Traveling the Road to Hana | Our Top Five Tips

02 April 2017

We're certainly not the first people to tell you the road to Hana isn't to be missed; it's boasted about for good reason. This one day of our six-day Maui trip was, arguably, my favorite of them all. The drive is incredible and the scenery even better. Really, the only challenge is deciding which of the countless stops you'll have time for along the route.

Our Top Five Tips for Traveling the Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at

But before we lend you tips for your trip, let's chat about one of the rumors you may have heard. We were told by some travelers that the Hana highway conditions are treacherous, the winding, one-lane sections are incredibly challenging to navigate, and that the locals will ride your bumper the whole way. I can't say the same. Rather, the route is quite spacious, almost entirely paved, and well-marked for drivers. Sure, the locals may put on some pressure to get overly-cautious or sight-seeing drivers to pull off and let a line of cars pass but, from my experience, this isn't abnormal no matter where you're traveling. All that said, I'd highly encourage you to make time to travel the road to Hana and customize the stops by your liking. However, if you're a nervous or inexperienced driver, there are plenty of companies offering affordable trips to Hana and beyond. One way or another, you should definitely set aside a day to travel the road to Hana.

First tip, and don't overlook this one: get on the road early. We were east of Paia no later than 7:15 a.m., meaning we had quite an early wake-up call leaving Kihei. After reaching our farthest point, Venus Pools, before noon we noticed the traffic had picked up considerably on our way back to Kihei. Early on, there were maybe 50 total cars (driving both ways) on the highway. For the drive back, on the other hand, we were accompanied by hundreds--and all parking lots and pull-off spots were completely packed. We were grateful for the advice we received to get going early, so I'm sharing it again with you. The best part of it all was enjoying the waterfalls and gorgeous scenery at your own pace and without anyone else around. It was so serene.

Most of the food stands and trucks along the route operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so plan accordingly if you're not packing snacks. We also took the drive on a Sunday and noticed a few of the food trucks were closed completely. If there's one you're banking on trying, look into it before you choose what day you'll drive. Note: Yelp lists out each food truck, including business days and hours.

Our Top Five Tips for Traveling the Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at

Of course, when you follow another car, it has to meet on-coming traffic before you do. It's also the one responsible for taking the lead on the one-lane sections of the route and communicating yields to on-coming cars, and then you simply follow its lead. Not only that but some (read: I) would argue that this tactic keeps overly confident drivers (read: my boyfriend) from ripping and roaring around the corners of the Hana Highway. Perks, people. Perks.

I'll be honest, we were pretty adverse to buying a guidebook to plan the drive to Hana. We figured we had read it all online; we would be fine! Thankfully, a group also staying at our VRBO convinced us otherwise and lent us their Maui Revealed book and R2H audio guide. They've done the route four times! Still, they don't do it without these guides, and now we understand why. The R2H audio guide shed light on the history of Maui and Hana, and it specifically outlined explorations by mile marker, whereas the images and detailed descriptions in the Maui Revealed guidebook helped us choose what we would prioritize. You'd be fine with just one of these, but we certainly got use out of both.

Our Top Five Tips for Traveling the Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at

It's just not possible to do it all justice. There are so many stops to see along the way--countless waterfalls, plenty of beaches, great hikes and beautiful overlooks. We knew we couldn't do it all, no matter how early we started or how late we stayed on the road. After all, we wanted to enjoy it and not feel completely rushed. Unsure of how the weather would be or what would be closed off to visitors, we mapped out our picks the night before. Major flooding in December 2016 prevented us from seeing a few stops, including the Seven Sacred Pools/Ohe'o Gulch. Assuming you're not staying in Hana for part of your trip, you may also want to be selective of how you spend your time on the road. 

You'll notice this suggested tip time and time again if you're reading through my Hawaii posts, so you know I stand by it. If you can afford to swing it, even if just for the day, rent a convertible. On our first trip to Hawaii, we rented a compact for a few days. After passing so many happy convertible drivers on our trip, we knew we couldn't just get a compact the next time we visited Hawaii. So, knowing we had a road trip day planned in Maui, we booked a Mustang (at discount) for three days. What we hadn't considered was how emotionally bruised we would feel swapping the Mustang for a compact for the second half of the trip.

Let me tell you, the grass is greener. Much, much greener.

Our Top Five Tips for Traveling the Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at

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