Road to Hana Highway - The Best Places to stop
This Road to Hana article is a continuation of our 2011 series on the Hana Highway. Most of this information is pulled directly from our exclusive Hana Highway Guide Book, so be sure to grab your copy. Click to read Part 1 - When to start the drive.
Part 2 - Road to Hana best and must see sights
Part two of our series on the Hana Highway includes the best sights to visit along the way. Since we recently stopped at every single stop along the drive, we feel we can accurately give you a good idea of which places are worth stopping at, and which you can skip altogether. First, we should note that there are a large number of pull outs along the Hana Highway, and the vast majority of them have absolutely nothing worth seeing. There are a few hidden gems along the way, but don't fall for the "but everyone is parked there" trick that snags so many visitors. Trust us, we've stopped at ALL the stops, and we can assure you that many places you'll see cars pulled over at are a complete waste of your time. Below we'll cover which sights to definitely stop at; and ONLY which stops to visit or to consider visiting. If it's not listed, don't waste your time. If it's a big tourist trap, we'll note that too since you may be tempted to forgo our advice and stop anyway.
If you prefer the companionship and comfort of a luxury group tour that stops at over a dozen of the best sights on the way to Hana and back; we suggest making a reservation with Valley Isle Excursions. They offer hotel pick up from most major locations, have a wonderful and professional staff, stop at some of the best places on our list, and their customized vans with panoramic windows keep the group sizes small.
For those of you who planning to head out on your own, we highly recommend investing in a copy of our guidebook (free for Ohana Members).
Please note that MM = Mile Marker.
While, as noted in our first portion of this series, we do recommend making these stops in reverse heading away from Hana, we've listed them in order, just so you can make note of them as you head towards Hana. On the way back, just use this list in reverse. For the stops beyond Hana, we advise you make them in order listed, taking the Piilani Highway all the way around to Upcountry Maui (if your rental company allows it). For what it's worth, the road beyond the Oheo Gulch is perfectly fine for any car, you'd be surprised what kinds of cars we've seen make it through that stretch with no problem. Everything from big trucks to very small foreign cars.
Road to Hana - Hana Highway (360)
Twin Falls (MM 2) - By far the largest waste of time when starting the drive. We see cars by the dozen piled up here and we just can't put two and two together. Compared to what's ahead of you, it's a waste of time. We only note it here because so many people DO stop here. The vendors are very friendly and offer some good products, but other than that… just skip this stop.
Waikamoi Ridge Loop (MM 9) - We personally enjoy this stop because it allows you to take a short stroll through the rainforest. But there's no waterfall access and nothing to see other than the lush vegetation in the forest. If that's not your cup of tea, skip this spot.
Garden of Eden (MM 10) - One of the best Gardens on Maui, we consider this a must see. The admission price is a bit steep at $15/person, but the Garden is meticulously maintained and worth a visit. It offers several great panoramic overlooks of the Pacific and also offers you a view of both Lower and Upper Puohokamoa Falls. On the way out you have the option of stopping in a gallery where you can find beautiful products made by local artists. Right before you exit the grounds there is little spot where they serve home made ice cream, definitely a treat if you are in the mood.
Lower and Upper Puohokamoa Falls (MM 11-12) - The lower falls is before the upper falls, and is posted with "Posted" no-trespassing signs. If you can get permission to stop like we did, it's a worth-while stop. This doesn't exactly stop the masses, as the fence has a giant hole in it and there's an extremely well worn path to a very pretty overlook of the falls (don't proceed any further than this). We don't condone exploring areas that are posted, so whether you visit this spot or not is at your discretion. We did so with permission and thought the initial falls overlook was pretty; but nothing special. Upper Puohokamoa Falls is blocked access wise. If you want to see either of these falls legally, there's a much easier way. Stop in the Garden of Eden for a view of both falls from two respective lookouts within the garden.
Kaumahina State Wayside Park (MM 12) - A pretty park that was 'upgraded' facilities wise a few years ago. Offers nice views of Keanae Peninsula ahead of you, but beyond that, nothing worth stopping for; so you could easily skip this spot and never miss anything in our opinion.
Honomanu Bay Lookout (MM 14) - One of the best stops along the Hana Highway that allows you to actually SEE the Hana Highway as it snakes across the cliff side. Our favorite pull out is the very large one (on the mauka/inland side of the road) 4/10th of a mile past MM 14. The other pull outs are either obstructed by vegetation or do not offer the same quality view as the aforementioned pullout.
Keanae Peninsula and Village (MM 17) - Worth a stop if you have some extra time. The coastal views are beautiful, and it's a neat way to see one of Haleakala's most recent lava flows up close (you're on it).
Upper Waikani (Three Bears) Falls (MM 21) - This is one of the best falls on the Hana Highway when the weather is cooperating. A lot of rain can make the falls a rushing torrent of water, which is not as pretty as when it has a lighter flow. Access to the falls, which you make at your own risk, is easiest from the makai (ocean side) of the bridge on the end towards Hana town. Cross under the bridge and proceed over to the falls using extreme caution. You'll be surprised just how BIG the falls are when you're standing before them.
Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park (MM 22) - In our opinion, it's a spot you can skip. We note it because everyone stops here for either the facilities or lunch. None of the waterfalls are worth stopping for, so keep on moving.
After Puaa Kaa State Wayside park there are a number of stops we detail online and in our book – but most, if not all, can be skipped. Many of the waterfalls are small and not worth your time in our opinion. Nahiku Road has become a location that's WAY over visited, so we don't advise people to drive down this road any longer. If you do go, don't expect friendly people to necessarily greet you there.
Waianapanapa State Wayside Park (MM 32) - One of the only black sand beaches on the island of Maui is at this spot. Also makes a great spot for lunch. You can probably skip the wet caves portion, we've never been overly impressed by that part of the park. Not to mention some folks seem to have used the caves as a restroom – so that's another good reason to skip them.
Hana Town - Honestly, no joke, nothing to see in Hana town besides a few little stores with souvenirs . Keep heading towards the Gulch if you've got time left, or turn back to see some of the smaller sights.
Beyond Hana - Piilani Highway (31)
Mile markers are now counting down, just FYI.
Hamoa Beach (MM 51) - Heading away from Hana, turn makai (toward the ocean) onto Haneoo Road when you reach it. The first lookout on the left is Koki Beach overlook but you can skip this and continue to Hamoa Beach further ahead. Parking can be bad later in the day, but this stop is worth it. This is the prettiest beach on Maui in our opinion.
Wailua Falls (MM 45) - Here you'll find what may well be the most scenic, and easily accessible, falls in all of Hawaii, Wailua Falls. This is one of our favorite stops along the entire drive, and this falls alone is worth the drive in our opinion. If the flow isn't too heavy, take the short mauka (inland) trail to the base of the falls that starts on the Hana side of the bridge.
Oheo Gulch at Kipahulu (MM 42) - OK, so here's the big reward for all that driving. Some of the most pristine pools in all of Hawaii are here. If the weather is good, they'll often let you swim at the pools. If not, you're still in luck for a good hiking adventure up the Pipiwai Trail to the gorgeous 400' Waimoku Falls. Expect to spend anywhere from 1-4 hours at this stop. Be sure to leave in time to get back (via either route) before dark; leave especially early during the winter months. For what it's worth, the park isn't crowded early in the morning 7am - 9am, but after that, it gets to be really really busy.
Beyond the Oheo Gulch (heading towards Upcountry Maui) the road does get a little rough in places; but again, we think you'll be fine if you try it (just remember you do so at your own risk, we're not telling you to drive it - that's for the lawyers. Just enjoy the view as you make this drive, and stop when you can to snap some pictures of Haleakala's 'back side.' It's dramatically different than the Hana Highway just on the other side of the mountain; it's almost surreal actually. Note that the wind is very strong on this section of the island, so if you plan to jump out of the car for pictures that you leave things you don't want to lose in the car. Once you reach Upcountry Maui, there are some gardens you may be interested in, though chances are by then you've had enough driving and will just want to get back to your accommodations.
Next in our series we'll talk about what to do if it rains: Part 3 - Rainy day and what to do on the Hana Highway?
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