Blame it on the road Essay

Any way you work it, getting to Hana takes on the air of an
expedition.



And perhaps that’s how it should be. Isolated on the eastern
tip of Maui not so much by distance as by time and terrain, Hana is an
island within an island: a fragment of rural Hawaii barely surviving on
the edge of the state’s second largest tourism center.

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The intense development that consumed Maui’s sunny leeward
shores during the 1970s left the miles of dramatic shoreline around Hana
mostly untouched. Buffered on the Keanae side (see map, page 104) by
wild State Forest Reserve lands and on the Kipahulu side by the fragile
Seven Pools area, the town itself is mostly a ranching and farming
center.



While zoning and terrain have helped, ask any of Hana’s 300
residents why the area hasn’t changed and many will shrug, then
smile and blame it on the road.



Ah, the road! The 62-mile squiggle on our map–state officials
have the nerve (or sense of humor) to call it the Hana Highway–is one
of the most cantankerous stretches of pavement in the Islands. It is
also one of the most spectacular.



Threading a cautions route above a rocky, wave-pounded coastline,
it passes through some of the island’s wildest tropical forests.
Trails beckon everywhere, leading beneath the jungle canopy into deep
rain forest where green light softens the vibrant blooms of ginger and
orchids.



Rain is a way of life here. There are 54 bridges on the road to
Hana, and at every turn other stream cascades through rocks or plunges
over cliffs into quiet pools that beg a quick swim.


Close to town, the forest gives way to agriculture: rolling acres of green pasture for cattle, small plantations specializing in papaya and kiwi fruit, commercial nurseries growing cut flowers for export to
the Mainland. Youngsters sell fruit, flower leis, and shells at
roadside stands.



Tucjed around the coast’s only safe harbor, Hana town is a
center for working ranches and farms, complete with general store, gas
station, old church, new museum, and post office. You make your own
entertainment here: there are no high-rise hotels, no designer
boutiques, no fast-food franchises. There isn’t even a stoplight.



Smoothing the bumps. For years Hana residents fought improvements
to the highway, preferring to dodge potholes and tourists in rental cars
rather than face the hordes of grinding tour buses that a modern highway
would bring.



But slowly and quietly over the past few years, the state has been
widening and resurfacing the road that inspired the T-shirt proclaiming
“I survived the Hana Highway.” Barely 12 miles of narrow old
patchwork remains between Kahului and Hana. While driving time
isn’t dramatically reduced (see box page 104) and the curves are
still there, the route is smoother and–with two narrow lanes–safer.



Most visitors make the tortuous drive to Seven Pools and back in a
long day that leaves little time to explore all that the Hana coast has
to offer. But a growing number of travelers are making overnight stays.
Two days is barely enough time to sample the highlights on our map; five
days would give plenty of time for hiking and horseback riding.



With winter storms about over, now is a good time to visit or to
reserve ahead for summer lodging. Late spring and early summer may be
the best times to go, with enough rain to keep the falls full yet enough
sun to let you work on your tan.



Exploring Hana . . . a short stroll. By the town’s very
nature, a stop in Hana shouldn’t be rushed. Overnighters will have
a few hours to explore properly.



At mile 49.3 on the map, turn down Uakea Road (most lodging is
along here). Near the bay turnoff, you’ll see the new Hale Waiwai
O’Hana Museum, with a collection of local artifacts that chronicles
the area’s history. It’s open 11 to 4 Tuesdays through
Sundays; the 1871 courthouse next door is beging restored.



Walk up Keawa Place to the highway and go left a block past the
Hotel Hana Maui to the 1838 Congregational Church (note royal palms),
then stroll down plumeria-lined Hauoli Street to picturesque old Hana
School, now a community center. Turn right; a path at road’s end
leads down to a secluded red sand beach below a Japanese cemetery
perched on a bluff. Turn left back to the road to Hana Bay. The sandy
beach fronting Hana Bay offers the safest ocean swimming along this
coast. You can hike out to the lighthouse on Kauiki Head (Queen
Kaahumanu was born in a cave here) or picnic on tables or grass.
Fishermen sometimes sell part of their catch on the pier in late
afternoon–about the time local paddlers practice racing outrigger canoes across the bay.


Beyond town to Oheo Gulch. Overnighters can also do justice to the
Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park near the highway’s
end. Main attraction: the pristine chain of pools in Oheo Gulch. Right
after breakfast, drive out from Hana to Oheo Gulch for a cool hike up
the grassy bluffs to two mist-shrouded waterfalls. From the trailhead
across the street from parking, it’s a gentle 1/2 mile to Makahiku
Falls. Beyond, in the 1-1/2 miles to Waimoku Falls, you pass an old
Hawaiian farm site and wind through a bamboo grove; don’t ford
streams if they look swollen or if it has een raining hard.



Afterward, spread your picnic mat on the grassy bluffs of Kuloa
Point above the wave-pounded shore near the mouth of Oheo Stream. When
runoff isn’t too high, the pools below the road offer a refreshing
dip; a water-smoothed natural chute slides you from the middle of the
lowest. Walk carefully on the slippery rocks.



For details on special Saturday morning hikes and camping, call
(808) 572-9306, or write to Haleakala National Park, Box 369, Makawao
96768.



A mile beyond Oheo Gulch in the community of Kipahulu (no
services), the Greg Lind family offers horseback rides into the park for
$12 per hour. A 2-hour trip goes to the two upper falls; bring lunch.
Call 248-7722 or write to Oheo Stables, Box 254, Hana 96713.



For more reading. On the Hana Coast is an illustrated 164-page
glimpse into the fabric and soul of the Hana experience. Island stores
have it, or order from Emphasis International, Box 61366, Manoa Station,
Honolulu 96822, for $11.95 ($13.95 for air-mail delivery).



Hawaii, A Guide to All the Islands (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo
Park, Calif., 1984; $7.95) has been completely revised.

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