The sole purpose of going to Maui was for a relaxing, tropical vacation to celebrate my birthday. But I knew I wanted to at least do one thing that required me leaving the beach or poolside. In Maui, there's a lot of adventurous and scenic activities you can do, one of them being the Road to Hana.
Before I discuss my concluding thoughts regarding the Road to Hana, I thought I would list things I would have liked to know before I went - which is a lot. If you're headed to Hana anytime soon, I hope you find the next 10 tips helpful!
1. Leave Early - The Road to Hana is only 65 miles but with all the stops and curvy roads through the mountains, it can take anywhere between 3-6 hours one way (2.5 hours with no stops). Leaving early was one of the best tips I received from a friend. I was out the door by 5:00AM (we were in Lahaina). There's barely any traffic and you beat everyone to scenic spots.
2. Dress for Hiking - The whole point of the Road to Hana is to explore several spots on the way to Hana. Hana is actually a small, sleepy town with nothing to do. Several spots require walking distances from the parking spot; some rocky and/or slippery. Make sure you're basically dressed for a hike. You don't want to be that person in flip-flops and a dress missing out on a scenic spot!
3. Get Gas - Warning! There are no gas stops until you're almost at Hana. Fill your tank before starting the trek or you'll be very, very sorry.
4. Bring Cash & Water (Banana Bread!) - First of all, bring water with to keep hydrated. There are no vending machines nor easy spots to buy water. Also, cash is king on the Road to Hana. The vendors selling items out of their trunk, the coconut stations, banana bread - all of these delicious items are cash only. A bit about the banana bread; there are several places that sell freshly baked mini loaves or banana bread and it's apparently a Road to Hana thing! Do it, it's delicious.
5. Download the GyPSy Road To Hana App - This is the best decision you'll make for your trip through the Road to Hana. Several people on Twitter and personal friends told me about this and came highly recommended. Not only am I the worst skeptic, I never pay for apps so a whopping $4.99 made me cringe. But now that I've used it, I would have paid $20 for it if I had to. Without this app, the chances of you missing something beautiful or going stir crazy skyrockets. It guides you through the road, tells you the best spots to turn into, keeps you on track and teaches you a lot about Maui and the Hawaiian culture. I can't recommend this enough!
6. Plan out Stops in Advance - Time management is key during the Road to Hana so it's probably smart to plan out your stops in advance. Yes, you can totally wing it like I did and get assistance from the GyPSy app but it wouldn't hurt to plot some must-see spots. For example, the Black Sand Beach was awesome (although entry was closed), the 7 Sacred Pools, the Tropical Gardens, etc.
7. Prepare for 600+ Hairpin Turns & 50+ Bridges - Do you get motion sickness? If yes, do yourself a favor and grab some Dramamine pills beforehand. There are 600+ hairpin turns and over 50 one-lane bridges and frequently with no rails. Not only did this give me an unbelievable amount of anxiety, I was sick within the first 10 hairpin turns. I think simply being mentally prepared for it will help.
8. Know One-Lane Road Etiquette - Not a lot of people know the rules of the road through mountains and this was obvious during the Road to Hana. 2 quick things to remember. 1, when crossing the one-lane bridge, alternate between oncoming and going traffic. Treat it like a 2-way stop. 2, during a one-lane hairpin turn, honk so you don't crash into oncoming traffic.
9. It's the Journey, Not the Destination - Like I said in the introduction, Hana is not the destination. Sure, the Road to Hana ends in Hana but the town is small, sleepy and there's nothing to do. It's an anticlimactic ending so don't rush to Hana! It's the process of getting to Hana that's enjoyable; the local merchants, the wrong-turn-turned-beautiful-spot, the tropical gardens, the beaches, the waterfalls.
10. Get Back Before Dark - For the simple reason that it's terrifying to drive through the unlit hairpin turns and one-lane roads in the dark.
In conclusion, if you haven't done it before, do it at least once. It's a once in a lifetime experience with unbelievably beautiful spots, friendly people and it sends all your senses in a glorious, tropical whirlwind.
With that said, there's a few things to consider. For example, it takes up an entire day, between 8-10 hours. That can be unattractive to people that are only spending a few days in Maui when chances are, they're most likely there to relax. Another thing to take note that nobody talks about? It can ruin a relationship (or strengthen one; hey the glass is half full right?)! I can't tell you how many couples were fighting during the several stops, topics ranging from driving skills, time management and the lack of preparation.
But with this list, you're sure to be prepared both physically and mentally to best enjoy the Road to Hana!
Here are some photos to give you an idea of what you'll see during your journey:
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