Driving Around Maui: 4 Scenic Drives to Check Off Your Bucket List

By Kyle Ellison
Kaanapali Beach with the island of Lanai in the distance.  Photo:  Brian Lauer.

Kaanapali Beach with the Island of Lanai in the distance. Photo: Brian Lauer.

Maui, by comparison, is not a large island. It’s the 17th largest island in America, and there are even cities—like Jacksonville and Juneau—that are actually larger than Maui.

Despite its modest size, however, Maui is an island with myriad moods and places to go explore, from verdant rainforests dripping in vines to picturesque, white sand shorelines. Simply the act of driving around Maui is an adventure unto itself, where the scenery out the window can change whenever the odometer rolls over, and palm trees quickly give way to pine trees in only a couple of miles.

Looking to rent a car? Special rental discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Click here for more information.

1.  The Famous Waterfall-Laden Road to Hana

Pools of Oheo.  Photo:  farmboyted.

Pools of Oheo. Photo: farmboyted.

One of Maui’s best drives, of course, is the famous Road to Hana—a twisting, narrow, all-day journey where waterfalls, sea caves, and roadside fruit stands emerge around every turn. The drive, however, doesn’t stop in Hana; it actually wraps around the island, past Kipahulu and Kaupo, where the crystalline, multi-tiered Pools of Ohe‘o flow gently down toward the sea, and cattle roam through grassy fields that seem perched on the edge of the Earth. Some rental car companies say driving out here will violate your contract, which doesn’t mean that the drive is forbidden—simply that they won’t come and get you.

2.  Maui’s Rugged Northwestern Sea Coast

View from Nakalele Blowhole to Kahakuloa.  Photo:  supercake.

View from Nakalele Blowhole to Kahakuloa. Photo: supercake.

Another highlight of driving around Maui is the road up the northwestern coast. Here is a place where modern development gives way to a rugged shoreline, and blowholes, bluffs, and coral strewn bays create an adventurer’s playground. Even the views from behind the steering wheel are reason to go for a drive—just remember to keep your eyes on the road and stop on the side to snap photos.

3.  Maui’s Cool and Casual Upcountry

Photo:  Ed Suominen.

Photo: Ed Suominen.

For a casual drive on an old country road, head Upcountry to Keokea and out to Ulupalakua, where a twisting jaunt through rich green pastures emerges at Maui’s only winery. Diesel trucks and feed-filled tractors will likely be rumbling down the road, but so are classic, pastel wagons with surfboards strapped to the roof, and clusters of cyclists straining their calves on a two-wheeled Upcountry ride. As part of a proper Upcountry road trip, stop at local coffee houses to sip the island-grown coffee, or shop for spices, jewelry, or glass in shabby chic, Western-themed Makawao. Need to stretch your legs from the drive? Head to the top of Olinda Road to hike the Waihou Springs Trail, where the air is cool at 4,000 feet and smells of Eucalyptus and Pine.

4.  Haleakala: The Shortest Road from Sea Level to 10,000 Feet

Sunrise from Haleakala.  Photo:  Bob Weir.

Sunrise from Haleakala. Photo: Bob Weir.

Or, to really cool off atop the mountain, grab a jacket and make the climb to cinder-strewn Haleakala summit—the world’s shortest road that goes from sea level to over 10,000 feet. The drive begins in coastal Pa‘ia amidst hippies, surfers, and yogis, and finishes up above the clouds where gaggles of nene geese roam. Soft gusts of wind replace the sound of surf striking soft golden sands, and you’re greeted by silence too often drowned out by the noise of our modern day world. While sunrise here atop Haleakalā is the most popular time to visit, consider devoting the day to the drive and then summiting the mountain for sunset; you’ll welcome evening with a sky full of stars, your headlights guiding the way down the slopes through enveloping, inky black darkness.

Don’t forget – special rental car discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Click here for more information.

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