Is The Road To Hana Dangerous?
About The Road To Hana
The Road to Hana is a famous drive on the island of Maui. It is the highway that connects the towns of Kahului and Hana, a distant and quaint beach town on the southeastern edge of the island. The Road to Hana is one of the most popular things to do in Maui. Along this coastal drive, you'll find a number of hikes, waterfalls, rainforests, and gorgeous beaches.
There are a variety of ways you can drive the Road to Hana:
- out and back in one day (classic route)
- stay in Hana as your basecamp
- explore the Road to Hana over multiple days
- fly into Hana and drive out (extremely expensive)
..but what it all comes down to is how much time you have for your trip.
The Road to Hana has an endless supply of things to do along this scenic 64.4-mile stretch of highway. You’re sure to discover something new each time you drive it.
Don’t miss a thing on the Road to Hana with our Classic Road to Hana tour.
What To Expect on The Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is a single-lane road that can sometimes be narrow in certain areas. It usually requires a bit of maneuvering on the part of the driver. For the most part, the road does not have markings distinguishing the opposing lanes. So you’ll have to use your common sense as you navigate your way across bridges, curves, and low-visibility turns.
The Road to Hana is particularly infamous for its 620 curves and 59 bridges throughout 64.4 miles. Don’t worry too much if this makes you feel a little dizzy. The Road to Hana is meant to be explored. As long as you stop at regular intervals you’ll have plenty of time to stretch your legs. This will also regain your bearings as you sightsee at beaches, walk to waterfalls, and discover the wild side of Maui.
Road to Hana: Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride Listen to the Audio Sample:
Popular Stops On The Road To Hana
There are a few stops on the Road to Hana that almost everyone wants to park and explore. Some of these places can get a little crowded. Make sure you plan your itinerary in advance so you get a chance to see everything on your list. Some of these popular stops are:
- Twin Falls
- Waiʻanapanapa State Park (Waiʻanapanapa Black Sand Beach) - advance reservations required.
- Wailua Valley State Wayside
- Hanawi Falls
- Hamoa Beach
- Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) - located past Hana in Haleakala National Park
RELATED: Classic Road To Hana Itinerary
Is Driving The Road To Hana Dangerous?
Image by Jordan McQueen | Unsplash
In general, the Road to Hana is not dangerous as long as you’re following the rules and paying attention. Pass the road cautiously if you are expecting to drive on the edge of a cliff (there are some steep points). You should also think twice racing with road ragers down the highway.
But that doesn’t mean that accidents and deaths don’t happen. Here are a few notable deaths that have taken place on the Road to Hana:
- May 26, 2022, 5:24 AM: A man was hit while walking across Hana Highway and later died from his injuries.
- October 3, 2021, 8:15 PM: A man was illegally passing vehicles in a no-passing zone. He collided with the oncoming traffic and was sideswiped by a second vehicle. He died at the scene.
- November 2, 2019, 9:00 PM: Two women in the same vehicle drove off the roadway. They went over the embankment near Maliko Gulch on Hana Highway.
There are no streetlights on the Road to Hana. So the chance of getting into an accident increases greatly. Especially if you’re driving early in the morning or late at night. There are fewer people on the road as well. So it’s easier to fall into the trap and drive a little faster than what you’re used to.
Please remember that the Road to Hana is extremely curvy (again, there are over 600 turns). While local residents may be speeding through, we recommend you stick with the speed limit or drive at your comfort level.
RELATED: Tips For Driving The Road To Hana
Other Dangers You Should Be Aware Of
Hana Belt Road; Jet Lowe / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
The Road to Hana itself is not particularly dangerous. But there are still several dangers on the way to Hana that you should be aware of:
Be aware while hiking to a waterfall (or crossing a stream). Flash floods are a real danger on this side of the island. The sudden rise of water can sweep you out. It can even trap you out on the hike without a way to get back to your vehicle or a safe zone. Check the weather forecast and be flexible in your hikes for that day.
Driving in the dark or without lights
Make sure you have great headlights if you are planning on driving the Road to Hana at night. Not only are they vital to see, but they also allow oncoming traffic to see you, too. We recommend planning your trip to avoid nighttime driving altogether.
Cars being parked
At certain popular spots (such as waterfalls or viewpoints off the side of the road), vehicles will suddenly stop. And then back into a “parking space” on the side of the road. Watch out for this because you don’t want to drive right into the car in front of you as they back up. Keep a safe distance from the cars in front of you.
People crossing the road
Because parking can be scarce, some people will park further away and cross the street. Drive slow and keep a lookout for them because there are no crosswalks here.
Follow the speed limit and slow down if you feel comfortable. Nothing is more important than your safety.
Why Drive If It’s Dangerous?
Road to Hana; Abbs Johnson / Unsplash
The Road to Hana gets a bad rap because it’s constantly making the lists of Top Dangerous Roads. It can also seem dangerous to folks who aren’t used to driving narrow roads like this. If you’re used to freeways, highways, and multi-lane traffic, navigating a single road through the mountain can seem intimidating. But if you grew up in Hawaii, roads like these are a dime a dozen especially out on the outer islands.
Despite the “dangers,” visitors continue to love and glorify the Road to Hana. It's because there are so many beautiful things to see here. You can explore Hana Highway for days and still not discover every single vista, lava tube, botanical garden, and local shop.
How Weather Affects The Road To Hana
Keep in mind that Maui is a tropical island. But with the mountains, streams, and oceans all around you, it still does occasionally rain. The road itself is not exactly well-maintained, but it is drivable and not littered with potholes or rocks. If the roads are wet, slow down because you may need to stop suddenly.
Tips For Your Drive To Hana
nlang06 / Pixabay
There’s a lot to know before you get started on your drive to Hana Town. Here are a few helpful tips so that you arrive safely and have a pleasant experience on the way there.
Do you get carsick?
The drive into Hana with all its twists and turns may make you a little nauseous. But not to worry - you can treat the drive as if you’re on a boat.
- seasick patches (anti-nausea patches)
- sipping on club soda
- driving with the windows open
- sitting in the front seat
- looking straight ahead
..can help you feel better. But the most helpful activity is getting out of the car and walking around. Which is what the Road to Hana is all about!
It’s important to plan your stops and space them out. This way, you can spend a decent amount of time out of the car. You can easily spend 30 minutes at any stop but most attractions will take at least an hour if not more! You really want to make sure you’re in control. Consider taking up the wheel and driving so you can drive at your pace and leisure.
Image by Pexels | Pixabay
There is a certain way to drive the Road to Hana. You should be aware that there are a number of local residents in the area. They drive up and down the Hana Highway every day for work. Poor driving ethics is not a sightseeing trip for them. Here are a few tips on how you should drive on the Hana Highway:
Let locals pass
You’ll see them in your rearview mirror and they won’t be looking at the sights like the other tourists. Pull off to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe. Let them pass so they can get to work.
Not everyone is a defensive driver, so choose your driver carefully. Defensive drivers are less reactionary and instead drive looking for reasons to slow down or drive cautiously.
Watch the car in front of you
You may be tempted to gaze in awe at the beauty of Maui - and who wouldn’t? The mountains and ocean make for an incredible view. But make sure you keep an eye out on the vehicle in front of you to avoid slamming on the brakes.
Beep as you make a sharp turn
It’s common to lightly beep your horn when you go around a sharp turn and can’t see opposing traffic. It’s a great way to let them know you’re coming (or hear if someone is just around the corner).
Have A Plan
Image by gregoose | Pixabay
Maui is fun to explore without a plan. But you should still have few things set in place so things don’t get out of control. Here are a few suggestions you should plan ahead so you aren’t stuck in a dangerous situation:
Plan on where and when you’ll get breakfast
You’ll want to get an early start especially if you’re driving the Road to Hana and back in one day. Figure out where you’re going to eat, what time, and how long it will take.
While there are a few stops along the way for snacks and refreshments, they’re not always available at every turn. Bring some snacks during the trip. This way, you can chow down on something. Especially if you want to stay a little longer at one of your stops.
The Road to Hana is fun to explore. It's true even if you don’t know where you’re going to stop. But it’s still a good idea to have a flexible plan. Don’t make a strict schedule or you’ll be rushing off to the next stop without enjoying the moment.
The only time you should be strict with is your return time. If you don’t want to be driving in the dark, make sure you get started on your way back well before the sun goes down.
Figure out where you want to eat for lunch. Make sure you get there in time so there’s still seating or enough food available.
Have an idea of how many times you’ll need access to a bathroom. We have a list of bathroom locations on our Guide to Road to Hana.
Don’t want to worry about bathroom locations on the Road to Hana? We’ll let you know where they are on our Classic Road to Hana tour. CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW.
Parking Along The Road To Hana
A few of the attractions on the Road to Hana have their own designated parking lots. But a majority of the smaller stops such as waterfalls, scenic views, and even the hikes only have pullouts on the side of the road.
Pay attention to no parking signs. But for the most part, pull-outs are a safe place to park your car. Just keep an eye out on traffic as you get in and out of your car.
One place you’ll get into trouble for parking at are the bridges. Do not even stop on the bridge to take a picture from your car. Because there are so many curves, you never know when the next car is coming. Instead, find the next pullout, park your car, then walk to the bridge to explore or take pictures.
And please, ALWAYS pay attention to the signage. It’s there for a reason - if there is a no parking sign, don’t park there.
Halfway to Hana Food Stand, stop for some snacks for the rest of the trip; dronepicr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to dangers and misconceptions on the Road to Hana, there are a few common mistakes that can put a damper on your plans. Here are a few common mistakes that are easily avoidable:
Reservations are now required to park and explore Maui’s famous black sand beach. Make your reservation or you’ll be forced to skip this stop.
Fitting everything into one day
An out-and-back trip to Hana Town is feasible, but squeezing every single activity into one day is not. Rushing through can potentially make your day less enjoyable. Additionally, you’ll probably start your return late and end up driving the Road to Hana in the dark. Pick your stops carefully (or download our Classic Road to Hana Tour - we’ll help you make those decisions).
Not yielding to the local residents
You’ll get a few angry locals if you refuse to yield the road to them. It’s common courtesy to share the road by pulling out so they can pass by and get to work (they’ll probably wave or honk in thanks).
Returning via the backroad
This is a fun way to return back to Kahului, but do your research before you set out! The backroad is an entirely different experience and some car rental companies do not allow you to drive this way. If you are using the backroad to Hana check out our Reverse and Loop Road to Hana Tours.
Not leaving early
The Road to Hana requires an early start if you want to see as much as possible. Leave early or you won’t make it to Hana in time. And remember, if you’re staying in the resort area of West Maui - it’s about an hour drive to Kahului.
Sleeping in your car for the night
Van camping is becoming popular these days, but sleeping on the Road to Hana is not recommended. You’ll get a knock on your door and be forced to drive all the way back in the dark. It's because there is nowhere else to park.
Backroad To Hana
A lesser-known drive to Hana (and potentially a little more dangerous than the classic drive) is the back road to Hana. The roads here are a little less maintained and they can sometimes be closed due to rock or mudslides. But if you’re looking for a driving tour with fewer people, this is the way to go.
Regardless of which route you choose, the Road to Hana is a wonderful adventure and worth the twists and turns!
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