The Road to Hana is the most popular scenic drive on the Hawaiian island of Maui and maybe even all of Hawaii. It’s famous for its breathtaking views, waterfalls, and lush rainforest.
But why take the same route as everyone else when you can have an even more unique experience by driving it backwards?
That’s right – driving the Road to Hana in reverse instead of forward! This way, you’ll get to see all of the sights from a different perspective while still enjoying the beauty that this historic road has to offer. And, the best part is that you avoid the crowds!
We’ve spent months living in Maui and have driven the Road to Hana (including the back road) many times and know it pretty well.
In this article, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about taking the Reverse Road to Hana.
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you decide to make a purchase I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Can You Drive the Backroad to Hana?
There is a lot of confusing information online about whether or not you can drive the back road to Hana. The answer is yes, you can! You can drive the Road to Hana in a complete loop.
But, there are some things that you should know.
The back road is a narrow, winding, and sometimes bumpy unpaved road that takes you through stunning rainforest and coastline scenery. Some small portions of the road lead you along steep cliff side edges sans guard rails.
It does on occasion have closures because of obstacles or construction so make sure to check the most current status of the back road to Hana here.
Is it Better to Do the Road to Hana in Reverse?
There are some major advantages of driving the Road to Hana backward. Most visitors choose to drive the road forward starting in Paia and ending in Hana. For many, this is considered the “safe” option since the road is completely paved and well-maintained.
But, by starting from the back and driving in reverse you will be stopping at some of the most popular spots first with more energy, fewer crowds at the attractions, and no problems finding parking spots.
You’ll also be driving in the opposite direction which avoids serious traffic and with the sun at your back instead of in your eyes, you’ll be able to take in the stunning views better.
Lastly, if you’re like me and avoid backtracking whenever possible then driving the road to Hana in reverse is the better choice since you’ll be arriving at the paved and well-maintained stretch of the road before it starts getting too get dark.
What Kind of Car Do You Need to Drive the Reverse Road to Hana?
Sections of the back road to Hana are not paved, bumpy, and one single lane in places. So, it is best to drive an SUV or a cross-over type of car that has higher ground clearance. Also, 4-wheel drive is recommended but not necessary as long as you drive carefully and slowly.
If you’re driving a rental car, make sure to check with your rental company about their policies for driving on this road before you start the journey.
See here for everything you need to know about renting a car in Hawaii.
Reverse Road to Hana Starting Point
The official starting point for the Reverse road to Hana is in Kula which is located on the west-facing slope of Haleakala in upcountry Maui.
The best way to get to Kula is by taking Route 37 from Kahului.
Get your day started off right by grabbing some breakfast at the award-winning Kula Bistro (which opens at 7:30).
What Time is Best to Start Driving the Reverse Road to Hana?
You will want to start driving the back road to Hana at around 8 – 8:30 a.m. otherwise you will run the risk of driving in the dark which is totally doable but maybe not preferable.
Heads up for those staying in the Lahaina / Kaanapali area. It will take about 1 hour to get to Kula so plan on leaving there at about 6:30 a.m. to give yourself enough time to grab some food and drinks.
Driving Directions For the Reverse Road to Hana
- From Kuhului, take Route 37 toward Kula .
- Once in Kula, continue on Route 37 (HI-37) until it turns into Route 31 (Pilani Hwy).
- Follow Route 31 (Pilani Hwy) toward Hana when near Kipahulu the road turns into Route 360 (Hana Hwy).
- Continue on Route 360 (Hana Hwy) past Twin Falls which is one of the last stops.
- The road merges into Route 36 (still Hana Hwy) to Paia Town.
What is the Best App for the Reverse Road to Hana?
If you haven’t heard of the tour guide apps you can purchase on your mobile device to replace an expensive “official” tour guide then you’ve been missing out.
We do appreciate the extra knowledge and insight that a tour guide offers but we often don’t really like the large group settings and uncomfortable transportation options that come with it.
We also like the flexibility of being on our own timetable especially since we usually are traveling with kids and we all know how that goes.
Tour guide apps are a perfect fit for the road to Hana experience since they offer knowledgeable insights, local perspectives, and complete flexibility.
Our favorite tour app for the reverse road to Hana is created by Shaka Guide. Specifically this tour Reverse Road to Hana Tour.
Private Reverse Road to Hana Tour
Saying all of that there is an amazing private jeep tour that you can take to experience the reverse road to Hana hassle free which is called the Reverse Road to Hana Full Circle Tour.
This private jeep tour picks you up from your hotel and stops at all of the key points along the Road to Hana Loop. It includes a professional driver/guide and all the necessary gear for a comfortable ride.
This tour is an amazing experience and it gives you a chance to really take in the beauty of the Road without having to worry about driving and planning yourself.
Reverse Road to Hana Stops
The Reverse Road to Hana has as many as 30 unique stops along the way. Haven driven the road and experienced for ourselves many of these stops we are sharing with you the best stops that we think make for the most epic experience.
Stop 1 – Natural Sea Arch
The first notable stop is the Manawainui Gulch Sea Cave. This natural beauty is made up of solid lava rock that has given way to the ocean’s powerful waves carving out a hole that you can see clearly through.
Stop 2 – Huakini Beach
This unique beach is different from most of the other beaches on Maui since instead of sand you’ll find rounded stones. This makes for a really cool (and loud) sound as the waves rush in and recede back into the ocean.
Stop 3 – Alelele Falls
This is the first of many waterfalls that you’ll see throughout the day. The hike is fairly accessible to get to the 50-foot waterfall except for a small river crossing.
There is a pool at the base of the waterfall that you can swim in but if you’re planning on stopping at the Seven Sacred Pools and don’t want to get wet yet then you may want to skip this stop.
Stop 4 – Charles Lindbergh’s Grave
Next up is the grave of Charles Lindbergh located at the Palapala Ho’omau Church. If you’re not familiar with Lindbergh he is known for making a nonstop flight from New York to Paris.
It’s a brief stop but if you’re a fan of aviation then it’s worth checking out.
Stop 5 – Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
1 hour or more
This is a must-stop and probably the most popular stop on the Road to Hana tour. The Seven Sacred Pools also known as the Pools of Oheo are a set of waterfalls dropping into tiered pools leading to the ocean.
It’s quite picturesque and you can swim in most of them as well. Be sure to bring your swimsuit and plenty of water with you (as it tends to get warm).
*Since you took the back road you should arrive early enough to avoid most of the crowds, so enjoy!
Stop 6 – Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls
This stop is for those looking to get their sweat on. This 3.5-mile hike leads through an amazing bamboo forest and to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls.
It’s not an easy hike but it is well worth the effort with amazing views of the jungle, ocean, and waterfalls along the way.
*You will need to pay the National Park fee of $30 if you don’t already have a National Park pass. It is good for 3 days though so you can use it to visit the Haleakala crater if you’d like.
Stop 7 – Venus Pools
After finishing up the hike, it’s time to get cooled off at the Venus Pools which are a hidden gem that is rarely ever crowded.
For adventure seekers, you can even do some rock jumping into the pool!
Stop 8 – Hamoa Beach
Hamoa Beach is a stunning beach with deep blue waters and white sand. It’s the perfect place for some relaxation and to watch the sunset if you have enough time.
The waves are generally not too big and there is also decent snorkeling on the edge of the cove.
Access is pretty easy since there are stairs that take you down to the sand.
Stop 9 – Hana Town
45 minutes or more
You have reached Hana Town! This is the perfect place to explore all that this unique town has to offer with its quaint shops, small restaurants, stunning views of the coastline, and rich Hawaiian culture.
Be sure to check out the Hasegawa General Store, Coconut Glen’s Ice Cream and Tedeschi Winery.
If you’re a fan of aviation then its worth checking out the Hana Airport which is one of the oldest airports in Hawaii! It has some fascinating aircraft on display that is sure to amaze.
Stop 10 – Red Sand Beach
One of my favorite stops is Red Sand Beach. Be advised that foot traffic and erosion have led to some sketchy sections of the trail. Not for beginners and not advisable for young kids.
But for adventurers, this beach is worth the trek as it’s quite secluded and has unique red sand that you won’t find anywhere else.
Stop 11 – Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach
The next stop is the Waianapanapa one of Maui’s only Black Sand Beaches. This beach is known for its black sand and interesting rock formations (like a sea cave and a blow hole) that have been carved out by the waves over time.
The most interesting part of this beach (in my opinion) is the nearby freshwater cave which you can swim through! It’s a pretty cool experience.
*Note: It is necessary to make a reservation to enter Waianapanapa State Park and same-day reservations are not possible. The cost is $10 and parking $5.
Stop 12 – Kahanu Gardens
Up next is Kahanu Gardens. This botanical garden has an impressive collection of Hawaiian plants, and is also home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau (a sacred temple).
It’s a great place to get in touch with nature and learn about the cultural history of Hawaii. After your visit here you will feel relaxed and renewed.
Stop 13 – Halfway to Hana Food Stand
Feeling hungry? Stop here at the Halfway to Hana food stand. This place offers delicious local Hawaiian dishes like Kalua pork, laulau and poke.
It’s a great spot to grab lunch and soak in all that you’ve experienced during your day trip.
Stop 14 – Ke’anae Peninsula (Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread)
Just off the beaten path is the Ke’anae Peninsula is a great spot for memorable photo ops and views of the ocean. Check out Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread where you can buy some freshly baked banana bread to go!
It’s a favorite among locals so if you’re looking to try something local this is your chance.
Stop 15 – Ke’anae Arboretum
This hidden gem is home to a variety of native Hawaiian plants and trees. Visitors can explore the paths and get an up-close look at the diverse range of flora.
The super unique Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree which you can spot along the Road to Hana is best seen up close here at the arboretum.
Stop 16 – Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is aptly named since this place is full of exotic and tropical plants found in rainforests throughout the world. You can easily spend a few hours here exploring the various jungle-like trails, streams and waterfalls.
The secret is out but it’s still worth a visit to see lush greenery, wild tropical fruits, and different types of flowers.
Stop 17 – Waikamoi Ridge Trail
If you’re not completely exhausted yet and need to stretch your legs, you can take a walk on the Waikamoi Ridge Trail. This trail is perfect for those looking to venture off the beaten path and see the details that make up the Road to Hana.
It’s a great way to get in touch with nature and enjoy stunning views of the island. The best part is that it’s not too strenuous and kids can join in too.
Stop 18 – Twin Falls
Twin Falls is a popular spot for hikers and swimmers alike. For the more adventurous, you can explore the deeper parts of the pool.
It’s picturesque with two waterfalls cascading into one large pool and a rope swing nearby for those daring enough to take the plunge.
*Parking can be limited but since you missed most of the crowds by taking the back way you should be fine.
Stop 19 – Hookipa Beach
Hookipa Beach is the perfect place to close out your day trip along the Road to Hana. This beach is known for its stunning sunsets and excellent surfing conditions.
It’s a great spot to relax, enjoy the sunset and grab some dinner at one of the nearby food trucks or restaurants before heading back home. If you’re lucky you may get to see sea turtles and other wildlife!
Stop 20 – Paia Town
You’ve made it to the end of your day trip! Paia Town is the perfect place to end your visit. There’s always something going on here with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore.
Head down Baldwin Avenue for some shopping or grab dinner at one of the many eateries in town. It’s a great spot to take it all in and reflect on the amazing journey you’ve just completed.
If you really want to do something special in Paia make reservations at the famous Mama’s Fishhouse and thank me later. Be advised that you will need to make reservations at least 3-4 months in advance.
Is the Backroad to Hana Dangerous?
We’ve driven the back road to Hana on many occasions and honestly feel that the road is pretty safe. There are sections where the road is unpaved, bumpy, and narrows down to one lane but as long as you use caution and be aware of your surroundings, you should be fine. We advise against driving at night as visibility is very low and the roads can be quite treacherous with all the turns and curves.
Overall, it’s a great adventure that everyone should experience at least once! Just make sure to follow safety guidelines and drive carefully.
Reverse Road to Hana With Kids
We love driving the road to Hana with our kids! Along the way there are plenty of family-friendly activities like stops at black sand beaches, waterfalls, and hikes. It’s also a great opportunity for kids to learn about the Hawaiian culture and see some amazing wildlife.
Just make sure that you stop often to give your kids a break and let them enjoy the scenery too. We recommend packing plenty of snacks, drinks, and activities to help keep them entertained during the drive.
The road does have a lot of turns so if you have kids that get motion sickness, make sure to bring medicine in case they need it. With a little planning and preparation, you can have an amazing time exploring the Road to Hana with your family!
Last Words: Reverse Road To Hana
Exploring the Road to Hana in reverse is a great way to experience this world-famous stretch of paradise. Driving in reverse has its advantages like avoiding crowds and congestion at the most popular stops and finding parking spots.
The Road to Hana is an incredible experience from breathtaking waterfalls and black sand beaches to lush greenery and local culture. Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family, make sure you consider safety when planning your Road to Hana journey so that you can enjoy it worry-free!