Blame it on the road Essay

Any way you work it, getting to Hana takes on the air of anexpedition. And perhaps that’s how it should be. Isolated on the easterntip of Maui not so much by distance as by time and terrain, Hana is anisland within an island: a fragment of rural Hawaii barely surviving onthe edge of the state’s second largest tourism center. The intense development that consumed Maui’s sunny leewardshores during the 1970s left the miles of dramatic shoreline around Hanamostly untouched. Buffered on the Keanae side (see map, page 104) bywild State Forest Reserve lands and on the Kipahulu side by the fragileSeven Pools area, the town itself is mostly a ranching and farmingcenter. While zoning and terrain have helped, ask any of Hana’s 300residents why the area hasn’t changed and many will shrug, thensmile and blame it on the road. Ah, the road! The 62-mile squiggle on our map–state officialshave the nerve (or sense of humor) to call it the Hana Highway–is oneof the most cantankerous stretches of pavement in the Islands.

It isalso 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 deeprain forest where green light softens the vibrant blooms of ginger andorchids. Rain is a way of life here. There are 54 bridges on the road toHana, and at every turn other stream cascades through rocks or plungesover 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 tothe Mainland. Youngsters sell fruit, flower leis, and shells atroadside stands. Tucjed around the coast’s only safe harbor, Hana town is acenter for working ranches and farms, complete with general store, gasstation, old church, new museum, and post office.

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You make your ownentertainment here: there are no high-rise hotels, no designerboutiques, no fast-food franchises. There isn’t even a stoplight. Smoothing the bumps. For years Hana residents fought improvementsto the highway, preferring to dodge potholes and tourists in rental carsrather than face the hordes of grinding tour buses that a modern highwaywould bring. But slowly and quietly over the past few years, the state has beenwidening and resurfacing the road that inspired the T-shirt proclaiming”I survived the Hana Highway.” Barely 12 miles of narrow oldpatchwork remains between Kahului and Hana. While driving timeisn’t dramatically reduced (see box page 104) and the curves arestill there, the route is smoother and–with two narrow lanes–safer. Most visitors make the tortuous drive to Seven Pools and back in along day that leaves little time to explore all that the Hana coast hasto offer.

But a growing number of travelers are making overnight stays.Two days is barely enough time to sample the highlights on our map; fivedays would give plenty of time for hiking and horseback riding. With winter storms about over, now is a good time to visit or toreserve ahead for summer lodging. Late spring and early summer may bethe best times to go, with enough rain to keep the falls full yet enoughsun to let you work on your tan. Exploring Hana . . . a short stroll.

By the town’s verynature, a stop in Hana shouldn’t be rushed. Overnighters will havea few hours to explore properly. At mile 49.3 on the map, turn down Uakea Road (most lodging isalong here). Near the bay turnoff, you’ll see the new Hale WaiwaiO’Hana Museum, with a collection of local artifacts that chroniclesthe area’s history. It’s open 11 to 4 Tuesdays throughSundays; the 1871 courthouse next door is beging restored. Walk up Keawa Place to the highway and go left a block past theHotel Hana Maui to the 1838 Congregational Church (note royal palms),then stroll down plumeria-lined Hauoli Street to picturesque old HanaSchool, now a community center. Turn right; a path at road’s endleads down to a secluded red sand beach below a Japanese cemeteryperched on a bluff.

Turn left back to the road to Hana Bay. The sandybeach fronting Hana Bay offers the safest ocean swimming along thiscoast. You can hike out to the lighthouse on Kauiki Head (QueenKaahumanu was born in a cave here) or picnic on tables or grass.Fishermen sometimes sell part of their catch on the pier in lateafternoon–about the time local paddlers practice racing outrigger canoes across the bay. Beyond town to Oheo Gulch. Overnighters can also do justice to theKipahulu District of Haleakala National Park near the highway’send. Main attraction: the pristine chain of pools in Oheo Gulch.

Rightafter breakfast, drive out from Hana to Oheo Gulch for a cool hike upthe grassy bluffs to two mist-shrouded waterfalls. From the trailheadacross the street from parking, it’s a gentle 1/2 mile to MakahikuFalls. Beyond, in the 1-1/2 miles to Waimoku Falls, you pass an oldHawaiian farm site and wind through a bamboo grove; don’t fordstreams if they look swollen or if it has een raining hard. Afterward, spread your picnic mat on the grassy bluffs of KuloaPoint above the wave-pounded shore near the mouth of Oheo Stream.

Whenrunoff isn’t too high, the pools below the road offer a refreshingdip; a water-smoothed natural chute slides you from the middle of thelowest. 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, Makawao96768. A mile beyond Oheo Gulch in the community of Kipahulu (noservices), 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-pageglimpse into the fabric and soul of the Hana experience. Island storeshave 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., MenloPark, Calif., 1984; $7.95) has been completely revised.

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