by Robert Bush: February 14, 2013


Robert Bush_Hana Beach

The Hana Highway is one of the most spectacular roads in the world.  It winds for over sixty miles along the northeast flank of Haleakala National Park, hundreds of feet over the spectacular rocky Maui coastline,  past waterfalls cascading next to the road,  and through verdant tropical rainforest dotted with the red blooms of the African tulip trees.


The terms “spectacular” and “magical” and “amazing” are terms routinely – and deservedly – used to describe the drive to Hana.  Those terms are often also accompanied by exclamations that the road is “treacherous” and “exhausting.”  Driving a car  around the over 600 curves, and over its more than  59 bridges,  46  of which are only one lane wide,  can make most people both appreciate the scenery, and exclaim: “I will never do that again!!”


But there is a way to straighten out the Hana Highway and enjoy one of the great roads in the world.  Get out of the car and onto a bicycle.



My cousin Margie lives in Haiku, a small community located near the start of the Hana Highway.  A few years ago, she finally persuaded me to join her and her husband Rich to cycle the Hana Highway. We did the ride last year and had so much fun, that we did it again this year.  And we have already scheduled a ride for next year.


Although it is possible to do the ride in one day, we also drive a car with our baggage so that we can stay in Hana for a few days before riding back.  We start the ride about 10 miles from the beginning of the truly scenic part of the highway.  We each ride about 37 miles and each of us takes one turn driving about 13 miles.  In addition to making the ride a little less of an ordeal, taking a car allows us to bring plenty of wine and camera equipment, as well as clothes and other provisions so that we can spend a few nights in Hana.   Each year we have rented a small house just past the town of Hana, with a beautiful view of the Hana coastline.


The first reaction to the idea of riding a bike to Hana is usually “You are crazy. That has got to be dangerous.”   In my opinion, riding a bike to Hana is actually much safer than riding on most city streets.  The never ending curves and one lane portions of the Hana Highway slow automobile traffic down to 10 miles per hour for most of the trip and an approaching car can easily be heard above the sound of the wind in the trees, the distant surf or roadside waterfalls.  There are no cross streets and therefore no cross traffic.  A typical urban bike ride, with cars whizzing by at 50 miles per hour, and merging and crossing traffic, is far more dangerous.


The second reaction is, “Isn’t it difficult?”  Well, the ride is not for beginners.  There are some good climbs, but nothing particularly difficult for someone in reasonable bike shape.   You can lengthen or shorten the ride by simply starting further up or down the road, or by turning around and heading back when you feel comfortable in doing so.  The entire elevation gain is about 4000 feet.


We do not bother to bring our road bikes to Hawaii from our home in California both because of the cost of transporting the bikes and the availability of top notch road bikes at Maui Cyclery in Paia, which is near the beginning of the Highway.