should you drive the road to hana
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On this solo episode of Hawaii’s Best, host Bryan Murphy discusses the pros and cons of driving independently or booking a tour on Maui’s iconic Road to Hana. The picturesque Hana Highway, featuring lush landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful beaches, is a popular destination for tourists, but its narrow, winding path can be daunting for first-time drivers.

We highlight the importance of considering the local impact of increased visitors on Hana Highway, as overcrowding has strained the environment, local communities, and infrastructure. A group called Hana Highway Regulation advocates for visitors to choose certified tour operators to minimize congestion, promote responsible travel, and provide accurate information on private properties and accessible trails.

Booking a certified tour has its advantages, such as supporting sustainable tourism, reducing congestion, and offering expert knowledge from a local guide. However, driving independently also has its perks, including flexibility, customization, privacy, pace, and budget-friendliness.

Ultimately, the decision to drive independently or book a tour depends on individual preferences and priorities. Being mindful of the local impact and practicing responsible tourism while traveling the Road to Hana ensures the preservation of this breathtaking destination for generations to come.

Bryan conducted a poll on social media, where 70% of the respondents favored driving themselves along the scenic route, 20% preferred booking a certified tour, and 10% advised against undertaking the journey at all.

The episode also features several unique stops along the way, such as Paia, a charming beachside town perfect for breakfast, Ho’okipa Beach, a haven for windsurfing and kite surfing enthusiasts, and the breathtaking Keanae Peninsula.

Other highlights include Aunty Sandy’s famous banana bread, a delicious treat to fuel up on during the drive, and the enchanting Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach, which requires reservations in advance.

While traveling along the Hana Highway, Bryan emphasizes the importance of acting responsibly and respectfully towards the environment and local communities. Booking a certified tour operator for your first visit is highly recommended. It contributes to a more sustainable approach to exploring East Maui and ensures a safer and more enriching experience.


Tweetable Quotes

  1. “Hana Highway is filled with lush landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque beaches. So it is really no wonder why many people want to experience this incredible highway.” 

  2. “It’s not all about just the breathtaking views, but it’s also about taking care of the land and its people for generations to come.”

  3. “By being aware of this issue, we can all help to minimize our footprint and show respect for the residents who call this amazing place home.”

  4. “Each tour can potentially take five to six cars off the road depending on the number of passengers. So that’s a pretty significant impact as far as traffic congestion is concerned.”

  5. “Whether you’re an avid hiker, a beach enthusiast, or someone who just wants to hang out and take in all the sites, you can focus on these sites that matter most to you.”


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[00:00:00] Bryan Murphy: Should you drive the road Ahana or book a tour? Both options have their advantages. And in today's episode we'll talk about the pros and cons in which option I would recommend when planning to do the road Ahana. Let's go. 

[00:00:16] Hawaii's Best: Aloha. Welcome to Hawaii's Best here. You'll learn what to know before traveling as we discover Hawaiian culture, local business. 

[00:00:25] And the experiences that make hav Hawaii one of the most incredible places in the world. And now your host Brian Murphy. 

[00:00:34] Bryan Murphy: Aloha and welcome to Hawaii's Best, the podcast all about highlighting Hawaii's culture and helping you. Travel responsibly to the Aloha State. I'm your host, Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best Travel. 

[00:00:49] And I just wanna say thank you so much for joining me on this episode of Hawaii's Best. So glad that you're here, and today we're talking all about the incredible road to Hana on Maui Now. [00:01:00] As you probably know, HANA Highway is filled with lush landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque beaches. So it is really no wonder why many people want to experience this incredible highway. 

[00:01:13] Now, chances are if you've visited Maui or planning a visit to the valley aisle, driving the road to Hana is more than likely on your to-do list. But the big question is, should you drive yourself or opt for a guided certified? The thing about Rohan is that it's famous for its narrow, twisty path, and that can be pretty daunting for drivers who aren't familiar with the highway or who haven't driven the highway before, and with over 600 curves and 59 1 lane bridges, yes, 59 1 lane bridges. 

[00:01:51] It's no wonder why this 64 point. Mild journey can feel overwhelming, and for some travelers, the drive can be so [00:02:00] stressful and tiring that it takes away from the overall experience. So that's some of the things that we're gonna be looking at is should you even drive the road yourself or should you get a tour? 

[00:02:12] Maybe you shouldn't do Rohan. Maybe that's, that shouldn't be part of what you do when you visit Maui. It's, it's your choice, but I kind of want to present a few different options and lead you with best recommendations of what I would do. But ultimately, it's your vacation. It's your call, but one of the first things though, to weigh in when considering whether to book a tour or drive it yourself, is the local impact of increased visitors on Hana Highway. 

[00:02:39] Rhoda Hana's growing popularity has led to concerns about its effect on the environment. And local communities. A lot of this made the news, thinking about summer of 2021 when things were opening up and travel to Hawaii was almost back, if not more so than pre pandemic [00:03:00] levels. And this put a lot of strain on local communities. 

[00:03:03] And this has led to challenges due to the massive influx of tourists, which strains the delicate e. And obviously contributes to overcrowding at many of the popular spots along the highway. On a previous episode of the podcast, we had Edwin Elu, Lindsay of Maui Culture Lands. He's over on West Maui and the, the topic of the episode was about how to volunteer while on vacation on Maui, and it's well worth a listen just for that. 

[00:03:34] So I'll link that in the episode description, or you can go to Hawaii's best 70 in our conversation. The topic of East Maui, the Rohan was naturally brought up due to a lot of the tension at the time in East Maui, and I want to play a little bit of the snippet from our conversation with Elu. 

[00:03:55] Lindsay having 

[00:03:58] gone out to East Maui [00:04:00] several times, I worked with some of the guys out there working on some conservation action plans, try to restore the ecology and the marine life and the terrestrial side as. Just, it's, uh, you gotta take care of the whole APO system. But having gone out there a few times over the last couple of months, there's just too many people on those roads and working with like six different communities in East Mai. 

[00:04:22] The number one thing that comes to the head all the time is people not knowing how to drive that road to ha East. Everybody wants to take a look at the waterfalls, but you got cars parked on both sides of the roads. Big trucks can't get through. Locals are are frustrated. They need to get to work, they need to get home, can't get past. 

[00:04:43] You had an emergency vehicle stuck because they can't get through. So, The counties put up some new parking signs and have some enforcement, but it's real difficult to enforce these things out on East Mall because they only have a police force of X amount. Sure. And you can't be there all the time. Right. 

[00:04:57] So I would like to ask anybody headed to, [00:05:00] uh, east Mali to just be very aware of their surroundings. Let the local cars pass by, pull over as soon as possible that they can let them pass. But I don't block the roads. And also the one thing that pops up on Ima is people are swimming a lot in these streams. 

[00:05:14] Right. And what do you do before you go swimming? You put sunscreen on? You know, Maui has, uh, we have some new laws in place where you need to use re friendly sunscreen, but when you're putting on sunscreen and jumping into the streams, that water's going somewhere. Mm-hmm. So if you are around the Kenai area, that water is irrigating the towel that they. 

[00:05:36] So these guys in Kenai, they're seeing oil slicks come down and, uh, watering their car. What does that do to the food? It makes it taste funny. Sure. Right. So, you know, when you do, when you go out in the sun, 

[00:05:47] Bryan Murphy: cover up a little bit, right? So like even reef safe or non reef safe doesn't, regardless of whatever you're putting on your body is slicking off and getting into that. 

[00:05:57] Fields. Yeah. Yeah. And [00:06:00] again, to listen to the full conversation, you can go to Hawaii's best 70. That's episode seven zero. So by being aware of this issue, we can all help to minimize our footprint and show respect for the residents who call this amazing place home. I can't imagine just calling Hana home and when you're driving the road it's, it is kind of. 

[00:06:22] Incredible to to think that, but it is a lot of people's homes. It's a unique way of life, obviously over on East Maui, and it's not all about just the breathtaking views, but it's also about taking care of the land and it's people for generations to come and. I could probably assume that you agree with that because you're listening to the podcast and, and you've probably have maybe followed some of what we've been doing and we're all about responsible travel to Hawaii and thinking about, you know, if you have kids or your kids kids, Thinking about generations to come to be able to experience this incredible beauty [00:07:00] on East Maui. 

[00:07:00] And it's up to us to continue to be stewards of that and take care of that, even if we are a visitor to that place. So this increased amount of traffic congestion has led to. Obviously parking problems and concerns for the local community. This congestion makes daily life difficult for residents. So in response to that, there's been a push to install no parking signs in areas that are often packed with illegally parked cars. 

[00:07:27] And you'll probably also notice as you're making your way on Hana Highway, you'll come across many handmade signs that are crucial to, you know, specific areas such as no swimming. Or no trespassing signs. So this is essential to pay attention to and also to respect those signs as well. Now in response to all of this, a group called Hana Highway Regulation has been formed in a strongly encouraging visitors to choose a certified tour operator as a safety and more responsible alternative than driving the road themselves. 

[00:07:59] And this [00:08:00] group was formed in 2016 and. Their goal is pretty simple. It's to tackle the rising number of illegal tour operators, parking violations, and incidents of trespassing on private property. What's sad is if even if you book a tour with someone who is a little bit off the grid, or you pick up that guidebook, Things change a lot, and for someone to know what is private property and what is not private property and what trailhead or clothes and which are accessible, you kind of need that local voice, that local knowledge of someone who. 

[00:08:37] Knows the road and who knows East Maui. And that's why having a certified tour guide is super important. And in addition to all this, HANA highway regulation has helped to create a road to Honda Code of Conduct and, uh, outlining rules for visitors and tour operators to follow. This includes how to properly pull over, uh, for [00:09:00] local traffic and avoid trespassing on private properties, and a link can be found in the episode description of this as well. 

[00:09:07] Now the group is pro tourism, but it advocates for better management systems that consider community perspectives. And it's not all just about visitors being mindful of this, it's also government as well. So advocating for better management and better oversight of East Maui Hana Highway, uh, is something that they are strongly advocating for as well. 

[00:09:30] So, It's obvious that opting for a certified tour operator has many advantages, so it's definitely worth considering booking a certified tour operator. And when I say certified, uh, you can go to Hawaii's best seven nine and uh, there's gonna be a link to where you can find certified two operators for East. 

[00:09:54] And a stat that I thought was pretty cool is that each tour can potentially take five to six cars off the [00:10:00] road depending on the number of passengers. So that's a pretty significant impact as far as traffic congestion is concerned. 

[00:10:11] Alright, so those are some of the obvious advantages of going with a certified tour operator, but what about the benefits of driving yourself? So, Perks of taking the wheel yourself are flexibility, customization, privacy pace, and obviously budget friendly. Now with flexibility, when you drive the Rohan on yourself, you have complete control over your schedule. 

[00:10:35] You can stop at your own leisure, go to the restroom, take as much time as you want at each location and even. Some of those off the beaten path spots that a tour might not cover. Obviously, you need to be aware of your surroundings. You need to be aware of, you know, if you're stepping on private property. 

[00:10:54] All those things need to come into consideration too. But also with customization, you can tailor [00:11:00] your experience to suit your interests and preferences. Whether you're an avid hiker or not a beach enthusiast, or someone who just wants to hang out and take in all the sites, you can focus on these sites that matter most to you. 

[00:11:14] With privacy, it's pretty obvious. Driving yourself means you can enjoy a more intimate experience with those you're traveling with, without, uh, sharing the journey with a group of strangers. It's ideal if you're seeking a more personal and private adventure. That's a little bit more my pace, getting. Tour bus with a bunch of strangers and trying to fit, you know, all their needs and wants and all my group's needs and wants. 

[00:11:41] For me, that's something that's really a huge plus is having that privacy and also having the pace. Some people prefer to tackle the road at their own pace, so if you're a confident driver and enjoy the challenge, you might find yourself more satisfied than being a passenger on a guided. It's also budget friendly, [00:12:00] although running a car and feeling it up might add up. 

[00:12:02] Driving yourself can be a more budget friendly option than a guided tour, especially if you're traveling with the group. You got mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles. That could be a pretty expensive tour rather than just, you know, slam it into a couple Chrysler minivans and doing it your. 

[00:12:22] But remember again, I'm just gonna probably say it again, is that driving the road, AHANA comes with its own set of challenges such as navigating the narrow whining roads and potentially missing out on local insights that a guided tour can provide. So be sure to weigh some of these pros and cons before making your decision. 

[00:12:41] But again, it's if you're up for the challenge, driving the road, HANA yourself can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience for sure. 

[00:12:53] All right. I'm gonna jump in here and we're gonna have an any kind news news break. I don't know if I'll keep this segment, but I thought it'd be kind of [00:13:00] cool. Is that what I'm gonna do is in these segments is just share a little snippet about what's happening around the islands, something cool, fun, positive, or just some news to be aware of that might impact your travel to Hawaii. 

[00:13:13] But on this edition, Of any kind news. We're excited to announce that the Mary Monarch Festival is back and better than ever celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. After dealing with pandemic related cancellations and hybrid events, the Hulu competition performances are finally open to those lucky enough to have scored general emission tickets taking place from April 9th to the 15th in Hilo on Hawaii Island. 

[00:13:39] The Mary Monarch Festival is dedicated to preserving and promoting Hawaiian culture. This Weeklong celebration showcases traditional crafts in art forms with the highlight being the three day hula competition held at Edith Kanaka Ole Stadium. As the prestigious contest unfolds, the stadium buzzes with excitement filled with the powerful sounds of [00:14:00] ole and Melay chance in songs. 

[00:14:02] This year, 23 Hula schools are participating in the competition. Three Bean from the Hawaii island, 14 from Oahu, four from Maui County, and one each from Kauai and Washington. The week wraps up with the Mary Monarch Royal Parade. People around the world eagerly tune in to watch the thrilling events unfold in the small town of Hilo, and you can too. 

[00:14:25] So get ready to dive into the excitement with our guide to the 60th Mary Monarch Festival. To learn more about the Marion Monarch Festival and how to stream it live, go to the link in this episode description or go to Hawaii's best 79. 

[00:14:45] All right. I'm not sure if I'll continue to do any kind news, but I love to hear your feedback. If that's something that is beneficial, you like, let me know and why I'm talking. You can email me, brian hawaii's best [00:15:00], and I would love to hear from you, uh, honestly, uh, about that. Any kind news or any other thing or suggestions that you might have about the podcast. 

[00:15:09] You can email me and I usually read all emails, so be sure to do that. Recently I did a poll on our social media accounts on our Instagrams and our Facebook group. Love to have you join us in our Facebook group, but I asked the question, should you drive the Rohan or do a tour? And the poll on all platforms were about. 

[00:15:29] 70 30, meaning 70% were in favor of driving yourself to kind of doing the traditional route of doing the ro ahana and, and driving to yourself. And then 20% said to book a certified tour, and then the other 10% said, don't do it at all. So, I thought that was interesting to kind of share with you some of those stats. 

[00:15:48] And that was pretty across the board, what everyone was saying. One of the comments I got from someone in the Facebook group, uh, she said, I've driven it once and missed a lot of the stops. [00:16:00] Next time I'll do a tour. So that's something that could center, you know, maybe. Maybe the other way around, maybe the first time you do a touring and kind of get a little familiar with the highway and some of the stops, and maybe the next time if you have the opportunity to visit East Maui, maybe you drive it yourself. 

[00:16:15] But in our time remaining, I just want to kind of give some unique stops along the way. And there's so many guys out there and so many other resources really. I wanted to talk about just the pros and cons of booking a tour and doing it yourself. But I also kind of wanna leave you with some tips and some stops to consider along the. 

[00:16:36] Now your, your journey starts off officially in the charming town of Paia. It's a laid back beachside spot filled with adorable shops and delightful places to eat breakfast bites. So it might be a good spot to get your breakfast, but you want to keep in mind that your next chance for food probably won't be until the Garden of Eden or a bit further down the highway. 

[00:16:58] And the next up we have Ho [00:17:00] Kippa Beach, which is a renowned gym along the highway and a paradise for windsurfing and kite surfing enthusiasts. This incredible spot has earned a global reputation as the top destination for these thrilling water sports. Thanks to consistently strong winds and impressive waves, take a moment and stop. 

[00:17:20] At this beach, you'll get spectacular views of overlooking the shoreline from the elevated vantage point in the parking. Trust me, you won't wanna miss this. Stop at whole Kippa Beach. Next up is the captivating K and I Peninsula. Just a little detour off the highway, but you don't wanna miss it because not only do you get to see this incredible landscape, but it's also a, a stop for public restrooms, which are communing located near the peninsula, making this a perfect stop to recharge. 

[00:17:50] Now, here is one of the gems of. Hana highway, and as you wave goodbye to the majestic. Can I peninsula? Keep an eye out for [00:18:00] anti Sandy's banana bread? Delightful gem nestled on the left side of the road. Famous for this warm, freshly baked loafs. Anti Sandy's. Serves up some of the most delicious banana bread. 

[00:18:13] Ever taste, which is prepared daily with aloha and cares. So I can't recommend this stop enough. It's the perfect chance to fuel up if you're feeling a little hungry and you didn't eat enough for breakfast, or the drive is making you hungry, you know this is a good spot to to do that. Plus, with the good stretch of the journey, still ahead before reaching the next major food hub, there's no better time to treat yourself to a mouthwatering slice of heaven from anti Sandy's. 

[00:18:44] Next up is the incredible Wap Pappa Black Sand Beach. A magical spot along the road, ohana, where you get to experience one of Maui's rare black sand beaches is formed from hot lava as it met the ocean and [00:19:00] shattered this unique beach stands in stark contrast to its. Counterparts of the green lushness of East Maui. 

[00:19:08] This spot is also perfect for stretching legs, getting up, soaking up the sun, or enjoying a leisurely picnic. But please note that reservations are required to visit Yap. Napa State Park. So you can book up to 30 days in advance, but no same day reservations are allowed. Trophies are $10 for parking and additional $5 per person. 

[00:19:33] All right. Now I realize that there are. Tons more spots to make sure you hit along the way, but this is all the time we had for today. And as you can see when planning your adventure, the choice between driving yourself or on a guided tour is a pivotal decision that'll shape your overall experience. So think about. 

[00:19:52] Those factors like your driving skills, environmental impact and benefits of having local expertise when making your decision [00:20:00] as tourism along the HANA highway increases it's crucial to act responsibly and respectfully towards the environment and local communities. So by choosing a certified tour operator, you not only contribute to a more sustainable approach to exploring Ace Maui, but also ensure a safer. 

[00:20:19] Formed an enriching experience. This is the option that I would highly encourage is to book a certified tour operator at least for your first visit to driving Hana Highway. However, whichever option you go for, be prepared to immerse yourself in the amazing sites, hidden gems that make Hana Highway a truly unforgettable adventure. 

[00:20:43] With proper planning and consideration, you'll be able to savor the extra ordinary beauty of road Hana and create memories that will. Definitely last a lifetime. And with that, we've reached the end of our journey today. I hope that this discussion has provided you with valuable insights to help you plan [00:21:00] your perfect road to Hana adventure. 

[00:21:02] And remember, it's all about the journey. Take your time, enjoy the sites, and most importantly, have fun. And until next time, be. Aloha. 

[00:21:16] Thanks again for joining me on this episode of Hawaii's Best. To get all the resources and references from this episode, go to Hawaii's best 79. Also, if you have someone you know visiting Maui soon, be sure to share this episode with them. Again. For all the resources from today's episode, go to Hawaii's best 79.

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