The one thing everyone told me I had to see on Maui was the Road to Hana. Hana is a very small village on the eastern edge of the island. Remote and non-commercial for the most part, it is the journey more than the destination that matters.
The “road” to Hana is the Hana Highway. Calling it a highway is misleading because it is a winding narrow mountainside road for about 35 miles. There are numerous stops along the way for scenic overlooks, brief hikes to waterfalls, and more than one botanical garden.Go early everyone said, expect it to take all day and plan to be exhausted when you get home. From a ride? Yes, they were right.
Coconut trees, banana trees, birds of paradise, guava, pineapple, huge palms, it was awe-inspiring!
When we got back to the parking lot there was a funky fruit stand made from an old school bus (a short one!) and we bought a pineapple. The woman took a machete and deftly hacked the skin off and made short work of dicing the pineapple and scooping it into a zip-lock bag. This was the finest pineapple I have ever eaten! It was sweet to the extreme, and had a distinct coconut flavor.
We continued on and would cross 50 one-lane bridges! It got to be so routine, stopping when you saw a car so they could pass first. Occasionally we would pull over to see an overlook or similar sight. There were more fruit stands, smoothie bars, bbq, and souvenir vendors but these were all more or less simple vendor stands.
At mile marker 14 we stopped at Honomanu Bay. This was a secluded black sand beach nestled in the curve between two mountains. The Hana Highway was well above us and I could have stayed here all day!
We continued on all the way to Hana, a small gorgeous old city, isolated but for this tourist magnet of a road.
We had lunch at the Hotel Hana-Maui. What a place! The Hana-Maui is peaceful and serene and exceedingly beautiful. It is almost all open air and has a very low-key personality. Though there is a spa and golf course, there is no glitz. it is a simple place overlooking the sea. It struck me as a place where a celebrity might go to avoid the paparazzi!
We sat outdoors and ordered again, the Ahi Tuna Sashimi, and a couple teriyaki burgers. The Ahi once again did not disappoint! A quick dip in soy sauce and onto the taste buds and I needed a moment of silence for the intense pleasure it brought! I honestly feel I am ruined from ordinary tuna!
We walked around Hana a little bit and saw a beautiful cattle ranch up in the hills. There was a bike/jogging trail that went through the center of it and if we hadn’t had a hair-raising long ride back I would have walked through those hills.
We walked to what appeared to be an ancient cemetery in which many of the sites had long lost any markings. In the center of this cemetery was the biggest banyan tree I have ever seen. It had vines hanging down as if any moment Tarzan might swing in for a visit. Under the shade of this tree you felt like you were in a magical world.
We drove back and on the way stopped to see a Hawaiian temple, the Pi’ilanihale Keau. Back in November Washington Post Senior News Editor Sara Goo wrote a feature article about this site. It sits on land that her family has owned since the days of Hawaii’s King Kamehameha III in the mid-1800’s. It is the largest temple in Hawaii and has been meticulously restored and cleared and researched. Sadly, we arrived to find the botanical garden in which it is located closes at 2:00. It was exactly 2:00, but the road’s gate was closed and locked. We considered going in on foot, but since November I had read of what sacred ground this was and trespassing did not seem like the best way to introduce myself. Next time.
It is indeed a long and tiring day, and one I would recommend to anyone. One tip, you do not want to be sitting in the back of the bus–or even the back seat on this one!