Most rental car companies prohibit driving the second half of the Road to Hana (the dirt road past Route 31) due to parts of it being rough and washboard-like, in addition to requiring speeds of 5 MPH or less in order to avoid damaging the suspension of the car. Consequently I knew I would have to find a tour that would take us. Also, I read that a lot of people recommended this way irrespective of the road’s rough conditions, since the person doing the driving wouldn’t exactly be able to admire the scenery since his or her eyes would have to be on the road at all times.
I researched many companies but by chance came across Valley Isle Excursions. They were definitely on the pricier side ($130 for adults, although you saved $10 by booking in advance); however, it did seem like a higher quality option. Tour vans are smaller (seating is limited to 10 passengers), seats are quite spacious, and an actual picnic lunch was served as opposed to just cold cuts. Even before booking, their customer service was extremely prompt in responding to an inquiry email, and the day before our tour they called to confirm.
The Road to Hana is an all day affair and our pickup time was 6:30 AM. Luckily there were two other couples from our hotel that were also on the tour so we only had to make one more stop after ours. The tour officially began with a continental breakfast at a golf course, with hot beverages and fruit juice being provided along with croissants, muffins, and fresh fruit. Not realizing (although it made complete sense in retrospect) there are three other tour vans in addition to yours that drive the Road to Hana each day. You’re with the other tour groups at breakfast and lunch, as well as at periodic stops along the way.
Our tour guide Debra was definitely one of the major highlights of the tour. A native Hawaiian, as well as a native of Hana, she was a walking legend and regaled us continually with stories about her family and her childhood, areas we were driving through, and anecdotes about Maui. She greatly reminded me of my dad’s sister Nancy, both in appearance and in her boisterous personality. Nancy also drives people for a living and always has a plethora of stories to share, so it was as if I had met the Hawaiian version of my aunt.
Although I was initially dismayed over the lack of stops at the very beginning of the trip (the other vans were stopping), as the day went on we stopped a lot, allowing for some wonderful photo opportunities. Even at places where we were not able to get out, Debra would slow down to allow you to take a picture; of course I always seemed to be on the wrong side of the van when this happened).
Lunch consisted of barbecue chicken, green salad, macaroni salad, rolls, and chocolate macadamia nut candies, along with cold beverages. It was served on the grounds of a couple of who had a florist business (they made stunning tropical flower arrangements and shipped them to the continental United States and Canada). Debra said lunch was always there since it was the only available space that could host all of the van groups. Each lady given a cut protea flower to keep. (The only bad thing with this was that I couldn’t take it back with me due to United States customs rules.)
It’s difficult to say how many times we stopped, but we saw rainbow eucalyptus trees, various waterfalls, overlooks, and then the more well-known sites like Black Sand Beach and O’heo Gulch (also known as the Seven Sacred Pools).
After leaving the Hana area, the tour van continued to make a complete circle around the island, heading back towards the western side where we began. The final stop was at the Tedeshi Winery, the only vineyard on the Hawaiian islands. I wouldn’t say a trip there is warranted on its own, but it was nice being able to stop.
If you’re in need of a company to host the Road of Hana tour, I highly recommend Valley Isle Excurions. They’re well worth the money.
Hotel review-Aston Mahana at Kaanapali
Restaurant review-Merriman’s Grill
Attraction review-Maui Brewing Company
Attraction review-Al’li Kula Lavender Farm
Restaurant review: Cilantro Grill
Tour Operator Review: Pride of Maui
Luau Review: Drums of the Pacific
Driving to the Sun
Ululani’s Shaved Ice Review