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BrendaM Sep 28th, 2014 11:21 AM

Road to Hana and continuing on backside of Island
I will be going to Maui in January and a friend from England will be accompanying me. I have been on the Road to Hana before but he has not. We would like to drive to Hana and continue on through the backside of the island but want to know the condition of the road beyond Hana, and if it is feasible. Do you really need a 4 wheel drive? I have heard it is not that bad....Also how long would it take to do this whole loop? Can it be done in a day? I'm assuming it can.
I have also read there is a road on Maui that one does not want to try as it is essentially one way, with no places to back up or turn around if you meet traffic...Also have heard no guardrails, steep cliffs, and there have been vehicles that have tumbled over the cliffs. Is this true? Where is the road if it exists, and has anyone been there? We like to venture beyond the commonplace but I don't want anything too dangerous. Any help is very much appreciated.

ChiSue Sep 28th, 2014 02:47 PM

Your car rental contract will probably exclude the road on the southern flank of Haleakala and the one 'over the top' of Maui from Kapalua to Wailuku. There is a Jeep rental place that allows you to go on at least the Haleakala back road. Neither road is a good bet in the best of weather; January means rain -- and washouts. Please don't put Maui Rescue Teams in danger for your thrill seeking.

AustinTraveler Sep 28th, 2014 03:07 PM

The road north of Kapalua does not become one-way (and scary!!) until after the Nakalele Blowhole. The scenery is beautiful in Kapalua and north of there, but do not go down that one-way road. We saw the area past Hana by helicopter, which I highly recommend.

sassy_cat Sep 28th, 2014 03:41 PM

Last February we looked at a map and naively took the Kapalua to Wailuku road.
It was definitely hair raising at times and I wouldn't try this again!

We were told by the car rental company that it was not possible to drive all the way around the island. You can go past Hana but not all the way round.
The didn't mention Kapalua to Wailuku but I admit I didn't read the small print!

kanunu Sep 29th, 2014 07:01 AM

Car rental contract or not, I drove the road from Kapalua to Wailuku a few years back. It was.... interesting, to say the least, but I wouldn't do it again. Personally, I did not find the scenery all that attractive. Rather barren, I would call it. Not al all "tropical", in my viewpoint.
But I still plan to do the backside route around Haleakala, one of these days. But only when the conditions are good. While I can handle tough driving conditions, I am not a "thrill seeker".

sylvia3 Sep 29th, 2014 08:48 AM

"We were told by the car rental company that it was not possible to drive all the way around the island. You can go past Hana but not all the way round."

I have driven the road from Hana along the backside of Haleakala many times (the first was 25 years ago), always in a rental (it has been consistently improved; one of the "loopholes" used by car renters). It is certainly bumpy where unpaved, and narrow in places, but you just drive slowly. I find the scenery spectacular (the exposed rocks, etc., and the crashing ocean). There are many videos of the route posted on line, so you can see for yourself whether you'd like to go that way.
You can check for road closures at

p.s. if you read rental contracts, it's more that they won't come and get you from certain areas, not that you're "not allowed" (just educate yourself; for example, there are still some out of date warnings about not driving Saddle Road on the Big Island.)

sylvia3 Sep 29th, 2014 08:54 AM

BTW, in my opinion, the drive from Kapalua to Wailuku is not worth the tension and nail biting, wondering who's coming the other way. (The views are not worth the drive.)

jamie99 Sep 29th, 2014 12:02 PM

We drove that road around the north end of Maui a long time ago and while my late husband was an excellent driver, it was very scary and we luckily did not encounter any traffic, never again.

cuteoldgal1 Oct 2nd, 2014 08:10 PM

I have to butt in here - we have gone to hana and the road North as well - and it's one of the things we love to do every year! The first time I was a bit scared but we just took it easy and stopped a lot, to just breathe in and enjoy all the natural beauty. These are the days when I enjoy Maui the most, when we rent a convertible for the day and just take our time. You won't be sorry! I am a scaredy cat and I love these scenic, slow drives!

sunbum1944 Oct 2nd, 2014 08:31 PM

I thought it was the scariest road trip of my life but I did it 45 years ago so things may have improved since then.

Here is an interesting link to others who have done it

beanweb24 Oct 3rd, 2014 10:37 AM

I concur with the others about the road from Kapalua to Wailuku. You should be aware that the road isn't essentially "one way" on any stretch of it...but it is essentially "one LANE" (very different) for some of the very narrow/steep sections without guardrails. If it was a one way road, I would be less concerned about it. The fact that it is a one LANE road with terrified and unskilled drivers coming from you in the opposite direction is what increases the risk, IMO. We were following a car in 2012 who refused to give right of way (which would have been appropriate) to a car traveling in the opposite direction, and they caused unnecessary increased risk to them and those of us following them. At one point we were driving with one tire partially off the side of a sheer dropoff thanks to their refusals to do the "right" thing. This is not something I would voluntarily ever do again...not because we are unskilled or afraid, but because there are plenty of other drivers that are adding risk to an already risky situation.

The scenery, IMO, was not worth the effort or stress. At all.

Also you don't mention who would be driving (or where you're from). If your friend from England will be driving and this will be his first time driving in the US, then I would think that would just add to the risk since he will be driving on the "wrong" side of the road/car.

BrendaM Oct 4th, 2014 07:35 AM

Wow....thanks so much to everyone who replied. All of your comments give me something to think about....And, no, my friend from England will NOT be driving on the island. I think driving on the opposite side of the road from what he is used to will be difficult enough. I would never ask him to attempt to drive any road that is challenging in any way...even the Road to Hana would be a No. I will definitely avoid the Kapalua/Wailuku road. That is the one I heard was hair raising and some of you have confirmed that for me so thank you. Still not sure if I will do the backside of the island, but something to mull over.

nelsonian Oct 4th, 2014 02:23 PM

BrendaM we did both of those roads on our trip to Maui a few months ago. The back road from Hana is fine, we did upgrade to a slightly bigger car and had no problems at all. The rental car company actually told us this was fine for driving the round trip. There were quite a few other cars doing the same. It was a bit rough in places, not sealed for a short distance but perfectly drivable.

Loved the other drive from Kapalua also. Take it carefully and it is fine. We didn't actually need to back-up at all. You just need to listen for horns. At one stage we heard a horn from way up the top of the road, we stopped at a wider part of the road, and there are plenty of place to pull over. We waited for the truck to come down and then carried on.

By the way are from New Zealand, we were driving on the opposite side of the road to normal, but the roads are not that difficult. Just take it slowly and carefully and pull over to enjoy the scenery. We loved both trips.

nelsonian Oct 4th, 2014 02:33 PM

Here is a link to m trip report. We did three islands in Hawaii, Maui being the last one we did. If you scroll down to day 3 Maui, and day 5 Maui, you will get our impressions of both road trips.

BrendaM Oct 17th, 2014 01:30 PM


Many thanks for the link to your trip report about your Maui travels. I feel so much better about the drive to Hana and the backside of the island. It's always nice to have a first hand report. Thanks again !!

Solo_wolf Oct 22nd, 2014 02:51 PM

Okay, I will admit that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. April 2013 - I traveled to Maui alone. I was looking for the spot where the surfers were. I THOUGHT (my mistake) that I was to travel northwest of Honolua. I continued on the road. Hmmm. not bad. smooth and winding. Eventually the road went from two lanes down to one. No guard rail so I hugged the cliff wall. I drove nice and slow. At one point, I came around a corner on an uphill grade and hit the brakes.

All that I could see was the grill of a 4x4 truck whose wheels were about eye level (I was in a convertible). I started to back up mindful of the drop off to my left and the cliff wall to my right. The 4x4 slowly followed......then.....CRUNCH. My tires struck some rocks and I gave the driver a pleading look. THANKFULLY, he put his HUGE 4x4 in reverse and backed up about 500 feet or so and then either tapped his horn or flashed his lights at me. I drove forward up the hill and passed him. His tires were mere inches from my mirror. He looked down at me and said, 'Bruddah, you tourists aren't supposed to drive up this way.' He then hit the gas and disappeared out of sight. My heart was racing so much just from the close call with the cliff that I stopped above Old Kahakuloa Village and calmed down and continued looking for this surfing spot. I did not have any other close calls over the northwest part. I made it back to Kihei and was thankful yet surprised that I could not find the surfing spot that I was looking for.

I found out that I was looking for Ho'okipa and I was probably the furthest possible point from it.

As far as the southeast side of the island AFTER the Road to Hana. I found it rather desolate and barren, BUT I had some of the best photos pre and post storm (the ONLY time it rained when I was there. It was one of the rockiest rides and I just drove niiiiiice and sloooooow.....well, except for the time that a local was riding my bumper. I tried to stay ahead of them, but eventually pulled off to the side of the road and was able to shoot some decent photos.

Would I do it again? I do not know. I did have a very adventurous time, even though I was traveling alone. You never know where the road and your car and your EGO will take you.

Safe Travels.

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