The Road to Hana: Hawaii's Road More Traveled -- and With Good Reason
A Maui road that includes an onslaught of curves, cutbacks, and waterfalls
Just as nausea in my stomach from the continuous onslaught of curves and cutbacks along the narrow uphill road began to subside, we rounded yet another 180-degree bend. The first waterfall with whipped cream waters dripping down deep-creviced cleavages appeared by the roadside, its beauty washing away all my remaining reservations. The first of many such waterfalls we were to encounter.
Such is the road to Hana, which traverses the northern coast of Maui in Hawaii, from the artsy village of Paia to its destination at the eastern tip. While only 52 miles long, this series of twists, turns, dips and dives can take up to 3 hours to negotiate. But the ever-present views of lush greenery and ocean blues, vistas of rock and white water foaming up over the shores, and waterfalls bubbling over craggy cliffs are well worth the day-long adventure.
MAUI’S HANA HIGHWAY, A TWISTY, WINDY WONDERLAND
The road narrows even further -- if such a thing is possible -- as the vegetation increases in lushness and hue. I smirked at the sign, “Narrow Winding Road Next 30 Miles,” thinking the announcement superfluous before an immediate double hairpin turn attested to its validity. Forests of sugar cane, coconut trees, and pineapple fields abound, and the banyan trees lean forward suggestively as though to beckon you onward.
Still, take time to stop and walk. Sit beneath a banana tree enveloped by giant 6-feet-long leaves. Look out at the wrinkled brown-hued mountains lacerated with ridges created by 2 1/2 million years of rainfall. Look down to the ocean. So varied in color, it simulates every shade of blue contained in even the most oversized box of Crayola crayons.
Thus fortified, return to the ongoing challenge of the Hana Highway, indeed a misnomer considering its 600 curves and 56 one-lane bridges. Nearby Kaumahina Wayside State Park combines a Garden-of-Eden setting with the more practical appeal of restrooms and picnic tables. Be sure to follow the stone-cut nature trail for a dip in the natural swimming pool framed by waterfall and rock – admittedly frowned upon by the authorities, it does provide a refreshing antidote to the heat and strain of the drive. Scenic Overlook Along the Hana Highway, Maui Hawaii – Photo by Maui CVB
If you’re a flora and fauna buff, a stop at the Keanae Arboretum is necessary. It’s as close to a Hawaiian jungle as you can get, with a wealth of native trees, plants, and flowers visible to the knowing eye.
SO MANY BEAUTIFUL SIGHTS TO BEHOLD ALL ALONG MAUI’S ROAD TO HANA
Punakha State Park is the next stop -- with everything an everyday Paradise should have. The footpath, reminiscent of the road, winds in and out along streams and overlooks. Overlapping paths through multi-colored bushes ultimately lead to a consortium of pools and waterfalls.
Irresistibly clear, clean, cool waters flowing in, under, and around rocks entice even the most hardened hold-out. A swing on the Tarzan-like hanging vines overhead adds a dimension to the tropical swimming hole most backyard pools lack.
At the rise of another double-U bend in the road is a small roadside stand proffering manna in the form of a variety of locally grown refreshments: home-grown bananas, papayas, guavas, coconuts, and pineapples. While there, we watched the owner, machete in hand, hike down a nearby path and return with bunches of bananas to meet the demands of the lunchtime crowd. Now that’s fast food made to order!
Spirits refreshed, and stamina rekindled, a visit to nearby Waianapanapa State Park temporarily transports you into an otherworldly excursion before entering the tranquil town of Hana. Although the Big Island of Hawaii is better known for its black sand beaches, this park presents its opportunity to experience this incongruous adornment to a surf-side setting.
A steep-stepped path meanders beneath overhangs of gnarled, twisted branches, some so thick with growth that eerie darkness prevails even on a sunny day. Cavernous rock formations envelop crisp freshwater pools connected by lava tunnels.
HASEGAWA GENERAL STORE IN HANA, MAUI, IS A FABLED DESTINATION
Lightness and color return with the approach to Hana. Large trees with red-blossom canopies, rainbow-lined sidewalks, and green-laden hillsides announce your arrival. However, considering this is the only stretch of civilization in a 3-hour trek, you hardly even know you’ve arrived. A few small stores, the delightful Travaasa Hana Hotel, and the presence of people who are not tourists signal the change.
A visit to the Hasegawa General Store -- immortalized in a 1964 song of the same name by Paul Weston -- jolted me out of the tranquil reverie engendered by the town. The small store, well-known for its extraordinary accumulation of every conceivable item, is so cluttered and cramped that, for me, it conflicted with the airy openness of the natural beauty all around. Still, it is a worthwhile stop, if only to pick up some Dramamine -- the store’s best-selling item -- for the ride back. For more information, visit www.gohawaii.com.