The Road to Hāna (a.k.a. Hāna Belt Road) is an approximately 45 mile (72km) long stretch of highway traversing through rocky coastline along steep cliffs. The road meanders through tropical rainforests and bridges numerous streams and deep gorges. The historical road begins in in the northeastern town of Huelo, just past mile marker 3 on Hawai’i State Route 360 (Hāna Highway) and after the town of Hāna, includes a portion of Hawai’i State Route 31 (Pi’ilani Highway) ending at the Koukou’ai Bridge after the Kīpahulu section of Haleakalā National Park.
The road has some 13-foot wide sections chiseled into the precipitous sea cliffs along the rugged coastline; however, it is a combination of State and County Highways and contrary to popular belief, well maintained. It comprises over 600 curves and approximately 74 historical bridges and culverts, many of which are one-lane as well as some sections of road.
The Road to Hāna traverses the northern section of coastline on the massive 10,023 ft. (3,055m) shield volcano of Haleakalā connecting the small towns of Haʻikū, Huelo, Kailua, Ke’anae, Wailua, Nāhiku, Hāna, Homoa and Kīpahulu, formerly, Hawai’i’s most isolated and inaccessible areas. Due to the narrow windy roads, development in this area is hindered and the small towns retain their cultural character and values.
There are no traffic lights, golf course communities, fast-food, or strip malls along the road and visitors are limited to roadside stands or reaching the town of Hāna for limited options on restaurants, gas and groceries.
After reaching the end of the historic Road to Hāna, just past the Kīpahulu section of Haleakalā National Park, visitors have the option of returning the way they came or continuing on Hawai’i State Route 31 (Pi’ilani Highway) as it continues across the dryer southern slopes of Haleakalā, past the Kaupo Gap, barren lava fields and magnificent coastline views. Route 31 merges with Hawai’i State Route 37 (Kula Highway) in the “Up Country” of Maui at the small town of Ulupalakua. This section of road is commonly referred to as “The Backside” and has a reputation for its seclusion, drop-offs and narrow unpaved section of road. Most car rental companies deem the unpaved portion of this route as “unauthorized” and will hold you responsible for repairs or rescues.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton designated the Hāna Belt Road (a.k.a. The Road to Hāna) as the “Hāna Millennium Legacy Trail” and in 2001 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Over 3,000 visitors travel the road each day and the journey is a highlight of many Maui vacations.
Contrary to its popular “destination” nickname of “The Road to Hāna”, the historic Hāna Belt Road and Hāna District is enjoyed the most by visitors who realize their goal is not really to reach the town of Hāna, but to experience the journey and sites along the way. For many, the final destination is the Kīpahulu section of Haleakalā National Park, which includes ‘Ohe’o Gulch (7 sacred pools), which is past the town of Hāna and offers some of the best waterfalls, freshwater pools and hiking.
It takes approximately 2 ½ to 3 hours to drive the road one-way without stops. Allow another 2 hours for the optional “Backside” ride home. Allow a full day for this journey or spend the night in Hāna and enjoy a full 2 days to see more sites at a more leisurely pace.