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Road to Hana, Hawaii, or: The Shortest Road Trip

Did you ever hear people talking about Hana? Probably not. But what about the Road to Hana? We’re getting close, right? The Road to Hana leads to the village everybody seems to know but doesn’t, a small village on Maui with no more than 700 residents. Why does everybody want to go there?

A moderate breeze blows against the windshield of our Mustang convertible as we turn into the legendary street right behind Paia. According to our map it is a highway. Highway 360. Calling it a highway is badly disproportionate though. When you think of a highway you’ll usually come up with images of a wide, long road in the Southwest. Tarmac glimmering at the horizon. The Road to Hana is everything but that. It is narrow, steep, and winding, a one lane road in many places. 620 bends in total. Who counts such a thing?

It is easier to count the 59 bridges, 46 of them single-tracked. Meaning that you’ll have to yield for oncoming traffic 46 times before you can cross a bridge and continue the rocky ride. Stopping on a highway? Yeah. Whenever you do stop for someone, or else someone stops for you, greet them with a grin and a hang loose, gesture of the surfers. Thumb and forefinger elongated. You’re not in a hurry. Over here, time is time, not money. Also, it is standing still anyway.

There is only one road on Maui that reminds of a highway. It is 9 miles long and stretches from Kahului to Kihei, across the valley between the two volcanoes. The Road to Hana extends to 52 miles. It meanders along the foothill of the Haleakala volcano on the east coast. The shortest (and greenest) road trip in the world. Densely wooded, evergreen slopes that merge into a rocky shoreline with beautiful black beaches. The road is one of the oldest on the island and, architecturally speaking, is is a masterpiece.

Hana: The most pluvial place on Maui

When the Road to Hana gets crowded in high season, traffic gets heavy and parking lots are usually overcrowded. We are lucky. It’s November. We’re lucky in more than one sense: We have the street to ourselves and there’s no rain at all. Not once on our journey along Maui’s east coast do we have to pull up the roof of our convertible because of sudden rainfall.


Maui’s eastern winds are mostly humid and warm. They cool down at the slopes of the 9000 foot high Haleakala volcano and gather in rain clouds which is why on the Road to Hana rainfall is much more common than in any other part of the island. Hana is the most pluvial place on Maui. The tropical forest surrounding it is as lush and green for a reason.

Sometime around midday we reach the end of the highway. The sign can easily be missed. A small street on the left side of the Highway leads down to the village. You could just as well just pass by. There is a main street leading to the sea and a handful of side streets. A supermarket, a gas station selling highly overpriced gas, and a couple of restaurants. Plus a football stadium and a school, both with a view to the mighty Haleakala volcano on whose summit the clouds gather.

Compared to all the sights along the Road to Hana, the destination itself isn’t spectacular at all. When people say that Hana is like Maui 30 years ago they are right. A small town visited by many tourists but not touristy at all. We leave it after lunch, following highway 31 further south. Highway 31 is just like highway 360. A memorable image, engraved in our memories.

The journey, the reward.


Do you want to know my favorite places on the Road to Hana? See my Hana Top 5!

About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!

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