The birth place of Queen Ka’ahumanu, the burial site of Charles Lindburgh and the most remote town in all of Hawai’i – her name is Hana. While very few people actually live out in the town of Hana, it’s one of the most visited areas for tourists on Maui. It’s kind of a right of passage like climbing the Eiffel Tower, you have to do it when you come here.
The road to Hana is the northern most road on the east side of the island and stretches for 64 miles. Depending on where you’re staying on the island it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours round trip. Anyone who tells you that you can make it in less that 6 hours isn’t planning on you experiencing the road the Hana the way it should be. There should be no rushing this experience – as it’s truly the journey and not the destination as far as Hana is concerned. Hana town is one of those, “blink and you’ve missed it” towns, so you’re making this trip to enjoy what the road has to offer. This includes, but is not limited to: sweeping ocean views, lush rainforest foliage, waterfalls, black sand beaches, honor system fruit stands, tropical flowers, historical battlegrounds and a shit ton of feral cats.
The first thing you’ll notice regarding the road to Hana is that no one has luke warm feelings about it. It’s very hot, “YES, best day evaaaar” feedback, or frozen, “Don’t even bother” attitudes. It’s because it’s a totally different experience whether you’re the driver or the passenger in the vehicle during the trip. Diving this road stinks! Being a passenger for this trip is absolute heaven! Why does driving this road stink? Let me count the ways… First, within that 64 miles there are 316 hairpin turns and 54 one lane bridges. Doesn’t sound too bad? You’re doing everything twice because you have to turn around at one point and do it all again. That is 632 switchback turns, most with out guardrails and typically going about 5 miles an hour or less. That’s 108 one lane bridges – and as much as I love my fellow man, I cannot say I know more than 2 that know what to do when faced with a one lane bridge.
There are many ways you can experience this road. By car on your own, by guided van tour, by hiking tour, by air and finally by combo air and van tours. For a fluffy, the only drawback to these would be the potential added charge for a helicopter if you’re over 250 pounds. Some van tours are better than others with space. And finally, the hike tours are pretty high on the PSG rating scale, coming in at a 7-8.
If you’re on a budget and/or determined to do the road on your own in a rental car, I would suggest very strongly that you put more than one driver on the contract at the airport and swap drivers every so often. That way there isn’t one sacrificial lamb in the party. The only memories of the road that a solo driver would have is of the bumper of the car ahead of them. Also, I would suggest downloading the Hana GyPSy app for your smart phone. The app will be a mile marker by mile marker guide for the road. The CD’s your grandma bought during her day are quite antiquated and the app is the way to go moving forward. The benefit of doing the road on your own is you can personalize it by stopping when, where and for how long you choose.
If you want everyone to be relaxed and get an incredibly informative ride, I would suggest the guided van tours, the van tour/air combo or the hiking tours. The van tours are regimented so you will be on the schedule the company chooses. This isn’t a bad thing though, as most of the driver-guides are locals who do this trip 4 times a week. This means they know exactly where to stop for photos of waterfalls, rainbow eucalyptus trees and banana bread, among other things. These tours are great for fluffy folks and come in with a PSG rating of 2-3. The only reason they’re not a 1 is I haven’t found a tour that can accommodate a wheelchair dependent guest, unfortunately. The farthest one would walk on a van tour is 1/2 mile out and 1/2 mile back fro the Seven Sacred Pools. You never have to do that walk though, and could remain at the National Park visitor center.
For the fluffy, I would recommend Valley Isle Excursions before any other company on the island. They have individual bucket seats that are crazy comfortable. Think of it as the first class seat in a plane, as they only have three seats across while all of the other companies on the island have fairly narrow bench seats that seat four in the same space as Valley Isle’s 3. Always talk to your hotel concierge as they will doubtless have prices and availability that will be less expensive and easier than booking direct.
Hiking tours can be limited to just a quick waterfall hike not far along the road to Hana to full day tours in which you’re experiencing the most popular hike on the island: the Pipiwai trail. You know your limits, but the Pipiwai trail is 4 miles round trip and is over uneven and often rugged terrain. Hiking tours have a wide PSG rating with the shorter hikes starting at a 4 and the longer Hikes at a 7-8.
The final options include an air flight. This is either just seeing the road by helicopter, or by doing a helicopter and van tour combo. The combo tours include a guided van tour one way and a helicopter tour the opposite direction. This can cut the time that is typically used for the tour in half. This is perfect for those with a time crunch for sure. Again, as mentioned in my blog about the volcano air tour, helicopter rides will have what is called a “comfort seat” charge for those who weigh over 250 pounds. The fee is 150% meaning a $200 helicopter ride is now $300. Therefore, if it’s in your budget my fellow fluffies, then great! If not, it’s time to explore the other options. It is NOT time to give up, just time to reassess the situation and pick a different option. These tours have a PSG rating of 3-4.
As a fluffy, a Maui resident and a concierge, I always suggest doing a van tour first. The van tour will give you an amazing overview of the fabulous road to Hana while educating you way better than simply reading an app or trying to remember what you read in a book. To me, it’s like taking a cruise in a region. It’s fast and you’re not at each port for very long, however, now you know exactly what it is you want to return to see at your leisure. You know what I mean? Then if you’re lucky enough to come back to Maui, you can revisit on your own and stay as long as you want exactly where you want. Also, you can try all of the hikes at your own pace deciding how far to go or not to go.
If your budget can fit it in, after you do the van tour it’s always fun to see the area by air. Only 20% of Maui is visible by car and foot – whereas the other 80% is only visible by air. Either way you do it, it’s doable! As usual if you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to message me!
Hana is one of those places that have been seducing people since 500 AD. It is that beautiful and I highly suggest you work it into your Maui plans. But as I tell everyone when I talk about Hana, make Hana day – Hana day. Don’t plan anything else on that day! Don’t give yourself a reason to rush paradise!
3 thoughts on “A plus sized series: Maui part 3 – the road to Hana”
Wonderful! Very detailed, descriptive.
This is providing sooooo helpful as I am planning to be in Maui and Oahu in March/April. Loving your blogs content!
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Ask me anything you need to. I’d be happy to help in any way!