Road to Hana-Wai’anapanapa State Park-Back Road back to Kahului, Maui

Hana is about 103km from Kahului but it will take you few hours to get there. Many travel sites recommend staying overnight and if you do, leave Kahului after 10AM. A lot of people go for a day and the road can be super busy between 7AM-9:30AM. I had reserved 2 nights at a campground in Wai’anapanapa State park. You need a permit there and I got mine online. Even with the permit it is first come first serve but there is plenty of room, water, washrooms and outdoor cold shower. The cost is $20/night/tent. There is another campground past Hana right next to 7 Sacred pools where you don’t need a permit instead you buy a park pass and can stay there for free up to 3 nights. It is in Haleakala National Park. I will write more about camping in Hawaii in a diffferent blog. The drive was not as bad as some people describe it and we were very lucky because it wasn’t too busy. There was about 15 min delay at a complete stop. The recent rains caused several mud slides and crews were clearing it. The road is very winding and narrow and I still can’t decide if I like driving the west Maui road better. They’re different and I feel lucky to have seen them both and can now say ” I’ve made a perfect circle on Maui”. You will drive through lush, tropical rainforest, waterfalls, ocean cliffs, surfing beaches, bamboo forest and so much more. I used this guide: 

There are several apps “GPS driving tour Road to Hana” with commentary and suggestions for stops while you drive. 

The campground in Wai’anapanapa State Park had a cave, the only black beach on Maui, red beach, many blow holes in lava, and great hikes. I had no cell reception there but found free WiFi in Travaasa hotel.

Great food can be found in food trucks, couple of general stores and a very nice beach called Hamoa beach. You’ll see a huge cross on a hill in Hana and it says private property but I asked a local and it is ok to hike there. My friend and I did only to be stopped by cows blocking the road and looking very angry even charging at us. I chickened out! I’m not a farm girl and have no idea if they can be aggressive when there are little ones with them.

Most of the people drive back the same way but the adventurous spirit in me wanted to explore the “back side”. It is not the same rain forest but I felt that was the real road to Hana. 6 miles is unpaved and I have to say that was sketchy driving in a small sedan but totally doable. It is rough and narrow. Mere inches will separate you from the rock wall on the right side. Many don’t have protective nets and rocks may come down any time. I would not recommend driving this in the rain unless you have a 4×4 because of mudslides.

16 km south of Hana are 7 sacred pools or Pools of Oheo, where waterfalls spill into tiered pools leading to the sea. This is a must to see. The pools were closed due to rock fall early this year. I did see someone swimming in the pool closest to the ocean. 

Driving pass Kipahulu landscape is mostly grasses over old lava fields with stunning ocean views along side Haleakala mountains. On this trip you’ll drive through several climate zones from lush jungle of Kupahulu then ranchlands, dry grasslands, landscapes and back to lush Greenfield of cloud forest.

Some publications will mention driving the back side may breach your rental company agreement. I had no issues with mine.


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