The top 7 things to do on a Hāna Highway road trip

The Hana Highway on Maui

There’s probably not a more famous drive in Hawai‘i than the Hāna Highway, also known as the Road to Hāna, which traces Maui’s rainforested north coast. 

Indeed, it’s no stretch to call this one of the world’s most celebrated oceanfront roads. Get ready for sweeping mountain-to-ocean views, plentiful waterfalls, dreamily lush forests, and a great mix of powdery beaches and wave-clobbered headlands—plus among the most fabled surf breaks on the planet. The biggest mistake to make tackling the Road to Hāna? Rushing things.

A map of the Hana Highway on Maui

Our recommended route

We suggest doing the whole Hāna Highway, a 52-mile combination of State Routes 36 and 360 linking Kahului with Hāna Town. The mileage is infamously deceptive: With a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, nearly 60 one-lane bridges, and about 620 hairpin curves—plus plenty of traffic, courtesy of your fellow sightseers—the Road to Hāna is a slow-going one, demanding lots of caution, attentiveness, and patience. While you may be able to complete the Hāna Highway in about 2.5 hours, that’s not allowing for very much time soaking up the amazing sights and places along the way; it’s best to devote a full day, and if your schedule allows an overnight in Hāna, all the better.

When to drive it

The Hāna Highway is popular year-round, and the tropical climate means the sightseeing weather is generally consistently good all around the calendar. 

A few considerations, nonetheless: Crowds are likely to be less in spring and fall, surfers favor winter’s giant waves, and parents with young children might prefer the calmer swimming waters of summer. Speaking of which, bring a swimsuit! Besides the ocean beaches, there are waterfall plunge pools to enjoy.

Things to see & do

Aerial view of Hookipa Beach Park

Hookipa Beach Park.

1. Ho‘okipa Beach Park

(milepost 9)

It’s worth a stop to survey what many regard as the finest place to windsurf in the world. Watch these daredevils ply their trade, then settle in for sunbathing and picnicking or explore the tidepools. If you're lucky, there may also be green sea turtles, or honu, at the beach's far end.

Rainbow eucalyptus trees at the Maui Garden of Eden

Rainbow eucalyptus trees at the Maui Garden of Eden.

2. Maui Garden of Eden

(milepost 10.5)

This gorgeous tropical arboretum—right where the initial helicopter approach to “Isla Nublar” in Jurassic Park was filmed—delivers unforgettable ocean views and intoxicating tranquility. Of particular interest are the rainbow eucalyptus trees, which are native to the jungles of Southeast Asia but also thrive in Maui's tropical climate. They shed bark in strips, with each new shed revealing new colors.

3. Wailua Valley State Wayside

(milepost 18.8)

Climb a short set of stairs for vistas toward the green mountains (the mauka view) and out to the Pacific (the makai view). Though it's marked by a sign, the turn off the highway is easy to miss if you're going too fast or not expecting it, so anticipation is key. 

Mauka and makai

In Hawai‘i, locations are often described as being on the side of the road that faces inland, toward the mountains—known as mauka—or on the side that faces outward, toward the sea—known as makai. This eliminates the ambiguity of saying "right" or "left," which changes based on which way you're traveling. 

Puaa Kaa Falls

Puaa Kaa Falls.

4. Pua‘a Ka‘a Falls

(milepost 22.5)

Found within Pua‘a Ka‘a State Wayside, a short walking trail leads to this small green-clad waterfall that drops into a popular swimming hole. The wayside also has bathrooms, so it's a well-placed pit stop location.

Hanawi Falls

Hanawi Falls.

5. Hanawi Falls

(milepost 24)

Cleaving luxuriant rainforest vegetation, Hanawi Falls is a stunner right along the highway. There are turnouts at each end of the bridge that crosses the falls for parking; the bridge itself is only one lane, so cars take turns yielding to oncoming traffic.

The black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park

Waianapanapa State Park.

6. Wai‘ānapanapa State park

(milepost 32)

One of Maui’s great seafronts, this park includes a celebrated volcanic black-sand beach, rugged sea cliffs, surf-driven blowholes, a splendid coastal forest of native hala (also known as pandanus or screwpine), and freshwater caves.

RELATED ARTICLE: 11 of the best beaches in Hawai‘i

7. Hāna

The Hāna Highway’s farflung destination town offers the botanical glories of Kahanu Garden, the interpretive delights of the Hāna Cultural Center & Museum, souvenir shopping at the Hasegawa General Store and Hāna Ranch Store, and access to one of the island’s most esteemed beaches, Hāmoa.

Possible detours/add-on destinations

Between mileposts 13 and 14, turn off on Hahana Road to reach one of the most hallowed surfing hotspots anywhere: Pe‘ahi, host to the huge and ferocious “Jaws” surf break. Unless you’re an elite big-wave surfer, content yourself with spectating.

There’s just as much scenic beauty and Maui magic beyond Hāna. Stay on Route 360 to reach the legendary Seven Sacred Pools at 'Ohe'o Gulch in the coastal portion of Haleakalā National Park, the postcard-perfect South Wailua Waterfall, and the Kīpahulu gravesite of aviator Charles Lindbergh, among many other attractions.

Where to stay

  • Hāna-Maui Resort (5031 Hana Hwy., Hāna)
    Embrace the remoteness and tropical atmosphere of Hāna at this AAA Three Diamond hotel, which emphasizes tranquility; you’ll find soaking pools and a hot tub on the grounds.
  • Hana Kai Maui (4865 Uakea Rd., Hāna)
    Hana Kai Maui’s condos, which range from studios to 2-bedroom units, deliver lovely Pacific views and a AAA Diamond Approved designation.

Where to eat

  • The Preserve Kitchen + Bar (5031 Hana Hwy., Hāna)
    Local fishermen supply the fresh seafood at this open-air restaurant.
  • Hana Ranch Restaurant (5031 Hana Hwy., Hāna)
    Casual eats and drinks await at Hana Ranch Restaurant, where you can kick back to ocean views from both the patio and the open-air dining room.
  • Mama’s Fish House (799 Poho Place, Pā‘ia)
    This long-running, family-owned eatery along the Hāna Highway offers irresistible tropical atmosphere and locally fresh-caught fish among its charms. Reservations are required and are often booked for months in advance.
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