One of the best activities in Maui is to go on an unforgettable Road to Hana Tour. The iconic road is a 64.4 mile stretch of a narrow winding mountain highway that cuts through lush rainforest, steep bluffs, and deep valleys.  Located in eastern Maui, the road runs from Kahului (Route 36) to Kalepa (Route 360), passing more than 600 hairpin turns, dozens of thrilling curves, around 15 waterfalls, and 59 bridges, of which 46 are single lane.

Famous for its magnificent attractions and incredible ocean views, the Road to Hana teems with stunning scenery and provides opportunities for unique cultural experiences.  You can stroll around gorgeous gardens, discover hidden hiking trails, walk through bamboo forests, shop in vibrant fruit markets, wade in pristine pools, or explore black and red sand beaches.

Indeed, a scenic drive on the Hana Highway is a must-do when you are in Maui.  It is, after all, one of the most sought-after activities on the island. But the tour would be less enjoyable – and may even be disastrous if you are unprepared. When done right, cruising the Hana Highway is one magical experience. With that said, here are things you need to know before you go on a Road to Hana tour.

Top Tips for an Unforgettable Road to Hana Tour

Wake-up early

Undoubtedly, the Road to Hana is Hawaii’s most famous highway and is also one of the busiest, mainly because of the tourists. The drive is long, typically consuming 12 hours of your day, including the stops. Therefore, when joining the Road to Hana tour, wake up as early as possible. You should be on the road by 6 AM to beat the traffic.

If you are driving, you can leave after 10 AM to give the other travelers a head start. This option, however, is good if you’re planning to stay a night in Hana or if you plan to go only halfway. Take note that driving on the highway after dark can be dangerous, so be on your way back by 4 pm.

Stock up on supplies

There are only a handful of places to eat on your way to Hana, so be sure to load up on snacks and beverages. Don’t let hunger spoil your adventure. Also, pack the necessary wardrobe for your preferred activities, including a bathing suit, sturdy boots or sneakers, towel, and dry clothes. Remember to bring insect repellent, sunglasses, and sunscreen, especially if you plan to explore the jungle areas.

Respect the land and the locals

The stunning scenery will tempt you to wander around, and there are apps and guidebooks that encourage tourists to venture into secret spots known only to locals. The thing is, some of these places are on privately owned land. If you see a sign that says ‘kapu’ (meaning ‘keep out’ or ‘off limits’), move along to a more publicly accessible area.

DIY Trip Versus Guided Tour

Should you go on a do-it-yourself road trip or a guided tour? Both options have their pros and cons. Self-guided tours allow you to explore the attractions at your own pace. It is also more private and intimate, with just you and your partner, friends, or family. It can also be cheaper. On the other hand, you can lose track of time or your itinerary without an expert guide. You could be staying too long at one place and missing out on the other attractions.  The actual winding drive itself with its single-lane bridges and sheer drop-offs can be unnerving and stressful.

Joining guided tours such as the Polynesian Adventure Road to Hana Tour ensures that you experience the best of the Road to Hana, stress, and hassle-free. Plus, you get to know the stories and legends of the spots you visit. Driving can be a pain in this part of Maui, specifically if you are unfamiliar with the road. Joining a tour allows you to relax. And because you don’t have to keep your eyes glued to the highway, you can fully enjoy the passing scenery.

If you prefer a more exclusive tour, you can book a small group trip such as the Mahalo Tours Hana Local Style, which limits the number of guests to eight. Those who want to prioritize seeing waterfalls can join the Stardust Hawaii Road to Hana Waterfalls Adventure. This excursion is specially designed for adventurers.

Best Things to See and Do on the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is chock full of gorgeous places, so many that you probably won’t have enough time to visit every waterfall, stop at every viewpoint, roam every beach, or eat at every tucked-away café.  Cramming all the attractions in one visit is exhausting, and you’ll end up missing out on the fun. Pick your spots carefully and prioritize what you want to see and do.  Make sure that the attractions you choose are easily and legally accessible.

For beaches, go to Ho’okipa Beach Park, a quiet white sand beach nestled in between Paia and Haiku, or stop by Hamoa Beach, a serene crescent-shaped bay, a short drive past Hana.  Take a ten-minute hike to Red Sand Beach. You would have to walk along a cliff edge to get there, but the sights that await you are worth it.  Don’t miss Wai’anapanapa State Park, famous for its black sand coast.  Take note that starting 2021, visitors must make advance reservations to enter and park at the beach.

The Road to Hana is known for its waterfalls, so a tour is incomplete without seeing a fall or two.  The Twin Falls is one of the most popular with tourists due to its easy accessibility and the fascinating organic Wailele Farm adjoining it.  For swimming, you have Pua’a Ka’a Falls, Hanawi Falls, Upper Waikani Falls, and the famous Twin Falls.  If you are looking for spectacular hiking trails, check out the Pipiwai Trail, which traverses through a lush jungle and bamboo forest before ending at the 122-meter Waimoku Falls.  You can also try the magical but exclusive Kings Gardens Waterfall Hike, where you get to combine your adventure with a chocolate tour.  Venture further from Hana to see the iconic 80-foot Wailua Falls and the mystical Ohe’o Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools.

Other attractions worth seeing are the Nahiku Marketplace, brimming with crafts, souvenirs, and fruits, and the Wailua Valley State Wayside, a lookout that offers mesmerizing mountain and ocean views.  If you want to cool down and stretch a bit, drop by the Huelo Lookout for its delicious freshly squeezed fruit and sugarcane juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and tasty banana bread.  Don’t leave without visiting Maui’s Garden of Eden, a 26-acre paradise of lovely nature trails, rare tropical flora, and picturesque picnic spots.

There is no doubt that this is an adventure of a lifetime not to be missed whether you make the trip yourself in your rental car or take a fully guided tour of the Road to Hana.