Road to Hana Guide: Stops and Valuable Tips

Road to Hana Guide

This is your Road to Hana Guide. Tour this famous drive in Maui. There are waterfalls, hikes, food stalls, beautiful vistas, and other sites throughout the drive. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It was exhausting, but we saw many beautiful sites and the drive was memorable and will surely be part of our family stories for many years to come.

For more information about family travel in Maui, visit 4-Day Family Vacation in Maui.

Related: How to Plan a Vacation with Kids, Tips for a Multigenerational Family Vacation, Tips for Flying with Kids, and Tips for Traveling with Kids.

Is it Better to Drive the Road to Hana Yourself or Take a Tour?

There are 2 options if you want to experience the Road to Hana: Either go on a tour or rent a car and do it on your own. There are benefits to both. On a tour, which are usually on the small side as big tour buses can’t really do the drive, you are with a guide that is familiar with the roads and can give you background information that you don’t really get when you are on your own. However, if you do it yourself, you can go at your own pace and also have the option of doing hikes that a tour won’t do.

We rented a car and did the drive ourselves at our own pace. The drive was slow going and there were lots of one-lane bridges and sharp turns. The locals, and those with mountain driving experience, were likely very annoyed driving behind our car with the less knowledgeable Miami driver accustomed to only flat terrain. But there are areas to pull over for passing.

How Long is the Road to Hana?

Without stopping, the drive is about 2.5 hours to Hana. However, with stops it takes much longer, about 5 hours one way. You can either do the entire loop or just drive to the town of Hana and turn back. We drove past Hana to Haleakala National Park. I suggest starting early, around 7:30am and going to your must-see places and then driving straight back. If you don’t want to do it all in one day, a great option is to stay 1 to 2 nights at a hotel.

Road to Hana Guide: Major Stops

There are many places to stop on the Road to Hana, however, if you are only doing it in one day then you won’t have time for all of them. These are my recommendations for where to stop and tips for having a successful day.

Aunt Sandy’s and Black Lava Beach

Hana Highway takes you through the town of Paia, which is a great place to stop if you want to pick up breakfast or put gas in the car. We filled up the night before and had breakfast in our hotel room, so we just drove right through it with our first stop in mind, Aunt Sandy’s (near mile marker 17), for some delicious banana bread. After we ordered, we got back in the car and drove to Ke’anae Park down the road to see the black lava beach. There’s also bathrooms there. Take advantage, they are rare on this road.

Hana Lava Tube

We had planned on going straight to Hana for lunch, but were making good time, so we stopped at the Hana Lava Tube. Around mile marker 31 you turn left on ‘Ula’ino Road and drive for about 1/2 mile. On the left, you’ll see the entrance for the Lava Tube. The sign says open from 10:30 to 4pm, but we arrived around 10am and it was open and there were other visitors there already. Drive up to the parking lot and there is a little hut where you pay the attendant ($15/person; kids 5 and under are free) and they will describe what you will find, including stalactites, stalagmites, and lava flow lines.

The tube is completely dark, but they provide flashlights. There are signs throughout the tube, giving you history and background information. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the end and turn back. Going through the lava tube was a unique experience and one of the more memorable things we did in Hawaii. However, my 10 year old didn’t like the darkness of the tunnel, even though she enjoyed making shadow puppets.

Lunch

After the lava tube we headed towards Hana town for lunch. We had read about food trucks in Hana but couldn’t immediately find them so we headed to a pizza place we saw along the way. The pizza at Hana Farms Roadside Stand, Pizza Oven, and Bakery was very good and there was a small market and restrooms.

When we were driving through Hana town on our way to Wailua Falls, we drove past the 2 food truck courts! There was one after Wananalua Congregational Church, after Hauoli Road. We stopped and had some delicious local pineapple. They seem to close early, only a few were open when we stopped for the pineapple, so stop on your way to Wailua Falls.

Wailua Falls

Around mile marker 45, we found Wailua Falls. You can see it from the bridge and there is parking on the left hand side right after the bridge. When we went there was a local selling handmade artwork. To the right of the bridge there is a path that will lead you down to the waterfall pool. There were a few people that enjoyed a dip in the water. We did not, as it was very steep to get to the pool and, being from Miami, the water was too cold. Brr.

Pipiwai Trail, Haleakala National Park

We continued on to Haleakala National Park (not the same entrance to witness the sunset/sunrise) to hike the Pipiwai Trail. Had we realized that it was 4 miles round trip, which took us about 3 hours, then we probably wouldn’t have done it. It was beautiful, but exhausting. In hindsight, we would have skipped it and done Twin Falls instead. Nevertheless, since we did do the hike, I’ll share my insights. It was a semi-steep hike over uneven terrain. There were breaks at beautiful points throughout, including a large banyan tree, bamboo forest, and then Waimoku Falls. I recommend taking plenty of water. In the summer it is very hot and humid.

Road to Hana Tips

1. Plan your route ahead of time.
2. Start early to beat the crowds.
3. For an abbreviated day, skip Pipiwai Trail and do Twin Falls instead.
4. Stay overnight, if you have the time and budget.
5. Take a cooler with enough water to last the day.
6. Take snacks, bug spray, and patience.
7. Download any maps or guides ahead of time; you will lose cell phone signal.
8. If you decide to hike the Pipiwai trail, don’t forget to take plenty of water.

Car Rental

Renting a car in Maui is a necessity if you want to get around on your own without having to hire a tour guide. We found a local company, Makoa Rental Car Company, that was very easy to work with. They have older cars, but they are in very good working condition. The company leaves the car at the airport for you and gives you instructions on how to pick it up and drop it off. You can even rent beach chairs and coolers through them and they will leave them in the car!

Another alternative for renting a car is Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They have deals with all the major car rental companies but at a very reduced rate than what you’ll find going directly through the company.

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