Hey, frenns! One of the things I've always wanted to do is provide different travel…
As I was planning my trip to Maui, and looking for things to do- The Road to Hana repeatedly came up. I had never heard of it so I did as much research as I could (there is some out there) and gathered what I thought would be our best approach to The Road to Hana. There were a few things that I felt the lists we saw left out. So I wanted to include a guide and a video that highlighted our trip.
Before I even get into it, what is the Road to Hana. The Road to Hana is an extremely windy road up the coastline of Maui. Along the way, the scenery is truly out of a movie, and it is really something you have to see in person to understand. Initially doing my research, I was hesitant to take the road ourselves. At first, I thought I would do a tour bus, but then I realized that I didn’t want to be in the back of a van bumping along with people I hardly knew (no shade to my fellow tourists); I also wanted to take my time (or not take my time) at the places I wanted to spend my time. I didn’t want to be rushed along to the next spot. Then I thought of doing a helicopter tour. That was an option (more pricey but an option nonetheless), then I realized I would SEE the road to Hana but not ‘do’ the Road to Hana. No shade to anyone who did the helicopter tour- I was two seconds from clicking purchase myself. After considering the cost of doing a tour (on road or in helicopter), the time I wanted to spend and our own capabilities I decided I would brave the drive ourselves.
Why We Decided to Drive to Hana
The decision to drive the Road to Hana is partly why we had decided to get a Jeep Wrangler for our Turo. I knew that our vehicle could take the different terrains we would probably incur along the way. That was actually a smart move as this car took the curves and terrain without a single issue.
The second biggest hurdle (if not the biggest) was my motion sickness.
Not to go into detail, but I have severe motion sickness. Like- I can get motion sickness just riding in a car as a passenger on a none winding road. I have gotten motion sickness on the plane, I do not take boats or cruises for that reason (or if I do, I ALWAYS have to medicate). As I started researching more videos, I wasn’t sure I could be a passenger to my husband’s (competent) drive up the coastline of Maui. That’s when I made the decision that I would be the driver. It made the most sense. I do not get motion sickness as a driver, and because I am a control freak, we could go as fast (or as slow) as I could take. In the long run, I will tell you the speed was the LEAST of your concerns. You are driving no faster than 15-20mph AT BEST. One time I got up to 30mps and I thought I would fly off the highway into the ocean (not literally but in my mind, that’s how it ended, lol), I slowed myself right on down and went 15-20 MPH. LOL Which is the speed most people are going.
And don’t worry – besides the locals- no commuters are driving quickly. Everyone is moving carefully, your hands are on 10 and 2 and your foot is not too far from the break. Believe it or not, I just let the car “move” on its own. Natural inertia. Most of the time, I just pressed the breaks as necessary. You go up and down so many hills, pressing the gas isn’t really needed. There are over 60 curves and 30 bridges, and some of the way is one lane. Trust me- you have nowhere else to be, and neither do they. If you do plan to be a passenger or someone in the back seat, I would highly suggest taking an anti-nausea medication. Also as much as you want to DO NOT LOOK DOWN. And if you do look down, you’ll see why I told you that. LOL I’ll talk more about your packing list below.
In order to make the drive, we left our vacation condo at 6:30 am. To gauge when you should start your route- Google maps your location to the actual start of the highway to Hana. For us, we were 20 min away. So a start at 6:30 am ON the actual highway. So we left our condo around 6:00 am. This was perfect. It is essential to start the drive very early. It may seem too early, but if it’s around 8 or 9 am that morning, and you have not left yet- do not go. Go another day. The reason is that you want to have enough daylight to make it there AND enough daylight to make it back. We left at 6:30 that morning, stopped several times (but stayed on pace), and made it back to our condo by sundown. You don’t want to be on the Road to Hana when it’s dusk, much less dark. It’s tough to see and drive in Maui at night, but it’s doable. However, I cannot imagine making that windy drive from Hana in the dark. Just the thought makes my skin crawl. Do not worry; you won’t be lonely, there are plenty of other tourists taking their own commutes, usually by themselves. We made a lot of friends seeing people at various stops. A lot of them were following the same advice so you won’t be alone. Plus it is ONE road. No one is going “that other way” (there is none).
Which Route to Take
I took the route the Traditional Way. It is possible to take it in the reverse but there were sites I wanted to see- so I took it the traditional way. I downloaded the Shaka app on my phone. Make sure you download this ON WIFI BEFORE you leave. You have to download it on your phone and make sure it’s working. It’s not that difficult and fairly intuitive but you don’t want to be driving and troubleshooting at the same time. The app starts literally ON the road to Hana so you google map to the highway then the app starts. It has step-by-step instructions that you should follow (step by step). Yes, the app costs- just pay it and keep it moving. You are not cool enough to take this ride without guidance. Trust me. I’m a map girl (yes, I know how to read and map and do not always need a GPS) but a paper map isn’t very useful for this trip.
Google maps is also not the best guide in Hana. Yes, it gives directions, but you will likely lose cell phone service for portions of the ride. Also, it only refers to Hana as a highway- which it technically is. But the Shaka guide speaks to you about the stops and where you should focus your attention and what stops you should make.
When the Shaka app first starts, we were all ‘this is cheesy.’ And it is. We thought we would play our music and listen to the app. Nope. LOL You need the app the entire way. Thankfully there’s music playing and sometimes silence. It’s just enough of both. It’s funny because it almost seems as if the guide almost reads your thoughts, telling you where to stop, what sites to pass by, good detours or detours not worth the stop, where nearby bathrooms are, and does time checks. All of this was helpful. We had reservations at the Black Sand Beach (which you will need to make in advance) and did not want to be late. The ride worked out so perfectly. Our reservations were for 12:30pm- 3:00pm. We left at 6:30am and did not make it to Black Sand beach until 12:15pm. The parks do allow a 15 min window if you’re early and you can arrive during your entire reservation. But once we left the black sand beach we assessed the time (well the app did for us) and we knew we should head back to Maui and not go further. It was funny because I was wondering if the app would know which direction I was headed in when we decided to make it back to Maui and the app said “Ah! I see you’ve decided to come back to Maui. Let’s guide you back home.” Perfect. All in all, I’m thankful we left when we did that because we made it just in time for the sun to go down. The roads were more crowded on the way back down (many more people were headed back home) so the commute took longer.
It was basically a 12 hour day from start to finish.
The sites along the way were almost too beautiful even to photograph. I saw so many waterfalls, the beautiful greenery of the rainforest, and the beaches and coastline; it was all enough to take your breath away. There were times where I felt like I was in a movie of my life. I’m an avid traveler, but those sites were quickly the top 5 places in the world I ever saw. Hands down.
I was glad we had a Jeep Wrangler for the ride. The terrain changes a few times, and you need something that can easily make the changes in the road terrain. The Wrangler moved along with no issues whatsoever. I could not imagine making that drive in a smaller car. I’m sure it’s possible, but there are times where you seem to feel the earth shake underneath you. I’d rather be in a heavier car than a lighter one- but that’s just me.
We did decide to gas up before we got on the road. That’s because I am paranoid. Just FYI, there are no gas stations there so you do need to gas up before you leave but ironically you do not need much gas. LOL Believe it or not the highway can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time (if it was straight) but it’s not- so that’s what takes so long. We discovered that we really did not need that much gas to make it. That’s is not a message for you NOT to fill up or live on the edge and have your gas light on, but you do not use THAT MUCH gas going. It’s just a long trip due to the slow pace.
Let’s talk about what to wear and what to pack. This was the one thing I agonized over. But I’m glad I listened to a few different suggestions. On that day, I wore an athleisure outfit (sports bra and stretch pants) and brought my swimsuit to change in. I also brought my hooded sweatshirt. I’m glad I did it that way. There were times when it was kind of chilly, and I’m so happy I had a covering over my legs. There were times when I felt like I was on a workout, so I was glad I had on “workout” attire. It was breathable and sturdy. Sometimes, the weather will suddenly get kind of hot- so it’s nice to have something light and breathable on your body. Then randomly it would get chilly- so I was glad I had covering as well. Then once we made it to the beach I was glad I had on a swimsuit (there are opportunities to change at the beach). But after the beach it’s a long drive back so I’m glad I had dry clothes to put back on.
Also as an aside, it’s nice to GO to the beach but you are not doing much swimming. At least the day we went. The tide was too high to go out very far. We did attempt to layout on the beach but the tide kind of killed that too. LOL It’s more of a “wow yes, this is cool…let me get my feet wet and frolic in the water. Ok, that’s enough.” This is not the type of beach you just LAY out at. I suppose you could but it wouldn’t be as relaxing as you envisioned for another beach. Plus, it’s more to explore around the beach area itself. You’ll probably spend anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half at the Black Sand Beach.
Another tip is when there is food and it is available for you to eat- EAT. This is not the type of thing where you’ll find “other options just down the street.” There are options but they are far from just down the street. As greedy as it seems, I probably ate at every available stop for food (not fruit stands but restaurants). I didn’t eat to the level of FULL but you’ll need fuel throughout the day. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian there are options for you. If you eat more on the healthy side, there are options as well (not a lot of options- – but options).
Here’s a none comprehensive packing list:
- Anti-Nausea medication: This is for the passengers and the back seat riders. There are not a lot of stores along the way so you may suffer in advance if you do not have it on your person. I suggest taking a quarter of a pill to start- if you take a full pill you may be sluggish. If you feel more nausea, take another quarter. Then take the other half on your way back.
- Anti-bacterial wipes/hand sanitizer: You’re going to feel icky the entire day from sweating and activity. Plus, leaving the bathroom and you’ll need to wipe your hands. A lot of the toilets did not have soap, so you’ll want to FEEL at least as if you’ve sanitized your hands.
- Bathroom Wipes: There are bathrooms along the way but they are very much giving ‘public bathroom on the side of the road’ vibes. I’m sure they are cleaned but how often…um, that was a mystery. Some places only had porta’potties and others had public toilets with barely enough tissue. I’m funny about things like this, so I was glad I had my bathroom wipes.
- Bathing suit/Swin Trunks: If you so choose, you will have a chance to get in the water. Practically speaking, the tide is so high you may not do much actual swimming in so much as you’ll get in the water. But you’ll need beach clothes.
- Beach/Pool Shoes: Even though you may go to the beach, you do not want to walk around with your bare feet.
- Cash: NO ONE accepts cards. For one thing, technology doesn’t allow it (very little cell service). But it also isn’t common. Cash is a way of life there. There are also no ATMs to use. I saw so many people get turned away due to this. There isn’t a just in case ATM. It is simply not an available option. Get cash before you go. I would say for the entire day expect to spend about $40-50 per person. That’s a little on the high side but better to have too much but not enough. There are fruit stands along the road (donations for some and nominal prices for others). There are also food places to eat. Little areas where there are several restaurants. But not all of the restaurants are open at the same time. Even, still they all ONLY accept cash. And the plates are around $15-20. I suggest having smaller bills ($5/$10s/$20s).
- Extra change of clothes: Just in case your clothes get muddy or wet or something random. You don’t need a whole other outfit just a backup outfit to wear. My shirt got a little muddy at one point and I was glad I had a change of shirt.
- Knee brace*: Ok, hear me out. The walks and trails at times are pretty intense. If when you workout if you use a knee brace, bring it to wear that day.
- Jacket/Sweatshirt: At one point, randomly throughout one of our detours, it started raining. I had a jacket around my waist and just put it on (with my hoody). The rain wasn’t too bad (thankfully) but it is the rainforest so random sprinkles to heavy rain will often occur and it’s nice to have your head covered during that time.
- Head covering: To my sistahs, I wrapped my hair up in a turban. I know a lot of you may have your vacation braids- put it in a ponytail. I’m glad I brought my hair wrap. The constant changes in the weather wasn’t the best for my hair to be out. I’m glad I had my hair tied up for portions of the day.
- OFF/Mosquito spray: The mosquitos thankfully are not *that* bad the entire time but there are moments when OFF spray would have been helpful. They are worse when you get closer to the waterfalls and standing water (of course).
- Phone charger and Phone Mount: Although your cell phone will lose service, you’ll need to have a car charger because the Shaka app uses your phone data and uses a lot of power. Plus, you’ll be taking video and pictures, which drains your battery. The Shaka app is practically on the entire time (except when you pause it to get out of the car). I was so grateful I brought my phone mount for the car. It was helpful to see where I was driving up the winding road on the Shaka map.
- Snacks: There is food to purchase along the way (The banana bread is absolutely worth it. Get 2 loaves. One to eat then and one for later!!!), but you’ll get munchy until you reach the restaurants. Bring some snacks for the car. Plus, the small hikes are the equivalent of a workout.
- Sunscreen: A good portion of the walk is shaded, but you spend some time in the sun. Make sure you protect your skin.
- Towel: To dry off with. We took two beach towels. That was sufficient for both of us.
- Walking Shoes: Good walking shoes are necessary for portions of the trip, especially when you get out of the car to explore. DO NOT BRING YOUR FRESH KICKS. Sometimes the road is muddy. Don’t mess up your favorite pair of Jordan’s trying to look fly on the Road to Hana- you’ll be pissed. Bring the shoes you do not care about if they get muddy but are also good to walk in.
- Watch: An athletic or digital watch is helpful. You’ll need to keep track of your time.
- Water: Bottled waters and water bottles are good to bring WITH you. There will be times to purchase along the way but nice to have water to drink before you reach them. DO NOT DRINK the water from the waterfalls.
- Wet clothes bag. You will need somewhere to store your wet clothes when you make the drive back. A plastic bag from the store is sufficient.
I hope this list is helpful to you.
Some additional tips:
- Make sure you respect the people of Hana and do not go off the trail. If it says ‘Keep Out’ follow directions. I was sure to say thank you and was polite to everyone. This is literally like a gated community that is filled with tourists every day. Imagine moving ALL the way in the middle of nowhere and having to ‘see’ people all the time. The residents understand it’s a tourist area – but also be appreciative and kind. Do not litter. All were extremely gracious, but I made sure to be thankful back as well. If I had the chance, I would thank them for allowing us to come to visit their community. The people overall were very nice. The Mahalo spirit is so evident in that area.
- This is not your time to shine as a road racer. Take your time and enjoy the views. Do not try to pass people when you cannot see (locals will do this, but you are not a local). Do not worry about slowing down traffic. I have a tendency to get nervous when people are trailing close behind me. I feel the “I need to get there!!!” pressure in my head. But about 10 min into the drive, a string of cars gathered behind me. I felt myself feeling anxious. It was then my husband leaned over and said, “look, we are worried about US. If they want to go around, they will go around. If not, they’ll wait. You drive this car safely.” That was just the assurance I needed to go at my OWN pace. And you will find your own pace. I finally was comfortable around 15-20mph. If the people behind you bother you too much- pull over and let them pass. Trust me, you will catch up to them. I saw many people who passed me at the next stops. LOL, We saw basically the same people the entire day going to/from Hana. I actually came to prefer the open road. I pulled over often to allow others to pass or just to get some distance between me and another car. I wanted the road to myself.
The Road to Hana, in my opinion, is a mandatory type of experience. At least once. If I were to come to Maui and this was the only thing I did, it would be worth it. Trust your common sense and follow your instincts (and the Shaka guide), and you’ll be just fine.
Enjoy your time on the Road to Hana- and make sure you share your pictures.