If you are planning a trip to Hawaii — specifically the island of Maui — those who have traveled before you are going to recommend touring the Road to Hana. The scenic, 68-mile stretch of highway is full of hairpin turns, but also features gorgeous scenery such as beaches, waterfalls and exotic plant life.
These are the sights of tourists’ dreams! But if you don’t want to shell out the cash or devote the time to taking a tour through a bus company, you may want to rent a car and let the Road to Hana GPS Driving Tour be your guide. The app — which is one of the GyPSy Guide GPS Driving Tours — navigates excursionists through the eye-catching scenery at their own pace.
Is this discounted approach to seeing one of Hawaii’s most touted attractions a tourist trap or one of its best-kept secrets? Find out after the jump.
Hitting the Road
After launching the Road to Hana app, you’ll be given some insight into how it works. Essentially, it syncs with your iPhone’s GPS system. As you travel by vehicle to one of Hawaii’s tourism hot spots, the Road to Hana app will pre-warn you about what sights you will see and, more precisely, what they are.
(It also offers driving tips, provided a few minutes early within its use so that whoever is behind the wheel can get acquainted with conditions on the highway, which along with hairpin turns can involve single-lane bridges and close-to-the-edge turns.)
It even goes further by recommending five must-see stops, and two found in and after the town of Hana. The app will make a certain noise to let drivers know when one of those key points of interest is coming up.
These must-sees include:
- Ho’okipa Beach Park
- Hamoa Beach
- Wailua Falls
- Seven Sacred Pools at Kipahulu
What might be most helpful in the app’s recommendations are the stops that can be skipped. This insight makes it easier to decide whether earlier stops on the route are worth making and sometimes reveals if a particular attraction will be trumped by one that comes later. (For example, several stops are beautiful for looking at pools, waterfalls or brightly colored vegetation, but sometimes being patient — especially if your carload is looking to zip through the tour faster — will result in details on a more eye-pleasing attraction.
Mapping Out the Details
As passengers and their skilled driver navigate the tight turns on the Road to Hana, this app will spout out information. The messages come pre-recorded on the app and activate when the GPS reaches certain coordinates. With more than 140 messages, users can learn much, but each message is short — probably no more than two minutes long at most — and relatively formulaic. Let’s say you are coming upon a tourist spot, the Road to Hana GPS Driving Tour generally begins its heads up such as “on the right,” “we are approaching” and so forth.
There is also a map that will show your car’s positions thanks to the GPS tracker and will also feature arrows pointing in various directions on the highway. These arrows indicate those pre-recorded messages mentioned above and the directions determine that the message will play when you are traveling in that direction.
Tapping the arrows will play a message instantly, should you need one repeated or if the arrows are facing the opposite direction you are traveling.
Getting More From the Tour
As mentioned before, there are must-see attractions on the Road to Hana that will be suggested as your party travels along the highway. A distinct noise, which is demonstrated well in advance of driving upon a hot spot, will sound as you get closer to that destination. This is helpful for travelers looking to see these key sites.
But along with the signals, the app will educate users. A slew of information about the attractions — from topics as varied as history, science and geography — will pepper the journey to Hana with facts about the surrounding natural beauty and how this came to be a draw for tourists.
Getting tuckered out from driving so many miles or just itching to get back onto the beach and sip a Mai Tai? Well, if you decide not to complete the entire drive on the Road to Hana, this app will adapt. Since it works on GPS, should your vehicle turn around, it will continue providing information on Hawaiian history and signaling when you are traveling past points on your way back to the hotel.
Book a Tour or Download the App?
By using your iPhone’s Bluetooth connectivity, you can play the tour’s audio through the car’s speakers, provided it has those capabilities, but other auxiliary amplifiers could theoretically be used, too.
The Road to Hana GPS Driving Tour had a few minor flaws. For one, during this review, it seemed that the GPS might have been off by a few hundred feet. This caused a few missed turns, but for the most part, warnings came far enough in advance that passengers could be on the lookout for a sight.
Another issue was a recommendation for a botanical garden, the Garden of Eden, which charged an entry fee. That fact was left out of the narration that discussed it. However, it did warn that certain parts of Ke’anae weren’t particularly friendly for visitors, which is helpful for those looking to avoid potential trouble.
This app is both a time and money-saver. There are multiple tours than run the Road to Hana on a given day, but some of those can run well above $100 per person. You are also at the mercy of the touring company or your guide, either of which may determine certain sights as more important and skip others. You will also miss out on the comfort of your own vehicle and won’t have to be uncomfortable crammed with other tourists.
And afterward, you won’t feel like you missed something. This thorough tour guide is a great addition to the iPhone users traveling to Hawaii looking to take in some of its natural beauty.