Many travel the Road to Hana in one day, starting from the north shore and driving towards the town of Hana. We decided to do it “backwards”, heading along the south coast instead and continuing the classic drive in the opposite direction. This way we could spend more time in this scenic part of Maui and enjoy the sights without crowds.
Meet The Ride
As a great engagement gift, my parents were generous enough to rent us a convertible car to enjoy the sunny drive down the coast. So I am happy to introduce our shiny silver Ford Mustang convertible:
We have the pleasure of driving this sweet piece of American muscle around the island for the next couple days!
We kicked off our day at 5 AM with our first stop at Haleakala National Park.
Haleakala is the world’s largest dormant volcano and forms 75% of the island of Maui. It is over 10,000 ft in elevation, making it the perfect place to watch the sunrise (yes, we love sunrises) over the ocean.
We managed to pull ourselves out of bed early enough to hop in the car and drive up never ending switchbacks until we finally hit the summit. The 26 degree weather at the base quickly dropped to 8 at the top. We admired the sunrise above the clouds (with flashbacks to Mount Fuji) before Sandra turned into an icicle and we headed back down to start our journey towards Hana.
The Backroad to Hana
As mentioned above, we decided to go against the grain and head to Hana via the south route. This road is said to be less developed and offer sights few people come across. It also happens to be off limits to rental cars due to its unkempt nature.
Since we have already done a number of off limit things in Hawaii, we figured one more wouldn’t hurt. The road was not well maintained with pot holes, cows on the road, and some old rickety bridges. However, it was also a beautiful route and let us experience the lesser known side of Maui.
Most of the road is only one lane, which required careful maneuvering around corners and bridges. Driving this road made the actual “Road to Hana” seem like a breeze, which was spacious enough for at least two cars the majority of the time.
Perhaps one of the best stops along the road to Hana is at the very end (or, the beginning for us): the Pipiwai Trail. This 2-hour trail features a bamboo forest, massive waterfall, and a series of pools to bathe in that flow into one another.
We learned this amazing bamboo forest is actually not natural; the bamboo initially grew as a pest, but has since become a natural beauty and attraction.
At the end of the trail is Waimoku Falls (image on the left), a waterfall which plunges down a sheer cliff over 400 feet. Definitely the tallest waterfall we have ever seen!
After getting muddy on the Pipiwai Trail (Hana is one of the rainiest and wettest places on Earth!), we looked forward to rinsing off in the ocean. Hamoa Beach is rated as one of the top beaches in Maui, so we figured that would be the perfect place to stop.
Tomorrow we’ll continue onto Part 2 of the Road to Hana, where we get onto the “classic” portion of the road!
Practical Information: Taking the Back Road to Hana
The “back road” to Hana means taking the Pilani Highway. You can get onto this highway any way you like – we paired it with watching the sunrise at Haleakala in the early morning, and then moving south onto this highway and having the whole day to enjoy the drive.
The drive is not nearly as scary as many will warn you online. This is particularly true if you avoid the drive at night, in a rainstorm, or if you have motion sickness. Taking it slow and enjoying the scenery (which is what it’s all about anyways!) should result in a safe and pleasant ride.
The things to be aware of are the few sections where the road hugs the cliffside and cannot accommodate two passing cars. Honk around the blind corners, and realize that one person may have to reverse until the road is wide enough for two. There are only a few of these sections.
There is also one short segment full of potholes; so many that you feel you are no longer on a paved road. Driving through this slowly is not difficult. Also, watch for animals on the road as we came across many cattle.
The drive will take you through varying scenery, from a desolate landscape that leaves you feeling you have left Hawaii, to lush rainforest, to beautiful oceanside views. There is also a cute winery (Tedeschi Vineyards and Winery) at the start of the drive that many recommend.