The Road to Hana with Kids

A trip to Maui would not be complete without driving the road to Hana.  I was a little wary on how our kids (ages 4 and 2) would do on the drive, but we decided to give it a whirl and found it was a most memorable day.  Lots of people warned us about the 65 miles of 620 hairpin turns and 59 one lane bridges.  When we traveled the road I thought it was very well paved and besides the bridges there was a lane for traffic going each way.  The bridges are only about one or two car lengths long and 95% of them have visibility of the other side of the bridge.  Traffic just acts like it’s a two way stop sign.

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We set out early so there would be less traffic and I think that made all the difference.  We made it to Paia town by 8 am, then drove to Hana making lots of stops along the way.  After reaching Hana we went further on to Oheo Gulch.  At 3:30 pm we turned around and came back home the way we went.  We arrived back in Paia town at 6pm.

There are some people that instead of backtracking drive the entire loop.  We decided not to because of rainy conditions and the fact it was a dirt road past Oheo Gulch.  Also most rental car companies will not let you take your rental car on that path.  Our friends  that were there the same time as us drove the whole loop and said it wasn’t worth it.  The path doesn’t go along the coast so it is a much different countryside but the dirt roads make it harder to travel.  Our trip back to Paia Town was not boring at all.  We got to see things from a different angle.

Road to Hana aerial
Road to Hana aerial – Maui, Hawaii

I feel like we had ample time to stop everywhere we wanted.  It didn’t feel rushed to do everything.  We kept it to short, simple hikes since our toddlers were doing everything with us.  We ate all along the way, played at the beach, and explored the rainforest.  There were a few rainy spots when we went in January but overall the trip was mostly sunny and dry.  The rain on Maui is refreshing and not at all something that should deter you away from the Road to Hana.

Be aware that there are no gas stations once you start so make sure you fill up.  Also, be sure to bring cash. There isn’t cell phone service and vendors only accept cash.  You will want to buy some delicious banana bread and fruit at the stands on your drive. Also be sure to but the Gypsy Guide App.  It is a $4.99 on the App Store and I would say it is a must.  The App has an excellent tour guide that explains all the stops, tells you where to park, and gives you lots of history on the way.  There are very few things marked on the road and we would have missed stops and had to back track if it weren’t for the guide.

Now on to the stops on the road to Hana.  There are so many places to visit.  Here is our list of places we went.  Most places are easy to just pull over and see.  There are only a few parking spots for each place.  Luckily when we went it wasn’t crowded.

Paia Town- A cute little old Hawaiian town.  The last stop for gas and a great place to buy some snacks for the road.

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Ho’okipa Beach Park- Every afternoon green sea turtles will swim up onto the beach (the far East end) to sun themselves while they nap. It was a perfect spot to see a whole herd of turtles both in and out of the water.

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Twin Falls (MILE MARKER 2 ) A smaller waterfall early on in the drive.  The trail can be muddy .25 miles or 20 min to walk to really easy.  Parking is easy. You can find some fresh fruit at the great fruit stand.

Huelo Lookout (MILE MARKER 4.5) This stop is super quick and easy, offering a nice panoramic view. There’s also a set of toilets at the parking lot. You might as well stop here, it’s worth 5 minutes.

Na’ili’ili-Haele Stream, Waterfall, & Rainbow/Bamboo Forest (MILE MARKER 6.7-7) Moderately difficult hike through bamboo, pools & waterfalls that can be muddy at times.  We just walked a few yards to get a good picture.  It was drizzling here so we moved on to bigger and better things.

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Waikamoi Ridge Forest Trail and Overlook (MILE MARKER 9.5) This one is a 1/2 mile/30 min hike and generally folks who have done it report that it’s just OK. You won’t find any waterfalls and it’s mainly a walk through the trees. We passed this hike up.

Garden of Eden (MILE MARKER 10.5) This is where the opening scene of Jurassic Park was famously shot. They’ve planted 500 species in this garden and it gives you a nice view of some waterfalls as well. $15 entrance fee per person and it doesn’t open until 8am. Very well maintained arboretum. Trails & drive-though options. Nice easy Parking. Great snack stand if you are hungry.  Picnic tables for those who packed their own lunch.  This place seemed way too expensive for what it was worth so we moved on.

Haipua’ena Falls Waterfall (MILE MARKER 11.5) You can get a good view of this from the roadside.

Kaumahina State Wayside Park (MILE MARKER 12) Public bathrooms and viewing points.

Honomanu Bay (MILE MARKER 13 & 14) You can see from the road.

Ke’anae Peninsula (MILE MARKER 16.8 )  MUST STOP! It was one of the highlights of the trip and is actually two stops.  The first stop is a public arboretum.  It has a nice easy waking trail that is mostly paved.  We brought our strollers since one of our little ones was napping.  There are beautiful, multi-colored Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and bamboo forest scenery on this walk that only took 20 min.  After that we got back in the car and took a scenic, rugged, drive-up the shoreline area. We stopped again for some of the must try Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread.  The said it would be out of the oven in 10 minutes and we explored the jagged volcanic rocks along the coastline while we waited. We bought two loaves and we wish we’d done more! They are that good.

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Chings Pond (MILE MARKER 16.8) There was a swimming hole and cliff jumping spot that we passed because the water was too high but it would be worth checking out if you wanted to spend your time here.

Haleakala Crater (MILE MARKER 17) Just before Wailua overlook on the right-hand side, which almost nobody seems to realize is there, is a tiny parking lot with an awesome view of several waterfalls and the crater. The Gypsy guide will tell you when to pull off for this one.

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Wailua valley state wayside Overlook (MILE MARKER 18) MUST STOP! Great landscape views of Wailua Valley from the road. Pull into the very tiny wayside where you will have great views of both Mauka and Makai.

Upper Waikani Falls (MILE MARKER 19.6) You can get a great view from the road. You can decide to stop and swim!

Pua’a Ka’a Park Waterfall (MILE MARKER 22.5) This waterfall is short walk off the road and with little crowds we passed this one for lack of time.

3 Bears Waterfall (MILE MARKER 23) This is a popular one and appears to be three different cascading waterfalls.  We drove past and parked up the road and walked back to get a better view.  On our way back the water was so full it was only one gushing waterfall.  It was so beautiful!

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Hanawai Falls & Makapipi Falls (MILE MARKER 24) A 200 foot waterfall.  Same thing you can drive by or walk over to the bridge and take picture on the road.  A really quick stop.

Nahiku Marketplace (MILE MARKER 28) A great lunch or snack stop and souvenir shop  if you are looking for food and a bathroom which we were.

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Pi ilanihale Heiau and Kahanu Garden (MILE MARKER 31) Largest temple in all of Polynesia.  You have to reserve a tour in advance.

Wainapanapa State Park (MILE MARKER 32) MUST STOP! There is tons to see here.  This is where the black sand beach is as well as giant sea caves and natural sea arches and volcanic cliffs over the water.  Make sure to do lots of exploring.  We also stayed for a while and swam.

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Hana (MILE MARKER 34) A small town.  Everyone says this drive is about the journey not the destination.  We couldn’t agree more.  We didn’t even get out of the car for this one but I heard that there is a great restaurant called Braddah Hutz Grill.  It is a hut so be sure not to miss it.

NOTE that after Hana the mile markers reset and they count down from 51.  The road is a little scarier and smaller.  It is also partially dirt and not as well maintained.

Kaihalulu “Red Sand” Beach – Not marked well at all, you will need a map and directions to find it.  One of the most unique beaches on the Hawaiian Islands. The red sand is from the surrounding rock. Getting here can be an adventure it is not advised for everyone.  The Gypsy Guide told us this was a nude beach so beware if you are shy.

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Koki & Hamoa Beach (MILE MARKER 50.1) Great view from the road.  The Gypsy Guide will tell you the path to take to pass this.

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Wailua Falls (MILE MARKER 45) Right after mile 44, there’s a parking lot just off the left side of the road where you can pull off and check out this several hundred-foot waterfall. It’s usually pretty popular.

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Oheo Gulch & the Seven Sacred Pools (MILE MARKER 42) MUST STOP! Just beyond Hana, you’ll come to another national park, this time with a $20 entrance fee. It was a very short walk and an easy trail to the lower falls of Waimoku.  The water table was too high to swim in the pools but if the water is low they are open for swimming.  This is also where you would start the Pipiwai Stream Trail which is a 4 mile round trip hike through bamboo forest to Upper Waimoku Falls.  It is said to be one of the best hikes on the island.  It has it all: waterfalls, bamboo forest, ocean views, gorgeous trees and views of the 7 sacred pools of water.  The hike is easy enough to bring younger kids but it is muddy and you will get wet crossing some streams.  The trail is 4 miles round trip and will take about 2 hours to complete.  There are bathrooms at the beginning of the trail and a nice parking lot. The only downside is it is located at the end of the Road to Hana so you need to plan ample time to get there.  And, you will want to arrive at least 3 hours before sundown to be sure your drive back has some sunlight.  We were pretty tired at the end of the day so we weren’t able to make this hike but be sure to at least see the lower falls before you head home.

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For more things to do in Maui check out the Ultimate List of Things to do in Maui with Kids and 12 Great Places to Eat on Maui.

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