Another “must do” in Maui is what has come to be known as “The Road to Hana.” It is marketed as some kind of scary beast that terrifies drivers and leaves them shaking in their seat belts. I suppose that might be true if the only roads you ever drive are 4 lane roads to the mall or interstate highways, but for the most part it wasn’t what I could call “scary.” Of course, (a) I didn’t drive, and (b) I have driven a few roads that I would consider scary! What the Road to Hana is, however, is quite beautiful.
The Road to Hana is actually a series of roads, only one of which is called Hana Highway. The loop essentially circles east side of the island of Maui which is formed by the Haleakala volcano. The loop is 52 miles long and reportedly (I didn’t count them!) contains 617 hairpin curves and 59 one-lane bridges. Hana is a town located on the eastern tip of Maui. We drove through Hana but didn’t stop, as it is mostly a little village with a few shops, restaurants and small motel. We did stop at quite a few places, including a black sand beach and several waterfalls. Along the roads are little villages, shops, roadside stands selling food and local crafts, waterfalls, beaches, scenic overlooks and much more.
We took a tour with a company called Hawaiian Style. They are locally owned and operated by a Maui native and his family. The tour was nice because our driver, although he was a transplant from Idaho, had lived on Maui long enough to have a lot of “native knowledge.” Our driver and the company in general display a lot of respect for local customs, and go out of their way to yield to “locals” in order to earn their trust. It would have been possible to drive at least a portion of the road ourselves, but most rental car agreements expressly prohibit driving a rental car on the “back side” of Haleakala, where the road is rough and unpaved in sections, there are many places where the road narrows to one lane, and several spots that are subject to flash flooding. Plus, I wanted to be able to look out the window! I was fortunate to be able to sit in the front seat, and although that left Kathy not sitting with me, she did have her own window seat farther back in the van. She liked it because she didn’t have to navigate! I got some nice “out the window” photos of the road that I would not have gotten otherwise.
Touring the Road to Hana with an experienced operator is really the way to go. I might opt for a 4×4 tour where we were the only passengers, in order to be able to stop at more of the photo spots that could not accommodate a larger vehicle. We swapped places on the road with a number of them, and frequently saw them pulled off in places that would have made for great viewpoints. It’s all part of the compromise of travel, and overall we had a great tour and it was a fun and educational experience!