Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Road to Hana

Ke'anae Coastline.

The above picture was taken at the Ke'anae coast and shows the coastline of that low-lying town has not changed much as compared to a thousand years ago. The one below shows a road seemingly cutting a densely forested peninsular in half. Both pictures were taken on the road to Hana in Maui. Last week I returned home after spending two idyllic weeks in Hawaii: five days in Oahu and nine days in Maui. Idyllic because the weather was perfect, it was off peak season so lines everywhere were short, and, for the first time, we did the drive to that quaint, quintessentially tropical town of Hana. The Road to Hana, as the entire endeavor is sometimes referred to, i.e. the drive, the many stops along the way, the distinctive foods- home made banana bread, lilikoi, papayas, mangoes, steamed breadfruit- that must be bought, the town itself, and the drive back can be a day long trip. We, on the other hand, decided to make it three days and two nights. And wisely so. After hearing stories and reading about the constant turns and downhills maneuvers on the Hana highway coupled with the fact that just the thought of all the curves is designed to give me notion sickness, I know we made a wise decision.

Hana Highway along east Maui.

We arrived in Kahului after four activity packed days on Oahu: kayaking, touring the LOST sights, snorkeling, touring the north coast. So by this time, we were ready for the laid back scene that is most of Maui. Kahului is a small port city and an airport town; consequently it is very commercialized and there aren't many good beaches, although some are within driving distance. This is not to say that I would overlook the town. In fact, I am always srtuck at the view of the West Maui mountains from here, its grandeur and yet its peacefulness. This time, however, Kahului served as our first pit stop before Hana. We'd have dinner and spend the night there, awaking refreshed and ready for the long drive ahead.

We started our drive the following morning after stopping for coffee at Maui Coffee Roasters, touted as the best coffee in west Maui, and I will have to agree. As with my previous trips to the islands, I relied on Maui Revealed, part of a series of guide books by Andrew Doughty which has now become my holy grail for everything Hawaii. His Maui edition has indepth descriptions of every must-see spot along the way, and those which can be overlooked. Since the highway sits between the edge of the mountain and the ocean, many of these sites include gorgeous waterfalls and gulches. And it wasn't long until we reached the first of the must-sees: Lower Puohokamoa Falls. If you don't know where to stop you'd probably pass the access point: nothing more than a small dirt pullout on the left side of the road, followed by a barded wire face, a short, very precarious trail, and you're at the viewing point directly across from the falls. This one was breathtaking, not because it was the first waterfall we encountered but its one hundred plus drop into the river below is simply majestic.... and frightening. It set the tone for the many other waterfalls we would see as we continued. Some even more majestic, some not as lofty but charming nonetheless.

Just when it seemed that the highway followed a distinct sequence - road, ocean view, tropical forest, waterfall, road, ocean view, forest, waterfall- we came upon the exit for Ke'anae, the quaint coastal town which, in 1946, was almost destroyed by a tsunami. The exit leads directly to Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread stand, in my opinion the best banana bread from Kahului all the way to Hana. (Yes, I tried them all; there was just no other way to make an informed opinion.) Their bread is made fresh, right then and there. Aunty Sandy somehow coincides her baking with each onslaught of visitors because the bread is still warm when you buy it. Having had our fill of warm banana bread and coconut candy, we drove past the stand and into the village itself. The further in you get, the magnitude of the unspoilt coastline begins to emerge. This is a prime example of what the islands looked like thousands of years ago, when hot lava met the ocean.

The sign in front of Aunty Sandy's Banana Bread stand.

Black Sand Beach at Wainapanapa State Park.

Back on the highway, it took us a little over an hour to finally get to Hana. Beautiful, mysterious, heavenly Hana. Never had I envisioned such a place existed in the United States. Most striking to me was the silence. No matter where we were, all we could here was either the ocean waves or the sound of the wind, and it's easy to understand why. With the exception of a general store which closes at seven pm, the two main hotels, a single gas station, and couple restaurants , commerce is almost nonexistent. And I am sure the prospect of the long drive from the main tourist center (central and west of the island) unofficially regulates the number of visitors there at any one time.

In spite of its remoteness, there is a lot to see and do in Hana. The famous Honokalani Black Sand Beach, picture-postcard-gorgeous Ohea Gulch, and family friendly Hana Bay. Then there is a visit to Ono Organic Farms, one of the highlights of the entire trip for me. Ono is hawaiian for delicious and everything is ono on this farm. From the welcoming cup of coffee to the very last piece of fruit. For thirty five dollars per person, owner Lily Boerner takes you on a tour through her tropical fruit tree paradise. Being an island girl myself, and having grown up on a similar style estate, this was like revisiting my childhood. Guavas, papayas, caimito (what I knew as caimet), soursop, passion fruit. I also had the opportunity to try news ones such as cheromoya, sweet passionfruit and a couple different varieties of bananas. As if that weren't enough, the farm sells organic coffee beans, jams, jellies, and spice rubs.

Standing in Oheo Gulch.

Fresh organic fruit from Ono Organic Farm. Clockwise from top right: papaya, lychee, guava, caimito, and pineapple.

Lily Boerner, owner of Ono Organic Farms, cutting into caimito and soursop.

For me, Hana was more than just another tourist attraction in Maui. It was a sanctuary, the ultimate hidden paradise. From its breathtaking natural formations, to its solitude, to the soothing sounds all around, to its fresh organic foods. It was a place where nothing else but the person you're with, and the moment you're in, mattered because everything else seems to be taken care of.

1 comment:

Marina said...

happy to see you had an enjoyable vacation!!