It’s on many travelers’ bucket list despite the dangerous roads, the dizzying turns and traffic delays. However, the 64-mile Hana Highway road trip will reward you with an experience you will likely never forget. Lush vegetation, cascading waterfalls at every turn, and the secluded black sand beaches are just a few of the draws for taking that ideal road to Hana drive.
Hawaii Route 60 and 360 comprise much of what is known as Hana Highway. It is located in Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. For many, the ideal Hana Highway road trip begins in the town of Kahului and ends in Hana on the eastern side of the island. Although it’s hard to quantify how long you ought to spend driving in paradise, most visitors allow just a full day for the road trip. If you have plenty of time though, consider this week-long itinerary that will give you more than enough to explore much of the eastern shore and the jewels of nature it offers.
The Ideal Hana Highway Road Trip
Day 1: Kahului to Nuka
Start your ideal Hana Highway road trip in Kahului, the largest community in Maui. Those flying in from the mainland United States will likely arrive here since it hosts the island’s main airport (OGG). Located on the northeast side, it is generally not seen as a major tourist destination, despite the large number of accommodation options and shops in the area. There are a couple of worthy stops: Alexander and Sugar Baldwin Museum and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. The former sits next to the island’s largest sugar plantation and the latter usually has live artistic events mostly performed by local artists.
After your exploration of Kahului, drive your rental car about half hour to the east until you reach the Ho’okipa Beach Park located just pass mile marker #9. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a seaside picnic, ride the surf and do a bit of easy hiking. Finally, stop by the Maui Grown Market to replenish your road trip supplies before retiring for the night in Haiku.
Haiku is one of those off-the-beaten path towns. It’s proximity to the ocean and the small town ambiance makes it one of the best places to stay in Maui. It also has a variety of places to eat that fits all budgets including the Japanese restaurant Nuka that’s a popular dinner spot.
Day 2: Nuka to Keanae
Grab breakfast at Colleen’s at the Cannery before taking a detour to the town of Makawao. It’s dubbed cowboy country of the island (locally referred to as a paniolo). What makes Makawao part of your ideal road to Hana trip is that it’s unlikely that you’ll find another town in Maui, or in Hawaii for that matter that will present you with the same cultural experiences. Spend an hour or two walking around the historic town. Talk to the locals or catch an impromptu demonstration of how to tame a bull. Before you leave though, stop by at the Komoda Store and Bakery and stock up on those cream puffs and guava malasadas. This local bakery has been serving Hawaiians and visitors for a century.
Hop back on Hana Highway and continue your ideal Hana Highway road trip towards Twin Falls. Don’t be turned off by the full parking lot because despite what some of the guidebooks say, this is worth stopping if you want a true Hawaiian experience. Spend 2-3 hours perusing the walkways that were crafted by locals and enjoy fresh fruit smoothies at one of the best roadside farm stand along the way.
If you prefer to have a more Instagram-worthy background, then head towards the Maui’s Garden of Eden and Botanical Arboretum. Film buffs will recognize it from the opening sequence of Jurassic Park while artists will revel in the beautiful landscapes crafted within the 10-acre land. Look out for the indigenous Hawaiian plant species. Keep in mind that it’s an attraction so there will be an entrance fee of $15 to get in.
Before retiring for the night in Keanae, you can make a quick stop at Honomanu Park (between mile markers 13 and 14) where you’ll get a glimpse of waves crashing through the cliffs covered with lush vegetation.
Day 3: Depart Keanae
Take the morning to explore the town of Keanae, a traditional Hawaiian village known for its taro fields. Stop by the 19th century church, the only structure left standing after the devastating 1946 tsunami that led to the creation of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Stop by Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread, arguably one of the best in Maui before you continue your drive on the ideal Hana Highway road trip.