Monica, Your Travel Gal
Road Tripping in Maui
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
This is the last post in a series of road trip itineraries for the Islands of Hawaii. This week brings you to the island of Maui. It might be somewhat of an unusual activity on a small island but we feel like going on a short road trip is part of the Hawaiian experience. Since we almost always suggest a car rental on the islands, why not create your own holoholo kaa (driving) adventure while you are there? Check out our suggestions below for travelers going to Maui. Then, if you haven't already, read about the Island of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai.
Our Maui road trip is one that is on many people's must-do list. Head out to Maui's remote northeast coast via its renowned and winding Hana Highway (Route 360). Its 64 miles take drivers alongside and through multiple rain forests, all the while meandering past waterfalls, gorges and some of the island's most dramatic seascape views. Be sure to slow down on the narrow, twisting road to best manage the 620 curves and 59 bridges, many of which are single-lane.
Make sure to start out your journey very early as it is a long drive especially if you are starting out in Kihei or Kaanapali. You may want to consider staying in Kahalui (near the airport) or in the charming and historic north shore surf town of Paia. Enjoy the colorful, rustic storefronts which are occupied by art galleries, unique boutiques and a diversity of places to eat.
Continue east of Paia on Route 36 and a few miles before the Hana Highway begins, make a stop at Hookipa Beach Park. It is a go-to spot for surfers and windsurfers so it is the perfect place to catch a view of the wave action and scenic coastline.
After taking in all of the highway's scenery, but just before reaching the actual town of Hana, we suggest that you get off the main road to explore Kahanu Garden. It is home to the massive Piilanihale Heiau which is one of Maui's largest early Hawaiian places of worship. The heiau is nestled in a large native hala (pandanus or more commonly known as Screw Pine) forest with lovely sea level views of the coastline.
Travel onward to Hana and grab a bite to eat. We suggest getting your food to go and head to Hana Bay Beach Park to have lunch with a water view. After lunch, head out to Hamoa Beach which is a perfect little crescent beach to take a quick dip in the ocean or maybe catch a few waves.
On your way back to Paia, spend some time at Waianapanapa State Park where you have 120 acres to explore. There is a black sand beach (Pa'iloa), a few freshwater ocean caves, burial sites, pictographs, hikes, a blowhole and more. You can easily spend at least 1/2 a day exploring this park. If you want more time to explore, we suggest spending a night in Hana and then hit the park the next day on your way back to the western side of the island.
Check out the map with driving directions!