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Patrick Nichols | 08.08.2018

It may seem odd to plan a road trip across a single island nestled deep in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, but Maui's diversity of landscapes is perhaps best experienced via a week-long driving tour of the entire island. Of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui is well-known as a honeymoon destination for lovers, but for those looking to escape from busy resorts, consider taking a more nomadic adventure along the many winding roads Maui has to offer. From sprawling mountain ranges and volcanic peaks to lush rainforests and turquoise waters, ditch the resorts and head on a classic road trip around the entire island of Maui!

Day 1 - Kahului to Kihei (12 miles)

From the Kahului Airport, pick up your rental car (or better yet, a camper van!) and head to the centrally-located town of Kihei for the start of your trip. Here you can stock up on groceries and other necessary items before heading out on the road. Grab a local dinner at one of the many restaurants here and get a good night's sleep!

Day 2 - Kihei to La Perouse Bay and South Shore (25 miles)

Take the short drive down Maui's southern coastline from Kihei to Wailea to experience some of Maui's best beaches as well as the stunning and barren lava rock coastline by La Perouse Bay. The last stretch of road is a single lane, unpaved drive. At the end of the road, feel free to continue on foot along the King's Highway Trail through jagged coastal bays and along a seemingly alien landscape.

Be sure not to miss:

  • Makena (Big) Beach: Stop and see Maui's largest undeveloped stretch of beach. This popular spot can be crowded, but there's plenty of space to spread out.
  • Red Hill: Right next to Big Beach is a small cinder cone hike to the top of Red Hill, where the panoramic views of the ocean and distant islands can be quite spectacular!
  • King's Highway Trail: At the end of the southern road, trek along the King's Highway Trail to experience landscapes reminiscent of being on another planet.

Day 3 - Kihei to Lahaina and West Maui (28 miles)

Make your way from the south shore to west Maui and the historic town of Lahaina. Stop along the way at Papawai Point (whale lookout), especially during the winter months, for a chance to see pods passing in the distance. This rocky shoreline sits in the rain shadow of the west Maui mountains, which showcases the desert landscape, contrasting the deep blue hues of the calm ocean waters.

Be sure not to miss:

  • Ka'anapali Beach: Overshoot Lahaina by going north for another 3 miles to reach Ka'anapali Beach and Black Rock, a resort-studded stretch of white sand with some fun cliff-jumping. 
  • Lahaina: The historic downtown portion of Lahaina, an old whaling village, is a great place to do some shopping, walk along the harbor, eat dinner, and watch the sun set.

Day 4 - Lahaina to Kahului via the Kahekili Highway (38 miles)

Not as popular as the famed Road to Hana, the road through the west Maui mountains is just as fun to drive as it is to visit. Leave the fancy homes and resorts behind as you travel along the twisting road to the north shore. The road is narrow in some places, with deteriorating asphalt conditions in others. Check the rental car agreement to make sure that you are able to take your car on this road.

Be sure not to miss:

  • Kapalua Beach: This secluded bay is a picture-perfect paradise. Bring a beach blanket and have a picnic, or snorkel out along the rocks.
  • Dragon's Teeth: Take a short walk toward Makaluapuna Point, where the unusual Kapalua Labyrinth and Dragon's Teeth rock formations make for some great photos.
  • Honolua Bay: Be sure to have your snorkeling gear handy when passing Honolua Bay. The beach is nonexistent, but the marine life is plentiful due to its status as a marine life conservation district.
  • Ho'okipa Beach: Pass Kahului Airport to reach a world-famous windsurfing and kiteboarding beach. Even if you've never had an interest in taking a lesson, just watching the pro surfers dance on the waves during exceptionally breezy days is fantastic.

Day 5 - Kahului to Haleakala National Park (38 miles)

From Kahului, drive toward the looming peak of the Haleakalā volcano and the visitor center of the Haleakalā National Park. From here, witness the fragile and unique high altitude wilderness from one of the many hiking trails and scenic vistas. The more adventurous can arrive at the summit in the dark to witness the sunrise from the highest peak on the island. Keep in mind that the temperature can drop rapidly as you ascend, so you'll want to arrive prepared. Check the rental car agreement to make sure that you are able to take your car up the steep mountain road.

Be sure not to miss:

  • Hosmer Grove Campground: Looking for a rustic place to stay? Hosmer Grove is a great place to return to nature rather than a crowded hotel. Its centralized location near Haleakalā National Park makes camping here ideal for exploring the rest of the park.
  • Sliding Sands Trail: Adventurous hikers can trek down into the crater of Haleakalā along the Sliding Sands Trail, which meets up with many other hiking trails that snake their way through desolate alpine landscapes above the clouds.

Day 6 - Central Maui to the Road to Hana (60 miles)

Perhaps one of the most iconic drives in Hawai'i, the Road to Hana is a must-see during a stay in Maui. Drive from Kahului or Haleakala along the north shore of Maui toward the eastern coast and the town of Hana. This scenic stretch of road weaves along coastal cliffs and around towering waterfalls. The single-lane bridges require some patience, as this road has become incredibly congested with travelers. 

Be sure not to miss:

  • Punalau Falls: Pull off the road and park in one of the few spaces provided, if you're lucky. Take a quick hike to some of the picturesque waterfalls along the Road to Hana.
  • Hanawai Falls 
  • Ka'eleku Cave: Bring a flashlight to explore some underground lava tubes. The sticky air and damp tunnels will awaken your inner spelunker! 
  • Wai'anapanapa State Park: Camp or spend the rest of the day at the Wai'anapanapa State Park, with miles of coastal trails and a black sand beach!

Day 7 - Hana to Kahului (64 miles)

Most people retrace their steps back along the north Hana Highway. Instead, take the scenic "Back Road to Hana" through Kaupo to complete the tour of the island. Pass through miles of open countryside and secret beaches. The road here is far less trodden, so enjoy the serenity!

Be sure not to miss:

  • Pipiwai Trail: This popular trail along the coast, through bamboo forests, and to a towering waterfall is a must-see!


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