A 55-mile stretch, the Road to Hana journeys into the unspoiled heart of Maui. Tracing a centuries-old path, the road begins as a well-paved highway in Kahului and ends in the tiny rustic town of Hana on the island's rain-gouged windward side. Many travelers venture beyond Hana to Oheo Gulch, where one can cool off in basalt-lined pools and waterfalls.
Despite its twists and turns, the Road to Hana is not as frightening as it might sound. The challenging part of the road takes only an hour and a half, but stop often and let the driver enjoy the view, too.
Begin your journey in Paia, the little town on Maui's North Shore—be sure to fill up your gas tank here, because there are no gas stations along Hana Highway and the station in Hana closes by 6 pm. You should also pick up a picnic lunch, as food choices along the way are limited to the occasional fruit stand.
About 10 miles past Paia, at the bottom of Kaupakalua Road, the roadside mileposts begin measuring
the 36 miles to Hana town. The road's trademark noodling starts about 3 miles after that. Remember that many residents make this trip frequently—you'll likely see them zipping around every curve—so for everyone's sake, when possible, pull over to let them pass.
Waterfalls are abundant along this stretch of the road. There are plenty of places to pull completely off the road and park. Do this often, since the road's curves make driving without a break difficult. If you're prone to motion sickness, be sure to take medication before this drive. Also, as you drive, roll down your windows so you can breathe in the scent of guava and ginger.
About 10 minutes before Hana town, you can stop for—of all things—espresso. The tiny, colorful Nahiku Ti Gallery and Coffee shop sells local coffee, dried fruits, and candy. Sometimes the barbecue is fired up and you can try seasonal goodies such as baked breadfruit (an island favorite nearly impossible to find elsewhere).