Does driving here void your rental car contract, and can the car even make it?
First, lets dispel the pure myth that it is difficult for regular cars to circumnavigate either side of the island. It’s not.
On both sides there are portions that are perched precariously on the cliff’s-edge – West Maui has the longest of these spots.
Short portions of the back side of Haleakala are unpaved, but they are well graded and graveled. Some other sections look like they were paved one bumpy shovel at a time.
If you break down or get a flat in the wrong spot out here, you may revisit the experience in stories (and perhaps nightmares!) for years after – but except during extreme weather events, both are navigable by any vehicle, and if your vehicle is reliable, the odds are quite slim that you’ll encounter an issue.
“Driving on this side voids your rental car contract” is actually based on what appears to be intentionally discouraging/misleading exaggeration of the terms of the rental car company contracts. Put into context, the truth to this exaggeration won’t be enough to deter most folks with an adventurous spirit.
I called five rental car companies and, sure enough, when I called to ask, they all repeated “it voids the contract” word-for-word. But the nagging reality of what this statement means doesn’t actually add up – so, I pressed all for a real answer as to “well, what does that mean, voids the contract? Does it mean I don’t have to pay? Thats the part of the contract that most concerns me!” Well, all five reluctantly confirmed was pretty much the same thing: your contract will not actually be void – basically, if you get in trouble out here, you’re on your own to get yourself out of it, no matter what the contract promised they would do to help.
So caveat emptor: if you smack into an unsuspecting cow around the other end of a blind corner on the back side of Haleakala, you’ll likely be paying for the tow truck (and maybe even the cow!)