By Trip Styler, on May 6, 2015

Conquering the Road to Hana

“Slow, slow, SLOWER.”

“OK, coast into the turn, keeeeeeeeeep coasting.”

“No gas.”

“Break, break, break; slower, OK, now coast.” 

These were the instructions I was giving my husband, Mr. Trip Styler, as we attempted to navigate more than 600 turns winding along one of Maui’s most celebrated stretches of coastline: the Road to Hana. 

Wooed by the cascading waterfalls, bamboo groves, botanical gardens, and red-sand beaches dotting the zig-zagging route, throngs of curious travelers drive to Hana every day, despite its tales of turning even the most settled stomach into a churn. As an extreme motion sickness sufferer—think: car sick, bus sick, sea sick, train sick, plane sick—I was under the FALSE impression that a trip to Maui’s modern-day Eden was off-limits to me. 

I just figured that if I wanted to join the ranks of travelers who sing the praises of the six-hour round-trip, I would have to fly or experience it virtually in the tropical rain shower or the eucalyptus steam room at my favorite retreat in Maui: Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Kea Lani.

In Spring 2015 something changed. Prompted by a group of friends conquering the coastal route’s curves (as well as a desire to somehow manage my motion sickness), I finally got into the route’s groove—a goal 15 visits to Hawaii in the making!


Red sand at Koki Beach


To manage everyone’s expectations—including my own—I set the bar low. If I only made it five miles, I would consider it a win (and still have time to hit the spa to calm my nerves). Then I made it to Mile Marker No. 6, where I walked beneath Rainbow Eucalyptus trees painted in Pantone hues. At Mile Marker No. 9, I started high-fiving bamboo branches draping over the road. At Mile Marker No. 25, I stopped keeping track of waterfalls frothing over the cliffs just paces from our car. 

Viewfinder Tip: The Road to Hana is best experienced at a tortoise pace—take it slow and use the pullouts to let locals and intrepid visitors pass you.

At this point, I started to “get” the Road to Hana. Journeying to the tiny town perched on the East Coast of Maui carries an otherworldly allure. In the midst of blind corners and close to 50 one-lane bridges, the scenery is spiritual: Trees grow out of trees, fuchsia flower petals dust the road, palms erupt like fireworks.

At Mile Marker No. 31, I spotted the sign officially welcoming us to Hana. There, a wave of emotion washed over me. Somehow I’d conquered the drive without sickness; somehow, my marriage felt stronger due to the turn-by-turn communication between Mr. Trip Styler and me; and somehow, we did it all with our 6-month-old baby in tow!


Capturing the moment I made it to Hana

How to handle the Road to Hana (without getting sick)

1. Drive very slowly. To put this in perspective, we averaged 15 mph. It’s hard to go much faster than this given the road’s hairpin turns, blind corners, and one-lane bridges. (Unless, of course, you’re a local; they drive the road like NASCAR drivers.)

2. Coast through each turn. Pressing on the gas in a turn jolts the stomach, and is one of the main reasons passengers start to feel queasy when this motion is repeated more than 600 times in a row.

3. Always keep your eye on the horizon.

4. Don’t look down. If you need to consult your guide book for must-stops, take a break and plant yourself in one of the many pull-outs.

5. Stop often.

6. Don’t depend on medication. Coaching your driver—or driving yourself!—likely will trump any pharmaceutical help. 

7. Eat something plain before the drive (in case it comes up). 

8. Finally, try to avoid getting sick at all. The second you start to feel flush, pull over, savor the seascape, and take a long break before getting back in.

What are your best practices for avoiding car sickness?