Cruising the Hana Highway in Maui

A road trip is probably the last thing on your mind when visiting Hawaii. Yet, on the tranquil island of Maui, you can find one of the world’s most breathtaking drives … the Hana Highway.

 

Driving alongside the Pacific Ocean on the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii
Driving alongside the Pacific Ocean on the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii

What is the Hana Highway?

For 65 winding and scenic miles, the Hana Highway takes drivers on a trip alongside the Eastern shore of Maui, Hawaii. Along the way, the road passes over 59 bridges (46 of which are one-way) and curves approximately 620 times.

Once you arrive in Hana, you can choose to stay in one of the many luxurious Hawaii vacation rentals … or you can keep on driving another 65(ish) miles to finish the loop back to Kahului. Having done the entire drive in one day, I highly suggest spending at least a night in Hana.

One of the biggest reasons for spending the night in Hana is so you can take advantage of all the tourist destinations along the highway. Highlights include waterfalls, beaches, the Haleakala National Park and the Seven Sacred Pools. Plus, you will inevitably want to stop every 5 feet to take a photo.

 

The Seven Sacred Pools ... as seen from the side of the Hana Highway
The Seven Sacred Pools … as seen from the side of the Hana Highway

 

One of the countless amazing views you will see when driving along the Maui Coast in Hawaii
One of the countless amazing views you will see when driving along the Maui Coast in Hawaii

A Brief History of the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii

“In the sixteenth century, Maui’s King Pi’ilani conquered East Maui and drew Hana into his political sphere. Pi’ilani built the Alaloa, the “long road,” from West Maui, a road on which travelers reportedly swung themselves over East Maui’s rushing streams with ropes made of vines.

Later, Piilani’s son, Kihapiilani, extended the Alaloa into the Hana District. When completed, the road was 4′ to 6′ wide, 138 miles long, and paved with hand-fitted basalt (lava) rocks. Modern road construction to Hana began in the 1870s, with an unpaved road built to facilitate the construction of the Hämäkua Ditch. Part of The East Maui Irrigation System, the Hämäkua Ditch brought water from the rainforests of Haleakalā to semi-arid central Maui to support the sugarcane industry.

Road construction continued in the early 1900s and was extended piecemeal until the full road to Hana was officially opened on December 18, 1926. Construction of bridges continued through the 1930s and the road was not completely paved until the 1960s.

In August 2000, the highway was designated as the Hāna Millennium Legacy Trail by President Bill Clinton. The Hāna Highway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 15, 2001″

source: Wikipedia

 

Views of the ocean from alongside the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii
Views of the ocean from alongside the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii

 

There's nothing quite like a drive up the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii
There’s nothing quite like a drive up the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii

Driving Alongside a Volcano

For the first 64 miles, the Hana Highway takes you through a canopy of lush greenery and tropical rainforests. However, on the way back you’ll notice a complete shift in scenery and topography … should you choose to continue on the road and drive the portion located on the Western side of Maui, Hawaii.

Past the Hana Highway, a landscape of ranchlands, dry grasslands, lavascapes, exposed rock, tall brown grass and wide open fields await. This is because you are now driving alongside the Haleakala Volcano, and on the backside of Haleakala National Park. Personally, this was my favorite part of the drive.

For nearly 25 miles, your rental car will bump, creak, bottom out and make you sure that you’ve just voided your insurance policy. This is all a part of the fun! And don’t worry … despite the rumors, driving this route does NOT void your rental contract.

If you’re up for the adventure, here’s a great mile-by-mile guide to the drive.

 

Driving alongside the Haleakala Volcano in Maui, Hawaii
Driving alongside the Haleakala Volcano in Maui, Hawaii

 

Bones and rocks are common sites when driving the southwestern highways on Maui, Hawaii
Bones and rocks are common sites when driving the southwestern highways on Maui, Hawaii

 

A view from the back side of Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii
A view from the back side of Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii

 

Driving next to Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii
Driving next to Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii
  • Gary Goodenough

    Greg,
    Nancy and I miss you at Photo Club and your photos remind us of how much. We hope you and your family are doing well.
    We once drove this road but didn’t make it to the end. Now we know what we missed.

    • Aw. Thanks Gary! I was just thinking about you all and how you had to swim to photo club this month! Hope all is well. If you’re ever in Santa Cruz, let me know. We’ll go photograph some seagulls or something :)