A Guide To The Hana Highway
Hawaii As You’ve Never Seen It
Winding along the lush, tropical curves of Hawaii’s second-largest island, Maui is an unsung miracle. Carved into an ancient track known as the King’s Highway, it’s a road that boasts perhaps more bends than any other on Earth. A stretch of asphalt and tarmac that cuts through waterholes, rain forest, and past sights beyond imagination: the Hana Highway.
Unfolding over 620 curves, 59 narrow bridges, and one potholed stretch of dirt track, the highway is one of the most-challenging drives on Earth. It’s also one of the most rewarding: visitors will find themselves scaling impossible cliff faces, scooting past waterfalls, and soaring down to otherworldly black volcanic beaches below.
If you’re planning to visit, take a Hana tour or rent a car, take your time, go slow and stop at every available opportunity (where it’s safe to park.) Trust us; you’ll be glad you did! If you still plan on driving yourself, download The R2H guide for safe spots and information along the way.
The entire length is possible to do in a single day trip, and we’re here to show you how:
Make a Splash at Twin Falls
Lurking just out of sight from mile marker 2, Twin Falls is frequently overlooked by tourists eager to get some serious mileage under their belts. But this attitude couldn’t be more wrong. A secluded set of pools and waterfalls, the area is accessible only by a beautiful dirt road hidden among the vegetation. The water is cool, there’s a snack bar tastefully hidden just out of sight and the waterfalls themselves bring to mind those late-90s tropical shampoo adverts. This makes an ideal stop for those who love privacy.
Explore Bamboo Forests
There’s one at mile marker 7 and another at the end of the trail, past Hana itself. Whichever you choose to visit, they’re both spectacular. Green shoots project from brown earth, towering high up into the sky. The forests themselves are quiet, impenetrable, and seem to go on forever – promising all sorts of secrets. If you choose to visit the second forest, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the 400-foot Waimoku Falls; one of the most spectacular sights in the whole of Hawaii.
Visit the Garden of Eden
If there ever was a historical Garden of Eden, its location has long since been lost to history. But its namesake on Maui could make a fair claim to being an adequate replacement. Found at mile marker 10 ½ and spreading out over 26 acres, it’s a wonderland of quiet lush foliage, peacocks sunning themselves near pools, and vistas of eye-watering beauty. It’s not unknown for visitors to find themselves wishing they could just lie down and remain here forever, although linger for any more than an hour or two and you’ll miss the next set of highlights.
Recline on Black Beaches
The eerie volcanic counterpart to the pristine white sands of travel brochures, Hawaii’s black beaches are like stepping onto the surface of the Moon. There’s a small one (Honomanu Bay) just past mile marker 14 that’s ideal for lonely exploration, but if you prefer caves and crowds head for Waianapanapa State Wayside Park. Like a vision from an inverted tourist brochure, this beach is vast, rude, and blacker than the farthest depths of the universe. If you’re on a guided tour make sure you visit the nearby caves to hear some grisly local legends.
Round the Day off With a Hana Local Lunch Plate
If you arrive at Hana itself by early afternoon, you absolutely must try a local lunch plate. Sold from tiny stalls that mushroom up between 10 am and around 1 pm, they offer an excellent slice of local cuisine prepared in a variety of inventive ways. If you’re in Hana around midday they can make the perfect end to a perfect trip. But be warned: the plates tend to sell out very quickly. If you’re planning a more leisurely drive to Hana or will arrive after 12, bring a packed lunch.
Highlights aside, it’s impossible to cram everything that’s wonderful about the Hana Highway into a single article. We’ve already had to leave out some gorgeous beaches just beyond Hana and the beautiful Wailua Valley Lookout just before marker 19.
For info about driving or touring these sights yourself, plus photos, see Road to Hana.
This article was written by Nathan Parsons, who travels to Maui every year. His favorite place to stay is at the beachfront all-suites Fairmont Kea Lani resort hotel.