Road Trip: Top 7 Sights on the Road to Hana, Hawaii

The winding 52-mile Highway to Hana is well-known on Maui. Although it's called a highway, it is more like a slow journey through paradise, chock full of amazing sights. You will twist and turn through stunning seascapes, lush forests, unique tropical plants and, of course, cascading waterfalls. There are also 620 curves and 59 bridges (many are one lane) to navigate.

Heading to Hana?

Carefully choose your rental car for this excursion. Jeep Wranglers and other convertibles are very popular for the drive to Hana, since the winding roads are slow and you want to be able to easily see the scenery around you, while taking in the fresh sea air and tropical jungles.

Fill your car with gas and stock up on beverages and snacks. There are a few roadside vendors selling fresh fruit, as well as the Halfway to Hana shop where you can get burgers, hot dogs, shaved ice, coffee, bananas, and macadamia breads (made fresh daily!) and a few other tasty selections, but there aren't a ton of other options.

Plan at least a half-day of travel to the quaint and sleepy town of Hana so that you have time to stop often. You'll be amazed at the sheer number of breathtaking overlooks and waterfalls at which you'll want to stop your vehicle to observe. Here are some of the top attractions.

Painted Forest, Maui

Source | Paxson Woelber

1. The Painted Forest

The “painted forest" will be on your left just before you reach mile marker seven. Parking can be a challenge, but the photo opportunities are worth the risk. Rainbow eucalyptus trees are what give this forest its name.

2. Kaumahina State Wayside Park

Just past mile marker 12 is a great spot for a restroom break and to stretch your legs. Stop for a picnic or go for a short hike here and enjoy the landscape.

3. Keanae Arboretum

Make time on your trip to stop by the nearly hidden Keanae Arboretum. This tropical haven is easily passed by. Slow down and look carefully for the arboretum 0.8 miles past mile marker 16. This arboretum was established in 1971 and is free to visit.

4. Upper Waikani Falls

Drive a few more miles down the road to Upper Waikani Falls. This attraction is located 0.3 miles after mile marker 19, and there is a small turnout where you can park. The falls are nicknamed "Three Bear Falls," as they're drop in parallel formation unless it rains so hard they flow together.

5. Wai'anapanapa State Park

Source| Eric Chan/Flickr

Wai'anapanapa State Park is famous for its black-sand beaches. Turn at mile marker 32 and drive down a short road. There are facilities in the park and plenty of parking.

Source | Kenny Louie/Flickr

Learn the history behind this lava tube full of perfect round, black stones.

Tip: bring a cloth to wipe your camera lens—it's steamy in there!

6. Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls sit between mile markers 44 and 45. This huge, 80-foot waterfall is right on the side of the road. There are often vendors selling handmade jewelry or souvenirs at the falls.

7. Seven Sacred Pools

Source | Joe Parks/Flickr

'Ohe'o Gulch, also known as Seven Sacred Pools, is actually a part of Haleakala National Park. These pools are 10 miles south of Hana, around mile marker 42. They are natural, tiered, swimmable pools, fed by waterfalls.

There are several trails to explore on foot, including the Pipiwai Trail leading to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. Go early in the day to avoid traffic from tour buses and plan to spend several hours on this spectacular trail.

Those are our top sites on the Road to Hana. Have you been? What sort of vehicle did you choose for the trip?

Last updated June 6, 2018