Lessons on the Road to Hana

I recently took a quick trip to Maui with my mom. The benefit of living in Hawaii is that hopping to another island is a quick flight. We were only there for 2.5 days, but there was one thing I had to do: drive the Road to Hana.

Never heard of the Road to Hana? This is a 64 mile stretch of highway located on Maui’s eastern side. The road is long and winding – there are over 600 curves (many of them hairpin style) and 54 bridges. The speed limit is never over 30 MPH and is necessary as there are stops at nearly every mile marker. Did I mention the crazy curves and turns in the road? If I was not driving, I would likely have been carsick a few times. The bridges and roads are often one-lane, and everyone has to take turns and drive with aloha. We spent 10 hours along this road and still did not see everything!

This sounds like a harrowing drive, but it was one of the most beautiful and enjoyable adventures I have experienced. 

The Road to Hana is not just a drive to check off your bucket list; it is truly an adventure. The landscape, the sights, the history…there’s a reason it is described as “heavenly” or “magical.” This was a drive that forced my mom and I to take it slow and enjoy the moment, and I also took away a few lessons from our drive on the Road to Hana.

 – Slow down.

Do you ever feel like life is rushing by? That you are constantly going and going, but to what end? It is literally impossible to rush through this drive, with all the curves, speed limits, and other drivers on this popular route. So slow down and look around – there is much to be missed when you are speeding through life.


 – Stop to smell the flowers.

Again, quite literally. The Road to Hana is full of tropical plants, trees, and flowers. It’s so green here that I felt I had stepped into another world, not another island. You can pull over practically anywhere (make sure it’s a parking area, of course) and smell a flower or two, snap a picture of a plant you have never seen before, or to sit next to a waterfall. Stop and smell the flowers!


– Explore everything.

I mentioned that we were driving and sightseeing for 10 hours. There were multiple points that I just wanted to drive and get it over with, but I forced myself (with some prodding from my mom) to explore more. If we had not stopped at the Garden of Eden arboretum, I may have missed this waterfall peeking through the trees. If I had given in to my anxiety about potentially driving back in the dark, we would not have made it to the Seven Sacred Pools at Haleakala National Park. The point is to explore everything. Try it, even if it seems dumb or if you are a little afraid. You may be thankful you did.

 – But you do not have to do something because someone says so.

I had guidebooks, websites, and even people tell me the places I “had to stop” while driving on the highway. Most of the time, the information was helpful and accurate. But you know what? There were also plenty of these places and stops that we skipped. There were others that we explored even though it wasn’t recommended. Just because something is recommended does not mean you must do it. You are your own person, with your own thoughts and opinions. Do what you like!

 – Life changes quickly – just go with it.

The weather on the Road to Hana is fickle. One minute, you are squinting in the sunshine; the next minute, your windshield wipers cannot keep up with the downpour of rain. It is par for the course on this drive, but that is life, too. It changes quickly and without warning, and I often let it drag me down with it. Instead, just go with it. The rain is an inconvenience but a necessity to ensure the beauty surrounding you. The sun will return and life goes on. So will you.

  – And above all, a cliche phrase that is repeated in every guidebook or website about the Road to Hana:  it is not about the destination but about the journey.

If you are driving this road just to say you did it, then do not waste your time. I repeat, the Road to Hana is not a simple check off your bucket list. You have to experience it. You have to smell the plants and the salt from the sea; you have to try the food from road stands; you have to touch the trees and dips your toes in the waterfalls. Every curve and stop offers something new to experience. It’s not a race but an experience.

There are not enough pictures to capture this part of Maui, and I found that I took hardly any. I have plenty of memories that I made while experiencing the Road to Hana in all it’s green beauty. I would happily take this adventure again, if only to remind myself of the lessons learned above.


*For more info on the Road to Hana or any of the stops I mentioned, click the hyperlinks or ask!*


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