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The Road to Hana, Maui

With its golden beaches, lush tropical landscape, and clean-washed blue skies, Maui is a vacationing wonderland. In this land of superlatives, the little town of Hana offers a get-away that surpasses the imagination. Even locals flock to Hana to escape from it all, get back to nature, and relax. The next time you’re in the rainbow state, head to Maui and explore the beauty of Hana!

Hana is set on Maui’s far eastern peninsula, just north of Haleakala National Park. With its setting far from the larger towns and cities, Hana reminds its visitors of what Maui was like thirty years ago. Stunning natural beauty surrounds you everywhere, from the lava-formed bluffs and rolling waves to the tropical forests and brilliant flowers.

The road to Hana offers just as much joy and beauty as the destination itself. From the Kahului Airport, it’s a 52-mile (or 2-4 hour) trip along the narrow, winding Hana Highway. If you have the time, be sure to stop at the parks and vista points along the way. This road leads you through the only rain forest in Maui that’s accessible by car, so take your time and admire the scenery as well as the exotic birds and wildlife.

The town of Hana hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years. It still retains its small-town feel, as you’ll find when you step into the Hasegawa General Store, a family-run enterprise that’s been in operation since 1910. You’ll find a wide range of galleries and shops in Hana, offering everything from Maui-inspired hot sauces to Hawaiian plants and fruits. Several local artists run their own shops in Hana, featuring hand-made wares. Be sure to take your time exploring the town center, poking into stores and asking questions of the owners. With the easy pace of life in Hana, everyone has a minute to chat.

Hana’s beaches are exquisite and varied. At Hamoa Beach, you’ll see what author James Michener called ‘South Pacific beauty in the North Pacific.’ Koki Beach has a white sandy shore that’s overlooked by Kaiwi O’Pele Hill’s red cinder cliffs. You’ll find a red cinder beach and lovely lagoons at Kaihalulu Beach, and a black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park.

Once you’ve had your fill of beaches, head to the dramatic Wailua Falls, a 95-foot waterfall that’s right off the Hana Highway. You can take a self-guided tour at the Kahanu Garden, checking out the Pi’ilanihali Heiau, the largest such plant in the state of Hawaii. If you take a day trip to Haleakala National Park, you can explore the Ohe’o—or Seven Pools—Gulch. A stop at the rangers station will help you get the most out of your park visit.

To learn more about Maui and Hana’s history, head to the Hana Cultural Center and Museum. Their newly-built Kauhale O Hana is an authentic re-creation of the kind of complex Hawaiians lived in before European contact. Polynesian peoples arrived in Hawaii between 500 and 800 AD. By the 1800s, sugar plantations had boomed in Hana, causing the Hana Highway to be built. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hana grew to a town of 3,500 with two movie theaters, three barber shops, and fifteen different shops.

You’ll find amazing restaurants in Hana, offering everything from espresso to burgers or local favorites. At the Up In Smoke BBQ you can sample baked breadfruit, kalua pig, and grilled local fish. Start your mornings off right with a stop at the Nihiku Café with its baked goods and Maui coffee, then head to the Laulima Farms Organic Fruit Stand for your mid-morning snack. You can create the energy to make your own smoothie by hopping on the bicycle-powered blender!

Activities abound in Hana. You can take a safari ride to see ancient wetlands, tour the coast on horseback, or rent a kayak and explore the coves and shore from sea level. Snorkeling and swimming are popular activities, as are hiking and biking tours. For a wilder experience, try hang gliding or take a self-guided cave tour at Ka’eleku Caverns, Maui’s largest underground lava tube system. There are plenty of charter services that offer deep sea fishing or ocean rafting as well as whale watching or special snorkeling trips. And be sure not to miss the annual East Maui Taro Festival, a celebration of the culture of Kalo.

With its unique history, natural beauty, and mellow attitude, Hana is an ideal vacation destination. Whether you pass the time admiring the glistening waters of the Wai’anapanapa Caves or spend your days exploring the flower farms and lei shops, you’re sure to fall in love with Hawaiian culture. You’ll soon see that it’s true what they say—once you take the road to Hana, you may never want to go back.
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