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TravelDriving the Road to Hana vs. flying: Which Maui option is right...

Driving the Road to Hana vs. flying: Which Maui option is right for you?

The Road to Hana is one of the most popular — and some would say treacherous — tourist activities on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

Having driven it myself, I can tell you it’s not for the faint of heart (or those who regularly deal with motion sickness). I’d always wanted to visit Hana but failed when I tried to drive there on my own back in 2021. After an hour of driving on one-way roads and taking hairpin turn after hairpin turn, it started pouring rain. With no ocean views to be seen, I decided to turn back, giving up about three-quarters of the way to Hana.

The Road to Hana had won that round, but while I was disappointed, I hadn’t given up on it forever.

That’s why I jumped at an opportunity to take a short flight to Hana while on a recent trip to Maui. It’s not every day you get to fly a small plane into the tiny hamlet, and it offered a chance for a do-over of sorts on the Road to Hana.


Here’s what it was like flying versus driving to Hana and why the trek is worth the trip — especially now as the island recovers from the devastating Maui wildfires of 2023 — no matter which mode of transportation you choose.

Related: Save money: How you can book flights to Hawaii using points and miles

Driving the Road to Hana

A stop at the Hookipa lookout on the Road to Hana. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

The Road to Hana connects the city of Kahului to the town of Hana on the eastern side of Maui. According to Google Maps, the drive should take roughly two hours from Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) to the town of Hana, but you’ll want to build in lots of extra time for stops … and traffic.

The Road to Hana runs from Kahului to Hana on the island of Maui. GOOGLE MAPS

It’s a twisty, curvy road that goes up and down steep hills, occasionally turning into a one-lane road with single-lane bridges in several spots.

Along the way, you’ll be competing for the road not only with oncoming traffic but with local residents who don’t always love the slow pace of tourists. You’ll need to stop or even pull over for traffic coming from the other direction at some points during the journey.

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Frankly, the road can be terrifying. When I tried to do it solo a few years ago, I gave up once it started pouring rain.

There are also lots of no-trespassing signs put up by residents who aren’t amused the local transportation system gets bogged down with tourists.


This whole experience may not sound like fun to most drivers, but the reward of spectacular views can make it worth the effort. You’ll see incredible vistas from the oceanside parts of the road, along with stunning tropical foliage. There are also fruit stands and other places to stop along the way, including waterfalls galore.

During my latest journey, my brother drove while I played the part of a chauffeured cameraman. We had a Jeep rental from the Hana-Maui Resort and planned a leisurely day driving to see some of the sites on the Road to Hana that are closest to the little town.


My brother and I spent some time at Waianapanapa State Park, which has epic waterfalls and spectacular ocean views, along with several hiking trails. I’d recommend making entry reservations, though the day we arrived, we lucked out and didn’t end up needing them. It cost $30 for me and my brother to park our Jeep and enter.

Flying to Hana

While there are ways to make driving the Road to Hana more enjoyable by having the right person in the driver seat, the right vehicle and the right amount of time, there is another way to get there.


Having now done it myself, I can confidently say that flying to Hana is an entirely different experience. The short flight from Maui’s airport to Hana was on a 10-seat Cessna plane courtesy of the Hana-Maui Resort.

The flights leave from a separate terminal at Kahului Airport in central Maui.

Our pilot met us at the commuter air terminal and walked us to our Cessna. After just a few minutes of getting settled, we were off.

On the journey, my brother and I got to see sea cliffs, waterfalls, rainforests and more. The whole flight time was just about 14 minutes, but we were able to take in some pretty epic sights and create lifelong memories along the way.

Once we arrived at the tiny Hana Airport (HNM), a shuttle from the Hana-Maui Resort picked us up for the short drive to the hotel.

On the way home, we got an up-close and personal look at Haleakala, a massive active volcano that covers the majority of Maui. It was such a magical way to see Hawaii.


You may think the journey is only for the wealthy (or lucky travel writers), but some of the longer resort packages at Hana-Maui Resort include private plane transportation.

For example, the hotel offers a Plane to Paradise Package for bookings lasting at least four nights. It includes round-trip service from Kahului Airport (OGG), Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) or Lahaina’s Kapalua Airport (JHM) with no baggage fees, plus a resort credit and a Jeep rental. Prices depend on room rates but start at around $900 per night.

The Hana-Maui Resort is also a great destination in its own right. There are stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and with just 66 rooms and suites, it always feels like you have the place to yourself. Our room had an epic view of the coastline, and the sound of the waves lulled us to sleep at night. The hotel is also part of the World of Hyatt program, so you can even earn and use Hyatt points.

Regional carrier Mokulele Airlines also offers regular service to Hana on one of its Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX planes that starts at just $110 round-trip. The airline also flies to Hana from cities like Honolulu with a connection at the main Maui airport.

Booking page for Mokulele Airlines for a trip to Hana on Maui. MOKULELE AIRLINES

That’s an amazing price I’d happily pay for a sightseeing trip, let alone a getaway to this remote paradise.

Bottom line

Flying from Kahului Airport to Hana takes less than 20 minutes, yet it’s among the most spectacular flights I’ve taken. Best of all, it’s reasonably priced, so everyone from aviation geeks to everyday travelers interested in seeing Maui from a whole new vantage point can enjoy the experience, whether they have ample cash or are on a tight budget.


Hana itself is one of the most alluring places that I’ve ever visited. It has an undiscovered quality about it that makes it super compelling and enjoyable, perhaps due to how hard it is to get to. I can’t recommend spending a few days here enough, especially as Lahaina continues to rebuild after the devastating fires of 2023.

If you are considering a trip to Maui, take a break from the popular Kaanapali and Wailea areas and try Hana. Whether you drive the Road to Hana or you fly, it’s a phenomenal experience you’ll never forget. I can’t wait to go back now that I’ve found a more enjoyable way to the end.

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