Conquering the Legendary Kahekili Highway in Maui

Kahekili Highway is a strip of one-lane paved road framed by rock on one side and sheer cliff drops on the other, with a length of 21 miles, running from Kapalua to Wailuku. It’s a legendary road known for its snaking turns, narrow passages, and dangerous road conditions, though nowadays that last factor is gone, since the road was completely repaved not too long ago.

Kahekili Highway

Can you drive Highway 340 Maui?

Located in Maui County, the road is 34.60 km (21.5 miles) long. Kahekili Highway (Hawaii State Highway 340) runs north and south from Kahului through the small town of Waihee-Waiehu, flanked by the beauty of the West Maui Natural Area Reserve to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, on its way to Kahakuloa Village, one of the most isolated spots on Maui. This rugged scenic highway extends for miles along Maui's north shore.

Is the Kahekili Highway in Hawaii paved?

The road is today totally paved, though there are portions where falling rocks can be a concern. It wasn't until sometime in the 1990s that this road was completely paved and open to travel for rental cars (though some companies may still place it off-limits, so visitors should check their rental contracts). Not for the faint of heart, sections slow to just 5 mph as the road wraps around blind curves; a lengthy stretch around the village of Kahakuloa is a mere one lane with cliffs on one side and a sheer drop on the other – if you hit oncoming traffic here, you may be doing your traveling in reverse.

Why is Kahekili Highway so dangerous?

Running through Kahakuloa Game Management Area, the infamous Hawaii State Highway 340 has humbled many egos. Big vans or SUVs are more difficult to navigate on this very narrow road, especially since it’s just barely one lane wide but with two-way traffic. If it is raining or has been raining, skip this road due to mud and rock slides. Don’t do this drive in the dark. Start early enough so you’ll reach your destination before the sun sets. Also, it’s best to do this drive on a sunny day as rainfall makes the road slippery. The road isn’t lit, and many segments don’t even have reflectors, so if you do plan to do the route, make sure to drive it during the daytime in nice weather conditions. It’s more like a goat trail, especially around the village of Kahakuloa (between mile 14-15 and 10-12). It is mainly a narrow, curvy, cliff-hugging one-lane road without guardrails. There are occasional pullouts if a car is coming from the opposite direction.

Is Kahekili Highway worthwhile?

This challenging road, which hugs the rugged northern tip of Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, needles around hairpin turns, careens over one-lane bridges, and teeters beside treacherous cliffs. It’s one of Maui’s most adventurous drives, and undoubtedly its most challenging. Perhaps it's for the thrill of driving on the edge of a cliff, but more likely it's for the incredible beauty of the views available on this drive. But what makes this route special? The road is narrow, twisty, and very slow (speed limits usually 15 mph or slower), with many one-lane stretches and often with minimal reflectorization and guardrails. This road is not recommended if you like driving fast or if it has been raining. The slower you go, the more you’ll find to adore. Most sections require you to slow to a meager 5 miles an hour to make those blind curves, and if you happen upon another car, one of you, most likely you, will be taking this road in reverse until you come upon a turn out. It’s treacherous and terrifying, and worth every second of the two hours.

Who was Kahekili Highway in Hawaii named after?

Highway is an euphemism for this paved but precarious narrow road; check your rental-car agreement before you head out—some companies don't allow their cars on this road. If it is raining or has been raining, skip this road due to mud and rock slides. The road is named after the great chief Kahekili, who built houses from the skulls of his enemies. Furthermore, when you get out of the car to explore the various sights along the road, be very careful, as many roads open out to a cliff with a deathly drop below. The drive is most picturesque and safe from Kapalua to Wailuku. Remember, as you turn those blind corners, honk your horn to communicate to oncoming traffic that you are on the way.
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