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Exploring: Island Tours > Maui > Hana District
The road that winds along Maui's northeast coast leads to Heavenly Hana, not so much destination as journey, for the stops along the way that make the Road to Hana very special. That and its fifty miles of hairpin turns, dozens of one-lane bridges, and caravans of rental cars in search of paradise.
This piece of Maui is indeed paradise found, a place where people still speak the Hawai'ian language, raise taro in small plots or loi, offer homegrown fruits and flowers for sale along the road (payment by honor system), and share the aloha that has not been lost or commercialized. Of all the places on all the islands, the road to Hana has the look and feel of unspoiled Polynesia -- lavish vegetation, empty beaches, waterfalls flowing into exquisite pools. You will not be observing from a distance, but will be close enough to touch, smell, taste, and swim.
Ideally, a trip to Hana would be at least an overnight affair. If you plan well in advance, there are some lovely accommodations from the charming and spare to the luxurious and tasteful Hotel Hana-Maui. If you have only a day, plan to leave early in the morning and return in the evening.
Don't be intimidated by what you may have heard about the road itself; it is well-maintained and drivable. Be patient and careful, and also be respectful of locals who are on a mission -- let them pass. You can also fly into Hana from Kahului Airport, a short but gorgeous flight.
Beginning in the town of Paia, here are some of the sights along the quite memorable road:
Paia, an old plantation town revived by enterprising hippies and the international windsurfing set, is a colorful little village with vividly-painted stores and a cast of characters to match. This is the place to gas up and grab a picnic lunch, but you may find yourself wanting to return to browse its shops, both offbeat and elegant.
Ho'okipa Beach Park is one of the world's windsurfing meccas, a great place to get out the binoculars (unless you're into the sport yourself). This is the site of the O'Neill International Windsurfing Championship held each spring.
After passing through Haiku and the tiny villages of Huelo and Kailua, the road heads through denser tropical vegetation fed by frequent rains. Check out Waikamoi Ridge Nature Trail, a one-mile hike, and Puohokamoa Stream, with waterfalls, pools and picnic tables. Facilities are available just a bit further at Kaumahina State Wayside Park overlooking Honomanu Bay and the mind-blowing vistas of the Keanae Peninsula. A mile further is Honomanu Valley which stretches back five miles with 3000-foot cliffs and a 1000-foot waterfall.
Keanae Arboretum has a hike through both native and non-native tropical plants -- another nice place to picnic or swim in the stream.
The villages of Keanae and Wailua are sparsely populated with taro patches tended by Hawai'ians. In Wailua is the picturesque Coral Church built in 1860 of coral washed up on the beach. Further along are the beautiful Waikane Falls and a road leads to another village, Nahiku, once a thriving area, now home to both locals and wealthy transplants.
Wainapanapa State Park is right on one of the island's only black sand beaches and has cabins (booked well in advance) as well as picnic areas and a trail leading to some lava caves.
Hana: The town itself is small with not much to see but the Hotel Hana-Maui, Wananalua Church, built of coral in 1838, and Hana Cultural Center, which houses a small collection of Hawai'ian artifacts. Head to the beaches -- Hana Bay for excellent swimming and snorkeling, the secluded Red Sand Beach, a bit of a treacherous walk, and Hamoa Beach, used by the guests at Hotel Hana-Maui, but open to anyone.
Several miles beyond Hana is the ultimate tourist destination, the so-called seven sacred pools.
Oheo Gulch is a lovely and fun spot, however, especially if you hike up above the crowds -- a couple of miles to Waimoku Falls, where you can swim, sun, and stroll through a bamboo forest.
To continue around the island from here you'll need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, stamina, and a sense of adventure. The very rugged road takes you past a couple of lovely Hawai'ian churches and the Kaupo Store where civilization ends until you find yourself upcountry, above the Makena area on the south side.
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