Choosing The Best Maui Road To Hana Stops For Your Maui Road Trip
The Hana Highway is the most epic and popular road trip in Maui. Choosing the best road to Hana stops can be just as epic a task. The highway to Hana Maui, otherwise known as Highway 36 and Rt 360 is the most famous of the Maui road trips. This 64.4 mile (136 km) drive from the central Maui town of Kahului to the backside of Haleakala National Park at the eastern end of Maui lives up to its fame as one of the best things to do in Maui.
Finding the best stops on the road to Hana might seem easy with such a short distance, but with 52 one-lane bridges and at least 620 turns, a straight drive from Kahului to Hana takes a minimum of 2.5 hours. And that is without stopping at any of the incredible Maui Road to Hana stops along the way.
How To Experience The Maui Road To Hana Stops
While it’s possible to do the road to Hana in a day if you want the town of Hana to be the experience. But the highway to Hana is about the journey, not about the destination. Taking your time and experiencing the best Hana highway attractions along the way is the best way to experience this incredible travel experience. I recommend doing a two-day road to Hana trip. This would give you one day to drive to Hana, and another day to visit any of the attractions that you missed on the way back.
If you can spare the time though, the best way to do the Maui road to Hana is a three-day trip. This would involve one day to drive to Hana, one day to experience the region past Hana town, and one day to enjoy the ride back. And when you’re stopping every few miles along the highway, at food trucks, waterfalls, and beaches, you’ll be SO glad that you added the extra time.
Road To Hana Safety
Start your day on the Hana highway early. Most of the food and market attractions close by 5:00 pm, or sometimes even earlier. And, with the narrow road and dangerous corners, you won’t want to drive the highway to Hana in the dark. Even in the day time, the highway must be taken slowly. Hana highway speed limits can be as low as 5-10 miles per hour in places. Obey these limits. You might consider yourself a safe driver, but you can’t account for the recklessness of others who might be coming from the other direction.
If you are planning on doing any of the road to Hana hikes, it’s also good practice to bring the bare minimum of valuables with you. Thefts are common in areas where vehicles are left at hiking start points. If you are exploring the more popular road to Hana stops, you are likely fine, as the popularity of these places ensures that there are many witnesses around.
You will also want to ensure you start both directions of your trip with a full tank of gas. There are no gas stations along the highway to Hana. The town of Paia is your last chance to fuel up before Hana town. There are plenty of places to stop for food and drink along the way.
The Best Road To Hana Stops
Planning out your road to Hana trip is a personal experience. How you plan your road to Hana stops is up to you. I highly recommend mixing up your experience so that you can make the most of both directions along the road to Hana. But whatever way that you choose to experience your Maui road trip, these are some of the best stops on the Hana highway.
Ho’okipa Beach – Just Outside Paia
It’s easy to skip our first recommended stop on the road to Hana. Ho’okipa Beach is a legendary surf beach just outside the town of Paia. You can wander down to the beach and watch the surfers and windsurfers catching some of the legendary waves. On the east side of the beach is the Ho’okipa lookout that offers a great vantage point to see the action further out in the water.
There is parking on the east side near the lookout as well as along the beach. The route is one-way from east to west. Parking for Ho’okipa beach fills up quickly so you may need to be patient and wait for an opening.
Twin Falls – Mile Marker 2
Twin Falls is the first series of waterfalls on the road to Hana. The falls sit on private property. But the owners have allowed for visitors to enter and have laid out some hiking trails along the waterfalls and pools. The walk to the falls is an easy route along paths of bamboo and ferns. If the weather has been wet, expect that you may get a bit muddy.
There is limited parking at the entrance to Twin Falls. If the lot is full you will need to find a safe spot along the edge of the road for parking. There is also a decent food truck at the Twin Falls entrance. At the beginning of the trails, there are a series of portable toilets as well.
Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees – Mile Marker 7
Around mile marker 7 is one of the most unique road to Hana stops. Here you’ll find a grove of Rainbow Eucalyptus trees on the left side of the road right near a series of sharp turns. The rainbow Eucalyptus, also known as rainbow gum tree has bright, multi-colored streaks caused by the peeling of the outer bark. the color starts as a bright green before darkening to blues, purples, and orange tones.
Garden of Eden – Mile Marker 10.5
The road to Hana garden of Eden is a private arboretum. This sprawling property has been the pet project of Alan Bradbury, Maui’s first ISA certified arborist. Alan has crafted a spectacular series of trails and gardens that connect some of the beautiful views of eastern Maui. The Garden of Eden has an admission fee of $15 per adult.
Within the Maui Garden of Eden, you’ll find 100-year-old mango tree’s, the famous Keopuka rock overlook, and countless varieties of plants. You’ll also find the Garden Cafe, a small food truck that serves excellent Latin-Hawaiian fusion dishes. Make sure to drop by the first parking lot too to visit with the colorful peacocks. You can find out more information on their website here.
Ke’anae Arboretum – Mile Marker 16.7
If you don’t want to spend the money to visit the Garden of Eden, just a few miles along the road to Hana is the Ke’anae Arboretum. This six-acre arboretum and botanical garden is a great place to experience the stunning flora of Maui close up and without an entrance fee. There is a babbling stream on the left-hand side of the path that makes for a picture-perfect stop. The trail itself is fairly short, but it makes for a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy the sights and smells of Maui.
There are two small parking lots across the road from the Ke’anae Arboretum. The one directly across from the entrance often fills up quickly, but if you follow the bend you’ll find a second one that is rarely used.
Ke’anae Peninsula – Mile Marker 16.8
Just down the hill from the arboretum is one of the most special road to Hana stops. The Ke’anae Peninsula is a lowland coastal area that has a specialty in taro farming. The peninsula was nearly wiped out in 1946 by an 8.6 magnitude earthquake in Alaska that we had learned about during our Alaska cruise. The earthquake sent a tsunami across the ocean. The Ke’anae Congregational Church was the only building that survived the tsunami.
Lava Tube – Mile Marker 23
One lesser known Hana highway attraction is a blink-and-you-miss-it stop at mile marker 23. There is a small parking area with a beautiful view on the Kahului side of the highway. Many of those who drive the road to Hana might think that this is the attraction here. But, a quick walk across the road will show you a small hole in the rocky wall. Bring a flashlight and crawl in.
This short lava tube has chambers that stretch up over 10 ft high. Follow the tube to the end and you’ll come across a beautiful opening into the forest with a small waterfall below it.
Hanawi Falls – Mile Marker 24
The soft fingers of Hanawi Falls made it one of our favorite waterfalls on the road to Hana. The small parking and super sharp hairpin turns surrounding Hanawi falls make it easy to miss this Hana highway stop, but if you can snag a spot just before or just after the bridge it’s worth it. The best views of the falls are from the bridge itself. But be careful. It’s narrow and there are cars regularly traveling through. This includes locals who might be in a rush to get to work.
Makapipi Falls – Mile Marker 25
If you are traveling the road to Hana with kids, you’ll have a hard time not smiling every time you say Makapipi Falls. Makapipi is one of the larger stops on the Hana highway. This spot has a large parking area and a washroom facility. Across the road, there is a paved path along a stream that leads to a great swimming hole. The water is a bit chilly, but if that doesn’t bother you, the swimming is excellent.
To reach the swimming area just wade across the shallow stream. Those who are looking for a little more adventure can take the path on the right of the pond. This will take you to the top of the waterfall where the brave can jump into the water below.
Wai’anapanapa State Park – Mile Marker 32
A visit to Wai’anapanapa State Park on the road to Hana is a must-visit. This stunning black sand beach stretches along the oceanfront in a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay. If you arrive at the right time, you may even witness the tide pools turn a bright shade or red. This is due to small shrimp that congregate in the pools. Hawaiian folklore has told that the red is from the blood of a princess that was killed in a nearby cave by her husband Chief Kaakea.
It’s easy to spend a whole day at Wai’anapanapa State Park exploring the hiking trails, lava tubes, and blowholes that line the ocean. There are picnic and bathroom facilities available. You will often find locals pitching tents for a whole-day outing here. For Wai’anapanapa State Park parking turn left at the gate that looks like it should be the entrance and follow the road around to the right. Parking fills up very quickly, although there is often a lot of turnover by those just making a quick photo stop. Don’t forget to pack reef-safe sunscreen for the beach. Many sunscreen chemicals are banned in Hawaii.
Birthplace Of Queen Ka’ahumanu – Hana Harbor
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’ve made it to Hana town! If there is still some sun in the sky, you might want to head down to Hana Harbor. A short but rough walking trail near the end of the parking lot will lead you to the birthplace of Queen Kaahumanu. Queen Kaahumanu was the most influential wife of the first Hawaiian King Kamehameha I. She was born in a cove just around the bend and nursed in a small cave just up from the cove. It’s not much to see, but witnessing the birthplace of such an important figure in Hawaiian history is truly humbling.
Wailua Falls – Mile Marker 45
If you’re looking for the crown jewel of the road to Hana stops, look no further than Wailua Falls. Wailua Falls (not to be confused with the waterfall on Kauai with the same name) is often hailed as the “most photographed waterfall in Maui.” When you arrive at Wailua make sure to stop. There is a parking area on either side of the one-lane bridge that passes over the stream. Hope out and take a closer look. You won’t regret it. This is the same waterfall that I took a long-exposure of and is the cover of this road to Hana blog article.
Wailua Falls tumbles an impressive 80 ft down a vertical garden into a small but rocky pool. The parking at Wailua Falls can get busy, but, because most visitors turn back at Hana Town, not as many make it to Wailua Falls as they should.
Palapala Ho’omau Church And The Grave Of Charles Lindbergh – 8 Miles Past Hana
Although humble Palapala Ho’omau Church sits on a beautiful piece of land with stunning views of the Maui coastline. It might not be considered one of the most important Road to Hana stops. That is until you see the grave of the church’s most prestigious resident. Legendary explorer, aviator, and environmentalist Charles Lindbergh lived out his final days on Maui. You can find his grave and that of his wife beneath a Java plum tree.
For me though the most beautiful thing about the Palapala Ho’omau Church wasn’t the grave of this famous explorer. Rather, I was so touched by the headstones that had been lovingly written by fingers in wet cement on many of the graves. There is something so honest and real about this type of tribute that goes far beyond type-written letters.
The Seven Sacred Pools And The Bamboo Forest At Haleakala State Park – 12 Miles Past Hana
Once you’ve paid your respects to Mr. Lindbergh head a little further down the road to the Kipahulu Visitor Center at Haleakala National Park. Here you can take on some of the amazing hikes of the backside of Haleakala. At Haleakala, you can take the short hike to the coast along the famous Seven Sacred Pools, or you hike further inland through the incredible Bamboo Forest for a truly spectacular experience.
Where To Stay In Hana
Once you’re in Hana, you’ll want to get a good night of sleep. Hana is a super small town. There are not a lot of options, so you need to decide if you want to go big, or go small. The best hotel in Hana is Travaasa Hana. This luxury hotel is also home to one of the best restaurants on Maui. If you are planning on soaking in the life in Hana for a couple of days, this is a great option. If Travaasa is a bit too steep for your needs, check out Hale Nanea. These cottage-style accommodations are close to the water and even have a gas bbq for cooking.
Best Road To Hana Food
As I said earlier, the road to Hana is all about the journey. And just like the rest of Maui, the food is a big part of the experience. Food is never too far away on the road to Hana (unless you are traveling after everything shuts down around 5 pm). There are great food trucks and small restaurants and cafes along the way for you to try. Here are a few that you shouldn’t miss.
Nahiku Marketplace – Mile Marker 26
Of all of the road to Hana food stops, Nahiku Marketplace has got to be the most complete. This outdoor market is a virtual strip mall of trinket shops, cafes and outdoor dining. You can grab a coffee at the Nahiku Cafe, wolf down some Island Style Tacos, or even cool down at the Hana Highway Sorbet. If you’re looking for something heavy, try the rotisserie ribs at Max Bullah BBQ. Nahiku Marketplace has portable toilets as well. So even if you aren’t hungry, it’s a great place for a bathroom break.
Ono Farms Fruit Stand And Marketplace – Mile Marker 32
If you’re looking for some great local fresh fruit, there is no better place to stop than at the Ono Farms fruit stand. Here you can pick up many of the amazing fruit that we learned about during our Kauai chocolate tour. You’ll also find several other food trucks on hand here ranging from Thai to burgers and shakes. There are portable toilets and recycling bins available as well.
Hana Ranch Restaurant – Hana Town
Once you reach Hana Town it will probably be close to dinner time. We really enjoyed both the food and the view at the Hana Ranch restaurant on the outside of town. The locally grown Maui steak was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. And they had a selection of local beer and wine for purchase as well. It’s a great place to eat in Maui with kids. They loved the grassy areas outside the restaurant that let them burn off a little energy before the food arrived.
Have you ever traveled the road to Hana? Tell us about your favorite stops in the comments. Or swing by our Facebook page and share a photo of your trip. We would love to share in your travels.
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