I’m not sure who decided that Maui’s main tourist drive – The Road To Hana – was a two way road, but let me tell you now, they were dreaming. I talk from experience, of course, after surviving the drive that twists its tarmac through the stunning Haleakalā National Park, working its snake like road around 68-miles of tropical rainforest and forcing its loyal followers to endure all 59 bridges (48 of which are only one lane) and 620 bends in the road. Put it this way, even Mario Andretti would struggle with this one.
However, for all the motion sickness-inducing curves and all the near-misses on said one lane bridges, there’s no denying that The Road To Hana is a must do for every visitor to the stunning Hawaiian island of Maui. It comes with a large warning signing attached though (with flashing lights and an in-built buzzer), do not attempt this road in a hire car, it simply isn’t worth it. Not only for the high level risk factor, but also for the fact that you’ll be so busy navigating your way around the oncoming traffic that you’ll miss out on the beauty that surrounds you.
Funnily enough, the day it was my turn to take the drive, the universe was serving me up a favour on a crystal platter and quashing my naivety into the ground. I had all intentions of driving myself and travel companions along this infamous Road To Hana, ‘how hard could it be? Seriously? I drive in Sydney for goodness sake. If I can handle the Harbour Bridge in peak hour then surely some coastal drive in Hawaii could be done.’ Right? Wrong! Luckily for the sake of my nervous system and the lives of my travel buddies, all 22,000 hire cars on the island were booked that day and every seat on every tour bus was accounted for. Odd? Yes. Lucky? Absolutely.
But I am a woman of pure positivity and no was simply not an answer I was willing to accept. The search continued and thanks to an intensely helpful man perched in one of those small, rather nondescript tourist huts (you know, the ones that spruik everything from day tours to restaurant vouchers targeting tourists and inflating their prices, but who I now have a newfound appreciation for) came to our rescue. He gave us Najeeb, the resident private driver who has worked with every celebrity arriving in Maui for the last 14 years. Jack Nicholson, Magic Johnson, the brother from Everybody Loves Raymond… and now, me.
Here I am with my mum and Najeeb…
And here’s Najeeb with my sister and my mum…
If you plan on taking the day to explore Paia and Hana and everything in-between, this is the way to do it. Najeeb picked us up in his shiny new van at 8am sharp, opening the doors and offering service you would expect from a celebrity driver. It was private – so no annoying overbearing passengers stealing your seat, or unnecessary commentary that you don’t need to hear. And for less than the cost of a deluxe group tour, you had an experience catered just for you and your needs with an extra long lunch stop and a looksee at a hidden waterfall that only the locals know about.
Which brings me to what you can actually expect to see on this infamous road. The locals explain that it’s not the destination on this drive, rather the journey, with waterfalls, bamboo forests, lava caves, black stone beaches and secret swimming spots all on the menu for your day in the car. Once you arrive at your destination, you can see those wise Hawaiians were, in fact, right. There’s little in Hana to admire, but the journey is worth every spine tingling close call that Najeeb elegantly averts as he shakes his head at the clueless tourists in their hire cars.
Sidenotes: The Road to Hana takes a full day, inclusive of stops, lunch and sightseeing. I recommend stopping at the coconut trailer at the start of the main waterfall track to get yourself a coconut and banana smoothie. It’s one to remember. If you’re leaving from West Maui, grab a Hana Picnic Box from CJ’s restaurant, for only $12 you get a fresh sandwich, drink, chips and freshly baked brownie that will blow your mind, all neatly packed into an ice cooler. Amazing!