamboo Forest hike at Haleakala because we didn’t drive the Road to Hana in reverse. Driving it backward allows for prioritizing time for Haleakala’s attractions.

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Hope this helped you prepare for the Road to Hana! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments!

Related:

7 stunning stops on the Road to Hana

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Danielle

Friday 15th of July 2022

Can you drive it in reverse with a rental car?

Robyn

Friday 15th of July 2022

You definitely can drive it in reverse but you'll have to check with your rental car company to see if you are covered on the dirt road section regardless of the way you drive. We had a rental car when we drove it and it was fine.

Steph

Sunday 5th of June 2022

Sorry confused they way you have it listed is reverse or not reverse?

Robyn

Sunday 5th of June 2022

It is listed not in reverse, or I should say, it is listed in the order most people drive it in. If you did it in reverse you'd have less traffic and would hit the 7 sacred pools first and then work your way back to Twin Falls

Amy

Monday 30th of May 2022

If I do the 7 stops you suggested then how long would it all take?

Gabi

Monday 30th of May 2022

If you don't take too long at all the hikes, you can squeeze it all into a full day. We spent only about an hour at each spot & managed to squeeze all these into a day trip.

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