The Road to Hana with Kids
If you are planning on visiting Maui, Hawaii, you must be sure to drive the Road to Hana with kids. This is by far one of the best things to do in Maui with kids. Driving the Road to Hana with stops allows you to experience unmatched views of the Pacific Ocean and Maui. And not only is the drive all about the views, but there are countless stops along the Road to Hana which lends itself to adventures for all types of travelers.
What is the Road to Hana in Maui?
When you start the research on what to do in Maui, you will quicky come upon this epic road trip idea. The actual road is called the Hana Highway and it runs along the northeast coast of Maui. The highway, which technically starts in Paia, and ends in Hana winds along the coast line between the two towns. To get a good idea of where the road actually is, take a look at this Road to Hana Map. When I first starting planning the road trip, I had to keep bringing myself back to this map of the Road to Hana, and zooming in, to really wrap my head around this route. After looking at the map and seeing the route, I next had to google: how long is the Road to Hana? This time can greatly vary, depending on your journey and goals. More on our experience with this later.
You know that saying, ” it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”? Well, that pretty much sums up this fun Maui activity. There are a few different ways that you can experience the Road to Hana Tour, including hiring a company to drive you on a tour, or rent a car and drive it yourself. Because we already had a rental car secured, and we were looking for free things to do in Maui, we figured we were best driving it ourselves. Also, we love to do things on our own terms, so this gave us the flexibility to stop where we wanted, and to spend as much time where we wanted to!
Some facts about the Road to Hana
- 68 miles long
- 54 one lane bridges
- 620 curves
- The stops along the way are identified by their mile markers
- The Hana Highway was paved in 1962
Road to Hana Stops
When you are embarking on this must do in Maui, Road to Hana is not something you want to just jump in the car and wing it that day. There is some mild preparation one should take to make the best of the Hana Highway, Maui. Also, when you are planning what to do in Maui, Hawaii, I would highly suggest blocking out a whole day if you plan to take the Hana tour. We stayed in a popular spot in Maui, near Kaanapali Beach. So just to get to the start of the Hana Highway in Paia, Maui was a good 45 minutes. Also, we took the advice we heard countless times, which was to get on the road early!
I combed through countless blog posts, and articles looking for guidance on our plan along The Road to Hana, Maui. I found a few great posts, but only a handful that focused on Maui family activities. So took a little more work to figure out which stops were good for kids. I started with a list in the notepad of my phone of the mile markers I wanted to stop for. It was a mess all out of order and was way too long, to be honest, but I had a rough idea of the must-see stops on the Road to Hana. A few nights before the trip, I got some advice from a friend to try using a GPS Driving Tour App, so I downloaded the Shaka Guide. Between my messy list, and this app I felt much more prepared to make sure we found the best stops on Road to Hana. More on our love for the Shaka Guide later in the article 😉
Where we Stopped on the Road to Hana
We were excited to experience one of the best things to do in Maui for free. And other than the rental car/gas, and food for the road trip, it was nearly free. All stops listed below came at no cost, other than number 5 on my list below, The Garden of Eden.
1. Ho’okipa Beach (before official Hana Hwy mile markers)
Pulled off on this first stop to see a super popular place for surfers. Only spent a few minutes out of the car watching the surfers in the water – could have spent even longer watching but knew we had to get started on the Road to Hana.
2. Twin Falls (MM #2)
This was our first official stop on the Road to Hana. Parking was a little tight, but we were able to grab a lucky spot right near the little food stand. We had packed snacks for breakfast, so weren’t hungry yet, but this would be a good place to grab breakfast on the road to Hana. They had banana bread, fruit, coffee, and smoothies.
This stop actually has three waterfalls, but we only visited the first falls which is the one known as “Twin Falls”. From the parking lot, it is a very quick walk through the cluster of bamboo trees to get to the falls. Depending on the weather, Road to Hana can have some very muddy hikes, so be prepared to get dirty! We read that the Road to Hana weather can often be very wet since it is a rainforest. But we lucked out with a cloudy morning, and a clear afternoon!
3. Waikamoi Ridge Trail (MM #9)
We chose to stop for this hike because our guide claimed it was a good one to do for families. At this point, we were also ready to get out and explore for longer than the last stop. There was a small parking area for this stop, and it was less than half full. The Shaka Guide said this trail was a 3/4 mile trail, but you can choose to extend the hike up to the “picnic area”.
Honestly, we did not have this stop on our initial list, so we really weren’t sure what to expect. We were thinking when we got to the lookout we would experience a great view, but this wasn’t the case. So the trail overall we would rate as easy, at a gradual incline and under 2 miles to the picnic area and back making it perfect for the kids (ages 4 and 8). I would say the most exciting part of this hike was getting to walk through some extreme mud, and also getting to see all the unique vegetation in the forest.
4. Ka Huka Smoke Shack (MM #9.5)
After the super muddy hike, we were all ready for some food, so when we got back on the Road to Hana, and less than a mile down the road came across a BBQ shack we knew we had to stop for food. They also sold bug spray (wish we had that for the previous stop), banana bread, and other goodies for the road!
The Ka Huka Smoke Shack serves one thing on their menu, a “plate” of grilled chicken, pork belly, rice, veggies, and a grilled banana for dessert. The plate is a banana leaf, the utensils are bamboo sticks for chopsticks! No credit cards accepted, so make sure you bring cash! I think it was about $20 for the plate and was enough for 2 adults and 2 kids to have a small meal. However, we could have easily eaten another whole plate full because it was that yummy!
5. Garden of Eden (MM #10)
The Garden of Eden was a stop that was on my original list of places to visit on the Road to Hana. And like you read earlier, I spent so much time making my list of where to stop, I barely spent time researching what to expect at each stop. But the Garden of Eden in Maui kept coming up time and time again as a great stop. So because of my lack of research, I was totally surprised that there was a fee to enter the ground. So be aware this is not a free stop, and honestly, if I had known this in advance we would have likely skipped it. The cost of admission was $15 per adult, $5 per kid and kids 5 and under were free. For us this was a little steep knowing how that this was just one of many stops we were making, but we bit the bullet and entered anyway.
We pulled into the first lot where we were able to get out and feed some ducks and peacocks (need quarters for food). The kids got a kick out of this, especially seeing the peacocks walk around squawking so loud!
After feeding the birds, we walked along a short trail called bamboo alley. It was an easy trail and paved so perfect if you have a stroller. We also were able to find a real bathroom at one end of this trail, which may have been worth the admission cost alone HAHA!
After the short trail and bathroom break, we drove to the last parking lot in the Garden of Eden. Here we walked another short path to an outlook to see Puohokamoa Falls. And in the other direction, we followed another short path to see “Rainbow Overlook”, which was seriously an amazing view of the ocean (photo below), like I am talking phone background material!!
6. Ke’anae Peninsula (MM #16)
The Ke’anae Penisula is a little side trip off the Road to Hana. We chose to take this quick detour for one main reason – the banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s. This was our first stop down the Ke’anae Peninsula and was so so worth it because it was beyond yummy!
After snacking on the banana bread we drove down to the end of the peninsula to check out the views of the ocean. The kids had a great time exploring down by the water, but we didn’t get too close to the water because the waves were super big as the tide was coming in.
7. Halfway to Hana (MM #17)
If you even are hungry right after the banana bread, there is another great option for some treats at mile marker 17. It is also at this stop where you will find the famous Halfway to Hana road sign. We didn’t get any food at this stop because we just weren’t hungry, but stopped for a quick picture!
8. Wailua Iki Falls Hike (MM #21)
This stop allows you to take a short (and easy) hike to find a hidden waterfall. Parking was a little tricky at this stop, and we actually stopped here on our return trip because we just missed the stop on the way there!
The hike was under a mile out and back, and totally led to an amazing waterfall view. We only got as close as you can see in the photo, but you can continue on even closer if you wanted to. We would have if we weren’t on our way back and ready to be done at this point ;).
9. Lava Tube Cave (MM #23)
The lava tube cave was by far the most unique stop along the road to Hana for us! First of all, it is not very obvious where you want to be once you park even other people nearby weren’t sure where they were going. You park on the opposite side of the road in a spot that can only hold a few cars. Across the street, you will notice a small opening in the bushes.
We were skeptical about entering this cave, especially my 6’4″ husband who could just barely enter the small entrance. The cave is 150 feet deep, and when you get inside you can sort of stand up straight. We only spent a few minutes in here – most of us were a little freaked out and convinced there were bats! But it was so neat to be inside the cave – a totally fun experience for us all! Tip: bring in your phone for the flashlight!!
10. Makapipi Falls (MM #25)
This stop was quick, and we actually left the kids in the car quick while my husband and I ran across the street to see Makapipi Falls. This waterfall on the Road to Hana you actually look down on from the bridge that goes over it! Was rushing with water like crazy and was really neat. A little close to the road to see it so we were glad the kids stayed in the car (in our sight) for this one!
11. Nahiku Marketplace (MM #29)
This small strip of shops and food stands pops up out of the middle of nowhere and is a great place to stop for a bite to eat. We grabbed something quick here on our return trip, but unfortunately most was closed for the day. Therefore this would make a better stop on your way into Hana, or just way earlier than late afternoon.
12. Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach (MM #32)
This was our very last stop on the Road to Hana and was a great place to go in Maui. When looking what to do in Maui with kids, this stop along the road to Hana provides lots of great things to experience for families. After all the Road to Hana waterfalls and hikes, the Wai’anapanapa State Park offered something a little different. It is also a very popular stop along the Road to Hana and had a huge formal parking lot with only a few empty spots left! The views from here were pretty remarkable, this is currently my iPhone wallpaper!
Just a short walk down the stairs from this view, and the parking lot you will find a black sand beach. My kids could not wait for this stop, and literally were asking how far until here the entire road to Hana drive. The beach was fairly crowded, but still plenty of room to splash around in the small waves coming up on the black sand! Not only did we spend some time at the black sand beach but we also got to check out the caves right next to the beach. These were larger than the lava tube caves and the waves were coming into the other end – the cave was super cool to explore in!
After the black sand beach, Hana would be our next stop where we mostly just did a quick drive through and turned around to head back! We chose to do the Road to Hana trip as a there and back, one day journey. We spent nearly 13 hours completing this road trip from the time we left our hotel until we returned. Some other options would be to stay in Hana overnight or continue around the other side of the island to return. We were on the fence to what our plan would be but figured for the first time, this was a good plan to tackle the Road to Hana!
Road to Hana Tour App: Shaka Guide
The Shaka Guide App
After my sloppy research searching for the Road to Hana best stops and reading through some discussions online I had come upon the Shaka Guide. I consistently found that the Shaka Guide was the best Road to Hana app to use. This GPS based app takes you along the drive to Hana and helps you discover the best places to visit in Maui. You want to be sure to download the app in advance and pay ($10) for the Road to Hana guide. The app offers other drives around Hawaii as well, but each one is an additional charge. We are very conscious of what we buy but felt the $10 for the guide was more than worth it.
I had heard a lot of people enjoyed using a CD audio guide when following a Road to Hana itinerary. But I wondered how that would work as far as timing and speed etc. So the fact that the Shaka Guide (Road to Hana app) is based on your GPS location, and allows you to have it on your phone is just genius. We thought this had to be the best Road to Hana tour because it allowed us the flexibility to drive how fast we wanted to and to stop where we wanted to. The app knew which Road to Hana mile marker we were at, and would start playing the next segment as we approached each point. Not only did the app inform us of all the stops on the Road to Hana, but it also gave us some awesome information about Maui and the Hana Highway.
In addition to helping us with finding things to do on the Road to Hana, the Shaka Guide helped keep us on a schedule and would suggest skipping some stops to save time for better ones. I really do think this app allowed us to discover the best stops on the Road to Hana. And another great thing about the app is I really didn’t have to do any pre-planning for the drive. The Road to Hana drive research is all done for you with the app and you can focus simply on enjoying the drive!
Road to Hana Tips
- Get on the road EARLY – I would suggest being to Paia by 8 AM
- Fill up your gas tank – Paia is the last stop for gas – we used about 1/2 a tank there and back as a reference
- Be prepared for NO cell service at all
- Take your time, and don’t get bent out of shape if you miss a stop
- Be courteous to other drivers, you come upon many one lane roads, alternate who crosses next
- Try to be done driving before the sun sets for the safest drive
What to Pack for the Road to Hana drive
- Phone Charger – keep charged while you use Shaka Guide, and for tons of Road to Hana pictures
- Change of clothes – for kids at least – for the mud factor 😉
- Bathing suits – if you plan on swimming in swimming holes/beach
- Good shoes to hike in or ones you won’t care that get full of mud – these were perfect for our kids and easy to rinse and dry
- Raincoats – Road to Hana weather can be rainy
- Snacks, snacks, and more snacks, oh and throw in some water
- Things to keep the kids busy – we brought Melissa and Doug Puffy Sticker books