The Road to Hana and a Swim at the Red Sand Beach – Maui – Hawaii

Road to Hana Red Sand Beach

The Road to Hana is on the Island of Maui and is regarded as the crown-jewel of Hawaii driving tours. Lush rainforest, dramatic and rugged ocean vistas, countless waterfalls and pools. Although we has never heard of it before it is apparently very well known and a must do when in Maui.

Two Highlights for us were the walk and swim at the red sand beach and exploring some lava caves concealed under banyan trees.

The legendary road to Hāna is only 84 km (52 miles) from Kahului; however, the drive can take anywhere from two to four hours to complete since it’s fraught with narrow one-lane bridges, hairpin turns and incredible island views. On our drive out there were also 100’s of other rental cars.

The Hāna Highway (HI-360) has 620 curves and 59 bridges.

This is the ‘wet’ side of the island so the road leads you through flourishing rainforests, flowing waterfalls, plunging pools and dramatic seascapes. About 16 Km from Pa’ia, our first place to visit is a waterfall known as Twin Falls. Unfortunately there was no where left to park.  The start of the drive was a little frustrating as there were also 100’s of other rental cars on the road. As a consequence when ever you came to waterfall such as Twin Falls or lookout there was often no where left to park. Fortunately this was not the case on the drive back from Hana and we were able to stop wherever we wished.

Most bridges and many of the bends are one way. While busy, everyone on the road today seem polite and patient giving way on bends and bridges whenever required. The slow progress had the added advantage of a more relaxed drive and more time to admire the scenery.

Red Sand Beach

Tucked away behind the village of Hana at the eastern tip of Hawaii’s Maui Island, is a very special beach. Kaihalulu Beach, better known as Red Sand Beach, takes it’s popular name from the red cinders that cover the small beach.

cinder cone diagram

To access the beach we took a the short trail down the hill from behind the Hana Community Centre located at the end of Ua’Kea Rd. The path passes an old Japanese cemetery and past the ‘This Trail Is Dangerous sign’. Trish became a bit nervous after this point as the trail has loose gravel and pine needles is also on the side of a cliff. There are no photo’s of this section as I was to busy hanging on to Trish. The trail parallels the shoreline, and back up around the cinder cone and down to the red sandy beach area.

The entire state of Hawaii is amazing, with volcanos, lava and hundreds of beaches, but this tiny bay is the only place in the chain of islands where you will see a red beach.

Why the beach is red? The red pocket beach is tucked into Ka’uiki Hill, which is a cinder cone hill. Erosion of the crumbling hill has created the beach. Cinder cones are steep conical formations above volcanic vents and are common volcanic landforms found throughout the world.

Cinder cones form rapidly from ejected loose, grainy cinder fragments of a cinder cone volcano. The fragments are discharged from a vent and fall back to earth around the vent in a conical shape. This type of volcano is smaller than others, usually no more than a mile wide and a thousand feet tall with a small crater at the top.

The rich iron content of the cinders give the beach its signature red colour.

Hidden Lava Caves

These caves are not the Hana Lava tubes. These caves are beside the road however may not be obvious if you don’t know they are here. There is a small parking area with a lookout toward the ocean. Most stop here admire the view and move on without knowing what is on the opposite side of the road. The entrance to the caves is a hole under a tree.

Road to Hana hidden lava caves
Hidden Lava Cave Entrance

If not for someone hiding a ‘Come in and Find Out’ Geocache in the caves we would have never discovered them. Trish waited at the lookout and crouching down very low I entered the cave. Luckily crawling was not required. There are a couple of bends and junctions and the light soon fades and a torch is needed. The phone torch worked ok although I did bang my head a few times. after 10-15 metres there are holes in the wall where you can see there are other caves.

After a while you reach a cavern area that opens up to the outside under a banyan tree. You can climb out of the cavern area where a track takes you back to the road around the outside of the hill. This track is completely concealed from the road.

I collected Trish from the lookout and guided her around the track so Trish could see the cavern area and my plan was to retrace my steps back out to the roadway entrance however I could find the cave I came in through so back to the car around the outside.

A great little exploration.


There is a very ordinary black sand beach beach at Hana and some very welcome portaloos.

The Road to Hana

There is nothing much to see in Hana town itself besides a few little stores with souvenirs. On this trip it is the Road to Hana that is the experience rather than the town and beach at Hana as the destination itself. That said, the Red Sand Beach is just past Hana and was our highlight of the trip.

There are breath-taking vistas that present themselves at practically every turn of the road. Wherever you look, there is beauty as far as the eye can see. No wonder the Road to Hana is so popular.

Some of the stops shown below. Waillua Valley, Nahiku Lunch stop and Church, Twin Falls and road side waterfalls and scenery

We did end up visiting Twin Falls on the way back. Wide picture above. It was late in the day and the paid admission was closed. We found it was not OK and nothing to get upset about if you miss it.

More information Guides and Maps for the Road to Hana can be found on the Hawaii Guide Website.

Honomanu Bay Lookout
The Road to Hana is on the Green wet side of the island