Many car rental companies on Maui say you can’t drive around the south side of Mt. Haleakala. Don’t believe them. There is a 10 mile stretch of well graded gravel road along the way but, unless the weather is extremely bad, any vehicle can safely travel this road. What the car companies really mean is that, if you get into trouble, they won’t come rescue you. Furthermore, since there is little or no cell phone coverage on this side of the island, if you do get into trouble, you’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers for whatever help you might need. So there is some risk – but there’s some risk at the beach too.
A little west of the Kipahulu part of Haleakala National Park, the Hana Highway becomes Highway 31. As you travel west and turn north toward the Maui Winery at Ulupalakua it becomes Highway 37, the Kula Highway. It’s an alternate way to get to or from Hana.
Highway 31 is much different from the lush jungle-like Hana Highway. The waterfalls and hairpin corners are replaced by sweeping views of the mountain, ocean and, in the distance, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island. It’s a much easier on the driver and provides an experience of Maui not everyone gets to enjoy. Consider it on your next trip to Hana.