Maui's Road to Hana: Drive Yourself or Take a Tour?
Maui's Road to Hana is the part of Maui that brings you to Jurassic Park: lush, green and the tropical paradise that makes you think of Maui in the first place. If you've heard anything about the Road to Hana though, you know that the road can seem a little sketchy at times. With all of the switchbacks (there are over 500+ swervy turns and 60+ switchbacks), rumors of the unpaved roads and of course the waiver that some rental companies make you sign saying that your warranty and protection is void if you go on the road, the question remains: Should I drive Maui's Road to Hana myself or should I take a tour?
Let's dive into this.
If you haven't guessed, we recommend the rental car. Usually everyone has a rental car, or access to a rental car, on Maui. You can get around with Uber, but it definitely restricts the freedom a bit. And after all, you don't want to have your hands tied and be limited on what you can do while you're on vacation. And on Maui, a day of exploring paradise is just a drive away.
We recommend that you rent a car while you're on island so that you have access to everything Maui has to offer, when you want it.
Some rental car companies are better than others. Our favorite is actually the up-and-comer, which is not the traditional rental car company, per-se.
Turo is a Great Option
Ever heard of Turo? It's a website kind of like Uber, except you don't rent out the person with the car. It's a peer-to-peer car-sharing company that hosts individual's personal cars for rent. A lot of the time, you'll find nicer cars and at better rates than you'll find at the car rental companies. It all varies, as some people don't take care of their own cars, but then others baby them so that they're in pristine condition. You can find some great cars at great deals on Turo.com. Rule of thumb though, go with people who have good reviews and Turo also has all-star hosts that you can probably trust a little more than the average Joe.
Here are a couple things to think about:
- Fill up on gas (Costco is the best place for this and there are some loopholes if you don't have a Costco Membership)
- You don't necessarily need a 4WD vehicle, but it helps (and those cars are generally fun to drive)
- Pre-planned and pre-bought snacks and water will save you the scariest thing on the road, the cost of food and water on the Road to Hana
- Phone service isn't always the greatest on the Road to Hana
- Take your time (after all, you're on Maui time)
- Turo might have less restrictions and some cooler, not to mention cheaper, rental cars
Rental Car Companies
If you're going the traditional route, there are a handful of rental companies on Maui: Avis, Enterprise, Budget, Kihei Rent-A-Car, Hertz.
Many of the major rental car companies have a specific “Prohibited Use” Clause in their contracts. The one we care about specifically is the part that restricts driving on “unpaved or unimproved roads.” You can check with your rental company specifically, but chances are the big rental car companies all have some sort version of that restriction in their rental agreements.
Make sure you are okay with the rules the rental companies put on their rentals; some of the companies won't let you drive your rental car on the Road to Hana and Maui's Western Loop. While most of the road is paved, on the back road to Hana, there is a section that is not paved. There is also an unpaved section on Maui's Western Loop. It could make your rental agreement void or even tack on some extra fees if they found out. The companies with those clauses definitely won't come and get you if your car breaks down out there and that could mean a cost of a tow upwards of $400, and probably more importantly, lost time on Maui.
If you're not planning on driving either of those, usually there isn't much of a difference in everything else. However, make sure you plan the rental car reservation out to fit your needs, as last minute reservations can get expensive. (Note: Turo tends to have a great selection of cars, last minute or otherwise.)
Tour Companies: Still don't want to drive yourself?
If you don't to worry about driving Maui's Road to Hana and you want to be able to focus on on the beauty of the road, Activity Tour Companies are an option.
- Biggest pro is that you or your others don't have to drive and can focus on the beauty
- Some companies provide amenities
- Built-in tour guide
- Less Control over stopping and where you go
- Stuck with someone you don't know that you'll like (and may not)
- Extra expense, especially if you already rented a car for the day
If you choose to go this route, this company is our favorite for the Road to Hana tour:
Valley Isle Excursions
They are the most established Hana tour company on Maui.
They promise about their trip, taken from their website:
- Professionally trained (over 2 months), knowledgeable, safe (and fun) guides/drivers
- Clean & well-maintained bathroom stops
- Stunning photo opportunities including waterfalls, religious, cultural and biological points of interest (flora and fauna)
- All you can drink non-alcoholic beverages
- Hāna Classic Picnic (Hawaiian BBQ lunch on china with silverware and ‘aloha’)
- Custom 12 Passenger cruiser vans with enormous viewing windows, elevated seats to see over guardrails, and extra legroom
- Extra wide seats so you are extra comfortable all-day-long.
Many of the drivers are locally born Maui residents and have been trained on any Maui knowledge that they didn't learn from growing up on the island. The quality of the driver is important because you'll be spending however long it takes to get to Hana and back, which is usually the entire day.
That's a Wrap!
Whatever you decide to do, we definitely recommend going on the Road to Hana if you have the time on Maui to do it. While you should dedicate a full day or more to the drive, the Road to Hana is one of the prettiest parts of Maui with the waterfalls, rain forest and the fresh air. It is a little more removed, which is probably one of the reasons you wanted to go to Maui in the first place, and it allows for you to take a step back from the real world and real life, and breathe.