If you’re visiting Maui, there’s a 72% chance you’ll be braving the Road to Hana on your trip. Did I make up that statistic? Sure. But is it probably right? Unlikely. But was it fun to write anyway? You bet. BUT ANYWAY, if you’re headed to Maui and planning on braving the “Divorce Highway” (yes the locals actually call it that) then, in my opinion, these are the five best Road to Hana stops along the trip.
The Short Version
If I could only visit five stops along the way, it would for sure be the following:
- Painted Forest
- Ke’enae Peninsula
- Wai’ānapanapa State Park
- Kaihalulu Beach
- Pipiwai Trail
The Long Version
There are probably a million blogs with a million different favorite stops, but if you like dramatic or unique views and experiences, these stops will definitely be for you.
1 – Painted Forest
Mile Marker 7
This is a blink-and-you-miss-it stop. Right around mile marker 7 you’ll pull over and park. There’s a small path that you’ll enter and you’ll feel like you’re walking into either a really easy hike or a rainforest park. Luckily it’s kind of both. There’s lots to check out while you’re in here if you’re into flora and fauna so keep your eyes out. But just keep walking and you’ll see a grouping of Rainbow Eucalyptus trees on the right. They’re massive and VERY appropriately named. You’ll be able to tell they’re the right ones due to the colorful bark
2 – Ke’enae Peninsula
Mile Marker 16.5
The Ke’enae Peninsula us among the best Road to Hana stops because of how cool the water looks crashing into the fresh lava rock coastline. We were really the only people here, so we got to truly explore the area. There was plenty of gorgeous coastline to soak in, but also a picturesque church. I’m not necessarily religious, but I appreciate the history and architecture of religious buildings. We also lucked out as we left the peninsula with the most perfect waterfall I’ve ever seen in my life.
Just to note, this is not a black sand beach. It is definitely lava rock and you will want your shoes here to walk up and into the water.
3 – Wai’ānapanapa State Park
Mile Marker 32
UPDATE AS OF MARCH 1, 2021: there will be an entrance fee and a reservation to enter this state park. Keep up to date with all COVID and tourism announcements here.
This gorgeous park had the softest black sand beach we visited while in Hawaii, which is reason enough for it to be one of the best Road to Hana stops. But this park has so much more to offer like an in tact lava tube, a blowhole, and plenty of gorgeous ocean views. We spent a good amount of time hanging out on the beach but also hiking up a little bit beyond it as well. There’s lots to do in this park, and you could honestly probably spend a day here if you had the time.
4 – Kaihalulu Beach
Mile Marker 35
This red sand beach might be where we spent the most time hanging out during the day. This unique beach honestly may have been my favorite of the day. This clearly makes it one of the best Road to Hana stops overall.
The hike to get here is not clearly marked and if it has rained it will be a little tricky but still doable. Park by the community center and walk toward the ocean. You’re going to cross the yard and angle off to the left, but not too far. We went too far left to start and were wandering around in mud and palm leaves for a couple minutes. 10/10 do not recommend. Head more toward the middle of the back property line and you’ll see an unmarked trail. The trail will take you down a small hill then along the coastline until you hit the red beach.
Because it’s a little bit more difficult to get there than other stops along the Road to Hana, you may just have the place to yourself. But this is a perfect place to hang out for awhile. The lava rocks stop the big waves, so it’s super relaxing to just hang out. I seriously loved it here so much, pictures honestly don’t do it justice.
5 – Pipiwai Trail
Mile Marker 42
This is the very end of the Road to Hana, and definitely one of the best stops of the day. This four mile round-trip trail is within Haleakala National Park so definitely have either your National Parks Pass ready, have your receipt from your day at Haleakala < three days prior, or be ready to pay to enter the park. But it is very, very worth the money if you haven’t explored this area of the park yet.
At this same stop is the very popular ‘O’heo Gulch, aka Seven Sacred Pools. Definitely wander over to these while you’re here. When we visited they were closed so we couldn’t go down and explore them. That’s why I didn’t consider them one of the best Road to Hana stops, but while you’re there you may as well check them out.
Now onto the main event. The Pipiwai Trail is a total of four miles out and back. You’ll hike through rainforest, past small waterfalls, and through a bamboo forest to get to the amazing view at the end. What’s the view you ask? It’s of Waimoku Falls and it is magnificent.
Technically the trail stops at a sign at the end that tells you not to continue, and I’m not encouraging you to disregard it. There are safety signs throughout the hike that tell you that you could get injured. The signs note that people have either hurt themselves or died by going beyond that spot.
We are brave but safe, so when we reached the very end and saw people returning from beyond the sign, we asked their thoughts. They said it was an easy, very short hike to the falls and to just be careful since you’re walking through the stream caused by the falls. We were hiking in beautiful weather, we are both in good physical health, and we weren’t carrying too much gear, so this quick hike right up next to the falls was not particularly difficult for us. Take into consideration all of those things when deciding whether or not continue beyond the sign and closer to the falls.
So there you have it, the places I consider to be the best Road to Hana stops. The entire drive is gorgeous and there is so much to see. But if you have to prioritize your stops, these are definitely the ones I’d go with!
Additional Hawaii Help
Because I loved Hawaii so much, I’ve got lots of resources for you all! Check out some other helpful blogs below:
- Tips for the Road to Hana to Reduce Stress & Have a Great Time
- 4 Day Maui Itinerary
- Hawaii Packing List
- 15 Tips for Traveling to Hawaii During COVID times