We'll be visiting Maui for a week or so next spring -- our first time in Hawaii. Are there any must-see places that require a 4x4 to reach them, or will we be fine with a regular car? I'm not talking about serious off-roading. I've read that parts of the Hana highway are unpaved but passable by a normal car. Apart from that, any spots that are more demanding?

I had an unlucky experience in Iceland few years ago, where I rented a pseudo-SUV (Honda CR-V) that couldn't take us down some roads that needed more aggressive tyres or better fording depth. Just want to make sure I won't make the same mistake here.

  • Which must see places? – Karlson Oct 23 '14 at 21:11
  • Please focus your question on specific places. "Must-see" places is an entirely subjective term. – Flimzy Oct 24 '14 at 2:54
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    @Flimzy not really - if you don't need a 4x4 to get to any points of interest, then it's inherently answerable. He's not asking what the must see places are, just whether you need a 4x4 to get around. – Mark Mayo Oct 24 '14 at 3:55

From what others have said, you don't need one at all.

Wikitravel, usually reliable on this, just says that people rent cars.

A local on yelp states that even for the Hana highway, a 4x4 is not required.

And a Jeep rental agency even states that:

Unlike Big Island (or Kauai), Maui roads are generally good and you absolutely don't need the power of a 4WD to access any point of interest.

Conclusion: Without a 4x4, you'll still be able to access any point of interest.

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    I agree. I spent a week on Maui a few years ago with a normal rented car, and drove all the way around the island and up to the top with no drama. Can't think of anything of interest I missed. – Greg Hewgill Oct 23 '14 at 22:34

The highways that loop around both the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala are both in poor condition, but can be driven in a standard sedan, four wheel drive is not necessary. However, your rental contract may prohibit driving around the backside of Haleakala (and some also prohibit driving the West Maui Mountain road). This prohibition stems mostly from the cost or in some cases the refusal by tow trucks to service those remote areas.

Both of these roads are simply roads, without any major points of interest, mostly just a way to go all the way around the island. All of the main island POIs can be reached by sticking with the other roads (perhaps an out 'n back such as the Hana Highway).

A couple of driving tips from a former kama'aina ... When descending from Haleakala shift your transmission into lower gears to slow the car, don't ride the brakes all the way down. Too many Maui rentals have warped rotors from being overheated while descending the mountain ... When driving the Hana Highway, pull off when you have a couple of cars behind you and let them pass you by. Nothing more frustrating to locals than being stuck in a group of six cars behind a tourist driving at 15 mph, and the Hana Highway has very few places to pass safely. Don't be pilikia, let em by.

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    +1 for mentioning rental contract fine print. I'd argue that what you really should contemplate is whether your insurance coverage applies to both where you are driving and the car you are renting. Policies often have exclusions for small car rental companies (ie. where you rent jeeps), and also have exclusions for certain categories of roads (ie. rural dirt roads). My rant on rental car insurance is over here. – alx9r Oct 24 '14 at 20:53

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