Updated May 30, 2022
The Road to Hana is an epic experience that should be at the top of your must-do list when visiting Maui, Hawaii. The numerous Road to Hana stops are what make this an adventure and not just another scenic drive. The Road to Hana is all about the journey and not about the destination.
The east side of Maui is my family’s favorite region of the island. As the rest of Maui continues to get more crowded and tourist-oriented, the small town of Hana still holds on to its old-time Hawaiian character. Because we love Hana and the surrounding area so much, we’ve driven the Road to Hana quite a few times.
We’ve experienced driving the road to Hana and back all in one day, continuing on the Piilani Highway past ‘Ohe’o Gulch and back to Kahului, driving the Road to Hana without stopping in the dark, and making the drive into a full day adventure, stopping at every point that interested us.
By far, our favorite way to drive the Road to Hana is to take it slow and truly experience all of the incredible stops along the way. Here is everything you need to know for the ultimate Road to Hana adventure.
To avoid the long wait in line for TSA at the Kahului airport in Maui, sign up for TSA pre-check. Read – TSA Precheck Benefits For Families
Table Of Contents
- About The Road To Hana
- Road To Hana Audio Tour
- Road To Hana Driving Etiquette
- Day-Trip Or Overnight In Hana
- Road To Hana With Kids
- Road To Hana Stops
- GARDEN OF EDEN MILE #10
- KAUMAHINA STATE WAYSIDE MILE #16
- KEANAE ARBORETUM MILE #16
- KEANAE PENINSULA MILE #16
- UPPER WAIKANI FALLS (THREE BEARS) MILE #19
- NAHIKU STANDS MILE #27
- WAI’ANAPANAPA STATE PARK MILE #32
- HANA TOWN MILE #35
- KOKI BEACH – HANEO’O ROAD
- WAILUA FALLS MILE #45
- ‘OHE’O GULCH IN THE KIPAHULU DISTRICT OF HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK MILE #42
About The Road To Hana
The Road to Hana was built in 1926. It stretches approximately fifty-five miles from Paia to the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park. In those fifty-five miles, there are more than six hundred curves in the road and fifty-nine bridges, most of which are only one lane. Those fifty-five miles take a LONG time to drive. Without stopping it would take you about two and a half hours.
Through the fifty-five miles, you are rewarded with beautiful views everywhere you look. You’ll see waterfalls, bright green plants contrasted against black lava rocks, rainbow eucalyptus trees, dense jungle, and expansive ocean views.
Road To Hana Audio Tour
To get the most out of your road to Hana experience, I would strongly suggest purchasing the Road to Hana Narrated Audio Tour through Gypsy Guide. The Gypsy Guide audio tour makes the road to Hana drive so much more interesting with commentary about the history of the region. It is like having a tour guide right in your car with you! The audio tour is based on your GPS location so it lets you know what is coming up and what to look for. Eli loved the audio tour so much that he’s since asked me if there is a Gypsy Guide tour for the Big Island where we are currently living (there is and it’s great too).
Road to Hana Driving Etiquette
One-Way Bridges – The first person to arrive at a one-way bridge has the right of way. If more than one car is in a line to cross the bridge, take turns each way, a few cars at a time.
Allowing Others to Pass- Because there is so much to look at on the Road to Hana, you might find yourself driving below the speed limit to take in the beauty. That’s totally fine. Just keep in mind that there are people who live there who have to drive that road every day. If you notice a car behind you, pull over and let them pass.
Day-Trip or Overnight in Hana?
If you leave early enough in the morning it is possible to fit in all of the Road to Hana stops in a one-day roundtrip. If one day is all you can spare it’s still well worth the drive. But, if at all possible, I would recommend staying in Hana for two or three nights. This way you can take your time to see the Road to Hana stops on the way there and have a few days to explore the stops past Hana while staying there.
Because lodging options in Hana are limited, they are very expensive. If you don’t have a budget, the Hana Maui Resort looks absolutely amazing. If you are like me and can’t imagine spending $600 a night on lodging, the Wai’anapanapa State Park cabins are the perfect option in a great location for only $100 a night.
Staying in the Wai’anapanapa State Park Cabins will require some extra planning. This extensive post will tell you everything you need to know about booking and staying in the cabins – Wai’anapanapa State Park Cabins Maui.
Road to Hana With Kids
The Road to Hana is a wonderful experience for kids if you do it right. The different species of plants, cascading waterfalls, beaches, and hikes are all fascinating for kids and adults alike.
That being said, I would absolutely not drive the road to Hana with kids on a one-day roundtrip drive. It is a LONG day in the car for little ones even if you make frequent stops. Plan to stay at least one night in Hana if you are driving the Road to Hana with kids.
Road to Hana Stops
There are so many stops on the road to Hana it can be hard to decide which ones are deserving of your time. The following are my favorite Road to Hana stops and a few stops that I felt I needed to mention in case you are interested in stopping there.
Please Note -The directions provided are appropriate for driving from Paia to ‘Ohe’o Gulch and not the other direction.
Garden of Eden Mile #10
Around mile marker # 10 is the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is one of the Road to Hana stops that I’ve always skipped. It’s not because I don’t think it would be beautiful, I’m sure it is. It’s actually because there is a fee to get in – $15 for adults and $5 for kids over five years old. I just can’t justify spending that kind of money when there is so much beauty along the road to Hana that is absolutely free. If this is something that interests you don’t let me discourage you from checking it out.
Kaumahina State Wayside Mile #16
After being in the car for a while, Kaumahina Wayside is the perfect place to take your first stop on the road to Hana. There are bathrooms, picnic tables, and plenty of parking. (It’s always good to know where the bathrooms are when traveling with kids). The picnic tables are in a grassy area surrounded by huge trees. It’s a great spot for a picnic lunch. Don’t leave until you’ve walked past the bathrooms to see the incredible view of the Keanae Peninsula.
Keanae Arboretum Mile #16
As soon as you pass the YMCA on the left you’ll see the Keanae Arboretum in the middle of the next hairpin turn on the right side of the road. Parking is on the opposite side of the road just past the trailhead.
The easy half-mile trail through Keanae Arboretum is one of the Road to Hana stops that shouldn’t be missed. It is here that you can see the amazing rainbow eucalyptus trees up close along with bamboo, ginger, and a variety of tropical flowers. Many of the plants are labeled along the path.
Keanae Peninsula Mile #16
The turn off to Keanae Peninsula is on the left just after you leave the parking area for Keanae Arboretum. After you turn onto the Keanae Peninsula you will see Aunty Sandy’s roadside stand on the right. Here you will find the most delicious banana bread ever. The last time we stopped there we had to wait ten minutes for the bread to cool and it was well worth the wait. Aunty Sandy’s banana bread is amazing but when it’s still warm from the oven it is even better.
Continue down the road past Aunty Sandy’s to view the 150-year-old Keanae Congregational Church. The church is the only building that was left standing on the peninsula after the tragic tsunami of 1946.
Parking is available across from the church along the black lava coastline. The gigantic waves crashing into the black lava rock are mesmerizing. It’s a great place for the kids to get out and throw rocks into the ocean. Just make sure they keep a safe distance from the water.
Upper Waikani Falls (Three Bears) Mile #19
This doesn’t necessarily need to be a stop because you can see the falls right from the bridge as you drive over. If you want to walk back for a better view or a picture, park on the right after you cross the bridge and walk back. You can go around the bridge and down for a better view but be careful because the rocks get really slippery. If you are traveling with young children I’d suggest skipping this stop altogether. The road is usually really busy there and the bridge is narrow.
Nahiku Stands Mile #27
This is our favorite spot to stop for lunch. There are all different kinds of food options – pizza, fish and chips, barbeque, and tacos. Everyone should be able to find something to eat. Another plus is that there is plenty of parking here. While you are there, don’t miss Nahiku Marketplace for some unique Hawaiian arts and crafts.
Wai’anapanapa State Park Mile #32
Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The combination of the brilliant blue ocean and the bright green plants against the dark lava rock make for remarkable scenery everywhere you look.
If you drove the entire road to Hana just to stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park it would be worth it. Don’t just get out of your car and walk to the overlook. Take the time to go down the stairs to the beach and do some exploring. If you walk across the beach you will find a trail that continues along the black lava rock coast. The views from this trail are incredible.
Don’t miss the cave on the right between the bottom of the stairs and the ocean. You can walk all the way through to see the waves lapping against the rocks on the other side.
As of April 2021, reservations are required to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park. Visit gowaianapanapa.com up to 30 days in advance to reserve your spot. The fee is $10 per vehicle plus $5 per person. Children under three years old are free.
If you are staying in Hana, make Wai’anapanapa one of the spots you visit early in the morning, it’s entirely possible to have the beautiful black sand beach all to yourself.
Hana Town Mile #35
Hana is the quintessential Hawaiian town with a stunning backdrop. There isn’t much to do in town but it is worth a drive around to see the well-kept churches and beautiful Hana bay. The Hana Ranch Restaurant is usually the only restaurant open in Hana after five p.m. so we’ve frequented it several times. The food and service are great and the setting is picturesque. The restaurant is perched on a hill with ocean views. If you are traveling with kids make sure to sit outside. Adults can relax at a table while kids can get their energy out rolling down the nearby hill.
Koki Beach – Haneo’o Road
By far my favorite beach on the east side of Maui is Koki beach. The sand is soft, there are plenty of trees for shade and to set up a hammock, and it is never crowded. If you stay in Hana you can spend the day at Koki beach and have it almost to yourself. In the afternoon tour buses will pull up, everyone will get off to snap a picture, then they are gone.
The beach is somewhat protected from huge waves and the soft sand slopes gently into the water. Koki beach is a great place for kids to swim and play in the waves as long as they stay close to shore.
To get to Koki beach you will need to turn Left onto Haneo’o Road. The turnoff from the Road to Hana is after mile marker 51. Koki beach is the first beach you come to on the left. I’ve never had an issue with parking at this beach.
If you are hanging out all day at Koki beach and don’t have a lunch packed head to Huli Huli Chicken for lunch. It is within walking distance of Koki beach. The menu may be simple -roasted chicken, ribs, rice, and macaroni salad, but each item is delicious.
I’m all about packing lunch and snacks for my family when we plan to spend all day at the beach. In fact, we bring a cooler as one of our checked bags when we plan on staying in Hana. Read Why a Wheeled Cooler Makes a Great Checked Bag for the logistics.
Wailua Falls Mile #45
Wailua falls is my family’s favorite waterfall on the road to Hana. You will see the impressive eighty-foot waterfall on the right just past mile marker #45. Cross the bridge and there is parking available on the left. Like Three Bears Falls, you can see it from the road but Wailua is definitely worth parking your car and walking over for a closer look.
This is one of the most popular Road to Hana stops. When all the daytrippers start arriving in the afternoon, it can get really crowded. Wailua falls is another location you will want to visit in the morning if you are staying in Hana. There is a good chance you will have it all to yourself. (Have I convinced you that you should stay at least one night in Hana?)
There is a trail down to the water on the north side of the bridge. You’ll need to scramble over some boulders to get to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. It’s a great place to swim as long as the water isn’t muddy from recent rain.
‘Ohe’o Gulch in the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park Mile #42
The Piilani highway continues around the south side of the island but ‘Ohe’o Gulch is where the Road to Hana ends. It is the last stop for the vast majority of people before turning around and heading back the way they came. It is a long journey to get to this point but ‘Ohe’o Gulch is one Road to Hana stop that can’t be missed.
Haleakala National park extends from the top of the crater, over 10,000 feet in elevation, down to the Kipahulu district along the ocean shore. Because it is a National Park, there is a toll of $25 per vehicle to get in. The pass you purchase is good for three days.
If you plan to visit the summit of Haleakala make sure you go within three days of your visit to the Kipahulu district so you can use the same pass.
There are two hikes to take in the Kipahulu district of the National Park. Both hikes start right from the parking lot.
Kuloa Point Trail is the best trail for families with small children. It is a half-mile loop that includes a Hawaiian cultural exhibit, the seven sacred pools, and Kuloa Point overlooking the ocean.
The Seven Sacred Pools are often closed to swimming due to hazardous conditions.
Pipiwai Trail is four miles long with an elevation gain of 800 feet. There is a bamboo forest one mile in and two waterfall overlooks.
If you love hiking and plan to visit the Big Island of Hawaii with kids you will want to read this – 10 Best Easy Hikes on the Big Island
If you take your time to enjoy the many spectacular stops, the Road to Hana will end up being the highlight of your trip to Maui.
I’d be happy to answer your questions about any of the Road to Hana Stops. Feel free to leave a comment.
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