The best part of our 10 day trip to Hawaii was the Road To Hana. In this guide, we’ve detailed the highpoints that we loved, the low points that were forgettable and the things we missed when we ran out of time.
What’s the best thing to do in Hawaii? For us, it was definitely the Road to Hana.
What is the Road to Hana?
On the Hawaiian Island of Maui, the Road to Hana is a 50 mile drive along narrow, winding roads. It’s on the Windward (East) side of Maui.
Most of the Road to Hana is very rural and the views are impossibly beautiful.
How Long is the Road to Hana?
Depending on what you use as the start and end points, the Road to Hana is as short as 34 miles or as long as 60 miles.
Why the confusion?
While it makes sense that the Road to Hana should start at the beginning of the Hana Highway, the must-have Shaka Maui Guide Road to Hana app starts near the airport.
And many people consider the Seven Sacred Pools to be the end of the Road to Hana, not the city of Hana.
It’s 34 miles from Hana Highway Mile Marker Zero to Hana.
It’s 60 miles from the Maui Airport to the Seven Sacred Pools at Haleakala National Park.
Get the Shaka Guide Maui App
To get the most out of this full day experience, you simply must spend $20 on the Shaka Maui app. Without it, we would have loved the Road to Hana. With it, the experience was easily 10x better than without the app.
I’m not exaggerating.
Much of the Road to Hana has no cell phone service so the app is triggered by GPS. The narrator is your own personal tour guide who knows exactly where you are.
The app knows where you should stop and what things you can skip.
For example, Twin Falls was one of the first “must do stops” on the Road to Hana for us. The parking lot is just around one of the many, many curves so you need to be ready for it.
Stopping at this first waterfall took about 60 minutes for us. If we had paid attention to all the recommendations for how long the Road to Hana takes, we would happily spent 2 or more hours at Twin Falls.
How Long Does it Take to Drive?
We got a later start than the 6am that is most recommended. We left the Andaz Maui around 10am and started the actual Road to Hana drive around 11.
That was almost too late to start. We really should have started at least 2 hours earlier.
When Should You Start the Road to Hana?
Get as early start as possible so you can beat some traffic and see as many sights as possible.
The drive will take you 3 hours if you don’t stop which would be a COLOSSAL MISTAKE! There are tons of beaches, waterfalls and places like “Halfway to Hana” so this is really a minimum 6-8 hour drive.
And then you need to turn around and come back the same way that you came from.
So plan on at least a 9 hour day. If & when we return to Maui, we’ll try to stay in Hana and spend multiple days in this area.
Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park
There’s a couple of parks with bathrooms along the Road to Hana. Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park is one that’s worth a stop.
At the top of the cascading waterfalls is a small pool where a few people were swimming.
This was one of the few waterfalls or swimming holes on the Road to Hana with a bathroom.
(Not So) Fun fact:
We stopped at this bathroom on the way back in the dark. There were NO lights.
Kinda spooky even with our SUV’s headlights pointed in and with us both using a flashlight.
When I say that the Shaka app made for a 10x better experience, let me give a few examples that we would have missed without it.
Secret Lava Cave
“In a couple minutes, there’s a small pulloff on your left. There’s no signs but there’s a secret lava tube cave across from the pulloff” says the Shaka Guide app.
Unbelievable! As dozens of cars are going by, wondering what the hell we were doing, we’re exploring this little unmarked cave. Easily one our Best Things to do In Hawaii.
From the unmarked entrance to the spectacular end, the secret lava tube cave is only about 100 yards (100 meters) long. You can probably make do with just the flashlight on your phone but it would be much better to have a real flashlight.
You won’t have to crawl but there are a couple of places where you’ll have to stoop over, especially if you’re a tall guy like me.
And I’m really glad I had on a hat.
I hit my head a couple of times and it would have been much worse without the hat. My Tennessee hat didn’t really protect me but it acted like an early warning system. I could feel my hat bump into the cave ceiling slightly before I was going to hit rock.
How long should you spend at the secret lava cave? We spent about 15 minutes inside the cave. And another 15 minutes taking pictures from the outside.
It wasn’t until we were taking some of our final pictures that we noticed this spectacular tree growing right above the lava tunnel. It’s another great perspective on how this is just an unmarked gem of a stop on the Road to Hana.
Even though this took only 30 minutes, it was one of the must do stops on the Road To Hana for us.
About 5 miles before you get to Hana, Nahiku Marketplace is a small collection of places to eat and places to shop.
If you’ve survived the Road to Hana this far, you deserve to commemorate that with a picture or two.
Not all of the shops and stores at Nahiku Marketplace were open but it’s definitely a good place to stop and stretch your legs.
Next, the app tells us to head up this rocky driveway with a small “Hana Gold Plantation” sign.
Hana Gold Cacao & Chocolate Farm
The owner, Aldon Frost, says thanks for stopping so he can live out his dream as the “Crazy Cacao Guy” in the jungles of Maui.
And his wife is from the same hometown as Zuzu: Kingsport, TN!
How Many Waterfalls?
Seriously, there over a dozen waterfalls that you can easily see from the road. You drive over several on the 59 one lane bridges on the Road to Hana. But there are many more waterfalls that you can find by getting out and taking a little hike.
Seven Sacred Pools
The Road to Hana ends at the Seven Sacred Pools in Haleakala National Park.
The Seven Sacred Pools or Ohe’o Gulch is a series of pools where Palikea Stream cascades down to the black sand beach on the ocean.
There wasn’t much water in the pools when we went to Hawaii in February. We’ve heard that the pools used to be deep and you could even climb down to the pools and swim. The National Park Service does not allow you to go down to the Seven Sacred Pools anymore.
Venus Pools on the Road to Hana
And finally, Venus Pools!
This was my favorite place on our entire trip to Hawaii. It’s unlikely that we would have stopped at the Venus Pools on the Road to Hana if not for the app.
The app said, “Walk thru the 8 foot tall grass, squeeze thru the cow gate, take a left at the old stone oven and then carefully make your way down the side of the hill.”
This is not a trek for the faint of heart or if you have ANY mobility issues.
Zuzu fell once on the way down the terribly steep, unimproved path.
But the payoff was over the top. Only about a dozen people.
And no surprise we were, by far, the oldest to risk the hike down. Most people at the Venus Pools were youngsters under 30 years old.
All the kids (ok, there was one guy who said he was 42) were diving off the cliff into the Venus Pools at the far end from where the path comes out.
Zuzu said “don’t do it” but my brand new GoPro told me that I had to jump off the cliff.
Both the GoPro and I survived.
Zuzu just rolled her eyes. She’s had alot of practice at that.
It was almost dusk as we climbed the hillside trails from Venus Pools and slipped thru the cattle gate. By the time we reached our car, it was dark.
Is the Road to Hana Dangerous?
Sure, it’s dangerous.
It’s a narrow, winding road that’s essentially running through rural mountains.
But it’s probably not much more dangerous than hundreds of other narrow, winding roads in the Untied States. I’d say it’s not near as dangerous as some of the bad roads in other countries.
As long as you’re a careful and reasonably confident driver, I don’t think you’ll have a problem.
However, for us heading home after a full day, driving the Road to Hana in the dark was alot more harrowing. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But we made it back safely to the Andaz around 10pm.
What Should You Wear?
If you’re already wondering what to wear on the Road to Hana, kudos for thinking ahead. We hiked, swam and went spelunking.
Here’s what I think you need to take on the Road to Hana:
- Swim Shoes (rocky beaches & pools)
- Towel (s)
- Hard Sole Shoes (for hiking & spelunking in the caves)
- Dry Change of Clothes (after you’re done swimming)
- Flashlight (for the lava tunnels)
- Hat (for the lava tunnels)
While there are many other highlights, the 13 hours round trip drive on the Road to Hana was our favorite day on our 10 day trip to Hawaii.
More from our Hawaii Trip
Read more about our 10 night vacation to 3 Hawaiian Islands: