Maui Driving Tips & Rental Rates

By Kyle Ellison

RoadtoHana

The following are items you should probably pack when planning a trip to Maui: Sunscreen, swimsuit, camera, slippers, and a healthy sense of adventure.

What’s one thing you shouldn’t bring to Maui? A big, heavy lead foot.

Tip #1:  Driving in Maui (Or on Maui, as the Locals Say) is Different Than Other Places – Slow Down!

maui road driving

Photo: Eugene.

Driving on Maui is very different than in other parts of the world, and first time visitors are often shocked by the pace of cars on the road. The maximum speed limit is 55 mph, though the majority of roads have much slower speeds—between 25 and 45mph. There aren’t any freeways, numbered exits, carpool lanes, or interstates, and single-lane roads with crosswalks and stop signs are how you’ll move around the island.

Looking to rent a car? Special rental discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Check rental car rates here.

Tip #2:  Traffic Time on Maui is 4 PM

Traffic in Lahaina.  Photo:  Matt McGee.

Traffic in Lahaina. Photo: Matt McGee.

There is, however, a growing amount of traffic, and visitors should still be conscious of times when traffic slows down to a crawl. The worst two sections are the road to Lahaina and the road leading into Pa‘ia—both of which are single lane and gridlock at 4pm. Normal driving time between Kahului and Lahaina is a little bit under an hour, though it can easily be 90 minutes or more if you drive in the late afternoon. You can avoid the traffic by driving in the morning, but factor in traffic if you’re staying on the West Side and returning for a luau or dinner.

Tip #3:  Drive Safe – Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Drive to Hana.  Photo:  dancingnomad3.

Drive to Hana. Photo: dancingnomad3.

From a safety perspective, the most dangerous thing you’ll do on Maui is taking your eyes off the road—a trap that’s surprisingly easy to fall into considering the roadside beauty. If you want to look at the whales, however, or the rainbows, sunsets, or waterfalls, simply slow down and pull off the road to properly take in the view.

Tip #4:  Look Out for Cattle (and Deer) Crossing!

Happy cows of Haleakala.  Photo:  blese.

Happy cows of Haleakala. Photo: blese.

Another Maui driving tip is to keep an eye out for cattle, particularly when driving to Haleakalā for sunrise or around the backside of Hana. Axis deer are also abundant, so be alert around sunrise and sunset in Kula, Wailea, and Makena.

Tip #5:  There’s No Need for 4WD

Taking the forbidden southern route back from Hana is nerve wracking, boucy, exhilirating, and eerie all at once.  Photo:  Asten.

Taking the forbidden southern route back from Hana is nerve wracking, boucy, exhilirating, and eerie all at once. Photo: Asten.

In terms of shopping for car rentals on Maui, you can save a bundle with local companies who aren’t based at the airport—all of which offer complimentary shuttles to their rental baseyards off site. There’s also no need to spend extra money by renting a 4WD, since the only place you would ever need it is if visiting Polipoli. Car rental agencies will say 4WD is mandatory for the bumpy back road to Hana, but that’s only true if it’s torrentially raining—in which case you wouldn’t be out there. Speaking of that infamous “back road” to Hana, when car rental companies say it violates the contract to drive the island’s backside, it simply means that if something happens they aren’t going to come out and get you.

Tip #6:  Drive With Aloha and Throw a Shaka!

Shaka!  Photo:  Aaron Najera.

Shaka! Photo: Aaron Najera.

For the most part, however, the biggest Maui driving tip is to simply drive with aloha, and remember the time between A and B is all a part of the experience. Let people into traffic and drive at a moderate speed, and the only time locals honk their horn is when passing through the tunnel toward Lahaina. When someone stops to let you in front of them just throw out a casual shaka, and leave plenty of time to get where you’re going—sit back and enjoy the ride.

Don’t forget – special rental car discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Check rental car rates here.

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