The Road to Hana

mauihanahighwaysroad tripSeries: Maui 2021

If no one else but me was driving on the Road to Hana, I would truly love it.

Instead, I admire it, appreciate it, and am just a touch wigged out by it. Let me explain.

Road to Hana

 

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What the Road to Hana Is

The Road to Hana is almost exactly what it sounds like: a road which goes to the town of Hana.

The differences are small: it's actually a series of differently numbered highways chained together, which continue past Hana, past the lower district of Haleakala National Park, and back towards Keokea or so.

I personally drove the full stretch from near the airport through Hana proper about four times. The farthest south I ventured was to Haleakala National Park. My descriptions of treacherousness apply for most all of the 44 or so miles between the intersection of highway 360 and 365 and the National Park.

Road to Hana

Frankly, the best parts of the road to hana are seeing some greenery, getting the shaka sign from locals, and doing your best not to drive like an ass.

What the Road to Hana Is Not

The Road to Hana is neither a cakewalk, nor a road that is inherently frightening. It simply is a very curvy, narrow mountain road. The main difficulty is encountering other motorists, who are generally either inexperienced toursits (like me), or locals who do not let off the gas and do not mind scratches and dents.

The Road to Hana is not more narrow than my local Pennsylvania backroads. Its bends are as sharp as ones that I drive every day. However, the 44-mile or so stretch of it is rather relentless in that there are long sections that are nothing but the sharpest, narrowest corenrs I drive normally. I'm used to doing them for a few minutes, rather than a few hours.

Once you've embarked on your journey, 20mph becomes a very fast speed, and one that you might not surpass all that often. If you're not the one driving, make sure that your driver is someone that you trust. Both, because things can be dangerous, but also, because I would certainly not want to be carsick on this drive.

The Road to Hana is home to a lot of waterfalls, and some side trails, but some are on private property--which should be respected. They are ill-marked, and at peak times of day will attract tourists who will park willy-nilly and teem around the sides of the already narrow road. I appreciated the places where I was able to stop, and the places where I was able to look around while driving and notice some beautiful scenery. I think I would have appreciated the road more as a passenger, since it's hard to take in idyllic views when you're busy squinting to gague whether you need to yield or not.

It's not a road that needs four wheel drive, but some ground clearance wouldn't hurt. South of Hana, I got over for a truck that came barreling down the middle of the road around a blind corner. The shoulder didn't look like it had a steep drop off, but the sounds produced by my rental car were not reassuring. I would also suggest that a vehicle with tight steering would be advisable. Mine was more boat-like in its steering, which detracted from the driving experience.

With all that said, I think there is a lot to recommend checking out along the road to Hana, with the caveat that one must be cognizant of the aforementioned and respectful of the elements, windiness, and property lines. The highway's attractions are...

Road to Hana

A Few Sights

With that out of the way, let's talk about some of the attractions along the roadway.

Ho'okipa Beach Park

Ho'okipa Beach Park is far northwest from the treacherous, rural sections of the Road to Hana. It's home to magnificent waves, rocks, and wind. The tall, relatively predictable waves make it a good spot for surfing lessons, and the convenient pull-off makes it an easy stop for motorists.

Road to Hana

The park is home to some dramatic cliffs, and the overlook has signage and fences to encourage visitors not to cross into dangerous terrain.

While the water is good for boarding sports, the rocks on the beach include some wornout coral, and provide tidal pool habitats for fish.

Road to Hana
Road to Hana

Nearer to the upper parking area, some birds were roaming about.

A rooster, stomping around near the park.
A rooster, stomping around near the park.
A dove (I believe) of some species I have been unable to identify, nesting near the park.
A dove (I believe) of some species I have been unable to identify, nesting near the park.

Wakamoi Nature Trail

Closer to the mid-point of the Road to Hana, the Wakamoi Nature Trail is... a nice walk through a tropical forest with little in the way of scenic overlooks.

Simply put, the overlooks that exist are too overgrown, and the trail itself doesn't offer anything worth a special trip, or worth a special stop. But, it is a nice walk.

Trail Information
Name Wakamoi Nature Trail
Type loop
Location Haleakala National Park
State HI
Country USA
Miles 1
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!
Considering the presence of some big steps, the trail is quite easy and accessible to those who can walk.
Considering the presence of some big steps, the trail is quite easy and accessible to those who can walk.
The views that do exist are of lush, tropical forests.
The views that do exist are of lush, tropical forests.
There are plenty of opportunities to see some interesting plant life, like these young guava fruits.
There are plenty of opportunities to see some interesting plant life, like these young guava fruits.
Road to Hana
This view is from a picnic area, which would be a lovely place to relax and enjoy a snack.
This view is from a picnic area, which would be a lovely place to relax and enjoy a snack.

Waysides and Waterfalls

Throughout the Road to Hana, there are numerous waterfalls, vistas, and occasional pull-offs.

Road to Hana

I couldn't photograph waterfalls as I drove over single-lane bridges by myself. Some parking areas were full. During my drive back in particular there were areas where I would not have parked a rental car jutting out into the lane, with lots of folks walking hither and nither across the roadway. The easiest stops with the best parking were a couple of "state waystations."

These dual waterfalls are the main attraction at the Wailua State Wayside.
These dual waterfalls are the main attraction at the Wailua State Wayside.
But the sea and peninsula are not slouches
But the sea and peninsula are not slouches
The Saint Gabriels Mission Coral Miracle Church in Wailua. I shot this from over half a mile away!
The Saint Gabriels Mission Coral Miracle Church in Wailua. I shot this from over half a mile away!
Beautiful plantlife abounds!
Beautiful plantlife abounds!
The Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside is a pleasant view, though one that would have perhaps been more pleasant if fewer folks were a-swimming in it.
The Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside is a pleasant view, though one that would have perhaps been more pleasant if fewer folks were a-swimming in it.

Closer to the town of Hana, and from the town of Hana onwards, there are a number of other beautiful and amazing things that could be a part of your Road to Hana trip. I decided to spend a while in Hana, so I explored some of these places a little more thoroughly. As such, they are to come in subsequent posts...