Maui’s Road to Hāna is one of the best drives you can take on your trip to Hawaiʻi. Roadside waterfalls? Check. Dozens of off-the-beaten-path hiking trails? You know it. Some of the best banana bread stops in the state? Oh yeah. But, the road gets a bad rap for its frightening twists and turns, one-lane thoroughfares and perilous cliffside locale. You should not, however, let those factors stop you from spending a day on the Road to Hāna, and we’ve put together a survival guide with tips and tricks to help you make the drive.
Of course, the actual act of driving down the Road to Hāna can be intimidating for folks behind the wheel. But contrary to popular belief, it’s really not that bad once you tackle the first few hairpin turns. Drivers will find themselves falling into a rhythm with the road and it’s not a bad idea to have only one person in your party doing the driving since they’ll grow more and more accustomed to it. There are a few things to keep in mind, however.
The sections of the road that converge two lanes—going opposite directions—into one can throw people for a loop, so be sure to keep your eyes far ahead of where you are to see whether or not another car has already started coming down the now one-lane road. If so, simply wait for them to pass (if they’re coming toward you) before proceeding. If this isn’t judged correctly, you may end up in a jam with a car in front of you—which is fine, but be prepared to reverse until the point where the road becomes two lanes once more.
It’s also a safe idea to give a short honk around blind corners. This will allow fellow drivers to know that there is a car coming toward them, and they may respond to your honk with one of their own. And if you are taking it slow on the Road to Hāna—a good call if you’re feeling uncomfortable behind the wheel—be sure to let cars behind you pass by pulling off slightly onto the shoulder.
If you’re not driving, congratulations. You get to pay full attention to the Road to Hāna, and you won’t want to take your eyes off the road for a second. But, you may want to account for motion sickness during the drive, which can take well over an hour. To combat this, Dramamine or some ginger before starting the journey can make a world of difference. If you know you’re prone to motion sickness, asking to sit upfront—with the window rolled down—can also be a lifesaver. And while you may want to be snapping pictures and videos on the entire drive, looking at your phone while on the drive can increase your chances of feeling queasy and uncomfortable.
What to Pack
Proper provisions can be a lifesaver on the Road to Hāna, which is really a day’s worth of activities by itself. Snacks, sunscreen and bug repellent are obvious inclusions, however you’ll also need to download music on your phone or bring CDs with you in the car, as the road is known for its lack of reception—meaning music streaming services like Spotify won’t work. A couple of towels, hiking shoes along with slippers and minor first-aid items—such as bandages and antibiotic ointments—are also good things to have.
In addition to packing items for yourself, be sure to pack your car with gas and fill up the tank before starting the Road to Hāna. It is a lot of driving, so you really don’t want to be worrying about the low gas light on your dashboard miles away from the closest gas station.
As gorgeous as the scenery is, stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures of a waterfall or vista is highly discouraged. While the Road to Hāna may seem like it was built solely to show the beauty and natural wonders of the Valley Isle, it is still a road that the residents of Hāna, and those who work in Hāna, use as a commute. This also means not pulling off and parking on the side of the road where there isn’t enough room for other cars to easily pass. And please, please, don’t enter any old trail or hike without making sure it’s actually legal for you to do so. There are numerous private properties along the Road to Hāna that don’t want to have hikers, visitors or locals alike, on their land.
It’s also important to note that you may not want to leave valuables inside of your car, especially left out in plain sight. While Hawaiʻi is paradise, it isn’t crime-free, and rental cars are often targeted by thieves.
Look, when you gotta go, you gotta go. But on the Road to Hāna, you may not always have that luxury. There are a few restrooms on the road, such as the ones at Ho’okipa Beach Park, Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park and Wai’ānapanapa State Park.