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One Day on the Road to Hana - First Timer's Guide

Road to Hana Blog Cover

With over 40 notable stops and countless other worthy viewpoints along the Road to Hana, it might seem impossible to experience this legendary road trip in just one day, but I’m here to tell you that it CAN be done! With that said, you should know that you won’t be able to see every stop and you might not get to spend quite as long at some stops as you would like, but if you’ve only got one day to spare, you shouldn’t let that stop you from experiencing this bucket list trip! In this blog, we’ll cover what we think are the must-see stops for first-time visitors… From quick photo-op stops to 2-3 hour adventures and everything in between.

And if you still aren’t sure what the Road to Hana is, let’s cover the basics. The Road to Hana, aka the Hana Highway (“highway” is a stretch of the word by the way), is a 64.4-mile-long stretch of road that connects the towns of Kahului and Hana. The iconic route boasts 620 hairpin curves and 59 one-lane bridges making it a journey not cut out for the faint of heart! But those willing to make the somewhat precarious drive will be rewarded with priceless views of flourishing rainforests, rushing waterfalls, plunging pools, dramatic seascapes, and more.

TIP: Download the “GyPSy Guide” app and purchase the “Road to Hana - Maui” guide. It is well worth the $9.99! It uses your GPS location to prompt a guided narration of the drive informing you of significant stops along the way as well as the history behind them. Money well spent!

If self-driving the Road to Hana sounds like a more daunting task than you're willing to take on, then join a guided day tour!

*Be sure to check out our "Road to Hana - Maui Travel Vlog" for a closer look at our time on the Road to Hana!


Now, let’s get into the stops!

Paia - Mile Marker 0

Time Needed: 1 ½ - 2 hrs.

Paia is a small north-shore community that boasts colorful storefronts, local artists, and delicious eateries, including the infamous Paia Fish Market and Mama's Fish House restaurants. Even though Paia is mile marker zero, we recommend getting an early start to the drive (7-8am) and making your way back here for dinner rather than starting your adventure here. And if you want to dine at Mama’s Fish House, be sure to book your reservations well in advance!

Twin Falls - Mile Marker 2

Time Needed: 1 - 2 hrs.

The first main stop along the Road to Hana is Twin Falls. Although the parking here is dirt/gravel, it is easily accessible, and the hike down to the falls is a short .9 miles (1.8 miles roundtrip). If you choose to opt out of breakfast/coffee in Paia, Twin Falls Farm Stand (located at the Twin Falls Trailhead) is a great spot to grab a cold brew coffee, fruit smoothie, fresh fruit, or even banana bread to start your day… Although, we recommend holding off on the banana bread… there’s more of that to come!

Honomanū Bay - Mile Marker 14

Time Needed: 30 - 60 min.

While this isn’t THE black sand beach on the Road to Hana (that comes a little later), we honestly enjoyed this one equally if not more. We were the only non-locals here during our visit… Just us and a handful of locals enjoying a morning surf session. This is one of the stops that, if the weather had been nicer, we would have spent quite a bit more time.

NOTE: Having an SUV/4X4 will make the drive down to the beach much easier and less stressful. If you don’t have an SUV/4X4, you may want to park on the side of the highway and walk the half-mile down to the beach… especially after a storm.

Honomanū Bay Road to Hana

Ke’anae Arboretum - Mile Marker 16

Time Needed: 30 - 60 min.

Of the roughly 150 specimens found here at Ke’anae Arboretum, the famous Rainbow Eucalyptus trees are the main attraction. There is a .6-mile paved walkway that you can wander along through the botanical gardens. Entrance is free, and if you enjoy botany and/or horticulture you’ll appreciate this stop.

TIP: When parking for the Ke'anae Arboretum you'll need to pass the entrance on your right and about on the left-hand side.

Ke’anae Peninsula - Mile Marker 16-17

Time Needed: 30 - 60 min.

The Ke’anae Peninsula is a half-mile-long peninsula of newer lava jutting out from the cliffs of the Hana Highway created by a massive flow from Haleakala Crater centuries ago. The rugged, volcanic coastline and intense Pacific waters alone are worth making a stop here, but add to it the fact that it’s home to Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread (210 Keanae Rd, Ke‘Anae, HI)… The best banana bread you’ll ever put in your mouth, and the Ke’anae Peninsula is a must-stop!

Ke’anae Peninsula Road to Hana

Upper Waikani Falls (aka Three Bears Falls) - Mile Marker 19

Time Needed: 15 - 45 min.

One of the more popular waterfalls along the Road to Hana, Upper Waikani Falls is a set of three parallel waterfalls (hence the nickname “Three Bears Falls”) with the tallest of them cascading from 70 feet! Most visitors opt to take in the view from the bridge where the falls are visible (mainly because there isn’t much parking available), but if you’d like more than a drive-by view, you can drive about 1/10 miles past the falls where you’ll find a small parking area. From there, you will walk back along the road and can make the short 1/10 mile (one-way) hike where the minimal effort has incredible payoff with up-close and personal views of the falls as well as access to the lagoon that is the perfect place for a dip as long as the water level and flow rate isn’t too crazy.

Upper Waikani Falls (aka Three Bears Falls) Road to Hana

Wai'anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach) - Mile Marker 32

Time Needed: 1 - 3 hrs.

Waiʻanapanapa State Park is a 122-acre state park featuring a beautiful volcanic coastline, freshwater caves, and most famously, a black sand beach. As of March 1st, 2021, the Hawaii Division of State Parks has implemented a reservation system in an attempt to manage the crowds. That system states that advance reservations are required for all vehicles, walk-in entry, and PUC (commercial) vehicles visiting Waiʻānapanapa State Park, so plan your trip accordingly. To cover the basics of the reservation system… As of May 5th, 2022, reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance, and no later than the day before your visit. The parking reservation fee is $10/vehicle plus an additional $5/person and is good for 2.5-3 hours (depending on your reserved time slot). For more details and information, you can visit the Hawaii Division of State Parks Website.

Wai'anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach) Road to Hana

Kaihalulu Beach (Red Sand Beach) - Mile Marker 33

Time Needed: 30 - 60 min.

The trail down to Kaihalulu Beach used to be a little more accessible, but part of the trail was washed out during a landslide and has become more dangerous than it once was. For that reason, this hike is not recommended for anyone unaccustomed to navigating cliff edges with slippery/unstable footing. And since we visited just after a storm and it was still very wet, we decided to play it safe and pass on this stop. If conditions are more favorable when you visit, we would recommend taking the time to experience this rare scenery. Unfortunately, we can’t say from first-hand experience, but the photos look incredible!

TIP: There’s minimal parking on this part of the road, so it is suggested to park by the Hana Ballpark and walk from there.

*Even though the drive is literally called “The Road to Hana" you shouldn’t end your trek here. Many of our favorite spots on the drive were actually beyond the official Road to Hana.

Wailua Falls - Mile Marker 45

Time Needed: 30 - 60 min.

While there are seemingly countless waterfalls along the Road to Hana, this 80-foot waterfall is touted as Maui's 'most photographed waterfall'. It was a highlight of our time on the Road to Hana and shouldn’t be missed. Unlike many of the stops along the Road to Hana, this one actually has a decent-sized parking lot (on the left, just past the falls) making it easily accessible.

TIP: When these falls are at a safe flow rate you can take a small trail down from the road and swim in the pool below the falls.

Wailua Falls Road to Hana

Haleakalā National Park - Mile Marker 42

Time Needed: 2 - 4 hours.

The entrance to Haleakalã National Park is located about 45 minutes past Hana and is a must-stop spot in our opinion. Make note that there are two areas of the park with two separate entrances. The area that we’re referring to here is the Kipahulu Area, NOT the Summit Area. Also, it’s worth mentioning that there are no roads between the two entrances, so the only way to reach this section of the park is through the Kipahulu Area entrance.

NOTE: The cost to enter the park is $30/vehicle and is valid for 3 days. Or you can purchase an Annual National Park Pass for $80 (unless you qualify for discounts… i.e. Senior, Military, etc). Honestly, if you plan to visit more than 2 parks a year, the annual pass is the way to go!

Haleakalā National Park Road to Hana

Sites in Haleakalā National Park:

Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka Seven Sacred Pools)

Time Needed: 30 - 60 mins.

Funny enough, the Seven “Sacred Pools” of ‘Ohe'o aren’t sacred at all, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a visit! The name “Seven Sacred Pools” was given to these falls as a marketing ploy to attract visitors on the road to Hana. The hike to the pools is a short and scenic 1/2-mile loop. Unfortunately, when we visited, the pools were closed for swimming because of a storm that caused the water flow to be very high, but they are normally open for swimming, especially in the summer months.

Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka Seven Sacred Pools) Road to Hana

Pipiwai Trail (Bamboo Forest & Waimoku Falls)

Time Needed: 2 - 3 hrs.

If you plan to do the full hike (4 miles roundtrip), you’ll need to start the hike no later than 3pm in order to allow enough time to finish before the park closes at 5pm. That said, even if you don’t have the 2-3 hours necessary to complete the entire hike, it’s still worth doing the 2-mile (roundtrip) hike to the Bamboo Forest… This is what we did since we didn’t have time for the full hike. If you want to ensure that you have enough time to do the full hike, we recommend skipping some of the stops earlier on in the drive so you can get to the park sooner. Then, you can visit the spots that you skipped on the drive back.

Pipiwai Trail (Bamboo Forest & Waimoku Falls) Road to Hana

Now that you’ve reached the end of the Road to Hana, what now? Well… There are two routes back to the west side of the island… The way you came in, and the Backroad to Hana/Full Loop, but the only recommended one is to take the Road to Hana back where you started. If you’re driving a 4X4 and still have enough daylight, it is possible to take the southern part of the loop (Backroad to Hana) back. That is if it’s open. During our visit, the island experienced torrential rains causing rock and mudslides which closed this section of the road, so our only option to get back to the west side of the island was the way that we came in. From my understanding, it’s a pretty unkempt, rough section of road, so unless you’ve got at least a few hours of daylight left I recommend turning around at Haleakalā National Park and making the 2-3 hour drive back to your hotel/resort that is likely on the other side of the island. Of course, you can break up the drive by stopping in Paia for dinner as we talked about earlier!

We hope that this has helped you plan your visit and make the most of your time on the Road to Hana! If you did find it helpful, please consider heading over to our YouTube Channel and subscribing for more travel content, and following us on Instagram. It would mean the world to us!


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