Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) are comprised of multiple sensor nodes deployed in an ad-hoc manner to sense or observe physical phenomena by collecting real-time data. These sensor nodes are battery-enabled with limited energy constraints affecting network lifetime. Energy conservation of these nodes is vital in designing a routing protocol to maximize network lifetime. Heterogeneity of the network plays an important role in prolonging the network lifetime by making use of dissimilar nodes in terms of energy, power, and processing capabilities. In this paper, a hybrid approach, named as Distance Aware Residual Energy-Efficient Stable Election Protocol (DARE-SEP), is proposed that combines features of Residual Energy Efficient Stable Election Protocol (REE-SEP) with Direct Transmission (DT) and Distance-Based protocol (DP). The proposed protocol is aimed to provide an optimal transmission route from sensor nodes to the Cluster Heads (CHs), considering the network dynamics. Multi-hop routing is used between CHs and sinks nodes to reduce energy consumption. The results show a 10% increase in energy efficiency, thus enhancing the network lifespan compared with the conventional routing protocols in Heterogeneous Wireless Sensor Networks (HWSNs). © 2017 IEEE.