Hana Road in Maui has great praise heaped upon it by guidebooks. The main book of two that we’ve been using, a Fodor’s edition calls it, “One of the most beautiful drives in the world.” Obviously, it is often the case that most guidebook will overstate with all the flowery prose within reach to convince you to travel somewhere (which is why I prefer the slightly cynical tone of Rough Guides.) And it is the situation with the Hana Road, as it skirts the northeastern chunk of Maui that while it is an interesting trip at various points, it is not something that I would ever say you needed to see before you died. If you’re in Maui, sure, make the effort and drive the road. Otherwise, just enjoy pictures others took.
Our drive out was tough. We had gotten up early, flown five hours, picked up a rental car, got groceries, and then were heading down the road in the later part of the day pretty exhausted. We weren’t exactly in the mood for a slow, twisting road, but we made the best we could of it, stopping along the way to check out waterfalls and other interesting points that our guidebook mentioned. But, the road is twisty, double backs on itself at various points, and has these one lane bridges and other chunks of the road that make the 55 mile trip take more than two hours.
It can be an enjoyable trip if you take it easy and want to do all the stops, but as far as its overall “beauty”, it’s just a lush road the gets more and more tropical as you get closer to Hana. There are a number of drives that I find to be more beautiful than this such as the Napa Valley 29, the A-1 from Split to Dubrovnik in Croatia, and nearly any chunk of the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) from San Francisco to San Diego. While there are less attractions on these roads overall for their length, they are by far more scenic.
So, I guess it really comes down to what you’re in to. If it’s a bit of jungle-like scenery, with a few fruit stands, and some waterfalls, then Hana is for you. If it is more about just enjoying the drive, then it’s probably not your thing. One tip I should add is that the hills and turns really burn up the gas, so having at least a half tank for the trip out is required. There is a gas station at the bottom end of Hana where you can fill up if you’re a bit low though.