Also known as the Road to Hana, the Hana Highway is a stretch of road from the town of Paia, all the way to Hana, on the island of Maui in Hawaii. It’s one of the most stunning parts of the island, with an incredible concentration of natural sights to see. These sights have a beauty which can’t easily be captured on camera, and the road is a fantastic trip for first-time visitors to Hawaii.
A visit to Hawaii is ideal when done before or after a road trip to California, as you can get from LAX to Honolulu airport in around five hours. Once there, it’s important to note that Hawaii has a few rules when it comes to driving. The Hana Highway might be flat, but it’s full of sharp turns, so speeding is strictly prohibited. Also, look out for road signs throughout Hawaii which state “local traffic only”. These are in place to protect local neighbourhoods from excessive traffic, and aren’t applied to business areas. Here’s just a selection of the many wonders you can see along the Hana Highway.
Many start their journey from Highway 36, at the town of Paia. This is a seriously chilled out part of Maui, and while many people simply drive through, we think it’s worth checking out. Start your road trip first thing in the morning, and grab a coffee and pastry from a local bakery in town. Then, you’re ready to start the Hana Highway.
A big wave surfing break near to Peahi, the coastline at Jaws boasts huge unpredictable waves, attracting professional surfers from around the world who travel here to attempt to tame the ocean. If the waves are too big, it’s a good idea to find a good vantage point on the cliffs above, as this is where you’ll have the best views of the surfers below.
After a worthwhile hike through the Maui countryside, you’ll be met with a large swimming area, surrounded by picturesque waterfalls. If you’re pressed for time, you can park near to the Lower Falls and enjoy the nearby farm shop. The Upper Falls are a more challenging hike, but fewer people make the trip, so you’ll be rewarded with a more secluded experience. These falls are simply stunning, and are one of the most famous parts of the Hana Highway. Once you’ve splashed around, continue your drive and look out for Painted Bark Eucalyptus trees along the road! These colourful trees appear to have been painted, whereas in reality the bark is naturally multi-coloured.
The Keanae Peninsula is a small diversion from the Hana Highway, but it’s well worth it. Drive a little while down Keanae Road towards Kaenae Point, and enjoy fantastic views of the rocky east Maui coastline. This part of the island is famous for growing yams and bananas, so don’t forget to pick up some fresh banana bread from the local shop, Aunty Sandy’s.
You can see Waikani Falls from the road, so if you’re in a rush you don’t need to stop for long. However, it’s a nice idea to pull over especially if there has been heavy rain, as these falls can be as small as a trickle, or combine to form one large waterfall. They’ve earned the nickname “The Three Bears” as usually, there are three waterfalls side by side.
Puaa Kaa State Park
The perfect place to stop for lunch, Puaa Kaa State Park has great facilities, including a picnic area and bathrooms. There’s a small waterfall with a pleasant freshwater swimming hole, and while it’s not as scenic as some of the previous waterfalls you’ll encounter, it’s a charming part of the Hana Highway. You might even meet some of the local cats as they skulk around looking for leftovers! With around five acres to explore, this part of the trip is ideal if you’re looking to stretch your legs for a while.
Part of the Wainapanapa State Park, Pa’iola Beach is famous for its black sand and pebble shoreline. Contrasted against the turquoise colour of the ocean, this beach really is breath-taking. Follow the walking trail down to the fresh water caves for some great picture opportunities, and witness dozens of ancient sites which were once home to the earliest Hawaiian locals. A place full of history and beauty, Pa’iola Beach is the perfect end to your road trip.
As you arrive in the town of Hana, you’ll notice immediately that it’s unlike much of Hawaii. The town has retained its sleepy ambience, and boasts a truly fascinating local history. Much of the town has remained unchanged for years, and many consider this town to be the most authentic part of Hawaii. Visit the Cultural Centre and Museum to find out about the town’s heritage.
Discover the incredible natural beauty of Hawaii, from the freedom of your own car.