The Road to Hana. Without a doubt one of the top “attractions” on Maui, The Road to Hana is a winding, narrow, magical drive through some of the most scenic parts of the island.
But whether you have an amazing time driving to Hana or an underwhelming time has a lot to do with the stops that you make along the way.
Before our very first trip to Hawaii, my dad’s cousin told us that the Road to Hana was quote, “completely overrated.” And I can see how someone might develop that opinion.
If you just barrel on through, the drive itself isn’t necessarily anything to write home about, save the number of motion sickness pills you needed to pop along the way or perhaps stories of nearly getting side-swiped by a pick-up truck on a narrow hairpin turn.
But if you know where to go, a day driving the Road to Hana is going to be one of the best days of your vacation. It was for us! If you don’t quite have the context on this post, or just want to look at pictures of sea turtles and me and my cousins looking like happy dorks on a whale watching boat, check out my sister’s recap of our entire recent trip to Maui.
But ok, without further ado…our favorite stops along the Road to Hana. There were some big stops that we weren’t able to hit on this last trip. The Hana Lava tube and Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) were both closed when we were there, but that’s ok. Don’t stress about hitting every stop in one day, because it’s almost impossible! Even for the earliest of risers. Just prioritize what you can, and create your own unique road to Hana experience. :)
8 Road to Hana Stops for the Perfect Day in Maui
Paia is “hippie Hawaii,” and many travelers’ first stop along the Road to Hana. When we were in Maui, we stayed in an Airbnb about 15 minutes away from this little town, so we found ourselves hanging out there a lot.
For things like brick oven pizza at Flatbread Company…
And Acai Bowls at Paia Bowls
If our priorities weren’t clear to you before, they probably seem pretty clear at this point. It’s ALL about food.
Many of the shops aren’t open in the morning, however, so if you could make Paia part of another day of your trip, when you can spend a bit more time there without having to get back on the road, that might be your best bet.
2. Ho’okipa Lookout
Instead, go on directly to Ho’okipa Lookout, where you’ll find surfers galore. When we were there, there was a massive swell and only the most hard-core of surfers were out on the water.
There are also a bunch of vendors selling fruit and fresh juices:
3. Halfway to Hana
We began the drive to Hana very early in the morning––around 7 AM, so many of the stops along the first half of the road were closed!
We were definitely prioritizing getting to Haleakala National Park for a hike later in the day, so driving past some of the early stops like the Ke’anae Arboretum wasn’t so bad.
All that said, it seemed like it was no time before we were at the Halfway to Hana stand. I *wish* I could show you a picture of it––I even had a few all queued up––but my sister immediately saw that she was in them with bed head and I was overruled.
But look, here’s a picture of a bird I took outside the stand:
Not as good as my sister’s bed head, but it’ll do.
Our tips on this stop: GET THERE EARLY. AND GET THE BANANA BREAD. You’ve probably heard of this “famous” banana bread along the road to Hana. It’s good. Especially first thing in the morning, when it’s still warm. It’s perfection with a cup of coffee, also available at the stand.
4. Wai’anapanapa State Park
Our next stop was Wai’anapanapa State Park, where you’ll find a small but beautiful black sand beach.
They have camping in the park, so if you’re interested in staying for a longer period of time, this little state park is a great place to stay––the campground was developed with bathrooms and running water, and it overlooks the ocean.
We grabbed our towels and hung out here for a while, exploring a sea cave nearby and laying out on the warm black sand.
There’s also a little hike where you can walk along the cliffs:
5. Thai by Pranee
This GEM of a food truck serves up some of the best Thai food I’ve had––so much better than the stuff we get here in New York.
We ordered a beef stir-fry…
A mahi mahi fish curry…
Drunken noodles (Pad Kee Mao):
And fried opakapaka with papaya salad.
We also got a Thai iced tea and lilikoi (passionfruit) juice. SO. GOOD.
6. Red Sand Beach
This was our favorite stop on The Road to Hana. A gorgeous, partially hidden red sand beach perfect for swimming.
It’s a little bit hard to find––follow your GPS until you get to an area where you can park your car along the street. It’s a dead end, with a hotel at the end of it, and you may be tempted to think you’re in the wrong place.
But just across the grassy field to your left, there’s a little trail opening, where you can walk down onto a pretty well-trodden path.
Check out the tide pools along the way…
And walk until you get to the end of the trail, where this amazing beach will just present itself to you:
Bring your bathing suits, towels, and reef-safe sunscreen, because you’re gonna want to hang out here for a while.
7. Huli Huli Chicken at Koki Beach
Huli Huli chicken is basically grilled chicken, served with rice and of course, mac salad.
This stand outside Koki Beach makes some of the best we tried.
They also serve ribs!
It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that we have two food places in this list. Because yes, while we stuffed our faces with delicious Thai food at lunchtime, we couldn’t resist a mid-afternoon snack here on the beach.
We were there on Superbowl Sunday, and we got a quick lesson in how the Superbowl is done in Hawaii: A flatscreen TV in a tent. Right on the beach:
8. Haleakala/Pipiwai Trail
This was our last big stop. This area of Haleakala National Park has the Pipiwai Trail, which will take you through bamboo forests and waterfalls.
It was the perfect way to cap off the day.