ROAD TRIPS IN MAUI TO ADD TO YOUR HAWAII BUCKET LIST
When you think of Hawaii, a road trip probably is not the first thing that comes to mind so you may be surprised to learn that there are a handful of Maui road trips that you must experience in Hawaii, especially when you visit the Valley Isle.
You can take in the breathtaking views of the Hawaiian coastline as you meander along the roads. Pass by numerous roadside waterfalls, exotic beaches, and lush rainforests. From rugged lava rock coastline to driving above the clouds, these road trips will surely impress. Whether you visit Hawaii in the winter or summer – these road trips are always worth to be taken.
In this article, I’ll spill all the juicy details about four awesome road trips on Maui – the road to Hana, the back road to Hana, the West Maui loop, and up to Haleakala Summit. So make sure to add these road trips in Maui to your Hawaii itinerary for an amazing trip.
You will also find useful tips you’ll need to know before you put the car in drive and discover some of the most beautiful places in Maui by car.
THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY JESS FROM I´M JESS TRAVELING
FAQs: ROAD TRIPS IN MAUI, HAWAII
Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian island and is located in the Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 727 square miles (1,883 km2) and is home to more than 155,000 people.
Maui is home to a variety of activities for all ages and interests. There are plenty of outdoor activities such as snorkeling, surfing, swimming and kayaking. But today, it is about some of the most beautiful road trips to take on Maui. First things first, here are some quick general tips for visiting Maui.
- Pick up a road map of the island and plan your route in advance.
- Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and other essentials with you.
- Start early – traffic around Maui can get congested during peak hours.
- Make sure to check if rental car insurance covers off-road roads.
- Be aware that phone service can be spotty in certain parts of the island.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing when exploring Haleakalā National Park.
- Pay attention to posted signs, which may include warnings about road conditions or wildlife sightings.
- Pack a camera – you’ll want to capture the amazing scenery!
- Take time to enjoy the local culture and cuisine – it’s all part of the Maui experience.
- Always remember to respect Hawai’i’s aina (land) and take care to leave it as pristine as you found it. Mahalo nui loa!
4 BEST ROAD TRIPS IN MAUI
So, here are the best Maui road trip for your Hawaii itinerary.
The Road to Hana
WHAT IS THE ROAD TO HANA?
- Take a thrilling drive down the Road to Hana and take in all that this Hawaiian paradise has to offer! Start your journey at Kahului and you’ll be there in no time, just 50 miles of totally arresting scenery. So buckle up – it’s going to be an amazing ride!
The road to Hana is the most popular road trip on Maui. The Hana Highway (aka the road to Hana) is 52 miles of epic coastline, one-lane bridges, and twists and curves.
Technically the road to Hana starts in the town of Kahului by the airport but Paia town is the unofficial gateway. Make sure you fill up with gas and load up on snacks here as you won’t have a chance to fill up until you reach the town of Hana.
Along the way, you’ll pass by roadside waterfalls, epic viewpoints, and exotic flora. Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit as pulling over to swim underneath one of these flowing waterfalls is the best way to enjoy the road to Hana.
Some other highlights along this Maui road trip is Twin Falls, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana town, and the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park.
The Kipahulu district has some of Maui’s best hikes, the Pipiwai Trail that takes you through a whispering bamboo forest, past ancient banyan trees, and finally to the 400-feet high Waimoku Falls.
If you have ample time on Maui, it is recommended to stay a night in Hana.
This will allow you to drive the road to Hana without having to turn back around and drive all the way back to your hotel. This will also give you a full day to experience all the things to do in Hana, like Venus Pools and the iconic black sand beach inside Wai’anapanapa State Park which requires a reservation in advance.
It’s not uncommon for locals to ride closely behind your vehicle, especially on the Hana Highway. If this happens, just pull over to the side of the road and give a friendly wave. This is not meant to be offensive or rude.
It’s just a local way of telling you that they have somewhere to be and are not on vacation like you.
West Maui Loop
WHAT IS THE WEST MAUI LOOP?
- Take on the renowned West Maui Loop, a 60-mile circumnavigation of Maui’s western edge that will leave your lungs burning as you soar to heights (4000’+ feet elevation!!), and feast your eyes on exquisite vistas. Brace yourself for dramatic changes in terrain – it doesn’t get much more thrilling than this!
The West Maui Loop takes you all the way around West Maui. This route is a loop that starts and ends in Kahului.
Most people start the drive from Lahaina or Kaanapali as that’s one of the best parts of Maui to stay on and where most of the hotels are located in West Maui. This Maui road trip takes you along West Maui’s rugged, yet stunning coastline.
Get ready for a fun day of coastal hikes, cliff jumping, blowholes, and picture-perfect Maui beaches. Some of the best beaches along the West Maui lop include Kaanapali Beach, DT Flemings, and Slaughterhouse Beach.
Don’t miss cliff jumping at black rock, snorkeling at Honolua Bay, and the Nakalele Blowhole. The Olivine Natural Tude Pools are worth a stop if you have proper footwear and can keep your balance.
The road is two lanes and easy to drive most of the way.
There is a short stretch of road going around the west bend where the road turns into a one-lane road and if there is another car coming the opposite way, someone has no choice but to reverse. Driving with extreme caution is a must, especially during this part of the drive.
Once around that bend, you’ll pass by Julia’s, a small roadside shack that sells some of the best banana bread on the island. Make sure you bring cash to support the local business.
Back Road to Hana
WHAT IS THE BACK ROAD TO HANA?
- Driving down the unauthorized backside of Hana may be tempting, but you’d better check with your rental car company first! Most don’t want their customers taking a trip on this unauthorized stretch and rightly so – there are some wild roads out here.
The backside road to Hana is another scenic drive taking you along Maui’s southeastern coast. This road trip is less crowded than the road to Hana but contains just as many narrow one-lane roads, some that are set high on a cliff without guardrails.
This road trip starts in upcountry Maui, on the slopes of Haleakala Crater.
Make sure to stop at Grandmas Coffee Shop for some of the best breakfast Maui has to offer before you begin your journey to the remote East Maui.
If you are driving all the way to Hana, turning around, and coming back, this drive should last about 4 hours. But since you’ll be stopping at all these awesome places, plan on a full 10-12 hour day. Tack on a few hours if you are staying on West Maui.
This area of Maui is known for its high winds, so it may be a good idea to check the weather before embarking on this journey. Some highlights include Maui’s only winery, views of Kahoolawe and Molokini, and St. Joseph’s church.
The Ulupalakua winery is known for its pineapple wine. Make sure you make reservations if you plan on hanging out here. Either way, the pineapple wine and Lokelani brut rosé make excellent gifts and this is an activity best enjoyed when you don’t have to drive around the island of Maui.
- I can’t write a Maui road trips post without mentioning that most rental cars will not cover the insurance or tow truck costs if something happens on the drive.
- Make sure you check the rental clause before attempting this drive.
WHAT IS THE HALEAKALA SUMMIT?
- Ready for an adventure to the sky? Then look no further than Haleakalā! It’s ready and waiting with a 3,023-foot climb from its entrance station at 7,000 feet up towards the sky. It’ll take 2.5-3.5 hours of driving before your mountain summit experience begins!
Our last and final road trip on Maui takes us to the island’s highest point, atop the Haleakala crater.
The summit of Haleakala sits at 10,023 feet and just because you can see Mount Haleakala from most parts of the island, does not mean that it is a quick drive to reach the summit.
Climbing up Haleakala to the summit requires a series of hairpin switchbacks which for obvious reasons must be done at slow speeds. This part of the drive is extremely photogenic as you traverse your way up, though, and eventually above a thick layer of clouds.
There are serial lookouts and stops that provide the perfect opportunity to take in the views and capture some amazing photos.
Allow yourself a few hours to reach the top and that is only if you don’t stop anywhere. Once you reach the summit, the vistas are even more incredible. On a clear day, you can see the Big Island and all the far corners of Maui.One of the most popular things to do on Maui is to experience the Haleakala summit at sunrise. Since the summit sits at 10,000 feet, you are quite literally above the clouds. There is no other place in the world where you can watch the sun pop up from below a layer of clouds with the world’s largest dormant volcano as your backdrop.
Reservations are required to watch the sunrise atop Haleakala so plan accordingly. However, if you want to watch the sunset atop Haleakala, this does not require reservations. You may not have a dormant volcano as your backdrop but the sun sinking below the clouds and behind West Maui is almost just as good.
If you are into hiking, there are many trails varying in length that start at the summit of Haleakala. The Sliding Sands Trail is the most popular trail that takes you down to the crater floor. Many people describe the hike as walking on the surface of Mars.
How to Rent a Car in Maui
Before you can hit the roads in Maui, here are some tips for renting a car in Maui:
- Book in advance: It’s recommended to book your car rental in advance, especially during peak travel times, to ensure availability and to get the best rates.
- Choose the right type of car: Maui has a mix of paved and unpaved roads, so it’s recommended to choose a rental car with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, especially if you plan on exploring remote areas of the island.
- Read the rental agreement carefully: Make sure to read the rental agreement carefully and understand the terms and conditions, including the insurance coverage and any additional fees or charges.
- Check for damages: Before accepting the rental car, inspect it for any damages and report them to the rental company. Take photos or videos of any damages to protect yourself from any potential disputes later.
- Plan your route: Plan your route ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the local traffic laws and regulations, including speed limits and parking restrictions.
- Refuel before returning: Make sure to refuel the rental car before returning it to avoid any additional fees or charges.
- Drive safely: Maui has scenic and winding roads, so drive safely and always wear your seatbelt. Avoid distracted driving, and never drink and drive.
By following these tips, you can have a smooth and enjoyable car rental experience in Maui.
Here is a comparison site where you can find the best deals for your Maui road trip.
Maui Road Trip Tips:
- Waianapanapa State Park requires reservations in advance.
- Fill up on gas before you start your road trips, gas stations are very limited on these trips.
- Kapu means keep out.
- Start early to avoid the crowds.
- Bring cash for roadside fruit stands and banana bread.
- Pack a swimsuit for swimming under waterfalls on the road to Hana.
- If someone is riding closely behind you, pull over to let them pass.
- Don’t just park anywhere, be respectful of others that need to use the road.
- Dress warm, it gets very cold at the summit of Haleakala.
- Haleakala Sunrise requires reservations.
- Check with your rental company before attempting to drive the back.
- It is not safe to drive most of these routes during heavy rains.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HAWAII ROAD TRIPS ON MAUI
Maui is an amazing destination for a road trip. With stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and endless activities, you can make the most of your time on Maui by exploring on your own two wheels.
Whether you are driving along a winding road through a lush jungle or along the coastline, there are plenty of hidden gems to discover. So enjoy your Maui road trips, whether you do all four of them or just a few – you surely will not regret it.