How long does it take to drive around Maui, and what should you expect along the way?
Great questions! Taking on this island by car will be one of the most incredible journeys of your life, and you’ll want to plan ahead so you don’t miss the most scenic stops along the way.
We’ve turned to our friend Chantelle from Flannels or Flip Flops to cover this post and share all things driving on Maui.
Can You Drive Around Maui?
Yes! There are plenty of roads that you can take to explore the entire island. Maui is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and driving around it is the best way to see all that it has to offer.
The Road to Hana (officially named Hana Highway) is one of the most famous drives on Maui, and for good reason – it offers stunning views, waterfalls, and tropical rainforest.
The Road to Hana is a great option if you want a scenic drive on East Maui, but there are also highways and other roads that will get you around the island.
Some of the most popular vehicles to drive around Maui are convertibles, jeeps, and scooters. These fun open-air vehicles allow you to experience all of Maui and enjoy the beautiful sunny weather.
If you’re planning a trip to Maui, make sure to add a drive around the island to your itinerary.
How Long Does It Take To Drive Around Maui?
If you were to drive around Maui without stopping it would take about 9 hours. However, you will definitely want to stop numerous times, so it’s best to plan on spending a few nights in different areas so that you can truly experience all that Maui has to offer.
If you are only planning to drive the Road to Hana and experience a few stops along the way, you will need a full day. You can drive the Road to Hana with no stops in about 4 hours.
Is It Easy To Drive Around Maui?
Yes! The roads on Maui are usually in good condition and well-marked. The highways are well kept and signs are easy to follow.
You will experience a lot of traffic congestion in areas like Kihei and Lahaina (especially during rush hour), along with a lot of pedestrian traffic that you need to watch for.
Along the Road to Hana is the “trickiest” stretch of road while driving in Maui. Due to the terrain and narrow roads, it is recommended that you drive slowly and with caution. Only pull over in places that are meant for pullouts and don’t stop in the middle of the road to see the scenery.
In addition, the “backside” of the Road to Hana on the south side of the island can be more treacherous – especially in rainy season. The road is not as well maintained and has many one-lane sections and steep cliffs.
This is especially true of the section of the backside known as Piilani Highway (Highway 31), which includes some sections of dirt roads, and many hairpin turns. Most tourists skip this stretch of road and come back down the Hana Highway the same way they came.
Do You Need A Rental Car When Visiting Maui?
If you plan on spending your entire trip at the beaches and staying near your resort, then you don’t need a car.
However, if you want to add any type of exploration to your Maui itinerary, you should definitely plan on renting a car.
Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are on the island, but they can be hard to get during busy times. There are also some remote locations that you won’t be able to get an Uber to go to. It can also end up being more expensive than just renting a car.
Renting a car is easy, and car rental companies are located right at the Kahului Airport (the island’s main airport) for a quick and easy start to your Maui driving experience. Just be sure to reserve your car pretty far in advance, they can sell out during busy times.
Tip: If you are a Costco member, you can fill up your rental car at Costco right across from the airport, to get the cheapest gas on the island.
Along with the major rental companies you are used to, Maui has several smaller and locally owned rental car businesses you can rent from, as well as personal ride shares like Turo.
Tips For Driving In Maui
✅ You’ll need a valid driver’s license to drive in Maui.
✅ It’s a good idea to bring a map with you. In some locations along the Hana Highway, or while driving to Haleakala National Park, you may not have cell service and you will not be able to pull up directions.
✅ Be considerate of others and the locals. No need to stop in the middle of the road to get a photo, or race through neighborhoods.
✅ If you drive an electric vehicle you will not be able to make it to the summit of Haleakala (more on that later).
✅ The speed limit on the highways in Maui is 55 MPH
✅ No honking! Even if you are frustrated or stuck in traffic, it is important to embrace the spirit of Aloha. Take a deep breath, look out the window at the gorgeous view, and relax!
How Many Days Do You Need To Visit Maui?
Is it possible to have too many days in Maui? I don’t think so!
We stayed 9 days and were able to see and do a lot of the best things to do in Maui, but there were still some things we will have to come back to do because we ran out of time.
Ideally, anywhere from 7-10 days is a good amount of time to visit Maui. If you are island hopping, try to spend at least 3 days on Maui.
Best Places To Stop On Your Trip Around Maui
The main places that travelers stay when visiting Maui are Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kihei.
Kihei is closer to Haleakala, Iao Valley, and the Road to Hana and is located in South Maui, whereas Kaanapali and Lahina are located in West Maui and are closer to more shopping, restaurants, and tours like snorkeling and whale watching.
Maui is full of things to do and places to explore – it can be overwhelming but also really exciting! Here are some of the best places to stop on your trip around Maui:
Stop # 1: Road to Hana
Driving the famous Road to Hana will be a full day trip if you make stops along the way. Get an early start to avoid traffic and congestion at the stops.
This is one of the most scenic drives on all the Hawaiian islands and is a must-do when visiting Maui, especially if you have a few days to spare. There are plenty of spots to stop and explore along the way, like waterfalls and lookouts.
Be sure to pull over in designated areas and watch out for other drivers who may not be familiar with the road.
Some of the best stops along the Road to Hana are:
📍 Waterfalls – Twin Falls, Upper Waikani Falls, Pua’a Ka’a Falls, Hanawi Falls, Wailua Falls and so many more! You won’t have time in one day to stop at all of them, so choose your favorites and come back next time for the others.
📍 Garden of Eden Arboretum – A beautiful stop to walk through and learn about the flowers and trees that grow on Maui. You’ll see the glorious Rainbow Eucalyptus as well as the filming site for the opening sequence of Jurassic Park. This stop does cost though, so skip it if you are on a strict budget.
📍 Halfway to Hana Stand – An iconic Maui restaurant you will come across shortly after passing the Ke’anae peninsula. Be sure and stop here for fresh and warm banana bread. It will change your life. Seriously. Stop here.
📍 Nahiku Market Place – Speaking of food, this place has great food! We had kalua pork and barbeque chicken.
📍 Hana Lava Tube – This is a super fun stop where you can walk through a lava tube and learn a little more about the lava flows that formed and shaped the islands.
📍 Haleakala National Park (Kīpahulu District) – Haleakala National Park is divided into 2 districts. Kīpahulu and the Summit. Kīpahulu is located just past Hana town and is a great place to stop and explore. Definitely hike the bamboo forest along Pipiwai Trail, one of the best hikes in all of Hawaii.
Stop #2: Paia Town
The drive from Kaanapali to the town of Paia is about one hour. The drive from Lahaina to Paia is 45 minutes, and the drive from Kihei is 30 minutes.
Paia Town is officially the start of the Road to Hana, so you can technically combine it, but I suggest you spend a bit more time in Paia.
Paia is a cute, very walkable town filled with charming shops and great places to eat. Be sure and have lunch at the Paia Fish Market (get the pasta and a local beer).
While you are in Paia, stop by Ho’okpia Beach and watch the locals windsurf on the wild waves that form here.
Just before sundown, Ho’okpia Beach is one of the best places in Maui to see turtles. They swim ashore by the hundreds and bask in the late afternoon sun. Just be sure and give them their space, and never touch or harass the honu (turtles).
Stop #3: Iao Valley
The drive from Kaanapali to Iao Valley is 45 minutes. It’s also about a 40 minute drive from Lahaina, and 30 minutes from Kihei.
This beautiful valley is home to some stunning foliage and interesting history. It’s also home to the famous Iao Needle. This is great for a short hike, or just admiring the scenery. If you don’t want to pay for parking, you can park down the hill and walk up.]
Stop #4: Haleakala Summit
Driving to the Haleakala summit is an all-day excursion if you plan on hiking or exploring at all. Driving from Kaanapali and Lahaina to the summit will take just under 2 hours. Driving from Kihei is slightly shorter, at about 1.5 hours drive.
Along the Road to Hana, you’ve already visited Haleakala National Park – Kīpahulu District, but don’t miss the summit!
Note: You will not be able to visit both districts on the same day due to the driving time. Your entrance fee to the parks is good for both districts and valid for 5 days.
The most popular time to visit Haleakala Summit is the sunrise, but you’ll need a permit. They are very difficult to get as they don’t offer very many each day.
In my own personal experience, I love to visit at sunset. You won’t need a permit to visit at this time of day, and it is still very beautiful.
The summit district of Haleakala sits at over 10,000 feet. Making the drive to the top is an adventure in itself as you cross over farmlands (there are cows!), forests, scenic vistas, and finally the crater itself.
You’ll likely pass through different kinds of weather on the way to the summit, too. It is usually cold up there, so bring a jacket.
Once you are at the summit you can hike into the crater, or just take in the spectacular views. You’ll be above the clouds which is a neat experience, and on a clear day, you can see the Big Island of Hawaii.
Tip: Be sure to fill up on gas and snacks before you head up the Haleakala Highway. The road is long and windy, and you won’t find gas stations or services there. Electric vehicles will not make it to the summit and there is no place to recharge.
Stop #5: West Maui
It will take you about 40 minutes to get from Kihei to Lahaina and less than 10 minutes to get from Kaanapali.
If you aren’t staying in West Maui, make the drive over to check out the incredible scenery. You can drive along the coast for breathtaking views, and maybe even see humpback whales breaching off in the distance.
Some stops worth seeing along the drive in West Maui are:
📍 Lahaina – Spend the day wandering through town and the shops. This charming town is home to some great shopping and restaurants. It’s also known for its historical landmarks, like the old whaling village, the Hale Pa‘ahao Prison, the giant banyan tree, and a few art galleries.
📍 Nakalele Blowhole – Lock your car, and don’t get too close to the blowhole!
📍 Ka’anapali Beach – Jump from the black lava rocks and swim with turtles.
📍 Napili Bay – It is so pretty!
📍 DT Fleming Beach – A great beach for turtle spotting.
📍 Honolua Bay – Be prepared for a long walking trail down, but there is great snorkeling here! Also be sure to lock your car at this beach. Honolua Farms Kitchen is a beloved organic food truck across from the bay that attracts lots of travelers on this part of the island.
Stop #6: Upcountry Maui
Upcountry refers to the “back side” of Haleakala in central Maui. It is not a tourist area but is gaining popularity due to its vineyards, scenic farmlands, and peace and quiet.
If you are looking to get away from the crowds and explore a “new” side of Maui, head to the back roads of the upcountry.
The Wrap-Up: Driving Around Maui
As you can see, there are many beautiful and exciting places to drive around Maui. While the island of Kauai is frequently touted as being the most beautiful Hawaiian island, Maui is arguably just as gorgeous, inviting you to discover every square mile of its incredible landscape.
I would suggest following this plan for driving around Maui:
✅ Pick up a rental car from the airport and head to West Maui. Follow the scenic highway drive and take in the spectacular scenery.
✅ Drive the Road to Hana and stay in the town of Hana overnight.
✅ Drive the backside of the Road to Hana to see the Upcountry.
✅ Drive to the Summit of Haleakala.
✅ Drive to Iao Valley, and then spend the day in Paia Town.
Don’t forget your camera, snacks, and water. Have fun exploring the spectacular Hawaiian island of Maui. Aloha!