A visit to Maui isn’t complete without a drive on the scenic Road to Hana, the windy 2-lane (one-lane at bridges) highway along the eastern coast toward the beautiful jungle of waterfalls and nature hikes of east Maui.
As the island has only a few main roads and just one main road along the coast leading around to the East side, getting to Hana town is pretty straightforward, if not straight.
Where Does the Road to Hana Start?
Spanning 52 miles (or 64 miles, depending on your end point), the Road to Hana begins at mile marker 0, a few miles east from Paia when Hwy 36 turns into Hwy 360.
(You can start the Road to Hana from Kahului on Hwy 36 and continue east on the same road which becomes Hwy 360.)
Keep in mind that the average posted speed limit is 25 mph. This stretch of road is infamously called the “Divorce Highway”, thanks to its relationship-testing 617 turns & 59 (mostly one-lane) bridges. Fun times!
It is the longest rainforest highway in the USA, and is a registered historic area.
Here is a map showing where to reach the Road to Hana, from various points on the island. If you are new to Maui, your main point of reference is likely Kahului Airport:
There is also a small airport in Hana, used for island hopping between the Hawai’ian Islands. If you don’t want to drive the Road to Hana, you could fly to Hana in 21 minutes from Kahului!
Starting the Road to Hana From Kahului
From the airport in Kahului, take highway 36 east toward Paia. The road will turn into 360, Hana Highway, a few miles after Baldwin Rd./Paia as you go east.
Notice that the highway turns into highway 37 beyond Kaupo as the road curves west and north towards Kula, the Haleakala Crater, and back to Kahului.
The drive from Kahului Airport (OGG) is 53 miles, but most of the posted speed limits east of Paia are 25mph, so expect a drive of almost 3 hours, not including stops.
[Download] PDF Map of the Best Stops on the Road to Hana
If you don’t want to use a GPS app, you can use your odometer’s mile markers to know generally where to stop, and bring along a PDF with mile markers [link to download].
Reset your odometer at Mile Marker 0 (you’ll see it as you head east a few miles from Paia), and let the good times roll.
The road to Hana is a neat journey back in time to old Hawaii with unique jungle landscapes, waterfalls, and stunning beaches.
It is possible to go to all stops in one day, but it would be a VERY long day, and rushed, and defeats the point. We suggest a trip to Ho’okipa (to watch the surfers) and Twin Falls on a separate day, if you are staying somewhere nearby.
Start the trip before 7am to give yourself enough time for everything. You do not want to be driving the road to Hana in reverse after dark.
You could also spend an entire day lounging at Koki Beach and Hamoa Beach. Wai’anapanapa State Park with its black pebble beach and lava hike is also worth an afternoon or morning (if you stay the night in Hana, you can be the only people on the beach in the evening and early morning!).
We spent an afternoon at the Haleakala National Park in Kipahulu – a brief look at the Ohe’o Gulch, and a couple hours hiking up the Pipiwai Trail.
How Long Does it Take to Do the Road to Hana?
With a few stops at the main attractions, the drive takes about 5 hours one way, and 7 to 9 hours for a rushed round-trip from Kahului (assuming a few stops).
As written above, the road is 52 miles long and the posted speed limit averages 25 mph, so you do the math.
A few miles beyond Hana, the highway changes to Piilani highway 37, at which point the mile markers begin to descend.
To Drive to Hana and back, we suggest you schedule a full day, about 10 to 12 hours depending on stops and what you decide to do for lunch (we suggest a packed picnic, or a stop at the convenient food trucks in Hana town for a tasty and reasonably priced meal).
To actually enjoy the sights and experiences of the Road to Hana, consider making several trips (one day for hikes and waterfalls, and separate days for enjoying Hamoa or swimming and hiking at Black Sands Beach at the state park).
The drive itself isn’t as fun as the stops you decide to make along the way.
If you want to Loop the Entire Road: It’ll take about a day (dawn to dusk) to drive all the way around (make the clockwise loop from Paia to Kula and back up to Kahului) – so 10 to 12 hours, without stopping for hikes and wandering around.
What Time Should You Start the Road to Hana?
As early as possible, if you plan on stopping at the sights. Most people leave between 7am and 9am, so aim to leave either before or after that window to avoid being stuck with the convoy of cars (let’s be honest — the convoy of rented jeeps).
Where To Start the Road to Hana?
Start where you are. If you are in Kahului, head east on Hwy 36 and continue east on the same road, which then becomes Hwy 360.
Technically, the stretch of highway known as the Road to Hana begins at mile 0 where Hwy 36 transforms into Hwy 360, just east of Paia town.
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Road to Hana from Lahaina?
A conservative estimate is 3-5 hours, assuming a bit of traffic and zero stops. Assume about 45 minutes of direct driving time from Lahaina to Kahului, then another 2.5 hours (53 miles at 25mph), plus stops on the Road to Hana itself.
If you aren’t planning on stopping at any of the waterfalls, trails, scenic viewpoints, etc., the drive straight from Lahaina to Hana will take a good 2.75-4 hours, depending on time of day.
If you are planning on dedicating an entire day to the Road to Hana, then leave as early as you can (just before sunrise is an ideal goal) and take your time, enjoying the drive.
Is Road to Hana Paved?
Yes, as of 1962, the 52 miles of road leading to Hana town are paved. You’ll have no problems driving the Road to Hana with a rental car.
Should you choose to do the full “Loop” back up through Kula and Kahului, you’d encounter the sketchy length of bumpy washboard /pothole road.
This gravel road is a few miles west of Kaupo on (what turns into) the Piilani highway 37, but the gravel area is only a 15-minute (or so — seems longer) portion.
Be prepared for a couple cliff views (you’ll be on the inner lane of the road, at least). We navigated that portion easily with a tired old rental Nissan Sentra, but had the weather been rainy (or had we met with more oncoming cars), the drive would have been tricky.
It was still a white-knuckle event, approaching oncoming cars as we climbed a blind coastal corner (or several). Just go slow and honk as you reach blind corners. And there are many blind corners.
Is Driving the Road to Hana Dangerous?
The road isn’t dangerous, it simply requires attentive drivers and the knowledge of common courtesies:
- If someone is following on your tail, pull over and slow down and wave them to pass when it makes sense to do so. Lots of locals commute everyday on this highway.
- Wave your thanks, or give the shaka hand sign and spread the Aloha when somebody yields or waits for you to go. Never underestimate the power of appreciation.
- Don’t stop on bridges to take photos! Don’t stop on bridges, period.
- Honk when approaching a blind corner, to alert potential oncoming vehicles of your presence.
- We recommend using a tour app (either the GyPSy or Shaka app) to alert you to popular areas before you get there, so you can watch for cars and people in odd places.
- Pay attention. Be aware that people might be walking in places where they shouldn’t; not everybody is a Rhodes Scholar.
Which Car Has the “Right of Way”?
You’ll frequently meet oncoming vehicles at the worst moments on narrow passages.
So if you’re driving up a curvy coastal road, and the other car is coming down the hill, which one should yield?
The rule is that the car driving downhill yields the right of way.
Even though a vehicle coming uphill can (all things being equal) stop quicker, this rule ensures the vehicle travelling downhill, where stopping distances are longer, has to pay more attention.
So even though you are traditionally given the go ahead as you drive uphill, don’t assume that the other car will always give you this courtesy. It takes all kinds. Proceed carefully and use your judgment.
Do You Need a Jeep for the Road to Hana?
No, you do not need a jeep, SUV, nor any kind of 3-wheel drive vehicle to successfully complete the Road to Hana.
Sure, a jeep sounds like fun in theory, but when you’re bouncing along and can’t hear your partner or friends because of the wind and then a cloud (common in east Maui) decides to open up above you and you have to scramble to get the cover up, you might regret your jeep choice.
Don’t cave in to the suggestion of the rental car company. 🙂
Are Rental Cars Allowed on the Road to Hana?
Yes, rental cars are permitted on the Road to Hana. The road is a paved, maintained highway. Do not be frightened into upgrading your rental to a jeep when all you need is a basic car.
How Should I Dress for the Road to Hana?
The easy answer is to dress in layers.
Your planned activities on the Road to Hana dictate what to wear:
- if you plan to hike, wear a bathing suit underneath your hiking clothes, with suitable shoes with a bit of grip for muddy trails (the Eastern side of Maui receives more frequent rainfalls at night, so even though it might not rain during the day while you visit, a previous night’s watering — combined with the protective canopy of the jungle — ensure that the ground retains water for longer).
- If you want to mainly drive the road and only venture outside to glance at a park or take in a roadside waterfall viewpoint, wear whatever is comfortable. Flip flops are fine in this case.
And check the Hana weather forecast before heading out.
Is There Cell Service on the Road to Hana?
Hana Highway 360 runs along an isolated part of east Maui that is shielded by lots of rock interference (Haleakala Volcano).
As a result, cell phone reception is often spotty or non-existent along the majority of the road.
Hana Town and the Ke’anae Peninsula are your best bets for finding coverage, although we were often surprised to have coverage in areas that seemed like the middle of nowhere.
And anyway, we relied on the GPS in our phone and the offline GyPSy app to alert us to must-see stops, so going without cell service wasn’t a problem.