Sunny beaches and surfing might be the first things people think of when picturing Hawaii, but what you might not realize is that there are also some spectacular scenic drives in Maui!
Think of cruising along miles of winding roads with gorgeous coastal views, the bright blue ocean stretching out on one side, and tropical island scenery on the other.
Maui’s scenic drives are one of the best forms of sightseeing the island has to offer! Not only will you get to appreciate the jaw-dropping scenery, but you’ll also have the chance to explore local towns and make stops to see waterfalls and other attractions along the way that you might otherwise miss during your trip to Hawaii.
Tips for Driving in Maui, Hawaii
To help you have a successful road trip in Maui, here are a few driving and car rental tips which are helpful to keep in mind.
- Street signs in Maui are often written in Hawaiian, which can be a fun way to learn some of the local language and culture.
- The main car rental car companies are located at the Kahului Airport, but there are also other rental options in some of the bigger towns like Wailuku, which sometimes have cheaper prices.
- When asking directions, locals will often give mauka and makai for answers. Mauka means “towards the mountains,” and makai means “towards the ocean,” which makes sense considering the landscape of the island!
- Especially around towns and cities, many people use bicycles for transportation, so be extra vigilant for bicyclists on the road.
- Honking your horn in Hawaii is considered rude, so try not to unless it’s an emergency!
- Hungry? Along many of Maui’s scenic drives, you’ll find food trucks or local stands selling snacks or quick bites. These are delicious ways to keep your energy up on your road trip around Maui!
- Some roads in Maui are better maintained than others, and many routes will narrow down to nerve-racking one-lane roads. If you’re cautious, problems are unlikely, but it is something to consider depending on your comfort level behind the wheel.
5 Best Scenic Drives in Maui, Hawaii
1. Scenic Drives in Maui: Hana Highway
Distance: 64 miles
Time Needed: 4 hours direct or 1-2 days with all the stops
Hana Highway is arguably the most famous drive in Maui, and for a good reason. Not only does this winding road have gorgeous views of the eastern coast of Maui, but it also passes by many of the top attractions of the island.
The journey starts in Kahului and ends in Hana, and we highly recommend heading out early in the day to beat the traffic. Starting earlier also gives you more opportunities to explore the various attractions along the way!
What makes Hana Highway one of the best scenic drives in Maui isn’t just the view while, but all the stopping points. There are several waterfalls, including the picturesque Twin Falls, Hanawi Falls, and Wailua Falls. Often at these stopping points, you’ll also be able to find locals selling artwork or food.
If you’re the type of person who can get a bit restless sitting in a car, there is no need to worry because there are plenty of places to get out and stretch your legs, like Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park and the Hana Lava Tube where you’ll have the opportunity to see the underground lava tunnels of Hawaii!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a road trip in Maui without beaches, and Hana Highway has plenty. Spots like Hamoa Beach and Koki Beach are perfect both for quick sightseeing stops or long, leisurely breaks.
When to go: April-May and September-December are good times of year to travel the Hana Highway. Since the weather is typically pleasant, you can avoid the biggest tourist crowds, which peak during summer and winter vacation times.
2. Scenic Drives in Maui: Kahekili Highway
Distance: 21 miles
Time Needed: 3-6 hours, depending on stops
We recommend this spectacular Maui scenic drive for the adventure and adrenaline enthusiasts out there. This winding, narrow roads, cover a jaw-dropping section along the coast of Maui, known for its steep cliffs. Be warned; there are no guard rails!
Often just a single lane road, traffic speeds along the Kahekili Highway can sometimes be as slow as five mph to ensure safety. However, it’s also not as traversed as other scenic drives in Maui, so you get to experience local towns, such as Kahakuloa Village, in a way other tourists miss out on.
Top sights along the route include the Nakalele Blowhole, located near mile marker 38 (which requires a bit of hike to reach), and the famous 636-foot tall Kahakuloa Head, a stunning cliff face known for a spot called “Kahekili’s Leap.”
When to go: Because of difficult driving conditions, it’s best to travel along Kahakili Highway during the dry season of the island between April and October.
3. Scenic Drives in Maui: West Maui Circle Loop
Distance: 60 miles
Time Needed: 5-8 hours, depending on stops
Another one of Maui’s scenic drives for adventure enthusiasts looking for a full day out, the West Maui Circle Loop is known for its one-lane driving experience next to sheer cliffs plummeting down to the ocean. Your heart will be racing both from the adrenaline rush and the spectacular scenery!
Because of the trickier road conditions, it’s not as well-traveled as the Hana Highway, which means you’ll have the chance to experience some local towns like Lahaina and Wailuku, which both have interesting cultural landmarks.
Including this route on your road trip in Maui will also bring you right past the famous Honolua Bay, located near mile marker 32. It’s one of the most popular snorkeling spots on the island and an incredible example of the rugged, rocky landscape of West Maui.
Keep in mind that most car rental companies will warn against driving in West Maui (a few may even prohibit it!). However, locals take the route all the time, so as long as you’re committed to driving carefully, there’s little chance of having an issue but a guaranteed opportunity for a great adventure!
When to go: Driving in West Maui is best during the dry season of the year, which is between April and October.
4. Scenic Drives in Maui: Haleakala Highway
Distance: 35 miles
Time Needed: 1 hour to 4 hours, depending on stops
This scenic drive in Maui is famous for claiming the world record of the steepest elevation climbs over the shortest distance. In just 35 miles, you’ll reach over 10,000 feet above sea level!
To achieve this elevation abd reach the summit of Haleakala, you’ll have to navigate numerous hairpin turns and 32 switchbacks, but the other-worldly scenery, which has been described as “moonlike,” more than compensates for the challenges of the route. Unlike some of Maui’s other best scenic routes, Haleakala Highway has two lanes throughout.
If you want to add another level of adventure to your drive, you can try to make it to Haleakala before the sun rises, which is said to be one of the most spectacular sights on the island!
When to go: There isn’t a bad time to visit the park, but keep in mind that December to February are the busiest times when prices tend to be higher. Summer months are usually the cheaper option for tourists.
5. Scenic Drives in Maui: Upcountry Maui
Distance: About 75 miles
Time Needed: 3 hours to 1 day, depending on stops
It’s pretty much impossible to get tired of the coastal scenery of Maui, but that doesn’t mean that the interior of the island isn’t worth exploring too!
For your road trip around Maui, we definitely recommend including a voyage through Upcountry Maui, where you’ll get the chance to visit local towns and see another side of the island away from the tourist crowds on the beaches.
The main stops of the trip include Makawao, Kula, Ulapalakua, and Pukalani. If you’re short on time, you can fit the Haleakala Highway trip into your upcountry route, but we recommend doing these on different days so you don’t feel rushed and have time to make all the stops.
There are lots to see and explore along this scenic drive in Maui. Near the town of Ulupalakua, you’ll find the Ulupalakua Ranch, where local wines are produced.
Make sure you plan for a stop at the Kula Botanical Garden, Maui’s first public garden and home to all the dazzling flora the island has to offer. Another unique spot in upcountry Maui is the Lavender Farm, located near the town of Kula. Not only does this farm smell amazing, but it also boasts a panoramic view of western Maui, so make sure to bring your camera!
When to go: Any time of year is good for visiting upcountry Maui, but if you want to miss the majority of the tourist crowds, then April through May or September through November are good options.
More on Visiting Hawaii With Kids
We hope you’ve enjoyed our journey through some of the most beautiful scenic drives in Maui.
If you’re up for a Hawaiian adventure, remember there’s so much more to it than just lazy days on the beach and luxury resorts. Maui makes a great location for hitting the road and exploring the less crowded parts of Hawaii. You may also like to read next:
- Our guide to the most scenic drives in O’ahu – see a completely different side to the Gathering Place.
- See why Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Big Island) is one of our favorite national parks to visit in winter
© Family Road Trip