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MAUI TOURS


MAUI – ROAD TO HANA TOUR

  • 140Audio Points
  • LocationHawaii, USA
  • Suggested Time1 Full Day

What to Expect

The Road to Hana is one of the world’s most scenic drives and a popular sightseeing activity to see Maui’s spectacular waterfalls, black sand beaches, bamboo forests, lava rock formations and amazing ocean views as you wind your way through 620 curves and 59 bridges.

If you prefer travelling independently, at your own pace, GyPSy Guide provides the best Road to Hana tour experience, along with the freedom to choose what you enjoy; squishing the black sand between your toes at Wai’anapanapa, hiking the Pipiwai Bamboo Trail, or maybe time to enjoy an extra slice of banana bread.

You can’t help but cheer on the world class windsurfers at Ho’okipa. And you won’t need to worry about photoshopping the Rainbow Eucalyptus at the Keanae Arboretum or the stunning contrast between blue water and black lava rock at Keanae Peninsula.

Take a moment to cool off with a quick swim at the pristine Hamoa Beach and see where Haleakala National Park descends from the summit to the sea and the Pools of Oheo at Kipahulu (7 Sacred Pools) at the end of the drive.

With such a long day of exploring, it’s important to know the 5 “not to be missed” stops that we recommend, and many more suggestions if you have time. Part of the secret to enjoying the journey is knowing how not to waste your time, and we have tips for that as well.

ORIGINAL ROUTE (RETURN)

This is the Original and in our opinion – still the best way – to experience the Road to Hana. This is the route that created the legendary status of this amazing drive. And all rental cars are permitted on this route.

Start in Central Maui by the Airport, and follow the coastline using Highways 36 and 360 from Paia to Hana, and then extend to the Oheo Pools at Kipahulu – aka: the 7 Sacred Pools. Then turn around and drive back the same way.

Leave early to get ahead of the crowds. This tour focusses on doing your sightseeing as we drive outbound, while we are still feeling energetic and the sun is most predictably shining – fingers crossed. Expect to spend about 6 hours or more taking in the variety of sights and many places of interest along the way.

When we reach the end of the official Road to Hana tour route, we’ll turn around and start driving back towards Paia (ideally around 3pm). We most likely will start to feel a little less energetic after packing in so many enjoyable stops, so the tour is designed to be driven non-stop on the return trip. We’ll point out the “must-stop” places on the way back again, but we also have many fascinating Hawaiian stories to help pass the time.

It’s not required to continue drive all the way to Oheo Pools at Kipahulu – but we encourage you to continue past Hana if you can, as 3 of our favorite places are in the last 45 minutes of the outbound drive.

THE LOOP (CLOCKWISE)

The Loop starts out like the Original Road to Hana route, but instead of turning around at Oheo Pools at Kipahulu (7 Sacred Pools), you continue driving on Highway 31 (Piilani Hwy) around the backside of Haleakala.

The road climbs through Maui Upcountry, before returning to Central Maui near the airport.

Highway 31 (Piilani Hwy) section of the route follows the coastline with views across the channel towards the Big Island.  You enjoy similar views to the Big Island on the section between Hana and Oheo Pools at Kipahulu.

It is best to leave very early as this route will have you driving Highway 31 (Piilani Hwy) at the end of a very long day, and preferably not in the dark.

This tour focusses on making sightseeing stops as we drive towards Hana.  There are no not-to-be-missed stops beyond the Oheo Pools at Kipahulu.

BACKROAD (COUNTER CLOCKWISE)

The Backroad route, or sometimes called the reverse route, is the same as The Loop route but in a  counter-clockwise direction. The tour begins by climbing to the Maui Upcountry before passing around the backside of Haleakala to reach the Oheo Pools at Kipahulu, aka: the 7 Sacred Pools.

This Backroad route has become more popular recently and claimed to be a way to “beat the crowds”. Unfortunately, this method still means that you will more likely be driving into traffic since you will on the Road to Hana portion from midday into the afternoon. It is also fairly common for the prevailing tradewinds to bring gray skies and showers during afternoons.

Our honest opinion is that this our least favorite way to experience the Road to Hana. Why?  It’s 3 hours of somewhat challenging driving to the first not-to-be missed stop, the Oheo Pools at Kipahulu (7 Sacred Pools).  Leaving you a little weary and less energetic in the second half of the day where there are many stops ahead.

The Highway 31 (Piilani Hwy) section of the route follows the coastline with views across the channel towards the Big Island.  You can enjoy these same views between Hana and Oheo Gulch.

Driving this direction you will be on the oceanside of Highway 31 (Piilani Hwy). 

LOOP & BACKROAD ROUTES - HIGHWAY 31 (PIILANI HWY)

Driving on Highway 31 (Piilani Hwy) which may be prohibited by your rental car company. It is important that you check with your rental car company and that you are fully aware of any risk you are assuming.

The road conditions vary dramatically depending on recent weather, but sections are narrow with broken pavement in places and few guardrails.

Highlights

  • Hamoa Beach
  • Hana Bay
  • Ho'okipa Beach
  • Ke'anae Arboretum
  • Ke'anae Peninsula
  • Koki Beach & Alau Island
  • Lava Tube
  • O'heo Pools at Kipahulu (7 Sacred Pools)
  • Paia
  • Pipiwai Trail
  • Rainbow Eucalyptus
  • Twin Falls
  • Upper Waikani Falls (Three Bears)
  • Wai'anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach)

Original Tour Route

Loop Tour Route

Backroad Tour Route

Original Tour Route

Loop Tour Route

Backroad Tour Route

Suggested Start Location(s)

All tours start as you approach the junction of Hwy 380 and 311 in Central Maui.

Suggested Time

Expect to spend 8-12 hours out touring.  

Driving Distance

The distance of the drive is 120 miles return, from the start point to the Oheo Pools and return. 

FAQ

WHY IS THE ROAD TO HANA FAMOUS?

The Road to Hana is one of the world’s most scenic drives and a popular sightseeing activity to see Maui’s spectacular waterfalls, black sand beaches, bamboo forests, lava rock formations and amazing ocean views as you wind your way through 620 curves and 59 bridges.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DRIVE THE ROAD TO HANA?

The distance of the Road to Hana drive is 120 miles return, from the start point near the town of Paia to the Oheo Pools and return. You can expect to spend 8-12 hours out touring, depending on the stops made along the way.  

IS THE ROAD TO HANA SAFE?

The Road to Hana is very safe for drivers who can keep their eyes on the road, so resist the temptation to look around. The highway is fully paved and even though it has many curves and one-lane bridges, the drive is very safe.

WHAT IS THE BACKSIDE OF ROAD TO HANA?

The back side of the Road to Hana, also known as Piilani Highway 31, is a remote road that is unpaved in sections, extremely windy and dotted with some major potholes. Also, all major car rental companies explicitly prohibit their vehicles from being driven there.

SHOULD I DRIVE THE BACK SIDE OF THE ROAD TO HANA?

If you’re the adventurous type, you might be tempted to travel the “back side” (also known as the Piilani Highway, 31) of Haleakala on your return trip.

But the advantages of driving from Paia to Hana (Oheo Gulch) return are numerous and substantial:

  • The Road: Although it’s improved over the years, there are still unpaved sections without barriers. The road conditions vary depending on recent weather and rain damage.
  • Insurance: The major car rental agencies prohibit their vehicles from being taken along the “backside”. If you break down, have an accident, or any damage is found to the car afterwards, it can be a costly and time wasting experience. 
  • Weather: The normal tradewinds often bring clouds and rain in the afternoons. It’s best to do your sightseeing stops along the Road to Hana in the morning as it may be raining when you drive through in the afternoon.
  • The Views: On the “backside” views are of the wild open ocean, but there aren’t any places of interest to stop, so you’ll be driving around 3 hours non-stop. You’ll enjoy the same views across to the Big Island as you approach the Oheo Pools from the actual Road to Hana.

DO I NEED A RESERVATION FOR WAI'ANAPANA (BLACK SAND BEACH)?

Reservations are required to access Wai’anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach). Tickets are only available online at gowaianapanapa.com and advanced bookings are mandatory. Tickets are released daily for 30 days out, and must be booked at least 1 day in advance of travel. You cannot make same day reservations. 

See how to make a reservation, for what time and other FAQs.

DO I NEED A PARK PASS FOR THE ROAD TO HANA?

The area where the Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) and Pipiwai Trail is located is within Haleakala National Park and a park pass is required to visit these locations. You can also use the same pass at the Haleakala Summit location within 3 days.

Trip Planning

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

Reservations are required to access Wai’anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach). Tickets are only available online at gowaianapanapa.com and advanced bookings are mandatory. Tickets are released daily for 30 days out, and must be booked at least 1 day in advance of travel. You cannot make same day reservations. 

See how to make a reservation, for what time and other FAQs.

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