Hana Highway Maui Road Trip

I have to be honest: I was not a fan of Maui. It was far too manufactured and didn’t live up to the peaceful oasis I had hoped for. If there was one saving grace to Maui, it was the road to Hana (aka Hana Highway). I had just gone SNUBA diving with my sister and was completely beat. I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up a couple of hours later, we had the ocean to our left and lush mountains to our right. It was beautiful.

Hana Highway Maui
View from Hana Highway

Before we set out, we took the advice of a valet at the Four Seasons: 1. Leave early in the morning. 2. Leave with a full tank of gas. 3. Bring food with you just in case. We eventually got hungry on the ride home and when the peanut stands disappeared on unpaved roads, we had snacks to hold us over.

We stopped at a roadside truck called Garden Gourmet Cafe, which is right outside the Maui Garden of Eden. This place has 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor and Yelp, with people noting it’s “freshly made” food.

Entrance to Garden Gourmet Cafe/Garden of Eden in Hana
Entrance to Garden Gourmet Cafe/Garden of Eden
Garden Gourmet Cafe Hana Maui
Garden Gourmet Cafe Hana, Maui

I’ve never caught so many suspicious reviews in one place before. I witnessed the cook walking between the house and truck several times, with bottles of store-bought mango juice, pizza, and less than fresh looking fish. To their credit, it did all taste fresh, but it wasn’t. Everything was bland to the point that I ended up adding hot sauce to make it taste like something – and I’m not someone who likes hot sauce or spicy food.

Garden Gourmet Cafe Hana Veggie Pizza
Veggie Pizza at the Garden Gourmet Cafe
Garden Gourmet Cafe Hana Fish Tacos
Fish Tacos at Garden Gourmet Cafe

The food took a good 30 minutes to prepare and while it wasn’t the best thing I ever ate, there aren’t many options in the area so this was as good as it would get. The best part about the Garden Gourmet Cafe was the view, near the picnic table.That in and of itself was worth the overpriced, underwhelming food.

Hana Garden of Eden, Maui
Near the Garden of Eden, Maui

It takes 5 hours to drive to Hana and back. At one point, we stopped at a local beach with a park area. We knew there was a shorter way back to Lahaina through some unpaved roads, and thought we’d ask some locals if that was a good idea or not. It didn’t seem like wed make it back before dark, and taking the same (unlit) road in the dark didn’t seem like the best idea.

Hana, Maui

We consulted with some locals, who informed us that driving through the unpaved road was safe. However, “You need to be a good driver and fill up on gas before you go”. The road was only unpaved for around 20 minutes and apparently, the locals use it frequently. There was a gas station nearby, where we filled up, then headed back on the road.

For the most part, the road back was paved. At one point we hit a bid of a dirt road, and wondered if that was the “unpaved” portion. If so, it was a piece of cake. Definitely nothing like the unpaved road on the way to Arghandeh. Cell phone service was surprisingly good on the drive, though it dropped off near the unpaved roads, then picked back up shortly after.

Unpaved road in Hana Maui
Unpaved road in Hana

It rained on and off throughout the drive, and the roads got pretty narrow at one point. Once we got past the unpaved portions, however, we were treated to smooth pavement, open roads and stunning views.

We came across black sand beaches, tiny houses perched atop golden hills, and scenery straight out of an illustrated children’s book – rainbows and all.

House on Hana Highway, Maui Coast

Hana Highway Maui Coastline Roadtrip

Hana Highway Maui Black San Beach

Hana Highway Maui Scenery

Hana Highway Maui Rainbow

Overall, I think a drive through Hana is a must if you’re looking for a bit of adventure on your vacation. At a certain point when you’ve checked off the activities you’re “supposed to do,” and the resort gets boring, you’ll need a change of scenery. It’s a long and somewhat slow drive, but it was the most memorable part of this trip. If you want to get away from the commercialism of Maui resorts, a road trip to Hana is the perfect escape.

Hana Highway Maui Landscape
Hana Highway, Maui

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