Big Haleakala - Road to Hana Day
This is a big day. It's nearly seven and a half hours of driving not counting your stops. This is a guide on how to make the most of this trip, including necessary reservations and a much-needed map. One thing to note is that you will be making this trip counterclockwise around the island. So the "Road to Hana" will be on the return trip. This way you don't have to do the road twice. (which is hell) Click on the map for Trip Route and Directions. Enjoy!
You will need to make a reservation to enter Haleakala National Park for sunrise. They have a limited number of reservations per day. They will not allow you in the park without a reservation. For reservations go to https://www.recreation.gov/ticket/facility/253731. The cost for a sunrise reservation is $1.00 per car and $30.00 per Car to get into the park. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance. Book early as this is a very popular attraction.
Clothing & Supplies:
Depending on the month, the Haleakala Summit can be well below zero. So you should layer up. In the course of the day, you will be exposed to balmy 90 degrees at sea level to sub-zero temps on the summit. We usually bring a change of clothes and change in the car depending on where we are on this trip. Also, bring lots of water and sunscreen. You'll need it. We don't bring a lot of snacks because of all the food options along the way. But use your best discretion for snacks. Make Coffee for the Road, you're going to need it!
You will need to leave at least three hours before sunrise. It will take an hour and a half to get to the park from the condo. And up to an hour or more to get into the gate and find a place to park.
Once there find a place facing East and watch Mother Nature do her thing. Don't rush getting out of the park. Take in an exhibit or two. Traffic is a mess leaving. Don't forget to use the restroom before starting down the mountain.
Grandma's Coffee House:
Now it's time for a fantastic breakfast and coffee. It will take you about 35 to 45 minutes to get to Grandma's from the top of the Summit. It's only 17 miles down the mountain, but it's all switchbacks and traffic.
Kipahulu Visitor Center/Bamboo Forest
This drive is simply amazing. You are driving the back way to Hana via the southern Hwy 360. The roads were repaved during Covid, so the road is in great condition. But the road goes from one to two lanes all the way to Hana. It's only 32 miles to the Bamboo Forest, but it will take you a good hour and a half to get there. Kipahulu is part of the Haleakala National Park, So the park pass you bought to get to the summit should still be good. This is a great pit stop for a bio break and take in Seven Pools and a short hike up the trail to the Bamboo Forest. This stop will not disappoint. We recommend good shoes for the trail. While the trail is not terribly difficult, it can be muddy too. Muddy trails and flip-flops do not mix. Give yourself about two hours to do the Pipiwai Trail.
What can I say about Hana Town? There's not much there to see or do. The locals are not particularly friendly. There are a few attractions, but nothing to get super exceeded about. But they do have a pretty good Food Truck Stop, which we highly recommend. There is a really good Thai Food Truck that we like to visit. It's Ae's Thai Kitchen. The Pad-Thai is really good.
As a side note, the weather in Hana is usually rainy. In the dozens of times we've been there we've seen maybe three days when it's sunny. You might want to bring a light rain jacket.
We've added a short hike option that is kind of a hidden gem. It's called Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach. There are a couple of ways to get to it. The trail can be rocky, muddy, and steep. You'll want to wear at least tennis shoes. But, Red Sand Beach is pretty awesome. Try and park in a legal parking spot. The cops hand out parking tickets like candy. There and only a few red-sand beaches in the world, so it's worth the 30-minute hike to see it. This is a known nudists beach, though we've never seen anyone nude there.
The Road from Hana to Paia:
What can I say, I'm not a big fan of the Road to (from) Hana. At least not as a driver. But that being said, this road is extremely beautiful. But after driving 64 miles one-way and making 600 turns (yes 600) and 59 bridges, of which 54 are one-lane, you'll understand my sentiment once you've driven it. It's kind of a bucket list thing to do. So don't let me stop you from making this trip. We make this drive about once a year when friends visit us. The road will take you an hour and a half on a good day and up to three hours on a bad day.
There are a ton of stops you can do on the road. Below is a link to a website that gives you a breakdown of sights by Mile Marker. Remember that you will be doing it in reverse order. There are a ton of waterfalls that can be seen from the road. Please be careful if you hike up any of the streams. Flash floods are common and unfortunately, many tourists have been killed or injured trying to cross streams.
The Road from Hana to Paia:
Paia is an Old-west style building facades painted in a patchwork of pastel colors greet you as you pull into Paia, and at first impression, the small T-shaped stretch of quaint shops and restaurants is reminiscent of a funky 60’s California beach town.
Paia Town is a great respite from the long road from Hana. It's a great place to get out and stretch out your legs. The town itself is pretty small and can be walked in its entirety in an hour or less. But to do this quaint town justice, take your time.
A couple of notable shops and restaurants:
Home Sweet Home:
The last leg of the trip is pretty much like driving from the airport to Annie's Surf Shack. It takes the better part of an hour. It's a good opportunity while in Kahului to do some quick shopping. You'll be driving right past Costco, Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods. Also, you might want to get some gas at Costco. They have the best fuel prices on the island.
After this mega road trip day, you might want to spend the next day doing nothing and sitting on the little beach next door. After all, you just drove 196 miles of crazy roads and bridges, got up at the butt crack of dawn, been to the top of a volcano, and hiked waterfalls and the bamboo forest. Saw a ton of Maui's awesome sites. You deserve a day off!