One of Maui’s top attractions is to drive the road to Hana. It's a lush beautiful drive full of waterfalls, hikes and scenic views over the ocean. But the long winding road often deters families from venturing to that side of the island. I know I was nervous the first time, I envisioned screaming kids while I counted down the minutes until it was over, boy was I wrong! There is so much to see that you end up stopping a lot which breaks up the day into little adventures. The kids eyes would light up as they explored each unique spot, got their wiggles out and would be delightfully (for mom) tired enough for the ride to the next stop. Then repeat until you’ve had your fill of epic family photos, memories and rainbows and drive home chatting away as the little ones fall asleep in the back... bliss!
Fun Fact: Hawaii has very benign animals, there are no predators, so you can relax a little easier as your little ones explore nature's playground.
Do: Rent a car
The key to enjoyable family vacations is flexibility. When you rent a car you can move at your own pace. Unlike tour companies where you are on a tight schedule moving at the tour’s speed and selected stops. But when you have your own vehicle you are captain of your own ship! If you come up to an epic waterfall, you can stop. If your kids are just having too much fun in a river, you can stay. If you see your little one is hungry and need to avoid a meltdown of monumental proportions, you can stop to eat.
Pro tip: Rent a convertible (or a car with large windows and roll them down) to hear waterfalls before you see them and smell wildflowers, its nature in 4K.
Do: Fill Your Gas Tank in Paia Town
One of the last towns and last gas stations you drive through before beginning the road to Hana is Paia. There are no gas stations along the road until you reach Hana. Always better to be safe right.
Do: Write down your planned stops and bring a map
What a map? Yup. Does my phone’s GPS count? Nope. Cell phone reception is very poor on that side of the island. You can bring a regular GPS however we’ve found its just as easy to count the mile markers and follow along with a map. Plus typically you know the good stopping points when you see other cars parked on the side of the road. There's only one road in and out so you won't get lost. And the kids will have fun feeling like pirates following along with the map. You can also download the GyPSy app or Shaka app which is like having a guide in your car!
Parent Tip: Have the kids look out the window for the mile markers that are placed every half mile, it turns the journey into an exciting countdown until the next stop (which come up quickly).
Do: Start Early
Most sites will tell you to leave by 6am to avoid traffic and congested tourist spots. We’ve found if you leave at an “early enough” time you’re fine (you’re probably up any way with kids) plus when traveling with kids you tend to move at a leisurely pace anyway. However we recommend leaving early to get as much daylight as possible. This gives you more time to sight see. Yay! Also you will lose sunlight quicker on this side of the island because the high volcano walls block the sunset light quicker. Another option is to continue following on the road around the point o follow the light but the road is not well maintained and often rental car companies don’t insure their cars past Kipahulu. We recommending during around when you're ready to head home, the drive will be shorter and smoother.
Pro Tip: Plan to turn around well before sunset so that you’re not driving the whole way back in the dark.
Do: Bring food (snacks) and water
There are places to stop for food along the road but they are sparse and usually don’t open until the afternoon. There's plenty of places to eat in Hana but that's at the very end so we often plan an early dinner there. Water is always a good idea to bring along, not only for the potential trails you’ll hike or washing off dirty feet but it's important for any long drive for safety. And snacks...well you know how it is with kids. You don’t want the memory of your once in a lifetime moment of stepping onto a black sand beach for the first time with a screaming hungry kid in the background, right? So pack your on the road favorites like granola bars, apple sauce packets or local spam musubi (when in Hawaii) and feel confident you're covered, just in case.
Pro Tip: Slow down when you come up to a bridge to look for oncoming traffic, most bridges are only wide enough for one car to drive over at a time so you have to take turns.
Do: Pace Yourself
There are more stops along the road to Hana then there is time in the day. Planning your stops ahead will help with your timing through this long and winding road. Have flexibility in your plans, if you drive by a lookout and want to take an amazing family photo for your next holiday card, do it. If you notice the kids are getting exhausted from hiking get back in the car and drive to the next stop so they can rest. And pace yourself, be wary of the time and if you don’t make it to the city of Hana that's fine! The point is to have new experiences and lasting memories with your family together.
Tip: Consider staying in Hana a night if you want to keep exploring this side of the island.
Do: Bring bathing suits and extra towels
The lush side of the island is also the “wet side” of the island. I’ve seen people with ponchos as well but if it rains its usually warm and brief. There are many waterfalls, rivers and beaches to enjoy so bring your bathing suits, towels and sunscreen. And don’t worry, rain equals amazing waterfalls!
Pro Tip: Bring back up clothes for the end of a trip, so when they fall asleep on the way back they're in clean dry clothes.
Do: Respect the land
Teach kids whatever they bring into an area they should bring out. Over the years many areas have closed due to tourists not taking care and respecting the rules. Pick up trash and leave this land more beautiful than when you arrived. This way we can preserve these views for future generations to enjoy.
Follow these guidelines and you’re sure to have a great trip!!
Aloha and happy travels,
The Adventure Ohana