The Road to Hana is one of the top attractions on the island of Maui, and in fact, is one of the highest-rated Road Trips in the world! However, like most things worth doing it is not always an easy journey. You need to pack a heck of a lot into a short stretch of challenging road and people can come unstuck and have a less than a great experience.
Our Road to Hana Tips Tricks and Advice page gives you everything you need to know to survive the Hana Highway. We look at when to set off, what to take, how to plan your journey along with tips on driving safely, and find the best stops along the way, With our guide, you are sure to have a great day out!
Set off Early!
Most people know this one. The Road to Hana is a long day and the earlier you set-off the better. But how early should you really plan on hitting the road?
We get it, you are on Vacation, so you want as long as possible in bed, However, to get the most out of the road you have to get the best traffic and the most time on the road. Take a deep breath and get ready for it. 7 AM is too late!
For any Road to Hana trip, we expect to see Sunrise. This varies from 5:55 in summer to 7:00 am in winter. And while you don’t really need to on the Road to Hana properly before sun up, you should be up and on the road. We go for a 5 am Alarm clock in Summer and a 6 am in winter. Any earlier and you are driving in the dark any later and things really start to get busy!
Really the only way to avoid this is to overnight in Hana. This way you can leave later on and the bulk of the crowds will be ahead of you. You also have time to explore in the evening when they are heading back and the morning gives you the whole area to yourself. An Empty Red Sand Beach or Hiking the Pipiwai Trail alone are all there for the taking.
Top Tip – Use Jet lag! If you are coming from the States then you will be carrying a few hours of jet lag early in your trip. This makes waking up a lot easier as if you have flown in from the West Coast, 6 am will feel like 9 am! And from the East coast, the effect will be even greater. So go early in your trip and save the Lie-Ins for when our body clock has adjusted.
Which Way to Drive The Road?
There are two ways to tackle the Highway, assuming you are doing an out and back and not driving the back route. First is to start taking in the Stops early on and keep stopping along the way, taking your time until you get to either Hana or Kipahulu, and then drive non-stop back the way you came. This is the most common method and the order we list our stops in.
However, the other option is to reverse this. Hit the road early and high-tail it straight through to Hana/Kipahulu and then take your time on the way back taking in the stops as you go.
This has two big advantages. One, fewer people will do it this way, so the steps will be quieter and you will have more of the road to yourself. And two, if you spend too long somewhere and run out of time, you are much closer to civilization with less of the road to drive in the dark.
There are downsides too. Firstly if you miss something then you have missed it. The other way does give you a second chance, to hit something you missed on the way out. And secondly, you are most definitely against the grain. most cars will be heading towards Hana, often in long “caravans” this makes driving the road more hair-raising and leading to long waits to get across the Bridges.
A full tank of fuel is more than enough to last you a full day exploring Hana, probably 2 or 3 days depending on how much exploring you do. While there is a Gas Station in Hana it is pricy even by Maui Standards and opening hours are sporadic. Your best bet is to fill up before you leave. Brim the tank the night before and you are good to go all day!
Dining options along the highway are pretty mixed. There are some great options but you are not going to find regular food. So fussy eaters or kids may find it difficult to find food that agrees with them. Taking a good supply of snack foods ensures you have something to eat even if the food stands do not tickle your fancy. Take a picnic if you please and find some idyllic spot to sit around and enjoy your regular food.
While we don’t want to discourage people from eating adventurously and trying the many different foods and tastes of the highway, for some that is just not an option. So ensuring you have something to eat if Banana Bread, Island Tacos, and hot buttered breadfruit is not to your liking!
Water or drinks can also be hard to come by or expensive so stock up on these too. It is really hot out on the highway so a good supply of fluids is essential. Especially if you plan on doing any hiking.
And Finally, we wish we didn’t have to say this but TAKE YOUR LITTER HOME! This is a pristine wilderness and litter is not welcome. Unfortunately in the past, this has not always been adhered to!
Take nothing but Photos, Leave nothing but footprints.
In our Article about how scary the Hana Highway Really is, we discuss how the road is, by and large, not really anything to worry about. However, it can bite. Most accidents are simply bumps and scrapes but on Vacation, this is nothing to be sniffed at. Dealing with the Car hire centers explaining how you got the scrape and how it’s going to be paid for can be a real Vacation killer!
The best way around this is to not have to do it. Nearly all accidents are driver errors. While on occasion a rock or branch can fall on your car this is fairly rare and most accidents can be avoided.
Take as wide a line as you can on blind corners, giving the inside lane as much room as possible. Stay well back from the car in front and if the car behind you doesn’t reciprocate slow down and let them by. Approach bridges slowly and be ready to give way.
Distraction is a big issue. What with JAW dropping vistas, roadside waterfalls, glimpses deep into the Haleakala interior, and finding where you are on maps and guide books, it is easy to forget about priority number ONE. Driving. When at all possible let your Passenger navigate, and if you see an OMG view, and you will, pull over and take it in properly, this ties in with our next item…
Take Your Time
We think we probably overuse this phrase on the Hana Highway but really, The Journey is the Destination. Despite the name, you are not driving to Hana. You are experiencing the road, its stops, and all the beauty and wonders it has to offer. If you are not taking 4-5 hours to reach Hana you are going too fast!
And we don’t mean MPH. Most of the road is on a 20mph limit and for large parts that is too fast. But we don’t want to preach about speeding and we always just advocate an appropriate speed for the moving sections. The reason it should take so long to get to Hana is the endless stopping. There is SO much to see and do on the highway, you need to pull over so many times. Often it’s nothing more than a 3-5 min gasp and a stunning view or a waterfall, sometimes you might lose an hour exploring a trail or taking a dip in a natural pool.
The Takeaway is there are no prizes for getting there first. There is no glittering Pot of gold under the Hana Rainbow, the joy is in the journey and finding the perfect little spot in paradise and soaking it in.
This really helps with taking care. A driver who is rushing is rarely taking care. Slow everything down, take it all easy, give way, let anxious drivers past, and take it all in your stride. If the road is getting too much, there is a perfect spot to pull over and let it all unwind, we promise!
The best way to navigate is by using a good map. Almost all guides list the stops by Mile Markers, but then don’t add them to their maps. This leaves you at the mercy of the Mile Marker Maintenance team (We don’t think that’s a real thing!). Mile Markers are great, but they are often missing, overgrown, or just green. Green is not a standout color on the Road to Hana, EVERYTHING is green!
The upshot is by the time you spot the marker it is usually the next one and you have missed the stop. So that is a two-mile tour back to it is you have missed out. Bummer.
Our Map has every attraction listed and EVERY mile marker along the way, including the pesky 0.5-mile markers. It is also a digital map so pull it up on Google Maps and your position will update live Via GPS. And, of course, like all our guides, maps, and advice, it is free.
Take Bug Spray
Mosquitos are not a big problem in Maui. They are there but that wonderful Trade wind keeps them at bay. The jungle around Hana block the trade winds and the daily rain ensures endless puddles and ponds for the beasties to breed in. As such Mossies are a pest on the Road to Hana.
While driving they are fine, but once stopped or out on a hike they can descend and begin their ravenous feast. A good bug spray keeps them mostly at bay but it pays to apply before heading off into the jungle as once you notice them it is usually 5 or 6 bites too late!
Of Course, Mossies in Maui are nothing to worry about other than an irritating nip and subsequent itchy welt. They are not Malaria carriers or anything like that, just a nuisance.
Have your Say
Got any tips for our readers on navigating the Road to Hana Safely? Any top stops or things to see? Any little nuggets of info to share, we would love to hear from you. If you have any questions at all just fire away in the comments and we will get back to you straight away.