Best Road to Hana stops… and how we failed to see them

The most legendary bucket list adventure on the Valley Isle is a Road to Hana tour. This road trip was supposed to be one of the highlights of our visit to Maui with kids and of our adventurous island hopping Hawaii vacation altogether. We were all set to marvel at the wonderful Road to Hana stops we had selected. But what started out as a gorgeous day on Maui’s west coast resort of Kaanapali, actually turned out to be a horrible day on the east coast for us. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

First, we’ll happily share the Road to Hana stops we had planned during this 53 mile road trip in Maui, as well as the best stops beyond Hana. And for your convenience, we’ve even created a custom Road to Hana map with stops that are mentioned in this article.


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Get ready to marvel at the wonderful Road to Hana stops we have selected for you. For your convenience, we’ve even created a custom Road to Hana map indicating all mentioned stops. Let your #Maui #roadtrip adventure begin! #roadtohana #travel #hawaii
Get ready to marvel at the wonderful Road to Hana stops we have selected for you. For your convenience, we’ve even created a custom Road to Hana map indicating all mentioned stops. Let your #Maui #roadtrip adventure begin! #roadtohana #travel #hawaii


Dreaming of planning a new vacation in these uncertain times? The AXA Assistance USA Platinum insurance includes a CFAR (Cancel for Any Reason) option which allows you to cancel your trip without any explanation, up to 2 days before departure. Conditions apply. Click here to learn more.

20 Best Road to Hana stops

Here’s a list of the stops we had planned during our road trip on the Hana highway by mile marker. You’ll find the map of Road to Hana in the next paragraph.

Twin & Caveman Falls

These falls are located in the Ho’olawa Valley. The Twin Falls are the lower falls, easily accessible from the parking lot. The upper falls are the Caveman Falls and require a short hike up a gravel road. Flash floods occur so make sure to check out the latest conditions before taking a dip. Check out this Maui hikes article for more details.

Huelo Lookout

A gorgeous little resting stop. The views from this former sugar plantation community may not be spectacular but the smoothies from the instagram-worthy farm stand are.

Rainbow eucalyptus trees

Blink it and you’ll miss it. This Road to Hana stop is nothing more than just a small pullout but the colorful trees make it worth your time.

Rainbow eucalyptus trees on the Road to Hana Maui

Ka Haku smoke shack

We loved the BBQ chicken with grilled bananas, rice and green salad. This food shack is open on weekdays only, until early afternoon. Plenty of parking spaces available.

CosmopoliDad ordering BBQ chicken at the Ka Haku smoke shack on the Hana highway Maui

Garden of Eden arboretum

The views from the Garden of Eden Arboretum are renowned. Plus, you’ll find rainbow eucalyptus trees here. If you missed the ones along the road (where there’s just a small turnout to leave the car), you can check them out here. Admission costs $15 per adult and $5 per child.
Psst… there’s actually an excellent alternative that doesn’t cost anything. Keep reading to find out more.

Haipua’ena Falls

Park at the small pullout on the far side of the bridge and look for an opening in the foliage. The trail is unsigned and can be muddy but you’ll reach the waterfall in 2 minutes. Haipua’ena Falls is not that tall, just about 25 ft, but the pool is calm and inviting. Most of the crowds skip this Road to Hana stop, so it’s usually a pretty authentic experience.

Honomanū Bay lookout

Prepare for some dramatic views of the coastline at this beautiful Road to Hana lookout point.


Ke’anae Arboretum

This is a great, free alternative to the Garden of Eden Arboretum, offering some wonderful panoramas and rainbow eucalyptus trees. There’s a walkway from where you can admire many tropical plants and flowers. It’s right in between this mile marker and the next.

Aunty Sandy’s

I’ve done plenty of research on Maui’s banana bread and almost all sources mention this as the best on offer. It goes without saying that this makes it one of the best Road to Hana stops. To reach the stand, turn off to Ke’anae Landing.

Wailua Valley State Wayside

Climb the set of steps to the viewpoint and to enjoy the sweeping views over Wailua with its taro fields, the Ke‘anae Valley and Ko‘olau gap in the rim of the Haleakala volcano.

Upper Waikani Falls

Also referred to as Three Bears because of the three parallel streams, this impressive waterfall is located very close to the road. The only downside is that there’s no actual parking lot, only a small turnout.

Upper Hanawi Falls

Upper Hanawi falls can easily be spotted from the Hana Highway. It’s a waterfall that flows even in the dry season, albeit a bit diminished. The falls split around the rocks, making this Road to Hana stop even more enchanting.
The lower Hanawi falls is located on private land and therefore off-limits.

Pi’ilanihale Heiau

This temple, located in Kahanu Garden, part of National Tropical Botanical Garden is the largest Polynesian place of worship and the best preserved ancient temple in the Hawaiian Islands. It was built in several stages over a period of over 300 years.

Wai’anapanapa State Park and Honokalani Black Sand Beach Maui

Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of the most popular Road to Hana stops, in particular thanks to the unique Honokalani beach, hidden behind the palms in a picturesque bay. In addition to this black sand beach on Maui, you can visit 2 caves with fresh water floating above the salt ocean water.

Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of the most popular Maui Road to Hana stops

Hana town

The turning point for most, since there’s not that much to see in Hana. For the real adventurers, the fun shouldn’t end at Hana. There’s more to discover past this point too, in the Kipahulu section which is actually part of the Haleakala National Park.

By the way, did you know that Haleakala is the largest dormant volcano in the world? No, then check out these surprising facts about Hawaii to find out more.

You’ll notice that the mile markers will go down from here on.


Kaihalulu or Red Sand beach

This Road to Hana stop is located in a volcanic cinder. The iron in the lava gives the sand its deep red color. Ironwood trees and wild waves complete the picture. Reaching this beach is treacherous as the trail that’s located on the side of the hill is steep and slippery. It may just be a short hike but don’t underestimate the danger: visitors have sustained injuries here before.

Hamoa beach

A gorgeous and secluded salt and pepper beach, lined with lava rock cliffs of lava rock. Hamoa beach is 1,000 ft long and crescent-shaped. This is the perfect place to enjoy that sumptuous banana bread and sweet coconut candy.

Wailua Falls

A very popular waterfall, just a 20-minute drive from Hana and with ample parking, for a change. Because of that, it can get crowded so if the best time to enjoy Wailua Falls is earlier or later in the day.

Pipiwai Trail

This is known to be one of the most epic hikes in all of Maui. A 4-mile loop trail leads hikers passed the 185-foot Makahiku Falls, a massive banyan tree, three bamboo forests and the stunning 400-foot Waimoku Falls. Along the trail, which gains 650 ft (200 m) of elevation, there’s ample signage.

Pools of ‘Ohe’o

The ‘Ohe’o Gulch, also known as Seven Sacred Pools, is a series of pools (more than seven in fact) and waterfalls that empty into the Pacific. It’s a magical place to swim. This area has actually been closed for almost 2 years (from January 2017 until December 2018) because of a rockslide. Much to the delight of visitors, is has been reopened to the public. There’s even an on-site campground should you have a hard time leaving.

Bonus stop when returning home from Hana

Ho’okipa Beach Park

Close to where you begun your legendary Road to Hana road trip, is Ho’okipa Beach Park. Insiders told us that it’s the perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset in the company of honu (Hawaiian name for the green sea turtle). As an added bonus, you’ll find the iconic Mauian restaurant Mama’s Fish House just around the corner. 

Road to Hana map

This Road to Hana map indicates the Road to Hana stops that we planned on taking, plus some optional post-Hana stops for the hard-core road trippers. Oh, and from a practical point of view, we’ve also marked some lunch options and restroom stops.

Feel free to use this Road to Hana map and build on it when you’re planning a trip to Maui. Also, check out our article on the best places to stay in Maui to minimize driving times.

Here's where to book your rental car on the Valley Isle

Our Road to Hana nightmare

After reading about all these fantastic Road to Hana stops, you picture this idyllic road trip that was nothing short of perfect, right? Well, think again. Let us tell you how NOT to do the Road to Hana. Trust us, we’re experts.

Pouring rain and fog prevented us from enjoying our Road to Hana adventure

From all the days we could have picked to drive this (in)famous road, this was probably the worst one in terms of weather. Sure, we expected some rain on this part of the island but we weren’t prepared for this. It was raining pretty bad when we passed Paia in the morning and the further we drove, the more pouring it got. At least we could enjoy the breathtaking views of the coastline, right? Think again, there was so much fog that we couldn’t even catch a glimpse of the ocean. We passed the first Road to Hana stops on our list, hoping that the weather would turn.

We only got to do a few stops on Road to Hana on Maui because of this terrible weather

The Hana highway is known to be dangerous because of its 620 curves, of which many hairpins, and 59 one-lane bridges. Add the terrible weather to the mix and you get a dangerous road trip cocktail. Too dangerous to continue, in our opinion. To add to the fun, the girls got car sick… for the first time ever. Since opening our Wrangler’s soft top or pulling over when you need weren’t exactly an option, thinks got pretty messy.

Road to Hana tips

Should you decide to go for it anyway, then make sure to leave prepared.

Download the GyPSy app so you won’t miss any Road to Hana stops. Some mile markers are easy to miss.

Fuel up the car before you leave or do so in Paia. There aren’t any gas stations along the highway.

Leave early to avoid the crowds.

Pack these items: cash, water, more water, plenty of lights snacks, a picnic blanket, swimwear, towels and GoPro. Motion sickness related: Dramamine and some plastic bags, just in case. 🙂

Make a video of your epic adventure. This GoPro car mount is to perfect accessory to film your Road to Hana road trip.

GoPro for your Hawaii vacation
Food stall on the Road to Hana on Maui

Try the delicious street food. You will find some quaint food stands along the Hana highway but the offer tends to be very limited (don’t expect to find water bottles at every stand). Then again, each has their finger-licking specialty.

Ignore that FOMO because comfort should be your number one priority. Whether you’ll make it to Hana all the way or halfway, you can take credit for having driven the Hana highway.

Give the driver a break by spending the night at the Travaasa Hana luxury hotel or in a gorgeous Airbnb. You’ll be much more relaxed when you know you have two days to complete this challenging drive. Start early to avoid the crowds at the Paia side on day one and do the same on the Hana side on day two. Note that there are no other hotels along the Hana Highway.

Don’t count on making random pitstops. “Make sure to make frequent stops”. That was the advice I came across more than once when I was doing research. What a joke! When you’ve been on the Road to Hana, then you know how unrealistic this is. The Hana highway is dangerous and simply doesn’t allow for random pitstops.

Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Don’t make the same mistake we did, interpreting rain as nothing more than an occasional shower. That might be true, on some days, but clearly not every day. The East Maui weather is highly unpredictable.

One of the best stops on Road to Hana

Reasons to reconsider and recommendations

If you have young kids.
Maui is the most popular Hawaiian island for family vacations. We’re usually the family that will insist that you can take your kids on pretty much any journey but this one was a fail. You will remember the magic of a road trip of this calibre, however, chances are your kids won’t. Our girls, 8 and 6 years old and both seasoned travelers, were clearly bored. Yes, the rain prevented us from making stops and yes, they got sick. But on some days, that’s part of the experience. Consider that when adding this Maui activity to your schedule. There are plenty of other things to do on Maui with kids that don’t require such an intensive journey.

If you suffer from motion sickness.
That’s an obvious one. On the other hand, there’s a first time for everything. Our kids never got car sick before this trip, like never-ever. But their stomach was no match for this road.

If you’re a nervous driver.
The Hana highway will put your patience and driving skills to the test. Minimizing the time spent in the car is not an option, you have to go with the flow.

If you hate the outlook of having to do this challenging drive a second time.
The excitement of hitting the road will be long gone by the time you’ll be returning. Plus, you’ll be tired from the activities that day and the focus it took to complete the drive the first time.

Car rental Hawaii family vacation
Many curves between the Road to Hana best stops

Our recommendation would be to focus on the first few Road to Hana stops and take it from there. Don’t pressure yourself to drive it out, just keep it enjoyable.

Some of these issues might be resolved by taking a guided full-day tour. An added benefit is that most adventure tour company excursions are guided, so you’ll learn all about the surrounding nature. I wouldn’t travel in a large group, though, because some fellow-travelers will likely get sick. If you want to travel in comfort, book a private or small group road tour. It’ll be worth the extra cost. Oh, and try to reserve seats on the driver’s side of the van or you’ll miss the views in between the Road to Hana stops. Here are some Valley Isle excursions that are worth checking out:

Best Road to Hana alternatives

Go on a helicopter tour

I still wonder why I didn’t think of it while we were actually there. If we make it to Maui again, then this will be the way to go for us. Imagine seeing the many curves and hairpins from the air without compromising on the views. Sure, you’ll miss the Road to Hana stops but you’ll get more panorama and comfort in return. Check out this spectacular helicopter tour.

Visit the Big Island

As it appears to me, the Road to Hana is so popular because it gives visitors a taste of ‘the real Hawaii’. They look for the authentic feel, breaking away from the touristic, resort-like west coast. Well, if that’s what you’re looking for too, then you might as well head to the Big Island Hawaii.

The Big Island makes for a great Road to Hana alternative

There are plenty of adventurous things to do near Hilo, some of which are true authentic gems. There’s more distance to cover but the different sights are way more easy to reach (no hairpins). Some of the best hikes in Hawaiispectacular waterfallsblack sand beaches, an intruiging green sand beach, lava tubes, a botanical garden, tropical farm stands and panoramas alike. Just check out this picture we took of Rainbow Falls. Hard to compete with Big Island Hawaii! Check out our article on where to stay on the Big Island to find your perfect spot.

FAQ about the Road to Hana tour

Where to stay in Maui?
We’ve dedicated an entire article on the best places to stay in Maui, complete with driving times to and from the most popular resorts.

How long does it take to drive the Road to Hana?
Well, that depends on how many Hana Highway stops you plan on taking. If you were to just drive from Paia to Hana, it would take you just over 2 hours. One way, that is. So, you could get that first leg over with and then leisurely enjoy the full experience on your way back.

Is it recommended to spend the night in Hana?
Again, it depends on your plan for the road trip. If you plan on discovering the stops beyond Hana, then we would strongly recommend it. Also, since it’s a pretty intensive drive, splitting up the journey would allow the driver more time to relax.

Where to stay in Hana?
The options are limited, the town’s pretty small after all. There’s one hotel that keeps getting glowing reviews and that’s the Travaasa Hana hotel. We haven’t made it that far ourselves but it sure looks heavenly. Other options are these amazing Airbnbs that offer the most stunning ocean views.

What’s the best day to drive the Road to Hana?
Avoid the weekends and keep an eye on the weather, that’s all you can do. Local traffic makes up just a small part of the Hana highway traffic, after all. When you travel to Maui during peak season, then it’ll most probably be peak season on the Road to Hana as well.

What time to start the Road to Hana?
On a busy day, there’ll be no escaping the crowds. Even on that rainy day when we started our road trip, the parking lot at Twin Falls – the first Road to Hana stop – was full and we saw cars parked at the side of the road. Your best bet is to leave either really early or in the early afternoon (and then spend the night in Hana).

Do you need 4WD for road to Hana?
No, you don’t. We’d even suggest picking out a small car since the Hana highway has some very narrow, one way episodes.

Maui car rental

Which Road to Hana stops are on your list?

Our honest Hana highway article is not your typical story to say the least. I realize how much it conflicts with the glowing reviews you might have heard or read before. The terrible weather was our main source of disappointment. Still, we just can’t see the fun in being stuck in the car all day, on a dangerous road, not being able to pull over where we want. That’s just the opposite of what we think a road trip is all about: the freedom. 🙂 But that doesn’t mean we might nog give this legendary road a second chance the next time we go island hopping in Hawaii.


Dreaming of planning a new vacation in these uncertain times? The AXA Assistance USA Platinum insurance includes a CFAR (Cancel for Any Reason) option which allows you to cancel your trip without any explanation, up to 2 days before departure. Conditions apply. Click here to learn more.

Now we want to hear from you! Have you had the time of your life on this curvy highway and lots of other Road to Hana stops to recommend? Let us know! Should we have handled this trip differently? Enlighten us! Would you have continued driving in our rainy, messy situation? Yeah, right! Do you have a Road to Hana experience that’s similar to ours? Start commenting!

Pinning this post would be much appreciated!

Get ready to marvel at the wonderful Road to Hana stops we have selected for you. For your convenience, we’ve even created a custom Road to Hana map indicating all mentioned stops. Let your #Maui #roadtrip adventure begin! #roadtohana #travel #hawaii
Get ready to marvel at the wonderful Road to Hana stops we have selected for you. For your convenience, we’ve even created a custom Road to Hana map indicating all mentioned stops. Let your #Maui #roadtrip adventure begin! #roadtohana #travel #hawaii

5 Comments

    1. Sarah

      Same here, we can’t wait to return! There’s so much we still want to see and experience. It’s the kind of place you just can’t get enough from…

    1. Sarah

      Hi Lydia! Happy to read you enjoyed the article. Most visitors plan all Road to Hana stops in one day. But from what we’ve experienced, I wouldn’t rush it like that. The trip is so intensive that I’d recommend 2 days with an overnight stay in Hana. Planning some stops in each direction will allow you to enjoy the sights much more. You won’t find any hotels along the Hana highway so taking a break in Hana is the only option. If you’d like to add the post-Hana stops as well, like the Kīpahulu District, then you could add a 3rd day. In this case, make sure to check the latest conditions since land slides can lead to temporary closures. Happy travels!

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