If you plan on driving the Road to Hana with kids, read on for some some things to consider, some things to avoid, and of course some must-sees along the way. At this point we’ve done the trip twice, on two separate trips to Maui and have thoroughly enjoyed both times! On our second trip I went on my own with my two kiddos (4 & 6 at the time) and we had an absolute blast. It is seriously one of my favorite things to do in Maui with kids.
Depending on how much time you have in Maui, it might be a good idea to find accommodation somewhere in Hana for the night and split the trip into two days; one for the way there and one for the way back. It’s possible to do the trip in one day, but you’ll end up having to skip a lot of the stops even if you leave super early from Maui’s west coast.
Things to keep in mind
The Road to Hana is a one lane windy road, most of which is along the side of a cliff 🙂 If this sounds absolutely terrifying to you, I would probably recommend sitting this one out. We’re used to driving *spicy* mountain passes in Colorado, so the road itself was a breeze for us. We’re also lucky enough that our kids don’t usually get motion sick in the car. I’ve heard of many families complaining that their kids got sick on the drive due to the windy nature of the road.
It’s worthwhile downloading the Shaka Guide and picking one of the Road to Hana guides available on the app. The Shaka Guide will tell you about every single stop on the way, parking availability, and history of the island. We really enjoyed listening to it on the way and following most of the suggestions recommended on it. That being said – if you only have a day to do the trip, you’ll need to plan ahead and pick which stops you want to spend your time on. There’s no way to fit them all in one day if you want to actually enjoy the waterfalls and hike some of the trails.
Bring your bathing suits! There are many accessible waterfalls along the way where you can hike down to the water and take a dip. Some are harder/longer to get to, so it’s worthwhile to decide this ahead of time as there won’t be any reception on the way until the town of Hana.
The stops below are listed in the order they appear on the map. They do not need to be done in this order – in fact, both times we’ve done this trip we bee-lined towards Wai’napnapa State Park because we’ve only ever managed to get morning reservations. The morning reservation slot is from 7-10am, so you need to leave West Maui super early and head straight to the park in order to make it in time. We then continued to the rest of the stops in the clockwise direction, and then hit up some of the other stops on the way back.
1. Bamboo Forest Waterfalls Trailhead
If you have more than one day, do this trail. Otherwise I’d recommend swapping this one out for the Pipiwai trail (#10 on this list), which has a similar bamboo forest and a much cooler waterfall 🙂
2. Eucalyptus Rainbow Trees
Immediately after the stop for the Bamboo Forest Waterfalls Trailhead is the stop for the eucalyptus rainbow trees. This is a super quick but worthwhile stop to see some beautiful rainbow coloured eucalyptus trees! If you have a rainbow-obsessed kiddo like me, they will love this stop!
3. Anywhere near around Honomanu Bay
There are many tiny pullovers along this stretch of road, and all the views are incredible. While I would personally love to stop at every single one, my kiddos and husband would probably vote me off the island. If I were to pick just a couple – I would pull over at Honomanu Bay or Nu’yenle’e waterfalls for a quick view and photo.
4. Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread
This is a classic treat you must get on your trip, conveniently located about an hour into the drive. The girls were so excited for this stop and got to much on some of the yummiest banana bread! Aunty Sandy’s Banana bread is open from 8:30am to 2:30pm everyday and sells freshly made banana bread and beverages.
5. Hana Lava Tube
We’ve seen a few lava tubes on Big Island so we skipped this one, but if you have time – lava tubes are so fun to walk through and this one is an easy stop along the way! Lava tubes are caves formed by flowing lava from a volcanic vent that moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. This lava tube is very accessible along the Road to Hana, so it’s worth a stop if you’ve never seen one of these before.
6. Wai’napanapa State Park
This is a classic and absolute must stop along the Road to Hana. Wai’napanapa State Park is home to Maui’s most famous black beach, sea caves, a blow hole and beautiful coastal hikes. The state park requires reservations, so make sure you plan ahead and reserve your time slot here. Reservations sell out 2-3 days in advance for the afternoon times, so it’s best to make sure you’re able to reach this park on time for your reservations.
7. Hana Town & Food Truck stop
On our first trip to Hana we stopped by the food truck area and feasted on some of the yummy food truck options. This is a popular stop right in the heart of Hana with lots of yummy options for lunch as well as a fantastic food stand!
On our second trip to Hana we actually packed a full cooler with groceries and tried not to waste any time on food because we wanted to see so much more this time. Both options are great depending on how much time you have to explore and how much you love your Hawaiian food trucks 🙂
8. Red Sand Beach
This one is a little bit contested, and I would not recommend doing it with kids. There are warnings all over the trail that severe injuries have occurred due to rock slide and a cliff on one side. The girls and I did the very beginning of this trail just to see some of the coastline and turned around when the trail started getting too close to the edge.
Keep in mind this is going through private property. While the owners are ok with hikers using the trail at the moment, things might change at any given moment.
9. Wailua Falls
This is a very easy stop right off the side of the road along the Road to Hana. There’s a small parking area with a bridge, from where you can see Wailua Falls. If you’re feeling up for it, you can walk down to the water and take a dip! It’s a super short hike down and manageable with kids.
10. Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park
Did you know that Haleakala National Park can be accessed from Road to Hana? The lush, jungly side of Haleakala is accessible from the western side of the island, just past the town of Hana.
This is the girls’ favourite hike in all of Hawaii 🙂 We’ve done it twice now and they pretty much run the entire 4 miles while I struggle to keep up with their 203942092384mph pace. It’s a fairly easy and fun hike with lots of rocks to climb, roots to manoeuvre, a small river crossing, a bamboo forest and a rewarding waterfall at the end.
Keep in mind that this hike is only accessible from inside Haleakala National Park, and you’ll need to either buy a pass or show your annual National Park Pass. You can buy a pass at the entrance as well.
11. Oheo Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools
This is another short hike accessible from the same parking lot as Pipiwai Trail within Haleakala National Park. It’s only about a mile each direction and you can see the 7 pools and many waterfalls!