The T-shirts are proudly worn as badges of honor, the coffee cups great souvenirs to remind you, small signs and refrigerator magnets to display in your kitchen. “I survived the Road to Hana” they say. Don’t go if you get carsick I hear. Better not drive a rental car there I’ve been told. Not for the faint of heart is cautioned. So what better way to spend the last day with my daughter alone before her brother gets back, than to go to Hana.
Instead of a white-knuckle suicide mission, I and my daughter find the drive to Hana especially relaxing. The 52 miles of cliffside curves through tropical rainforest past waterfalls and sheer cliffs is gorgeous. With the windows down, the sunroof open, and soft music, you couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a day. The town of Hana itself is nothing much. In the early 1900’s the population was around 3500. Now it’s about 1200, not unlike a lot of small towns with a limited job market. One of the attractions is Charles Lindberg’s grave. He moved to Hana a few years before he passed away. There are all kinds of guidebooks and downloads to pinpoint every single thing. I’m not going to bore you with all those details.
It’s the road itself that makes the trip. Whether it’s hugging a cliff hundreds of feet above the ocean or rounding yet another curve with a beautiful waterfall, you seldom drive over 20 miles per hour, and many parts of the road, which was built in 1926, are single lane or in a continual state of repair. Once in Hana, you have the choice of either continuing around the rest of the island or turning back the way you came. I have always gone around the whole thing, but this time we had to turn around because the road was washed out ahead. Once past Hana, the road sometimes turns to gravel, is very narrow, and is a lot more treacherous. Huge rocky cliffs tower above you, and an occasional rock crashes down from above. Rental agencies don’t recommend you take their cars on this road, and mostly all traffic is discouraged. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share of that side of the island at this time, but I’m sure I will the next time I go.
There are really two kinds of road trips to Hana. There are magnificent waterfalls to hike to and swim in, trails to explore, and outdoor opportunities around every corner. That’s one way. My daughter doesn’t like to hike, so we do the “stay in the car thing” stopping for lunch, getting banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s roadside stand, then eating it on the shore. Cell service is nonexistent most of the way, as is the radio, so we ended up listening to the one song on my daughter’s phone for most of the four hours down and back. Lucky I liked it. But for me, it was just nice to spend the day with her.
Regardless of the things you do, going to Hana, and the road in between, will be one of your most treasured memories of Maui. Because its rainforest and you are driving slow, you will want the windows down, the top off or sunroof open. You will feel the occasional misty rain, hear the songs of birds, enjoy the smell of the fresh forest canopy overhead, road lined with bamboo, and the scent of tropical flowers. There are also lots of unique food stands along the way. Bring your hiking shoes and a swimsuit just in case. The temperature will always be between 75 and 85, depending on your elevation. Even though it’s only 52 miles, it will take at least two hours or more depending on how many stops you make, and that’s only one way.
Pictures and videos never really come close to the real thing, but I hope that those of you locked in the grip of a cold Northern winter enjoy them. (Maybe it’s because I am shooting them with an old iPhone 5).