Piilani Highway

Piilani Highway, a road with bad reputation in HI

Piilani Highway is a must drive road in the world. Located in Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, in USA, this highway loops all the way around the southern coast of the island. The road is rough and unpaved at times. Be sure to honk around blind corners.

How long is Piilani Highway?

The road (Hawaii Route 31) is 61 km (38 miles) long running from Kipahulu to Ulupalakua. It’s a twisty, up and down roller coaster of a ride. The toughest section of the road is about 20 miles long. In some areas (such as at Lelekea Bay) it's just a one-and-a-half lane bumpy road hugging the sea cliff around a blind curve. Fences have been installed on the mountain here to prevent rocks from falling onto cars. The hairpin bends are completely blind, but there is almost no traffic. Occasionally the dirt road past Route 31 is closed to traffic due to landslides. Although it is somewhat rough in places, it is by no means a daunting or particularly dangerous road if taken slowly.

Is the Piilani Highway Safe?

It’s not an easy drive as it’s unpaved in sections, rough and rugged in spots. The road sometimes narrows to a single lane in sharp bends. It’s not a gravel road, instead, it looks more like a very old paved road that’s been patched over and over and over again with asphalt. Some parts are washboard-like and require speeds of 5 mph (8 km/h) or less in order to avoid damaging the suspension of a rental car. Most major rental car contracts forbid driving this section. This prohibition in rental car contracts seems more related to the remoteness of this section of highway; in case of a breakdown, there is very little in the way of passing traffic or inhabitants around, and no cell phone service in parts. Avoid driving Pi'ilani Highway during or after heavy rainfall. Sometimes vehicles can get stuck on the unpaved stretches (especially after rains on those stretches, or upslope on the Haleakala volcano), or the road is closed for other reasons. Four-wheel drive car is not necessary.

Is the Piilani Highway Scenic?

Running through the southern coast of Maui, the drive, also known as the back road to Hana, is very scenic, with stunning views of the astonishing shoreline. Along the way you’ll discover lovely beach colors, amazing natural sceneries and the majestic Pacific Ocean. The drive offers great views of pebble beaches, sea cliffs and the undeveloped coastline. The area is probably the least visited part of the island and yet it is one of the wildest.


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