The answer to the question of how long it takes to drive around Maui depends on your answers to three other questions.
- How fast can you drive?
- What’s the traffic like?
- And do you just want to drive round the island, or do you want to stop and look around on the way?
The Hana Highway, which is the main draw for tourist drivers, is just under 65 miles long.
That shouldn’t be much of a challenge, right? In the right car, that could be done in an hour or less, but, Maui is an island with has a lot of sights worth seeing.
This is your first visit to Maui, isn’t it?
Hana Highway combines of various pieces of Maui’s highway network. It opened in 1926 but was not completely paved until the 1960s.
Although it connects the town of Kahului to the town of Hana, the Hana Highway has been deemed to start at Pā’ia, the first town you come to on the way. Traveling eastward toward Hana, there are people who make this 64-mile trip around two hours.
You might be able to do that. Maybe. But it involves driving more or less constantly on a highway which runs through tropical rainforest, along the perimeter of the island.
There are, approximately, 620 curves on the Hana Highway, many of them hairpin. Think about the math of that for a second. 2.5 hours is 150 minutes.
At the speed you’d need to be going to get done with the Hana Highway in 2.5 hours, that would work out as a bend every 14.5 seconds. While driving through wet, windy, occasionally terrifying rainforest.
The Hana Highway very much both a mountain and a coastal road, with 59 bridges along the way. Of the 59, a full 46 of the bridges are single-lane affairs. The bridges are mainly concrete and steel constructions, dating back to 1910.
So that, to travel the Hana Highway, stopping to see nothing at all, but traveling at a reasonable, speed is likely to take you 4.5 hours. And again, that’s if you don’t stop to smell any of the loki along the way.
If you simply drive the Hana Highway to get from A-B, you’re missing out on so much, it’s criminal.
Keep driving and you’ll miss the Kaumahina State Wayside Park, the Waianapanapa State Park, and the Pua’a Ka’a Wayside Park. Insist on crunching miles and you’ll miss the Ke’anae Arboretum and Ke’anae Peninsula, the Waikamoi Ridge Trail, and Puohokamoa Falls.
That’s a lot to miss if you’ve traveled all the way to Maui.
But even assuming you miss all that and make it all the way along the Hana Highway you’re by no means done yet. You’ve only traveled down some of the eastern side of the island. If you want to do the trip around the whole island, the latest advice to travelers is to…
- a) start early,
- b) never drive once you’ve lost the light, and…
- c) dedicate around 10 hours to the trip.
Why so long?
Well, again, there are some really impressive things to see on the journey besides the spectacular views. Even if you take 4.5 hours to do the Hana Highway, that’s still a bend every 26 seconds.
Slow down, take it easy, and enjoy the drive.
And then there’s the other thing.
There are sections of road that are not paved.
And some rental car contracts are rendered null and void if you drive around the western side of the island, because of the boneshaking stretches of unpaved and poorly paved road.
This is not strictly speaking true. Driving the western side of the island will not automatically invalidate your contract.
But it will invoke a local policy of “You broke it, you fix it.”
Yes, that’s right. If you choose to drive the road around the western side of the island, and you break down, or your tires burst, or your radiator explodes, you will not be rescued by any of the car hire companies on the island or their handy mechanics.
You will be on your own.
That’s a sobering thought that tends to promote slow and careful driving on the western side of the island, just as the narrow bridges and bumper pack of bends do on the eastern side.
Sure, you could drive around Maui in about 10 hours and change if you start early and don’t stop much.
But you should stop more, see more. The road around Maui is amazing, but it’s not as amazing as some of the things you’ll find along the way.