Located on the southeast side of Maui, Hana is our favorite spot on the island, and getting there is half the fun.
You can fly in, but we prefer the 50-mi/75-km drive along the Hana Highway. To call this a winding road is an understatement: There are 670 hairpin turns and 56 one-lane bridges along the way. Motion-sickness medication and/or frequent stops might be necessary for some travelers. The highway cuts through the lushest foliage on Maui and passes roadside waterfalls, beaches and dramatic coastal scenery. Pack a lunch and allow a whole day to drive there and back.
Be sure to stop at the Keanae Arboretum—many of the island's eye-boggling plants can be seen in natural settings along the park's trails. One of the most startling specimens is impossible to miss: The huge rainbow eucalyptus has a vibrant, multihued bark that makes it look like an elongated painter's palette. Be sure to take the side road down to Keanae itself to see terraced taro patches framed by a backdrop of waves crashing against volcanic formations along the coast.
Another recommended stop is Wai'anapanapa State Park, where you can visit eerie reflecting caves and a black-sand beach. (At low tide, look for an opening in the rocks to the right side of the beach—it tunnels out to a cave facing the open sea.) There's a coastal hiking trail that leads from the park to the town of Hana.
Although more people are visiting Hana than in the past, it's still fairly sleepy and less crowded than Maui's other tourist areas—a good place to relax and soak up the Hawaiian lifestyle. In the town of Hana, you'll see cottages with beautiful flower-filled gardens. Take a few minutes to browse the Hasegawa General Store. As the only store for 30 mi/50 km in any direction, it supplies Hana with everything from aloha shirts to chainsaws. Many visitors also make a stop at the Hotel Hana-Maui for lunch—it's the only resort in town.
On the road beyond Hana are some of Maui's top attractions: Waimoku Falls and the pools of Oheo Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. The latter name—the result of an old publicity campaign—is rather misleading and its use is now discouraged: This area was never considered sacred by Hawaii's original inhabitants, and there are more than 20 pools, not seven. Go early in the day, before the pools get too crowded. You can choose between the lower pools (downstream, near the ocean) and the upper pools (upstream, on the way to Waimoku Falls). The lower pools are easier to reach but are more likely to be crowded.
Getting to the upper pools and the falls requires an easy 2-mi/3-km hike, but it can be muddy. You'll pass through an eerie bamboo forest and encounter a series of smaller waterfalls before reaching 400-ft-/120-m-high Waimoku Falls. The pools along the way are swimmable except during periods of drought or heavy rainfall. Check in at the ranger station for current advisories.
Just beyond Oheo Gulch is the village of Kipahulu. It is there, at the graveyard of Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church, that aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh is buried. (Lindbergh spent his last years in the Hana area.) The church is also worth a look: It was built in 1864 and has extremely thick walls and a window painting that combines Christian and Hawaiian motifs.
It is possible to continue south and west on the highway and return to the western half of the island via Kula and the Upcountry Maui area. Be aware, however, that the road becomes rough and narrows considerably beyond Kipahulu, and it is sometimes impassable because of heavy localized rainfall. Some rental car companies forbid you to take their cars on this stretch, and to do so may void your insurance coverage, making you personally responsible for any damage. If you decide to try it, inquire about road conditions, either with drivers passing in the opposite direction or by calling the county public works department Monday-Friday. Phone 808-248-8254.
Although it's possible to make a one-day round-trip between the western Maui resort areas and Kipahulu, you won't have enough time to enjoy all of the sights. We suggest at least a one-night stay in the Hana area so you can really explore this part of Maui. The number of hotels available in Hana and along this coast is limited, however. Bed-and-breakfast establishments have become more common, but they can be busy. Book well ahead.
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