The lush verdant Hawaiian island of Maui is one of the world’s most popular and sought-after travel destinations. Travelers from all over the world visit each year. According to Spectrum News, almost 2.3 Million visitors set foot on the valley isle in 2021. With restrictions relating to the pandemic easing up, more visitors will be able to relax and enjoy Maui’s magical setting and people. From the island’s manifold, jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches to the temperate blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii fits its banal description as a paradise. Visitors can also Revel in Hawaii’s distinct and proud culture, which began approximately 1,500 years ago when Polynesian explorers discovered the island’s magical shores following a long, arduous sea voyage.
Luxurious, all-encompassing resorts line Maui’s beachfronts. Vacationers can spend a week on the island without leaving the resort’s property, save for the ride to and from the airport. Many tourists abide by this philosophy when visiting Maui, traveling across an ocean only to sequester themselves at mega-resorts. They are full of amenities and lazy comforts, but for an authentic Hawaiian experience, visitors must leave the resorts and venture out into the little towns, beaches, and rainforests of Maui, eating, conversating, and experiencing along the way. One of the best ways to do so is via the Hana Highway, commonly referred to as the road to Hana.
One of the most picturesque drives in the world, the road to Hana is a 64.4-mile jaunt (52 miles to Hana) that runs along Maui’s northeastern coastline from Kahului to Hana. The small isolated community of Hana is located on the Eastern tip of Maui. The sinuous road to Hana is full of hairpin turns and historic bridges. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the road to Hana contains 620 curves and 59 bridges. The drive features many incredible vistas, from sweeping seascapes to dense jungle-like rainforests flush with diverse flora and fauna, as well as numerous waterfalls and swimming holes.
There are numerous stops travelers can make throughout the route. Quaint beachside towns offer delicious food and bountiful charm. Multifarious beaches of all types, including ones with red and black sand, beckon, as do waterfalls of various forms and sizes, arboretums, gardens, swimming holes and pools, hiking trails, and much more. Listed below is a small sample of the exciting stops to be made along the way, a sliver to get visitors going.
Paia & Haiku
Typically the starting point for the Road to Hana, Paia, and the next town over Haiku are small beachside communities with intriguing shops, great food, beautiful beaches, and several spiritual temples.
- Baldwin Beach State Park: A great place to swim, sunbathe, and luxuriate in the sun Baldwin Beach is family-friendly, featuring a lifeguard on duty from 8:00 to 4:00 pm daily. The beach is wide and sandy, sprawled across 17 acres of North Shore coastline.
- Downtown Paia: A surfer and hippie haven, downtown Paia features the laid-back atmosphere associated with those two sub-cultures and Hawaii as a whole. The town’s bohemian architectural style is lovely, and the old storefronts highlight Paia’s history as an agricultural hub in Maui county. Shoppers will find numerous restaurants, coffee shops, boutique fashion, and swimwear stores, and surf shops.
- Haiku Marketplace: The heart of the Haiku community, the marketplace features several restaurants, food trucks, and cafes, including one selling local kombucha. Check out NUKA for sushi and Fukushima’s store for delicious poke.
A botanical garden near the 16-mile marker of the Hana highway, Ke’anae arboretum is a tranquil spot that is free to visitors on weekdays. The garden features a half-mile paved walkway meandering through 150 varieties of tropical plant life, including hibiscus, taro, gingers, papaya, and various trees.
Ching’s pond is a beautiful swimming hole located at mile-marker 16.8 that is popular amongst locals. The emerald-colored water is enveloped by dense, lush rainforest on all sides. For the adventurous, there is a small concrete bridge that can be used to jump off into the cool, calm water.
Black Sand Beach at Waipanapa State Park
Insanely beautiful, the black sand beach at Waipanapa state park features the contrasting beauty of the vibrant, verdant jungle, black volcanic sand, and turquoise water, all meet in the same spot.
Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
The red sand beach in Hana, Kihalulu, is another one-of-a-kind, unfathomably gorgeous beach along the road to Hana. The beach features a steep red-lava cliff background, and the intimate cove is a great spot to witness big waves breaking nearby. The red sand beach confounds the senses and feels other-worldly.
One of the most notable of the numerous waterfalls along the road to Hana, Wailua falls features a dramatic 80-foot drop alongside a background of lush rainforest. The site is easy to access right off the Hana Highway, with ample parking.
What’s listed above is just a very small taste of the attractions and potential stopping points along the winding road to Hana.
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“Hana Maui.” Go Hawaii, Hawaii Tourism Authority, 20 Feb. 2019, www.gohawaii.com/islands/maui/regions/east-maui/Hana. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.
“Keanae Arboretum and Peninsula | Road to Hana Sights.” Roadtohana.com, roadtohana.com/keanae-arboretum.php. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.
“Maui Visitors Numbered Nearly 2.3 Million in 2021.” Spectrumlocalnews.com, 9 Feb. 2022,
Mitchell, Alexandra. “Top 10 Things to Do in Paia & Haiku.” Pride of Maui Local Travel Blog, www.prideofmaui.com/blog/activities/paia-haiku-north-shore. Accessed 26 Oct. 2022.
Yamanaka, Sarah. “Maui Visitors Numbered Nearly 2.3 Million in 2021.” Spectrumlocalnews.com, 9 Feb. 2022, spectrumlocalnews.com/hi/hawaii/community/2022/02/08/maui-visitors-numbered-nearly-2-3-million-in-2021. Accessed 25 Oct. 2022.