A Road to Hana tour is a must-do drive while you are visiting Maui. However, the drive sounds just as daunting as it does adventurous. Over 600 hairpin turns. 54 one way bridges. Last chance for gas is before you even begin. Parts of it do not allow rental cars to drive on. We also heard the most common nickname for it: “Divorce Highway.” Not the most appealing name for a drive to take as newlyweds.
Our concierge suggested we use one of the various Road to Hana tour buses that complete the drive every day. We still were reluctant. I had done tons of research before we left and knew the main scenic stops I wanted to see along the way. However, she vowed all of the tour buses make plenty of stops and we’d still be able to see much of what we desired without the stress of the drive itself. Finally, we decided on a company: Tour Maui. It ended up being our best decision.
Rise and shine! We have an early wake up call as our Road to Hana tour bus picks us up right in front of our hotel at 6am. Since there are no more than 15 seats on the van (and we only have 12 people on our tour), we are able to spread out and relax. The bus has large windows on both sides so everyone has a great view of our surroundings no matter what side they are on. Having a tour guide is great because even as we are off on the initially 50 minutes or so to arrive at the highway, she talks the entire time – this gives us some awesome insight to Maui and on overview of how our day will look.
kuamahina state wayside park
By 8:30am we arrive at our first sight, Kuamahina State Wayside Park. We pull over and park and there ia a beautiful lookout over the coast. Our Road to Hana tour guide lays out a breakfast spread on the picnic table and we fill up on some goodies.
puaa kaa state park
Puaa Kaa State Park is the next spot. There is a gorgeous waterfall and some people are even wading in it! This is the first of many waterfalls we’ll see along the Road to Hana tour. As we go further, we see a dead animal on the side of the road. We get closer and realize it is a wild boar! Our tour guide explains that there are so many wild animals in the jungle right now that there is no limit on hunting. There are tons of pick up trucks with dogs in cages in the back ready to go hunting. Unfortunately, many of these young dogs go into the woods and never come back. We see several mangy looking dogs crossing the road throughout our drive that used to be hunting dogs but got lost in the jungle.
Using Road to Hana tour bus was great because we would have missed half the pullover sights on our own. Cell service is hit or miss (I would have been relying on GoodleMaps with the locations saved) and none of the scenic pullover spots are marked at all. With a guide, she knows exactly where to turn off and exactly what bridges to slow down on to see waterfalls or pools in the distance. One thing I immediately notice is if you DO pull over to swim in some of these waterfalls, you leave it up to chance. Most of the Road to Hana is very narrow and it doesn’t leave a lot of space to park a car. Some areas are only safe enough to have one or two vehicles parked. You’re not going to find designated parking spots at all.
aunt sandy’s banana bread
For instance, one of the great places she knows to stop at is Aunt Sandy’s, a little market. We get off the bus and the owner greets us with different banana bread samples. I am in heaven; it is the best banana bread I’ve ever had. I immediately buy a loaf of chocolate chip. This market is a gem. There are also tons of goodies such as lotion, chapstick, sunscreen – all organically made with local Hana ingredients. Although a bit pricy, I splurge knowing these are some great, unique gifts.
waianapanapa state park
My favorite place we stop is Waianapanapa State Park, famous for its black sand beach. Our Road to Hana tour allows us to enjoy a full hour here. Unfortunately, the waves are a bit rough here; they are huge during the hour we spend here. We wade in the water and post up on our towels on the beach, but no one is going in the water today! I am mesmerized by the black sand against the bright blue ocean against the lush green of the trees. One of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen. There is also a natural sea arch here, so it is cool to see waves crash amongst it.
lunch in heavenly hana
After this we head into the heart of Hana for lunch. I’m not sure what to expect, but the center of Hana is basically a luxury hotel (The Hana Hotel) and several other buildings. Definitely not much to this town and you can truly see how secluded the locals living on this side of the island are. No major grocery store chains. One main high school, some markets, and its post office. We grab a buffet style lunch at a restaurant in Hana (salad, chicken, rice, etc) and then check out some of the gift shops.
seven sacred pools (whomp, whomp)
Unfortunately, we can’t stop at the Seven Sacred Pools. There has recently been lots of flooding in various spots on Maui and its been detrimental to various spots – the Seven Sacred Pools are one of them. It’s currently off limit to the public and you can get fined if you are caught swimming here. Fortunately we still get some good pictures, but it’s too bad we can’t swim.
backside of the road to hana
you can only* do this with road to hana tour companies!
Once you get to the Seven Sacred Pools, the rental car companies do not allow their cars to be insured any further.* However the tour companies WILL go this way to get back home. If you’re a tourist, you either take the risk and keep driving or turn around and backtrack home. Brave tourists be warned, it is not for the faint of heart. This was by far the best reason we used a Road to Hana tour bus. You go down a windy, UNPAVED, one way road with no guard rails for a huge portion of it. Do a quick Google search and you will read 5 times as many horror stories of taking rental cars down this road than you will success stories. No thanks!
This “south side” of the Hana Highway is beautiful. I try to ignore the straight drop off I can see if I look down, Nonetheless, it is gorgeous. Huge bluffs with waves crash below. It is totally different than what we had previously experienced. We come across one bridge and look over a huge canyon. Our Road to Hana tour guide refers to it as “The Grand Canyon of Maui.”
When we finally reach Kahului, it is smooth sailing for the rest of the way home. Our guide turns on some music to finally let us relax while we got dropped off at our hotels. We finally got dropped off at our hotel around 5:30pm – this was truly a full, jam-packed day! We are exhausted but the experience was 100% worth it and we are so happy we chose to use a Road to Hana tour bus. After all, we came home happy and stress-free – something I could not guarantee if we tried to navigate it alone! That alone, made the price of the tour worthwhile.
Our guide did say it is nice to drive it on your own if you return. There are so many small, local stands and it is fun to stop at those. You can then also determine how long you stay at the sites. It is nice to have used a guide for our first time experiencing it though. Enjoy your journey on the Road to Hana!