The Road to Hana
It has been said that the Road to Hana that runs along Mauis north shore to its eastern boarder and the remote outpost of Hana town, is the closest thing to a highway to heaven that exists on earth. 52 miles that take you to a different universe, the road to Hana unwinds slowly, with seemingly ever-more breathtaking scenery around each of its 617 curves. The road itself was literally a million years in the making; and is not a journey to be undertaken by those in a hurry.
No road in Hawaii is more celebrated than this one. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Road to Hana was first opened (by pickaxe wielding convicts) in 1926. Often subject to landslides and washouts, the road was paved in 1962. In August 2000 the road was designated as the Hana Millennium Legacy Trail from Paia to Kipahulu. The drive takes about two and a half hours, with no stops, from Kahului to Kipahulu and requires negotiating more than 59 bridges, 46 of which are one lane, with a speed limit ranging from 10 to 35 miles an hour. But driving to Hana without making a stop seems unthinkable, and the bridges, and the driving rituals associated with them, are part of the experience of traveling on the road to Hana.
Approximately 1,000 tourists traverse the road each day, past taro patches, dramatic seascapes, spectacular waterfalls and pools, botanical gardens, and lush rainforests, ending up at one of Hawaii's most beautiful tropical places. Hana town is not the end of the journey, as some of the very best sights lie miles beyond this sleepy town. The Seven Pools of Oheo (often mistakenly referenced as the Seven Sacred Pools), Wailua Falls, Pipiwai Trail, the Kipahulu pasturelands. A place where time has seemingly moved more slowly than in the rest of the world. The last Hawaiian place.
In their rush to "do" Hana in a day, most visitors pull into town, look around for 10 minutes, wonder what the big deal is about, and depart for civilization as quickly as they came. It takes time to take in Hana, play in the waterfalls, hike through bamboo forests, and marvel at the spectacular scenery.
If you really must do the Hana Highway in a day, leave as early as you can. The journey begun at 8:00am is an entirely different experience than one begun at 10am, when the tropical traffic jams are at their worst. Better yet, go just before sunrise and return after sunset: On a full-moon night, the sea and the waterfalls glow in soft white light, and you'll have the road almost to yourself.
If you're planning your trip to Maui now, or planning your next trip, and rejuvenation and rest are on your mind, consider making Hana your destination for a few days at the beginning or end of the journey. The surface can be scratched in a one-day trip, but it takes many days (if not weeks, months, years, a lifetime) to really get a sense of what Hana has to offer.