Driving The Road to Hana: 15 Can't-Miss Experiences + FAQ (2023)

The majestic Road to Hana is a beautiful stretch of pristine coast and jungle that traces the island of Maui’s rugged NorthWest shore.

As we wrote in our Insider’s Guide to Maui, the twisting, turning drive is full of stunning waterfalls, enchanting rainbow eucalyptus trees, bright, exotic flowers, and the incredible, enlivening smell of fresh rain. There are always rainbows and acres of lush green bamboo filling out the landscape, which is marked with shell ginger plants, passionflower, and charming old single-lane bridges around every curve.

Seductively lush, with lingering views of natural wonders seemingly everywhere you look, Hana is one of Maui’s most special and prized destinations, full of sights and activities worth exploring. It’s a must-see part of the island for any first-timer to Maui– and it only gets better with repeat visits.

Below, we spotlight everything you need to know about driving the Road to Hana, as well as which charming experiences you shouldn’t miss.

Along the way, we also give insight on the best things to see, eat, do, and explore on the Road to Hana, so that you can make the most of your trip. Consider this your one-stop insider’s guide to everything you need to know about driving to Hana and back. Bookmark this list for easy reference later!

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But first, here’s some basic housekeeping regarding a few common questions I frequently get asked about the Road to Hana.

First– How long does it take to drive the Road to Hana? Personally, I like to get on the Road to Hana around 8 AM for the best experience. (I would plan to leave the Pa’ia area– a great place to get breakfast, coffee, etc– no later than 9 AM.)

When you get up early, you get a head start before the crowds arrive. Tourist groups, while usually minimally invasive, can sometimes pile up in Hana at popular destinations like waterfall attractions, rest stops, and food places. Please note, however, that some cafes and banana bread joints don’t open until around 9 AM in peak season, so you won’t want to leave much earlier than 8 or 9.

The entire road to Hana drive is only 64 miles, but the 500+ hairpin curves and the abundance of attractions you’ll want to stop at and enjoy make it a full-day trip. The drive will take all day to experience, and you’ll want as much time as possible to linger.

Ultimately, the goal is to leave Hana town (at the end of the drive) before 4 or 5 PM at the latest, as you want to finish driving the Road to Hana before it gets dark. There are no street lights and driving all those one-lane bridges and oft-whispered-about hairpin turns can be unnerving after dark.

So, plan to spend ~8 AM to 5 PM exploring the Road to Hana. A good rule of thumb is to be back near Pa’ia around dusk. (Just in time to check out the sunset at Ho’okipa Beach!)

Second– What should I bring when exploring Hana? Bring your swimsuit, towel, camera, water, sunscreen, and maybe a snack if you have dietary restrictions. There is plenty of wonderful food in Hana, but hours of cafes can vary wildly, and if you are diabetic, gluten-free, or nut-sensitive there might not always be a wide variety of options for you.

Finally, a word on etiquette. Hana is a truly magical place that represents the sanctity of old Hawai’i– which is why Hana is often called “the last true Hawaiian town.” Above all, be respectful. Everyone here is super nice, so please respect the land and the ocean by using reef-safe sunscreen if you go in the water, and properly disposing of any trash you create.

Basically, just don’t be a jerk. Now make sure your phone has a charge and let’s dive in! Driving the Road to Hana is a Bucket List Maui experience unlike anything else in the Hawaiian Islands. It’s magical– and no one should leave the island without experiencing all that it has to offer.

Snap a selfie under a majestic waterfall, eat some local tropical fruit, drink in the serene clifftop ocean views, or dip your toes into the waters of a secluded black sand beach. You get the idea.

Scroll our guide to the coolest experiences on the Road to Hana, below.

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Explore Epic Waterfalls at Ko’olau Forest Reserve (and Beyond)

The Road to Hana is basically just a long, meandering, beautiful journey through the jungle along the coast. There are various natural wonders and roadside attractions that you simply pull over and explore at your leisure. Accordingly, one of the most compelling natural features you are apt to see in Hana are waterfalls.

^ The above picture was taken at Ko’olau Forest Reserve, but really, waterfalls are everywhere in Hana. In my opinion, this particular outlook is merely the most striking and beautiful. It’s located right on the road overlooking a single-lane bridge. (This area often gets crowded with people clamoring to take pictures of the falls. You can’t miss it.)

Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out for rainbows. They often appear over the falls after it rains!🌈

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See A Black Sand Beach (Honokalani Beach and Others)

The Road to Hana is also famous for its black sand beaches, which are a unique feature of the Pacific islands that you don’t see in many other parts of the world.

Hana’s iconic black sand forms from eroded lava stone and other basalt outcroppings that remain from past volcanic activity on the island.

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Today, there are several easily accessible black sand beaches along the Road to Hana, but Honokalani Beach in Wainapanapa State Park can be particularly lovely for avid beachgoers. It’s nestled in a private cove within the park, about 3.3 miles (5.3 km) off of the Road to Hana.

Here, you can explore sea caves, blowholes, and sea arches that are significant to Hawaiian culture and history. It’s also a great place to swim and lounge. The rugged coastline, crystal blue waters, iconic black sand, and warm ocean breezes are simply serene.

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Marvel at Awe-Inspiring Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Stop for a nice stroll into the forest to see iconic rainbow eucalyptus trees at Ke’anae Arboretum, a 6-acre botanical reserve that has nice walking paths with breadfruit, torch ginger, candlenut, taro, Ti leaves, Narra trees, and golden bamboo trees– cool indigenous exotics that plant lovers will appreciate seeing.

Rainbow eucalyptus, moreover, is exactly what it sounds like. This smooth-barked eucalyptus tree has a number of beautiful, rainbow pigments streaked through its bark. The resulting “rainbow” tree is a lovely sight to behold. (^ See above picture. How cool is that?!)

If you don’t have much exposure to the tropical plants of Hawaii (which you can also experience at locavore restaurants or farmers’ markets), this is a good place to get some first-hand experience. The rainbow eucalyptus groves in Hana are absolutely beautiful!

The Ke’anae Arboretum sits at around mile marker 16.7 on the Road to Hana– almost at the halfway point.

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Sample Some Local Banana Bread (Ideally Aunty Sandy’s)

According to local legend, banana bread was invented in Hana. As a result, sampling banana bread at several of the roadside stands in Hana is a classic local experience. If you don’t try any banana bread in Hana, you’re doing it wrong!

Many farm stands and rustic bakeries claim to make “the best banana bread in Hana’, so it’s all a matter of exploration. Ultimately, I recommend buying banana bread from a few different places in Hana and doing a taste test to see which one you like the best. Choose your own adventure!

Twin Falls Farm Stand (detailed below) also makes great banana bread, as does the cafe at Halfway to Hana, etc etc.

However, in my opinion (and many people agree with me), the best banana bread in Hana can be found at Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread Shop. It’s located just after Mile Marker 16 where the Road to Hana turns to Keanae Road.

Here, you can enjoy everything from chili dogs to fresh Hawaiian shave ice and housemade coconut chews (<— intriguing and recommended), but the real star of the show is the housemade banana bread that is baked fresh daily.

Aunty Sandy Hueu has been making this hot, fresh, buttery-sweet banana bread since 1983. In that time, it’s won multiple awards and features in major network broadcasts like Gordon Ramsey’s Unchartered series for National Geographic.

As part of our reconnaissance for this travel guide, we collected banana samples from every single fruit stand in Hana, and Aunty Sandy’s banana bread was the resounding favorite. Trust me on this one, folks. All banana bread in Hana is yummy, but this one is very quaint special. I love these smart little “mini” loaves, and how they’re usually still warm in the bag when you buy them. 🙂

Try Some Wild Passionfruit, If You Can Find It

There’s a series of roadside market stalls and eateries all along the Road to Hana. I encourage you to follow your curiosity and explore whatever you feel drawn to. However, there is one rare item that I do encourage foodies to hunt for when visiting Hana: wild passionfruit.

As a passionfruit connoisseur and someone who has sought out passionfruit all over the Hawaiian islands (including the exceptional passionfruit at the farmers market near our place in O’ahu,) I can tell you that wild passionfruit is quite different from domesticated passionfruit. And it’s much harder to find.

Wild passionfruit is more bulbous and pear-shaped than the typically round, domesticated version. In fact, wild passionfruit reminds me of egg fruit– another native Hawaiian fruit you can buy locally.

Hana, moreover, has the best wild passionfruit EVER. Look for it near Up In Smoke BBQ’s Island Style Tacos and Nahiku Cafe, both around mile marker 28-29.

Ultimately, even if you don’t eat them the day of purchase, I would strongly recommend buying wild passionfruit from a roadside fruit stand in Hana, though you cannot bring it back to the mainland. (Just sample some while you’re on the island– trust me. It’s super sweet and more “passionfruit-y” than regular passionfruit. As a passionfruit connoisseur, let me tell you: It’s the best passionfruit, ever!)

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Hidden Gem: “Honesty Box” Coconut Chips

Another hidden gem located near Up In Smoke BBQ’s Island Style Tacos and Nahiku Cafe at mile marker 28-29 in Hana is a little unmarked stand selling what I refer to as “Honesty Box Coconut Chips”.

These, quite simply, are the best snack ever, and the best thing you can possibly purchase in Hana. They are simply amazing, which is why I recommend this subtle, endearing food experience to everyone driving the Road to Hana.

Allow me to explain:

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Under the shade of a tent, there is a small Tupperware container filled with ziplock baggies of delectable homemade coconut chips. These are made from fresh, local Hana coconuts. A nearby sign simply says “$5 per bag. Please pay Honor Box.”

Accordingly, next to the chips is a little Honesty Box where you can drop your money in exchange for the goods. On our first-ever foray into Hana, my husband and I heard about these chips from a third-generation local. We ate them on the road and were SO blown away by how delicious they were that we turned around on the Road to Hana to buy more, immediately.

We nearly cleared out the supply and could barely discipline ourselves enough to save some for family members visiting us from the mainland. (Fortunately, because they’re toasted, you CAN take them on an airplane. I later brought them to family members on the East Coast, and recall bringing another bag of these trips on a brief trip to Florida.)

Ultimately, these really are the best coconut chips EVER, and one of the most delightful hidden food gems on Maui! Do NOT miss them!

Plus, the mysterious origin story only adds to their intrigue. If you’re looking for a special, inimitable souvenir in Hana, this is it.

The Bamboo Hale Restaurant at Hana Farms

The Bamboo Hale Restaurant at Hana Farms is a quaint farm stand, bakery, and restaurant that has gorgeous salads, pizzas, and pupus (aka traditional Hawaiian appetizers and plate lunches).

If you’re looking for a classic real-meal restaurant in Hana, this is one of your best fast-casual options. (Otherwise, most people subsist on grab-n-go options and snacks along the drive, like fresh fruit, ice cream, and the occasional roadside taco or baked good.)

The banana bread, coconut cream pie, and sandwiches here are all seriously excellent. But the beautiful tropical pizzas and gorgeous salads really dazzle with their verdant beauty and freshness. They use starfruit and edible flowers as a garnish, for example, so each dish really begs to be photographed.

Basically: everything here is so pretty!

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Relax at Hamoa Beach

Cheery, popular Hamoa Beach is a beautiful crescent beach lined with lush Hala trees (a distant cousin of pineapple, which is native to Hawai’i).

Unlike most beaches in Hana, the sand is soft (rather than full of black volcanic rock or sharp coral) so this is a nice place to pull and dip your feet on a hot day.

There are public restrooms, showers, and foot washing stations available on site, but no lifeguards. The beach is generally crowded but the bodysurfing is nice. It’s ideal for those who want to spend time swimming in Hana’s sparkling, aquamarine waters.

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Sample Coconut Candy at Twin Falls Farm Stand

One of the first refreshment stops on the Road to Hana, Twin Falls Farm Stand sells a locally-made coconut candy that is soooo amazing. They also have good coffee (a must if you’re starting the Road to Hana drive early!) and delightful banana bread. Plus, there’s an accessible, short walk to a mighty waterfall just down the path behind the food truck.

Among other foods (like banana bread, fresh fruit, vegan ice cream), Coconut Candy is “a thing” in Hana. The Road to Hana is famous for it, which is why they call it HanaStyle Coconut Candy.

The coconut chip Honesty Box vendor detailed above sells coconut candy alongside their coconut chips, but Twin Falls Farm Stand’s coconut candy is the best. Buy it here if you can.

^ Fortunately, this item also makes a great cheap souvenir, so you can buy it to sample later or take it home as a gift for foodies or anyone who loves coconut. At once sweet, chewy, and surprisingly melt-in-your-mouth, there’s nothing quite like it.

Explore The Hana Lava Tube

The Hana Lava Tube at Ka’eleku Caverns is an easy-to-miss tourist attraction, but I only really recommend stopping here if you don’t plan on going to the Big Island of Hawai’i to see Volcanoes National Park (the lava formations there are much more iconic and impressive).

Otherwise, this is a fun pit stop if you want to get easy access to some safe Maui caves. The terrain is easy to navigate and features handrails, so you don’t even need special shoes.

Check out the “Chocolate Corridor” stalactites on a self-guided tour open 7-days a week. Kids also enjoy the on-site Ti Garden Botanical Maze. (It’s Hana’s answer to a corn maze, constructed out of indigenous red Ti plants.)

The Hana Lava Tubes are located in an underground complex just past mile marker 31. Get directions here.

Coconut Glen’s Vegan Ice Cream

Towards the end of the Road to Hana, be sure to stop and get some of Coconut Glen’s organic, coconut milk-based ice cream. The vegan ice cream truck usually parks near mile marker 27.5 in the jungle of Hana– and it was voted one of the best ice cream stands on the planet by Conde Nast Traveler. Today, its decidedly quaint concept makes it a local Hana landmark.

Made with love and coconuts from the jungles of Maui, locals agree that this roadside favorite is as charming as it is delicious (you really can’t miss the sign for the truck). If you’re an ice cream lover, be sure to check it out!

The original coconut flavor is the classic order, but Coconut Glen’s also has a rotating cast of intriguing exotic flavors like ginger lemongrass and chipotle chocolate. (We like trying the more experimental flavors, but my husband and I love the mint chocolate chip, when it’s available!)

Because you will pass Coconut Glen’s twice– once on the drive out to Hana, and once on the way back– I recommend sampling their ice cream on the drive back, towards the end of the day. After driving the Road to Hana, it’s a nice way to cap off the experience with a sweet local treat.

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Shaka Pops

Speaking of frozen treats in Hana, Shaka Pops are amazing and come in such beautiful, pastel colors! This colorful mobile pop cart is sort of like a shooting star in Hana, as its location along the Road To Hana will vary throughout the season.

Basically, if you see a lime-green, bike-powered, rickshaw-like popsicle cart at any of the roadside stops along your drive, you’re in the right place.

I love the Coco Hana Banana flavor, which is a combination of local chocolate, banana, and coconut. (<— It’s like the best gourmet fudgesicle you’ve ever had!)

Otherwise, expect a seasonal, rotating cast of Shaka Pop flavors like Passion Orange Guava, Mango Cream, Coconut Lime, Maui Grown Coffee (another special flavor), Pineapple Ginger, Tropical Smoothie, and Maui Mocha.

All Shaka Pops showcase seasonal, local produce like Maui pineapples, Kula strawberries, Kihei mangos, and Hawaiian vanilla. Thus, flavors will vary throughout the year and the growing season, but they always showcase an intriguing sense of place.

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Past Hana: The Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka The Seven Sacred Pools)

^ Approximately 20 minutes past Hana in Haleakala National Park are The Pools of ‘Ohe’o, a destination known as the “Seven Sacred Pools”. Here, you can find a series of trellised hikes through bamboo groves that reveal lovely tiered, freshwater pools that are connected by waterfalls. (See above picture.)

The so-called ‘Ohe’o Pools mark the official “end” of the Road to Hana. If you make it here, you’ve made it! You’ve driven the whole thing, and your experience of the Road to Hana is halfway done. (Now you can take in all the sights again on your drive back.)

Swimming here is prohibited, however. There is a car entry fee to access the lookout points, but it’s worth it if you want the full, complete Road to Hana experience. (Seriously: If you made it all the way here before 3 PM, you’re a pro!)

At the welcome center near the parking lot entrance to the pools, there are bathrooms and a ranger station with information. It’s a lovely place to get out and walk for while after hours of being in and out of your car.

The park entry fee is also good for a week once you buy it. Thus, you can use it again elsewhere on the island– like on Haleakala Volcano.

  • Insider Tip

The Bamboo Forest at nearby Oheo Gulch, meanwhile, offers pleasantly, clearly-marked paths for easy hiking. There’s a 4-mile loop that’s fun to traverse if you are staying locally or arrive here before 2 PM.

Otherwise, you may want to hold off hiking the full loop as this might leave you driving back through Hana after dark, which isn’t advisable because there are no street lights. (This is rural, rustic Maui, after all.)

For a more involved 1.8-mile hike to the base of a dramatic waterfall, consider the Pipiwai Trail & Waimoku Falls. This heavily trafficked trail is worth navigating the half-million annual tourists for.

Much like the Manoa Falls Trail Hike on O’ahu, the Pipiwai Trail is a pleasant, well-shaded out-and-back filled with giant ferns, lush vines, and botanical wonders reminiscent of Ferngully.

Parts of the trail are steep and can be muddy after rain. Fortunately, the National Park Service maintains the dicey sections well. (I’ve seen elderly folks navigate the boardwalk sections in flip-flops, which should be an indication of the trail’s accessibility.)

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PSA: Don’t Drive Past The ‘Ohe’o Pools!

If you are in a rental car, you should turn around after you reach the ‘Ohe’o Pools. Driving on unauthorized roads like the unpaved, rudimentary roads that navigate into the rural stretch of Haleakala National Park that sits beyond the ‘Ohe’o Pools is a violation of local car rental contracts.

Every car rental agency on Maui will assume you are going to drive your car to Hana at some point during your stay. Accordingly, they will outline these terms and conditions in your contract.

Still, it’s worth mentioning: they can tell by the dirt and wear on the tires if you’ve violated the rental contract, and they will charge you accordingly. Don’t risk it! (It’s also not exactly safe or even worth it to go offroading in Hana, anyways.)

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there bathrooms in Hana?

Yes, but you have to know where to look. There are public restrooms and showers and Hamoa Beach in Hana (the latter is good for keeping sand out of your rental car in case you want to dip your feet in the surf) and there’s also a popular NPS-affiliated roadside bathroom just past Coconut Glen’s.

Otherwise, many roadside cafes and coffee shops in Hana will offer bathroom use to paying customers only.

Kaumahina State Wayside Park, however, does have public restrooms though is also often low on toilet paper. There is a decent view of the NorthEast Maui coastline, as well as 7.8-acres of forest and exotic plants like traveler’s palm trees.

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Ultimately, this roadside stop on the Road to Hana (around mile 12) is a good spot to stretch your legs and use the facilities.

  • Is driving the Road to Hana dangerous?

No, Hana is not dangerous! I’m not sure how this rumor came to be. Yes, there are a lot of hairpin turns. But, very view of them sit atop any truly steep cliffs. Actually, the roadsides are often so densely vegetated that even if you went off-road (heaven forbid), you probably wouldn’t go very far.

Still, yes, it of course makes sense to exercise caution while driving the Road to Hana.

But if you’re a nervous driver or parent wondering whether driving the Road to Hana is somehow “risky” or “dangerous”, feel free to exhale. As long as you aren’t driving drunk– which you should obviously never do, anyway!– you should be perfectly fine.

The bigger thing to consider is motion sickness! Those who are prone to nausea and motion sickness sometimes find Hana’s twists and turns a bit challenging. It’s so common that many of the roadside farm stands and cafes sell fresh ginger shots and ginger chews for settling queasy stomachs.

^ If you’re someone who is prone to this affliction, be sure to bring medication or take something preventative ahead of time.

  • How Long Does It Take To Drive The Road to Hana?

The whole day!

Driving the Road To Hana is a perfect Maui day trip. But it really depends on how long you linger at each roadside stop, and how many you choose to stop at. There are a lot of natural attractions in Hana, and typically most people like to spend 6-8 hours there as a result.

Personally, I like to get on the Road to Hana around 8 AM for the best experience. (I would plan to leave the Pa’ia area– a great place to get breakfast, coffee, etc– no later than 9 AM.)

Driving The Road to Hana: 15 Can't-Miss Experiences + FAQ (16)
  • What Kind of Car Do I Need To Drive The Road to Hana?

Unless you plan on hiring a private driver you will need a car to drive the Road to Hana– this is not a place where you can take a taxi or an Uber, as driving the Road to Hana is an all-day affair.

For the best experience driving, rent a small hatchback car or something similar in size that has an all-wheel drive. You don’t want a big, clunky SUV as some of the bridges and turns on the Road to Hana can be quite narrow. You do not need an off-road vehicle.

Also, note that some rental companies won’t let you drive past Hana for liability purposes. (The roads can be sandy, and driving past the Road to Hana is necessarily an off-roading experience that I wouldn’t recommend for mere mortal drivers, anyway. Either way, be sure you understand the basic details of your rental contract so there are no surprises. Some rental companies, for example, will charge extra if you return the car full of beach sand.)

  • Is there cell service in Hana? Does GPS work?

Yes, most major mobile carriers offer cell service in Hana, but the connection can be spotty. The same is true for GPS. As a result, I recommend using the Gypsy Guide to Road to Hana app during your drive.

^ This GPS-based guided audio tour is great for culture enthusiasts. Use it and you’ll never get lost. It’s narrated by a local who gives wonderful insights into the history of each Hana landmark as you pass it.

But most importantly, the map and audio will keep working even if you lose cell reception. (The app will continue to navigate and narrate so that you can stay safe and won’t miss anything.)

  • Are there any wild or poisonous animals in Hana?

No. There are no major mammals native to the Hawaiian Islands, just small birds, rodents, fowl, and sea creatures. There aren’t even any snakes or mosquitos on any of the Hawaiian Islands! (This is why airport Customs is so strict about the import and export of agricultural products that could be carrying invasive pests.)

  • Can I swim? What about other watersport activities?

Yes, you can swim at any beach you stumble upon on the Road to Hana unless a sign says otherwise. Keep in mind, however, that many beaches are secluded. There are no lifeguards on duty, so swim at your own risk.

As far as watersport activities, you are welcome to stash a surfboard or other watersport equipment in your car, but gear rental companies for watersport activities in Hana are few and far between. Unlike the more commercial beaches in Maui, commerce is kept to a minimum in the coastal inlets of Hana. This way, they remain wild and pristine.

  • Are There Any Hotels or Airports in Hana?

Most visitors to Maui drive out to Hana only for the day, but the Hana-Maui Resort is a good option if you want to stay overnight and would rather stay in a hotel than an Air BnB (though these can be charming, as well).

Hana Airport (HNM) is the only airport directly servicing Hana, and it is small. It caters to small, regional, local, and private flights.

Otherwise, allinternational flights to Maui go throughKahului Airport (OGG), which is Maui’s primary airport. Here, you can pick up rental cars fromAlamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, or Dollar Rent-A-Car and drive them to the Road to Hana.

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Other Cool/Useful Things to Note When Driving The Road to Hana

  • Kahanu Garden, an extension of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, is located on Sacred Ground in Hana. In my opinion, this garden isn’t as impressive as the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Allerton and McBryde Gardens on the nearby island of Kaua’i– but passionate garden lovers may want to earmark some time for a visit, nevertheless.
  • Wild horses roam select inlets, beaches, and pastures of Hana. I can’t tell you a specific place where you are guaranteed to see them, but it’s more likely to happen in the off-season when there are fewer people around. Keep your eyes peeled.
  • Hana Gold Cacao Farm, makers of excellent local chocolate that we wrote about in our Insider’s Guide to Maui, offers plantation tours of their cool Hana farm. Inquire through the email on their website or swing by their plantation store between 10 AM and 4 PM. They’re open Monday through Saturday.
  • Peak tourism season in Hana, like Maui itself, runs from December-January. This is the busiest and most expensive time to visit, but it’s also when the weather is best.
  • Maui is a tropical climate, so it experiences warm weather year-round. April to October is the dry season, and November to March is the wet season. Most of the annual precipitation falls in high-elevation rainforests above Hana. Thus, consider packing a raincoat when you drive the Road to Hana, in case you get caught in a shower. (Fortunately, however, these are usually brief. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll likely see a beautiful rainbow after!) 🌈 💦

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Related: An Insider’s Guide to Maui (18 Coolest Things to Do on the Island).

The 9 Best Restaurants in Maui for Unforgettable Local Meals.

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