You may have heard about the infamous Road To Hana or the Hana Highway on the island of Maui. We adore this road trip and rate it as not only one of the best things to do in Maui but also one of the best things to do anywhere in the world. It should be a real bucket list trip for most people and we implore anyone visiting the island to take the time to drive the road. It is a little adventurous, and not something to do without a little planning so with that in mind we put together our Ultimate Hana Highway Guide with everything you need to know about this spectacular drive through Maui’s most stunning Coastline.
A short way into the 90’s Monster hit Jurassic Park, the Guests Arrive by helicopter over the greenest lushes rainforest imaginable, the chopper flies in low over a rocky outcrop, as remote and untamed as you can imagine. They then fly up through a narrow canyon smothered in the dense lush green jungle. The very image conjures up images of dinosaurs, lost worlds, and the most remote untouched landscapes your mind could possibly imagine!
Now imagine if you could take your car and drive right into and through that very landscape…you can. That Drive is the infamous Road To Hana a narrow twisting ribbon of asphalt that passes through the very jungle used to shoot that scene, past endless vista’s that are nearly beyond imagination as you traverse one of the wildest, remotest, coastlines in Hawaii, past hundreds of waterfalls, plunging cliffs, and over countless bridges on one of the most epic and unforgettable road trips, you can imagine.
If this sounds just like your kind of adventure then buckle up as we take you through everything you need to know about the Road to Hana!
The Road – Introduction to the Road to Hana
Hana is a Small backwater town on the far side of Maui set in the Hawaiian Rainforest area of Halakala’s lower slopes. There is only one paved road in or out of Hana and to visit the town everyone takes the same road, the Road to Hana.
This road snakes through miles of remote untouched jungle, along towering sea cliffs and past endless waterfalls, streams and pools, and breathtaking vistas. The Road is very atypical of an American Highway. It is narrow, winding, and drops down to a single lane many times over. This narrow band of tarmac cuts through dense jungle clings perilously close to huge drops, is perpetually soaked by Rain Storms and takes you into the back of beyond, well away from Cell Reception of any form of civilization.
It’s a wild ride that sows fear in some and a spirit of adventure in others. And this is the way to approach the Highway. You are not going anywhere, The Journey is the destination. We know that can come across a little hippy sounding, but there really isn’t anywhere to go. You are on an adventure exploring the remote and backwater regions of this remote tropical Island…That for us is the Road to Hana in a nutshell!
There are a few interpretations as to the length of the Highway, this varies on where it starts and when it ends. Really it is a loop road with no start or end and is 108 miles, but as the back route is forbidden, most people do and out and back. Our definition is Kahului – Kipihulu as this is the Full Route, however, this encompasses a few different roads. The technically correct Road to Hana is simply from Mile Marker 0 of Highway 360 through to Hana.
- Kahului – Hana – 48 Miles
- Kahului – Kipihulu – 57.3 Miles
- Mile Marker 0 – Hana – 35 Miles
- Mile Marker 0 – Kipihulu – 44 Miles
- Round trip, Back Route – 108 Miles
- Kahului – Kipihulu and Back – 115 Miles+
This is as simple as how long is a piece of string. With no traffic and good speed, you can get through to Hana in less than two hours and Kipihulu in under 2.5 Hours. A full circle can be done in less than 4. But this is completely missing the point.
The highway takes as long as it takes, and always a FULL day, If you arrive back at your condo early you have done it wrong. Take your time, Explore, see the incredible sights and vistas, take in a hike, spend an hour relaxing by a waterfall pool. Stop Rushing.
It is said that there are over 600 Turns on the Road to Hana, we have not counted them and intend to keep it that way, but it is probably an underestimate. The truth is, for the most part, the road is an unending curve constantly switching first left then right snaking its way through the jungle.
As the road cuts through endless valleys and crosses multiple streams and rivers you pass over many of the Highway’s old and sometimes crumbling bridges. These are often one-way and have give-way systems set up. There are well over 50 in total and these are part of the fears some people have. But these bridges are part of the experience and if they were really dangerous were are sure they would be replaced! Right?
How Scary is the Road to Hana Really?
If you have visited any gift shop in Maui you might have seen the “I survived the Road to Hana T-Shirts”. After our first trip along the road, we really did not get what the fuss was about. It is narrow, and a bit twisty with a few single lanes, but really there are guardrails and give way systems and everyone is going so sloooow. It is no problem at all.
Then we spoke to other people, from different backgrounds, different parts of the world, and the states and we realized people feel very differently about the road. Some like us are just confused as to its fearsome rep, others are fully gripped by said fear, it is mostly due to what you are used to and your perception of risk.
We delve into the question and try to answer on a personal level How Scary is the Road to Hana for different people?
We never really asked this question originally, to us it was self-explanatory. Until we were sat around a Luau table with some new Luau friends talking about our plans for the trip. We said we were driving to Hana and the whole group looked a little startled.
“Oh, we thought about that but got told it wasn’t worth it?” This opened our minds to a whole group of people who seem to be missing the point entirely. The road is, of course, free, so by worth it, we are taking in terms of time and effort. And really for us, we can’t think of a single more rewarding experience packed into such a short space of time as the journey into this remarkable lost world.
It is life-affirming, it is the stuff of realms beyond imagining. The beauty of the area is something we thought was only available in movies, wildlife documentaries shot in the remotest wilderness, or simply in your wildest dreams. Yet it is all here on a plate and only takes a single day of your vacation. So yeah we think it is worth it! But clearly, some are more questioning of this fact. We think they are missing something, and we explore this further in this article, Read Here.
The Hana Highway is not a road you just decide to drive one day. It is a difficult challenge and one that needs a level of planning and understanding. Not least you need to work out what it is you plan to see and do on the way. but there are other considerations, such as when to go, which route to take, things to pack, where to get gas, where to get food, drinks, and snacks, and where to find facilities.
Road to Hana FREE Map
We have put together an all-encompassing Map with every Stop, Attraction, Waterfall, Pool, and Vista of the whole highway listed. We even included every Mile Marker so you can follow along and know exactly where you are. As the Map (Google) is interactive, you can download it to your phone and see where you are in real-time and what is coming up.
You won’t miss a thing and will always know exactly what is coming up!
The Road IS the destination, there is very little to see at the “end”. People Rush through to Hana or the Seven Sacred Pools as if they are the purpose of the journey. They are not. The Road itself is the reason for coming. So it makes sense to slow down take your time and stop regularly to take in the sights, vistas, waterfalls, and incredible lush forest along the way.
There are hundreds of pull-outs, a multitude of waterfalls, endless vistas, and several “attractions” along the route and we advise stopping at all of them. However, there are only so many hours in a day, and visiting everything would mean never getting past the first half of the journey. So some prioritization is in order.
Our guide to Hana Multitude of stops, lookouts, and things to see along the way shows you all the best of the roads waterfalls and viewpoints, finds you the best pools to cool off in, points out some of the best eats along the way, and helps you prioritize the things that matter to you. Follow our guide to get the BEST road to Hana experience possible.
We have every mile marker listed to help you find exactly where every attraction is. So many, blast past things without even realizing they are there. With our Guide and interactive map, you will not miss a thing!
Staying in Hana
We can be quite derogatory about Hana Itself and we don’t really mean to be. It is a wonderful little town, genuinely in the middle of nowhere. It is just if you are seeking a destination of the Road to Hana this is not it!
However, if you are planning in Staying a little longer Hana is a wonderful place. There is little to do, but that translates into a slowness of pace that seeps into you and starts relaxing every fiber of your body and soul. With so many stops on the highway, it is impossible to cram everything in but with even a single night in Hana, you can pack an incredible amount in.
You also get to hear the soul-warming dawn chorus and can get to nearby beauty spots at dawn, or dusk, long before, or after, the day-trippers have headed back Allowing you to have these wonders nearly all to yourselves.
Our Full Guide on what to see, where to stay, and what to Eat in Hana is here.
The Road Beyond Hana
The Road does not end in Hana and some of the areas best locations are past the town so don’t go thinking you are there once you reach Hana. There are still more Waterfalls, More pools, More Beaches, More Stunning Scenery, and even a forbidden road that only the fool-hardy would attempt!
Read more about what lies beyond Hana.
Hana Highway Back Route
Once at the much agreed final destination of the Hana Highway, the Kipihula District of Haleakala National Park. You have a choice. Turn around and retrace your steps back to Kahului, or push on with the Hana Back Route.
Only Marginally shorter in distance (~5 Miles) and probably slower in time the Back Routes only redeeming feature is its stark contrast to the rest of the highway and the fact you have driven the Road to Hana once, do you really want to do it again! The Back Route is Wild and Barren but in its own way beautiful. Sweeping coasts and rugged Mountain Terrain before it climbs up in the wonderful Upcountry Maui.
Normally, we would call this a No-Brainer. There is just little point in backtracking now and much better to push on to the back route. However, there is a BIG drawback. It’s often Illegal!
We originally wrote “technically” Illegal as it’s not outright illegal, but it does void your Hire Car Agreement, which voids your insurance, and driving without insurance is illegal. It also leaves you in a hell of a pickle should you break down or have an accident.
It is a big conundrum and we explaining the different opinions and options here.
Hana Highway Tours
Is reading this just all too much? does the thought of driving the road fill you with dread, yet you have to see the waterfalls and vistas of the Jungle Paradise? Does the thought of planning all this yourself make your mind spin? Well, you are not alone, and there are several companies that can help you out. These offer guided tours either private or in small groups in vans or mini busses that will guide you along the highway and point you in the direction of the best sites.
We much prefer a Self Guided Tour and that is why we have gone to the trouble of building this ultra comprehensive guide to driving the road. We appreciate it is not for everyone though and really want all Maui Visitors to experience the Highway. So we take a look at the best Tour Companies here so you can find the best. We also have access to some really great rates when booking through our Tom Barefoot’s Tours Club Site
Have Your Say
Is there something you are gasping to know about the Highway, some nagging don’t you want silencing or question you just can’t find the answer to? Then we are here to help. We have Put together what we think is the ultimate guide, but we are sure we missed some things so fire away below and we will get back to you with the answer to any burning questions you may have.