In a nutshell: The Road to Hana is the crown-jewel of Hawaii driving tours. Lush rainforest, dramatic and rugged ocean vistas, countless waterfalls and pools.
Minuses: If you get car-sick, there are going to be 600 opportunities to review your breakfast.
Sound-bite: “600 turns?!? More like one 50-mile-long turn…”
Just exactly where “The Road to Hana” begins and where it ends is subject to some debate. For my guide purposes, I usually start in the North Shore (Paia area) and end at what we call Haleakala’s Back Side (a bit past Hana.)
Driving to Hana is not a commute, or even the means to an end – the drive is an adventure in and of itself. “The adventure is in the journey” may be cliché, but it is also said that every cliché harbors a kernel of truth – there is much more than just the kernel in this one. In fact, no matter how many times I have driven this road, (including the few times I was silly enough to take it for granted), the adventure is just as magical, engaging, and never the same twice. The raw natural beauty is dynamic, containing countless hidden treasures and always just every bit as spectacular no matter how many times I drive it. The Road to Hana is, in my opinion, the most spectacular and beautiful road in the world.
As the name suggests, the thoroughfare in this section of the guide is made up by just one road: Hana Highway (Hwy 36 & 360). But don’t let the name “highway” fool you – The majority of time you’ll be spending on the Hana Highway is a narrow, twisting, sometimes one-lane road (forget about a shoulder) with an estimated 600 turns and 54 mostly one-lane bridges. For those of you that enjoy a challenging drive, this could be your absolute favorite anywhere. A Mustang convertible, the quintessential Maui rental car, is probably the best car for the driving enthusiast, and convertibles and Jeeps with the top off will be rewarded with stunning unobstructed views. (But don’t get too smug looking at the poor sap in the Ford Taurus – because he’ll likely get payback when you’re reminded that this is the rainforest and that the next place to pull over ain’t soon enough.)
For those that see driving as the way to get from A to B, and especially if you’re an overly timid (or just plan bad) driver, you still should not skip the opportunity to see this jewel of Hawaii – there are some fantastic van tours that can add a dimension to the journey you could never have on your own.
There is only one gas station past Paia on this road, and that is in Hana Town. The price of gas there will make you feel like you were getting a great deal everywhere else (which, until you’ve gassed up in Hana, will be hard to believe!) There is little shopping of significance beyond some roadside fruit stands and the jungle version of a strip-mall in the middle of nowhere (a strip of ramshackle fruit stands, BBQ, fish taco, art, and whatever pops up.) And even in Hana, lets just say your choices are very limited. Best to bring along everything you will need for the whole day, aside from fruit and banana bread – those items are abundant, and usually very yummy!
Convenience tip: Anthony’s Coffee Co. (you’ll pass right by when you drive through Paia) sells super-convenient and tasty picnic lunches. Mana Foods (also in Paia) is among the most economical (and healthy) places to stock up on water/drinks, snacks and prepared foods.
For more specific information on the Road to Hana, browse the Road to Hana category.
I also have a Road to Hana article in the works. Stay tuned