When you plan a trip to Maui, you always hear that you have to do the Hana Highway. It’s supposed to be one of the most scenic highways in the world, and I can somewhat agree with this. However, brace yourself for a long and nauseating ride. Leaving from Maui’s west coast, it takes about three hours to reach Hana, and then another three hours to get back. I recommend doing the route as a loop, instead of backtracking and just going back the way you came. This way, you can see a lot of different scenery.
On the way there, which was closer to the north side of the island, we saw mostly rainforest after we passed some of the north shore’s beaches. It was neat at first, but after about 30 minutes, I had enough. If you’ve ever been to the El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico, you’d have some idea about what it’s like – including the extremely twisty roads. But this almost seems never ending. Once you reach Hana, it might be difficult to notice because it is a quaint little town tucked away in the rainforest.
Before embarking on this long road trip, I read that you should pack a lunch and fill up on gas. I can agree about making sure you have enough gas, but, I passed more food trucks and small mom and pop restaurants than I can even count. Maybe bring some backup snacks with you, but I wouldn’t worry about starving to death during this trip.
Near Hana is the Waianapanapa State Park, which is home to one of Maui’s amazing black sand beaches. I’ve been to a few other black sand beaches before, but this one has to be my favorite so far. The water was a nice turquoise color, with somewhat big (but fun) waves, so I had a lot of fun swimming there. It was all surrounded by a lot of lush vegetation and mountains. Depending on the surf, I wouldn’t recommend swimming here unless you are an experienced swimmer (which I am) and with all the large rocks in the water, it’s not the place to come to swim if you have small children. However, even if you don’t want to swim here, it’s definitely a sight you shouldn’t miss.
To me, hanging out at this beach was the highlight of the Hana highway and made it all seem worth it. However, it makes me sad to think that if I ever visit Maui again, it will be such a hassle to get there and I don’t think I’d do it again, because you’re talking six hours of driving.
Other Hana Highway sights include:
- The Red Sand Beach
- The Seven Sacred Pools
- Various waterfalls
The drive back, while just as twisted and curvy as the way there, was much more enjoyable to me because of all the great ocean views.
So, the bottom line: Should you take a trip on the Hana Highway if you visit Maui? Yes! But do I recommend taking a tour? No, not at all. Rent a car and do it yourself. First of all, the drive is simple and easy. It’s almost impossible to get lost unless you decide to drive with your eyes closed, and even then it may be difficult. If you’re looking for a great rental car company in Hawaii that will save you some bucks, try Fox Rent A Car.
Secondly, when you go yourself, you can move at the pace you want to (I think the buses move quite quickly, and I actually watched as a couple of them pulled over so people could get out and vomit on the side of the road). If the drive is making you sick and you need to pull over or slow down, you can do so. If there’s a viewpoint you’re not interested in checking out, you can skip it, while a tour bus might make you stop there for 20 minutes. If you want to spend the day at the black sand beach, you can – many of the tour buses that stopped here were gone within a few minutes.
Whatever you do, make sure you take some Dramamine with you!
Essential Travel Information
Flights: Tons of round-trip, direct flights from the United States available via Hawaiian Airlines.
Hotels: We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.
Activities, tours, and everything else: No matter where you’re traveling in Hawaii, you can save a ton of money by purchasing one of these awesome coupon books from Entertainment.com, which feature savings on pretty much everything throughout Hawaii.