Length: About 50 miles.
Words to the wise: Paia is the last
place to get fuel before Hana, where the
only service station closes at 6 p.m. Companies
renting cars usually do not pay for
damages incurred by drivers on unpaved
roads, only paved ones.
Nearby attraction: Haleakala National
Park, more than 28,000 acres of volcanic
wilderness, including a craterlike valley, rain
forest, and waterfalls, located in southeastern
Further information: Maui Visitors
Bureau, 1727 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku, HI 96793;
tel. 808-244-3530, www.visitmaui.com.
The road to Hana is, to say the least,
less than ideal: narrow hairpin turns
are more the norm than the exception,
and tiny towns along the way remain
throwbacks to an earlier era of simplicity
and isolation. Yet the difficulties
of this winding coastal route are
at the same time one of its great
virtues, for they force drivers to slow
down. And slowing down, one local
likes to point out, leaves you time to
“smell the flowers” — not at all a bad
idea in this pretty corner of paradise.
1. Hookipa Beach Park
Though the beach here is beautiful
in its own right, the big attraction
is the opportunity to watch
some of the world’s best windsurfers
in action. Jumping, tacking,
and even cartwheeling across the
blue waters off Hookipa Beach,
athletes by the hundred perform
acrobatic feats in an idyllic setting.
The combination of steady surf
and robust winds make the area
such an ideal locale for windsurfing
that even international championship
competitions are held here.
2. Twin Falls
About two miles beyond the point
where Rte. 36 becomes Rte. 360,
a short trail leads to a pool fed by
this pair of waterfalls. It is in this
area, too, that the highway begins
to curve crazily, snaking along the
lower slopes of the sleeping giant
Haleakala, a volcano whose highest
point crests at 10,023 feet.
The course the Hana Highway
follows was originally a footpath,
a narrow trail blazed by ancient
Hawaiians. Later, convicts used
shovels to widen the route, and
some decades after that, it was
finally paved. Despite these steady
improvements, the road retains a
well-deserved reputation for being
difficult — indeed, about three
hours are required to navigate its
52 serpentine miles.
From Twin Falls onward, a
Technicolor world lines the highway,
which enters an enchanted
realm adorned with vibrant greenery,
misty waterfalls, and pristine
pools. More than 50 bridges —
many just one lane wide — span
the terrain’s many gorges, and the
views occasionally open to reveal
seascapes of the blue Pacific Ocean
and dark sand beaches that lie
below. Wild orchids and fragrant
yellow ginger blossoms are among
the plants that emblazon the roadside.
The jungle — a maze of bamboo,
African tulip, breadfruit, and
paperbark trees — grows so dense
that in places a green canopy
arches above the roadway.