The Secret Trick to Driving the Road to Hana

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Aloha Maui Visitors! If you’re planning to travel to Maui soon, then you must have heard of the Road to Hana! The Road to Hana is a long, winding, at times harrowing, yet always stunningly beautiful drive to the quiet and well-loved town of Hana. The hairpin turns and narrow cliff-side roads are loaded with places to stop, hike, and sight-see. If you have experience with driving on country roads and one-lane bridges, then you’ll be right at home. If you’re not feeling quite that adventurous, you can always join one of the many driven tours that are available, which comes with the added bonus of not having to keep your eyes on the road–all the more time to enjoy the sights. Don’t worry, hundreds of people enjoy this trip every day! Read on for tips and tricks, and the secret to a perfect day on the Road to Hana!


The drive to Hana offers stunning ocean and jungle views. Photo by Rich Hay

The Journey Begins

The Road to Hana follows the historic Hana Highway, which is also known as the 36 (later it becomes the 360), but here’s a little known travel tip: Very few locals use the number designations for roads, so when asking for directions, use the road names or landmarks. Why? Because when you’re living on a small island, there’s no need to memorize road names! Your route begins in Kahului, the central hub of Maui, full of grocery stores and gas stations, so this is the place to stock up. Pack food, water, sunscreen, swimsuits, and cash, because many vendors along the road can’t accept cards. If your car is dirty from other adventures on the island, you might want to get a car wash to prevent the spread of any tiny invaders–such as the little fire ant, an invasive pest that Maui County officials have been going to great lengths to prevent the spread of. Stop by locally-owned Maui Oil Company to sign up for a prepaid fuel card and fill up your tank–conveniently located beside Maui Express Car Wash. Be aware that the Road to Hana is on the Windward side of the island–which means it gets much more rain than Lahaina, Kihei, or Kahului. Be careful with those convertible roofs!


Enjoy the world-famous Twin Falls grotto. Photo by Rina Miele

Twin Falls

After Kahului you’ll pass through beautiful Paia (the last convenient town for fuel), then the jungle roads of Haiku, and next is the famous Twin Falls, which, just a short ways down the road, is where the winding drive will begin in earnest. Twin Falls is a breathtaking spot, an easy hike, and a major landmark on Maui. If you’re hesitant to commit to the entire drive, Twin Falls is a perfectly acceptable taste of the Road to Hana experience, complete with jungle roads and beautiful waterfalls. After this point, expect no gas stations or shops along the highway until you reach Hana Town, but there are a few fruit and bread stands, selling locally-made and harvested goods.


Bamboo forests are found in several places along the Road to Hana. Photo by Madison Olling

The Usual Travel Advisory

A quick warning: Just like most places in the world, it’s inadvisable to drink the water you’ll find in waterfalls, ponds, and streams. Avoid entering the water if you have any open cuts or wounds, and don’t get any in your mouth or eyes. If you do ingest water, let your doctor know, as Leptospirosis can cause diarrhea and other symptoms. Next, stay on the roads and trails, and obey any warning signs or property markings you see. You may have seen travel guides with “secret spots” that no one else knows about, but these are frequently on private property, and trespassing is against the law. Stay on the marked trails and roads and you’ll be just fine!


Travelers who suffer from car sickness will want to bring motion sickness supplies on this drive. Photo by Abbs Johnson

The Winding Road

Ready to push onward? Then put on your motion sickness wristbands if you need them, and plunge forward–to the famously twisty and narrow roads of Hana Highway! This is the longest and most time-consuming stretch–expect one-lane portions, bridges, and narrow, cliff-side roads. The views are worth it. There are picturesque vistas, with lots of places to stop and sight-see along the way, including hikes, waterfalls, and bamboo forests. There’s not enough time in the day to stop at all of them! The best way is to stop at the ones that look the most interesting to you, or the one with the least foot traffic. Remember, you can come back and see the other stops on your next visit! In fact, many recommend you schedule multiple days for your Hana trip, by arranging in advance to stay in Hana town accommodations.


Drive with Aloha for a fun and memorable trip! Photo by Claudio Schwarz Purzlbaum

The Secret to Enjoying the Road to Hana: Be Pono

Although it is paradise, traffic does exist in Hawaii, and the Road to Hana is no exception. Some folks drive at different speeds than others, locals are trying to make their work commute, and once in a while a big van or truck needs to pass by, all while you’re trying to juggle your first trip on Hana Highway. But don’t despair! Here’s the big secret to making it a stress-free drive: There’s a native Hawaiian word we use on the islands, and that is “Pono.” It means righteousness, morality, compassion. “Be Pono” is what Hawaiians say, and it means to do the right thing. To “Be Pono” on the Road to Hana, it means to be patient and understanding to your fellow drivers. Pull over if there’s a line of cars behind you, take turns letting other drivers go on the one-lane bridges, be kind and considerate. You never know what someone is experiencing, they may be in a hurry, or have an emergency. Think of others, and show a shaka to thank them for letting you go by–you’ll probably get one back! After all, we’re all in Hawai’i, so don’t sweat the traffic. Embrace the island-lifestyle of taking things slow and easy, be pono, and enjoy the drive! The reward for your kindness will be all around you, in the beautiful waterfall ponds and peaceful jungles of Hana.


Black Sand Beach and Hana town await you! Photo by William Zhang

Mahalo and Welcome!

Mahalo nui loa for reading about the secret to enjoying the Road to Hana, I hope it serves you well! If you’d like to use a prepaid fuel card to manage your gasoline expenses while visiting Maui, come see us during office hours at Maui Oil Company. Welcome to Maui, and enjoy the Road to Hana! Aloha, a hui hou!


About the Author:

Julie is Maui Oil Company's Social Media and SEO Specialist.
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