Living in Hawaii, I don’t know how many times I have driven the road to Hana. I always seem to get roped into it when I have company in town, and I always seem to forget how long it actually takes. If you are going to make the trek, I have a few suggestions.
1) Get the smallest rental car you can get. Everyone wants to get a Jeep or a convertible, when they are on vacation, but believe me, you do not want to be driving those windy turns in one of those. I remember the 1st time I drove it, we had a Dodge Intrepid. Do you remember those huge boats of a car back in late 90’s. You want to make the turns in a vehicle that is easy to maneuver the very, very, very (did I mention very) windy and narrow road, and it helps with people who get car sickness as well. If people do get car sickness, I would recommend they take something.The speed limit in some places is 20MPH, and this is a State highway folks!
2) Leave as early as you can. The trip takes ALL day, if you want to make the whole drive around the back side, you should leave by at least 10am, to make it back by dark, with out a lot of stopping. The earlier the better, to allow for stops, hikes and explorations. If I were to do the road again, I would break it up into 2 days, and camp at the Wainapanapa State Park. The facilities are fairly basic, but they do have cabins you can rent as well.
You can also stay in one of the lovely hotels or bed and breakfasts to really be able to enjoy the area, and small town feel of Hana. There is a really great hotel called Travassa Hana, which sits on beautiful grounds over looking the ocean. Prices start at: $350.00
Right outside of Hana, there is a nice beach called Hamoa Beach, with some great vacations rentals in the area. Here is a link to some below:
3) Bring lots of snacks and water, because once you hit the road, there are not many places to stop along the way. Stop in Hana for lunch and provisions, to make your way back around the back side, because there is nothing for a lot of miles. Once you get out of Hana, past Wainapanapa, the road starts to turn to gravel and dirt. It is still passable in a rental car, and I have done it every time, but you definitely don’t want to get stuck out there. Most rental cars are trusty, so I have never had any issues. Some warn and advise against going on that road, but that is half the fun of the adventure!
4) Be prepared for slow drivers, and crazy local drivers as well. One time, I came around a hair pin curve, with a tow truck towing a school bus on a one lane road. Very scary, but because I was taking it slow, I was able to get to a good spot to pull over. If people are in a rush, pull over and let them pass. This is not a road that you want to have a crazy driver on your tail the whole way. Don’t talk on your cell phone and drive either. Turn your phones off! Bring some good music, because the radio stations go out of range. If you have small children, bring things along that are going to keep them occupied. I made this mistake. I have taken my 5 year old daughter twice, and I never heard the end of “MOM, are we there yet?” All in all, it is definitely a MUST do at least once, while you are on Maui. It really shows the true beauty of Maui. Please be advised, this drive is not for the faint of heart. It has over 52 miles of 600 curves, and 59 narrow bridges. There are guided tour companies, that can take you in a private narrated van tour, if you don’t really like to drive yourself. There is also a drive fly back in a helicopter option. I personally advise on going the WHOLE way around. There are some great mobile apps and CD’s with mile marker by mile marker narratives. A driving-tour CD of the Hana Highway is available at www.maui-info.com/hanatape.html. For more information, visit www.hana-maui.com/highway and www.hanamaui.com