Hey there, fellow travel enthusiasts!
Are you looking for the best stops on the road to Hana? Maui’s Hana Highway, a 64-mile stretch of road is a must-see for anyone visiting Hawaii. With its secluded beaches, stunning trails, botanical gardens, and quaint towns scattered all along the way, it’s no wonder why this highway is so famous.
But here’s the thing:
Navigating every stop on the Road to Hana can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That’s where I come in – my boyfriend and I have been vacationing in Maui for years now and we’ve developed the perfect route through Hana Highway with only stops at the best places.
As an experienced traveler who has explored every inch of this beautiful island paradise, I’m excited to share our insider tips with you. So buckle up as we take a journey through some of Maui’s most breathtaking sights on the Road to Hana!
Warning: After reading this article, you may find yourself booking your next flight to Maui ASAP!
Fasten your seat belts as we cruise through the best stops on the Road to Hana!
Things to know before you go
The road trip through East Maui has some general rules that every traveler should follow for their convenience.
- A mile marker identifies each location, so keep an eye out for roadside signs of the ones you’ll be visiting.
- There aren’t any stops for gas for most of the journey, so get a full tank before starting, and have some extra just in case.
- Navigation apps like GyPsy and Shaka Guide are lifesavers; they know precisely each location on the Road to Hana and work without wi-fi and cellular signals. However, they drain your phone’s battery so bring a power bank.
- If driving isn’t your forte, you can book a Road to Hana tour with a local company, where a knowledgeable guide drives you around safely.
What car should I take on the Road to Hana?
A 4WD like a Jeep or SUV is ideal, as the road gets narrow in places like hills and steep inclines. You can get a rental directly from the airport on landing, from 9 different rental car companies available. We recommend booking one before your trip, as the best ones get reserved early in peak seasons.
Where should I stay on the Road to Hana?
We recommend ending your first day at Waianapanapa State Park, where there are cabins for 1-2 night stays at reasonable prices. Another great place is the Hawaiian Dream Temple in Haiku, Upcountry Maui, a bamboo temple made into a private villa. Hana also has hotels like the Hana Hyatt Hotels and the Bamboo Inn, a B&B close to Hana Beach Park.
Best Stops on the Road to Hana
Below you’ll find a list of the most popular Road to Hana stops, identified by mile markers. We recommend spending two full days exploring all these spots as the drive to and from each one requires driving for hours on the road. However, some falls and trails on the list can close due to weather conditions, which I’ve mentioned below, along with alternatives. So our only rule for this amazing adventure ahead is; to enjoy the journey, and beautiful destinations will follow!
- Paia Town (mile marker 0)
The Road to Hana begins with Paia, a small town on Maui’s Northern Coast. Paia has great local eateries, stylish boutiques, spas and fitness centers, and art galleries lining its streets. You’ll want to stop by Paia before hitting the road to get a hearty breakfast and shop for trip essentials.
We like to stock up on snacks from Mana Foods, a terrific local grocery store selling wholesale goods, organic produce, and healthy food. They also have a deli counter serving delicious sandwiches and coffee. In addition, Paia has great breakfast places like Paia Bowls, where you can get tasty smoothies and a fresh acai bowl. Also try Cafe des Amis for Mediterranean and Indian food and Paia Bay Coffee Bar for a traditional breakfast and coffee.
If your beach fit isn’t sorted yet, shop from the local boutiques selling trendy dresses and beachwear at reasonable prices. We love Paia’s laid-back vibes and non-touristy feel, and you will too after visiting it.
- Ho’okipa Beach Park (mile marker 9)
A must-stop on your Hana Highway journey is Ho’okipa Lookout and Beach Park, home to an abundance of Hawaiian green sea turtles on its shores (I’m talking anywhere between 40-60 at a time!) The beach also provides gorgeous views of the coast, especially at sunset, and is a short drive from the Highway to the lookout point.
The beach is a favorite spot for windsurfers, as the waves here are huge, and watching experts ride them is always a fun sight. Unfortunately, rough waves also mean the water isn’t always safe for swimming, but you can take a dip as there are lifeguards on duty all day.
We recommend capturing pictures of the turtles from afar, taking in the stunning views, and getting a delicious seafood meal from Mama’s Fish House nearby before continuing your journey on the road.
- Twin Falls (mile marker 2)
These are the first waterfalls you’ll come across on the Road to Hana and the most popular ones. Twin falls comprise two drops of different heights, with pools at their base, perfect for swimming, with beautiful greenery all around.
The falls have a spacious lot where you can park your cars and take a short walk to the first drop. This one is more famous among tourists for swimming and cliff diving from rocks surrounding the falls. However, if you want some privacy, walk to the second drop, a one-mile hike on a slippery trail with a beautiful fall and swimming pool.
Tourists who frequent the falls recommend not leaving any valuables in the car, as there have been some incidents. However, we’ve had a safe experience every time, especially from the friendly locals in the parking area selling fresh fruit, cane juice, and coconut candy.
- Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Gardens (mile marker 10.5)
Nature lovers won’t want to miss this splendid spot on the Road to Hana, as the Garden of Eden displays 700+ species of native Hawaiian plants. The Botanical Gardens also have plants found nowhere else, such as rare Amazon fruits, medicinal herbs, endangered hardwoods, spices, exotic nut trees, and so much more.
These gardens were the filming site of the Jurassic World movie, with a backdrop of tall trees like the stunning rainbow eucalyptus and the lush rainforest landscape. Aside from natural flora and fauna, you can also enjoy stunning views of the nearby coast and Puohokamoa Falls.
We love walking through the dense forestry, especially with the range of animals like ducks, geese, chickens, horses, and tropical birds on the nature walk. In addition, the Gardens charge an entrance fee for maintaining them, so check them out to support the plant life in Maui.
- Ke’Anae Peninsula (Mile Marker 16)
Those looking for a chance to see shores lined with black lava rock can’t miss the Ke’Anae Peninsula, a gorgeous stop on the road with a hairpin turn from the Highway leading to it. The peninsula has a rich history; it was once a taro factory in the 1900s, later almost destroyed by a tsunami, and still retains the natural rocks formed by the lava flowing from Haleakala through this area.
The Ke’Anae town is quiet, almost ghost-like, with a lone church standing on its fields, symbolizing the town’s history. Moving towards the beach, the water is rough and unsafe for swimming and surfing, with waves rising to 20 ft. during the high tide. However, the lava rocks and green fields present a perfect photo-op, so bring your best cameras along.
We always stop by Ke’Anae Peninsula when we take the Road to Hana, as it’s a secluded spot off most tourists’ radars, with ample facilities like restrooms and free parking.
- Halfway to Hana Stand (mile marker 17)
By now, you’ll have driven for hours and desperately need a spot to stretch your legs and have a meal. Fortunately, the Halfway to Hana stand comes at a perfect time, where you can get fresh fruit, coconut candy, and the best banana bread in Hawaii. The owners of the stand make their bread from ripe bananas taken from nearby fields, and the rich flavor is truly unmatched.
There’s also a popular stand selling shaved ice here, which is the perfect treat to cool down after a hot day in the Maui sun. In addition, the locals in this spot are very kind and make the tired visitors feel welcome with their hospitality and piping hot food.
You’ll find the sign for the stands easily on the side of the road, and we recommend stopping by and buying food from here to support the local community and get delicious homemade food.
- Wailua Valley State Wayside Park (mile marker 18.8)
The Road to Hana is all about taking in the million-dollar views of Maui’s coasts and landscape, and the Wailua Valley State Wayside Park offers panoramic views of those and more. You’ll have stunning views of the Wailua Village below, the Ke’Anae Peninsula from above, the coast, and nearby waterfalls from the elevation of this Valley.
Since this is a quick stop, the mile marker is easily missed by most. However, you’ll see a small parking lot with space for 3-4 cars around mile marker 18; park your car and take the stairs from the lot. Once at the top, you’ll be in awe of the spectacular views, which offer an aerial view of Wailua and its taro fields.
Don’t forget to capture precious memories here, as it’s a beautiful photo-op, and keep an eye out for incoming cars waiting for their turn in the lot.
- Upper Waikani Falls (mile markers 19-20)
The Upper Waikani Falls, also known as the Three Bears, is an unmissable stop on the Road to Hana, with the lookout point for the falls being a bridge on the Hana Highway. The bridge looks down on the three stunning drops of varying heights and the freshwater pool at their base.
The trail to the falls starts from under the bridge and is slippery on the first few steps; however, the remaining trek is easy, and you reach the falls after a short hike. Once at the base, swim in the pool, which is wide and perfect for wading or dipping your feet in.
My boyfriend and I love the Three Bears falls, especially since you can swim directly under the falls (it’s not every day you get to see what the back of a waterfall looks like!) However, make sure to park your cars a short drive ahead of the falls and walk back to them since parking on the bridge is illegal.
- Pua’a Ka’a Falls and State Wayside Park (mile markers 22-23)
The Pua’a Ka’a is a beautiful State Park with paved trailheads, several small falls, clean restroom facilities, and a large picnic area. The smaller falls are near the road, but if you walk up the stairs to the end of the Park, you’ll see a larger, very stunning waterfall pouring into a small natural pool.
Access to the Pua’a Ka’a waterfall is from a dirt trail which requires some care in trekking, as the paths are slippery and lined with mud. However, once you reach them, don’t miss the chance to take a dip, as the waters are cool, and you can swim directly under the falls. In addition, the greenery surrounding the rocks gives them a nice cover, so you can swim in privacy.
Aside from admiring the waterfall, you can also enjoy a bite to eat from local food trucks on the State Park’s grounds, like Hana Farms Roadside Stand, selling delicious pizzas and much-needed sweet treats from The Cookie Lady.
- Hanawi Falls (mile marker 24)
With waterfalls on every corner of the Road to Hana, it can get confusing about which ones to visit. The general rule is; take the falls you get, as others might be overflowing or crowded. However, Hanawi Falls is an exception to the rule, as these beautiful falls have a 200 ft. drop into a wide freshwater pool below, surrounded by greenery and rocks.
If you can only make a quick stop here, then take in the stunning view of the falls from the Hanawi Falls Bridge instead. The thick foliage surrounding the waterfalls has many smaller falls flowing through them, all fed by the rushing waters of the Hanawi stream.
The pools are safe for dipping your feet in, but we wouldn’t recommend going in for a swim, as the water flows fast in the pool. Instead, enjoy the scenery and serenity of these falls that most tourists pass by for bigger falls nearby, making them secluded.
- Nahiku Marketplace (mile marker 28-29)
Nestled in the fields and winding roads of the Hana Highway, you’d hardly expect to find a small town like Nahiku, which boasts a lively marketplace with food stalls, sit-down cafes, and an excellent coffee shop. Although this stop is shortly before Hana town, we recommend taking it to get some food and shop for island souvenirs from the many gift shops in the market.
The eateries here have outdoor seating, so you can order fresh fish like Ono or island-style tacos with Kalua pork for a quick meal and enjoy views of the town. My boyfriend and I love the Nahiku Cafe for its freshly brewed coffees and tasty fish tacos, a welcome savory item after snacking on sweets the whole road trip.
The marketplace also has some amenities, such as restrooms (mostly porta-potties) and a recycling area. Since the upcoming stop is a magical one, we suggest stopping here to fuel up for the upcoming adventures.
- Waianapanapa State Park (mile marker 32)
This is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous State Parks in Maui, for the variety of natural wonders on its grounds. Waianapanapa State Park is home to Maui’s only black sand beach and has wet caves, erupting blowholes, and lava tubes which are safe for visitors to explore. While wandering the grounds, you’ll also encounter local animals like a mongoose or two.
However, the State Park now requires online reservations and a small fee before entering, so make sure to book yours ahead of time.
Honokalani Black Sand Beach: A short walk from the parking lot of Waianapanapa is the Honokalani black sand beach, which has sands made from the lava flow, cooled, and crystallized over time. The waters are a beautiful turquoise, and there’s thick foliage around the beach. The shore looks rough at first glance, but you can take a quick swim as the water is too beautiful to resist.
In addition, this is a tourist hotspot and gets crowded during peak seasons. But don’t let that deter you from coming since walking the length of the wide shore leads to quiet spots.
Hana Lava Tubes: The lava tubes, commonly referred to as caves, are a must-visit in Waianapanapa State Park. These were formed by lava flowing through rocks, leaving wide tubes that are a natural wonder in their wake. A guide stands on-site and provides a tour of the caves, as you need some help navigating them. The tour also provides flashlights for the dimly-lit caves, and signs inside the caves give information about their history.
We recommend stopping by the lava tubes, as the caves are wide and expansive, so even claustrophobic people can take the tour. However, entering the caves requires a $15 fee per person.
- Hana Town (mile marker 34)
The Road to Hana finally takes you to the infamous Hana town, home to terrific eateries, local joints, farmers markets, and even a resort. Although Hana has a laid-back vibe in general, the town has advanced over the years, with many tourists stopping by and spending a few days here after completing the road trip.
Right by the town’s entrance, you’ll see a sign for Hana Farms’ Roadside Stand (mile marker 31). This is a local marketplace where you can shop for locally grown produce, grab some homemade hot sauce, spreads like banana butter, lilikoi (passionfruit) jam, chocolate made in Hana, Kona, and Maui coffee beans, and freshly baked goods.
We like to grab a bite from the local food truck, Thai Food by Pranee, which sells the most delicious and authentic Thai food you’ll ever eat. There’s usually a long line of locals and tourists waiting to grab lunch from here, but the food is well worth the wait. Try their red and green Thai spicy curries, made with organic ingredients and packed with Thai spices and flavors. The portion sizes are very filling, so take a walk around Hana to digest your food and explore the lively town.
- Hamoa Beach (mile marker 51)
Beyond Hana, you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Maui, and Hamoa Beach is one of them. This beach gives way to golden sandy shores, one hundred feet wide and a 1000 ft. long crescent-shaped beach. The lush vegetation surrounding Hamoa beach gives it a secluded feel, and you can enjoy being alone on the gorgeous shore.
You’ll find Hamoa Beach, a half-mile drive from mile marker 51 on Hane’o Road, past the nearby Koki Beach (another must-see beach you can read about below.) The waters here are great for body surfing and boogie boarding. You can also swim in the waters but avoid it when the surf is high.
Hamoa Beach also has good facilities like restrooms, a shower area, and picnic tables.
- Koki Beach (mile marker 51)
Another unmissable beach past Hana is Koki Beach, located close to Hamoa Beach and a peaceful stop to enjoy the island scenery. Koki Beach is surrounded by red rock cliffs, lush greenery, and lots of shaded spots.
You’ll come across many signs warning of rough waves and not to enter the waters, so pay heed to them and enjoy the views instead. The beach stays secluded since most people skip it for the swimmable waters of Hamoa beach, but we recommend stopping by to get some peace and enjoy a picnic on the secluded shores.
Stop by the nearby Huli Huli Chicken on your back, a local favorite eatery, and grab a plate of their delicious chicken meals.
- Wailua Falls (mile marker 45)
These are, without a doubt, the most beautiful and photographed falls in Hawaii. The falls feature an 80 ft. cascading drop into a pool below and are visible from the Hana Highway, where you can drive directly next to them.
However, take the trek to the falls as the views from close by are incredible, with lush forestation surrounding the falls. You can park your cars in a spacious lot on the roadside and take the trail, which starts from a bridge near the parking lot. The trail is short, but you won’t reach the falls’ base, as it’s much deeper. Instead, you’ll get to a point so close to the falls that the mist and spray from the rushing water will drench you completely!
The Wailua Falls are an unmissable stop, and if you’re pressed for time, you can still see them from the Highway and take great pictures.
- Ohe’o Gulch (mile marker 42)
The Ohe’o Gulch falls are a part of Haleakala National Park, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools, as pools connect multiple bodies of water from the Ohe’o Gulch. These are widely considered the most beautiful destination in Maui and even named the world’s eighth wonder.
An easy trail leads to the falls, starting in a wide parking area inside the State Park. You can park cars here, walk to the bridge overlooking the falls, and enjoy an aerial view of the water as it flows into the ocean. In addition, you can also swim in the refreshing waters of the freshwater pools and take in the stunning scenery surrounding them.
However, the pools aren’t always the best to swim in or even walk close to, as flash floods and harsh weather make them dangerous. The Ohe’o Gulch remains closed during such instances so check with the State Park before driving to them.
- Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls (mile marker 42)
The Pipiwai Trail is a breathtaking hiking trail inside Haleakala National Park, which goes over the Ohe’o Gulch falls. The trek through Pipiwai Trail is an easy 4-mile round trip, which passes through a dense bamboo forest, past smaller streams and waterfalls, and a huge banyan tree.
The trail also leads to the Waimoku falls, a beautiful body of water that you can glimpse from the Pipiwai trail. The falls are rushing and have a big drop at their base that isn’t swimmable, but standing next to them to take in the chilly wind and mist is an amazing experience.
Since both locations are inside the Haleakala National Park, you’ll have to pay a $30 entrance fee to enter, which allows exploring the area for three days.
BONUS: Grandma’s Coffee House
Don’t end your Road to Hana journey just yet, as the drive from Kipahulu in East Maui to Kula in Upcountry Maui has some terrific sights along the way. However, we make the journey to get a bite of delicious homemade food from Grandma’s Coffee House, a cafe in the middle of nowhere (not really, it’s in Kula town) that’s been around for ages, serving locals some terrific breakfast and coffee.
We like to get their traditional Hawaiian loco moco, a delicious meal of beef patties, eggs, rice, and gravy, that fills up even the hungriest of travelers. Also try their classic breakfast favorites like French toast, omelet, and cinnamon rolls. They also have a baked goods counter with fresh items, so pick some up on your way out.
Where is the best place to start the Road to Hana?
The road to Hana from Kahului goes all the way to Hana town and ends in the Kipahulu district. Ideally, the best place to start is from Paia town, as it’s closest to the first stops on the Hana Highway, and you can stock up on gas and essentials here.
What day is best for Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana has gotten crowded with more and more tourists visiting it each year, so the Highway stays packed. In this case, you should take the trip on Sundays and Thursdays, which are heavy travel days with tourists arriving and departing, so the road is mostly empty.
How long does it take to drive around Road to Hana?
Driving around can take between 7-10 hours on the road, but the duration increases depending on how many stops you take and for how long. That’s why you should travel to select spots and take two days to enjoy them without spending all day on the road.
Is it worth doing the Road to Hana?
Taking the Road to Hana is an essential part of every Maui itinerary, as it’s the most beautiful attraction on the island and free of cost. You can stop by botanical gardens teeming with tropical plant species, swim in the gorgeous waterfalls, see a black sand beach, lava tubes, blowholes, and so much more on this glorious road trip to Maui.
Concluding the Best Stops on the Road to Hana
You’ll be surprised to learn that despite stopping by so many places, there are still places on the Road to Hana that are unreachable by foot, deep in the East Maui valleys. To see those areas you can take a helicopter tour over the Hana Highway, but nothing beats the drive and experiencing each location up close.
You’ll come across natural scenery as you’ve never seen before on the Road to Hana, with each trail, waterfall, beach, and lookout point more beautiful than the last.
Whenever you visit Maui, don’t miss a cruise through Hana Highway, as it’s undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking destinations in the world.
The best stops on the Road to Hana are unmissable!
Last Updated on March 12, 2023 by Brigitte