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Heavenly Hana is in some ways the Hawaii that time forgot. Some people who make the journey just decide to stay. Such was the case with famed aviator Charles Lindbergh who, tired of his high-profile life, decided to spend the rest of his days in this sleepy part of Maui. His final resting place overlooks the Pacific Ocean, about eight miles south of the town core.
Whether you decide to come for a day or stay a while, driving the road to Hana is half the fun. By the time you make the journey from Paia, a surfer’s delight on Maui’s north shore, you will have covered 42 miles, crossed 54 bridges, some of them one-lane, and negotiated some 600 hairpin curves.
Each of those curves hold a surprise, whether it’s a hidden waterfall cascading to the roadway, a breathtaking panoramic view of the Pacific, a bamboo forest, or a roadside stand selling fresh pineapple juice and mango slices. Some of the curves are especially challenging. One near mile marker 6 turns up and around at the same time. The forest of bamboo at mile marker 7 poses its own challenges. Tourists tend to pay more attention to that forest than the road. It is an amazing site, but you can get just as lovely a view from the pull-out near the Kaaiea Bridge.
The Kaumahina State Wayside is a rest area, offering picnic tables, barbecue grills and restrooms. It also offers an amazing view of the Keanae Peninsula, just one of the incredible photo ops on your journey.
A 4X4 vehicle isn’t necessary, but it won’t hurt. Convertibles are great because you not only get the best views but can work on your tan at the same time. Pick up food and drinks in Paia since there are few options before you get to Hana. Make sure your camera is charged and you have lots of room on that memory card, you’ll need it.
If you aren’t in a hurry, consider spending the night in Hana to really get the feel of the place. It also helps break up your drive, which can take two to three hours each way depending on how often you stop. Making the journey to Hana and then just taking a cursory look at the town doesn’t really give you a true sense of the area. Besides, sitting behind the wheel for six hours or more in one day can seem more like work to some, no matter how pleasant the drive.
Then again, you may just want to leave the driving to others. Road to Hana Tours are available. Sit back on an air conditioned mini-bus as the driver navigates the curves and stops at the best sites along the way. The all-day tour includes lunch and a chance to swim at a black sand beach if the conditions are favorable.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|