Enter lush jungle rainforest, waterfalls sprinkling from the high cliffs above, the turquoise sea glimmering as you travel down one of the most beautiful scenic coastlines in all of Hawai’i: the Hana Highway. For nature lovers and those looking to get a taste of what the island of Maui might have felt like a hundred years ago, join us on this journey. Read on to learn about many of the best Road to Hana stops, overlooks and activities to enjoy. For those who have only a day, going with a guide is a great way to see everything while allowing the whole party to have a relaxing, stress-free day on this winding highway.
The Road to Hana
Stretching 52 miles, the Road to Hana, or Hana Highway, is no small feat to navigate. There are 617 hairpin curves and over 100 one lane bridges to cross! You will definitely “stay on island time” on this scenic drive as the speed limit tops out at 25 mph and takes around 2.5 hours to drive one direction. Whether you would like to explore on your own or join a carefully curated tour by a local sustainable Hana Maui tour company, there are great stops for everyone.
The amount of rainfall tends to depend on the season, yet even in the drier months, many of the waterfalls maintain a steady flow. Especially during the rainier months (October-April), you can expect to see waterfalls around what seems to be every corner! Don’t fret if there isn’t a place to pull over at each one, waterfalls abound, so enjoy the drive, and you will find a place to take that iconic Hawaiian waterfall shot.
Photo Tip: Bring a tripod to reduce camera shake and be able to create the illusion of soft, luminous flowing water! Try decreasing your shutter speed to achieve this effect.
The Roadside Goodies
Residents have set up roadside stands to sell all sorts of tropical fruits, flowers, leis, and snacks so you are never far from food or refreshing drinks along the way. Make sure to try some homemade banana bread – I swear, it may be the best you’ll ever have! Buying fresh fruit & snacks are road to Hāna stops you should make because that directly support the community. Take joy in the fact that you are supporting local farmers and families that have likely been on this land for generations. In fact, ancient Hawaiians brought soil down from the mountains to create the Ke’anae Peninsula that was used as plantations for growing sugarcane, taro, and much of the goodies you’ll see at the stands today! For those looking for souvenirs, not of the edible variety, there are a few stores tailored for this kind of gifts further down the road approaching Hāna.
Waianapanapa – a Black Sand Beach
Near the end of the road to Hāna, one of the greatest highlights awaits! Waianapanapa State Park features a beautiful black sand beach carved by thousands of years of wave action out of the volcanic rock that lines the beach. There are massive sea arches, pillars, and a blowhole to explore, or walk along the volcanic cliffs and take in the ocean view below! A highlight comes in the ability to explore a sea-side volcanic cave.
Waianapanapa Caves are also here. They house hidden pools, known in many legends. Visitors used to be able to jump into them for a (quite) refreshing dip! Unfortunately, they are now closed (due to some unstable rock).
Note: Please don’t remove any lava rock. It is said that Madame Pele (the goddess of fire), who created the islands of Hawai’i, will curse and bring misfortune upon those who take pieces. In fact, thousands of pieces are shipped back to the islands every year from visitors who have felt her wrath! Also, it is very illegal to do such.
The Hana Lava Tube
Definitely worth the stop on the way into Hana is the Hana Lava Tube. It was formed almost a thousand years ago. Molten magma spewed up from the earth and flowed to the ocean. After the top of the lava cooled, the river of magma underneath kept flowing for almost two years and left a massive subterranean tunnel! This is the largest lava tube on Maui and the 18th largest in the world. The lava tube itself is estimated to be only half explored and features huge stalagmites and structural features to be discovered. The tube is self-guided with an $11.95 entrance fee for adults and is free for keiki under the age of 5.
Hana itself is a charming plantation town that you can stop to enjoy lunch at one of the few restaurants and cafes (food trucks), or pack your own and enjoy a picnic out in nature. You can learn a bit about the history and culture of Maui in the Hana Cultural Center. Aching to take an afternoon dip in the water or catch another stunning ocean landscape? Right in this area are three more gorgeous locations to check out: Hana Bay, Koki Beach, and Hamoa Beach. Care for our coral by only swimming in the ocean with reef-safe sunscreen!
The Seven Sacred Pools
One of the better kept secrets just past the town of Hana is a natural wonder to behold, and it also doubles as the swimming hole. The Seven Sacred Pools of Ohe’o have been formed by a series of cascading waterfalls that have dug out volcanic swimming pools that overlook the ocean below. The pools have just reopened to the public and will be an absolute highlight of your trip to Hana should you take the opportunity to visit! It should also be noted that this is the biggest and safest place to swim because it is sheltered from the ocean waves. Valley Isle Excursions is currently the only tour operator visiting them this year, so take full advantage if you’re looking to book a tour.
Camping Tip: If you are looking to spend a night or two out at Kipahulu, remember itʻs lush for a reason. Having a bigger vehicle, like an inexpensive Maui rental van will give you the space to get dry and with the seats folded down, a great alternative to a tent.
Malama Aina means “to care for the land”, you may see signs or hear it spoken, and please respect this. The Hawaiian islands are the most geographically isolated place on the planet – yes you read that right – and with that, our native species of plants and animals are extremely susceptible to harm. Take all of the photos you like, of tropical flowers in all shades you can imagine, revel in the vines stretching from the trees above, but please don’t remove or damage anything. Resources are limited and the land is sacred, and we want to keep Maui clean and viable for our keiki, our children. Step into Hawaiian culture and treat each other and our land with Aloha and enjoy the beauty and unique experiences our home has to offer.
Want to Learn More?
One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the wide breadth of knowledge, history, and culture of Maui is to explore it with a local! We love Valley Isle Excursions, with over 20 years of experience in creating memorable tours, customized with all kinds of local knowledge. You can also check out other sustainable tour operators. If you do plan to explore on your own, be sure to drive safe and let the local residents get around you as you take your time enjoying the sights.