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Safe Driving in Maui. Tips on How to Safely Navigate Our Beautiful Island

Safe Driving in Maui. Tips on How to Safely Navigate Our Beautiful Island

When driving in any foreign place there are always precautions to take and things to look out for and driving in Maui is not any different.  Though the island is extremely easy to navigate and traffic is rarely an issue, there are more important factors that play into what locals consider safe driving.  Here are a few things to look out for and to be aware of next time you find yourself driving around the island.

From personal experience, two weeks after moving to the island, I was on my way to work, taking my time and driving the speed limit.  I approached an intersection with a green light and obviously had the right of way when out of nowhere a Ford F150 truck makes an illegal left turn and crashes into me at over 45 mph.  My car was pushed across the intersection, almost into on-going traffic from my right, I hit a pole and my car was totaled.  I was lucky that day that I was not injured from the accident but I learned quickly that safe driving in Maui meant much more than just being a safe driver myself and in my own vehicle.  Driving safe meant looking out for other cars while on the road and since the day of my accident, every time I approach an intersection, even if I have the right of way, I still look and pay attention to all traffic coming from all directions.

Keep in mind that driving in Hawaii in general is much different from the mainland.  For the most part when driving around towns, people tend to take their time, drive slower, are much more likely to yield to other vehicles and pedestrians and in general are more courteous.  Please be aware of this and also drive with the same respect and aloha.  But the key to driving safely is to always be aware of other drivers.  Watch out for vehicles that may be distracted by the scenery, or drivers that look as though they are drifting in and out of lanes or are not closely paying attention to the road.  Accidents happen all the time on Maui and majority of them are much more serious than simple “fender-benders”. Many of these accidents are attributed to tourists who are unfamiliar with the roads and get distracted by trying to catch all the views while driving in Maui, others from people who are simply reckless and many more from drunk driving.

A very popular tourist activity, involving much driving, is Road to Hana.  Tourists are encouraged to drive and experience Hana as the drive itself is beautiful with multiple tourist destinations, places to see, and things to do along the way.  Road to Hana is relatively easy to navigate as it is well-paved, but there are small bridges along the way that only allow for single cars to pass at a time. It is extremely windy at certain points, and can be hard to see if a car is coming around the corner or not.  In these situations the best precaution to take is to drive slow around the bends, and constantly honk while coming around the corner to alert other cars of oncoming traffic.  When driving to any tourist spot, keep in mind that there are always locals around who have been driving in Maui their entire life and know these roads really well.  Chances are, they are the ones driving at a much faster speed and much more aggressively, especially in more remote areas.  If you notice a car driving much faster than you, pulling up close behind, simply immediately pull over and let them pass.  It is not worth the risk trying to outdrive them or potentially aggravating a local driver.  Spotting tourists is much easier as most of the time they are driving newer rental cars, convertible mustangs or jeeps.

A jeep near the ocean

Jeeps in general are much more efficient cars for getting around island.  It is easy to take them to the beach, they have a lot of space for loading personal items in when traveling but particularly for the road beyond Hana where at some points the road becomes extremely narrow, unpaved and runs alongside cliffs, it is much safer to drive versus navigating the road with a mustang or other wide-bodied or a 2WD vehicle. Driving past Oheo Gulch is not allowed by most rental contracts, make sure you are familiar with the policies.

Road to Hana, Maui: unpaved stretch of road past Seven Sacred Pools

A few other tips when embarking on Road to Hana.  Check the weather report first.  Note that the weather changes drastically as you reach different parts of the island.  It could be perfectly sunny and cloud free on the south side of the island in Kihei but raining all day on the North Shore.  Check to see if it has been raining the last day or if rain is expected.  When there is heavy rain on the North and East Shores, there is a greater chance for mud slides which could lead to traffic, dangerous driving conditions and the possibility of getting stuck in remote areas.  Keep in mind that cellphone reception is very limited at certain points.  And always know that any local knows how to immediately spot a tourist vehicle.  Do not park your rental anywhere other than a parking lot designated for tourists and sight seeing.  By randomly parking the vehicle on the side of the road, you run the chance of parking on someone’s land.  Locals have been known to break into tourist cars, steal their belonging and even set vehicles on fire.

A few things to keep in mind when driving around the rest of the island.  Traffic from town (Kahului) to Lahaina usually begins around 3 pm and ends around 6 pm.  Because there is only one road that leads from central to the west side of Maui, if there is an accident of any kind, traffic could last for hours.  Plan your day accordingly. Traffic from Kahului to Paia also is at its peak between 3 and 6 pm. Visiting the town of Paia around this time could mean sitting at the only intersection with a stop light for extra 20-40 minutes and makes finding parking very difficult.  Otherwise, getting around from Kahului to Kihei or upcountry to Makawao, Pukalani and Kula is usually relatively easy with very little traffic.

So, next time you are visiting Maui, please remember to DRIVE SAFE!

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