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Fyllis: Hana Highway
The Road to Hana:
The Road More Traveled --
And With Good Reason

Story by Fyllis Hockman
Photos by Victor Block

one of the waterfalls along the Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii
ust as the queasiness in my stomach from the continuous onslaught of curves and cutbacks along the narrow uphill road began to subside, we rounded yet another 180-degree bend. The first waterfall with whipped cream waters dripping down deep-creviced cleavages appeared by the roadside, its beauty washing away all my remaining reservations. The first of many such waterfalls we were to encounter.

Such is the road to Hana, which traverses the northern coast of Maui in Hawaii, from the rustic village of Paia to its destination at the eastern tip. While only 52 miles long, this series of twists, turns, dips and dives can take up to 3 hours to negotiate. But the ever-present views of lush greenery and ocean blues, vistas of rock and white water foaming up over the shores, and waterfalls bubbling over craggy cliffs are well worth the day-long adventure.

The road narrows even further -- if such a thing is possible -- as the vegetation increases in lushness and hue. I smirked at the sign, "Narrow Winding Road Next 30 Miles," thinking the announcement superfluous, before an immediate double hairpin turn attested to its validity. Forests of sugar cane, coconut trees and pineapple fields abound, and the banyan trees lean forward suggestively as though to beckon you onward.

aerial view of Hana Highway winding along the coast of Maui

Still, take time to stop and walk. Sit beneath a banana tree enveloped by giant 6-feet-long leaves. Look out at the wrinkled brown-hued mountains lacerated with ridges created by 2 1/2 million years of rainfall. Look below to the ocean, so varied in color as to simulate every shade of blue contained in even the largest box of Crayola crayons.

Thus fortified, return to the on-going challenge of the Hana Highway, certainly a misnomer considering its 600 curves and 56 one-lane bridges. Nearby Kaumahina State Park combines a Garden-of-Eden setting with the more practical appeal of restrooms and picnic tables. Be sure to follow the stone-cut nature trail for a dip in the natural swimming pool framed by waterfall and rock -- a refreshing antidote to the heat and strain of the drive.

scenic overlook along the Hana Highway

If you're a flora and fauna buff, a stop at the Keanae Arboretum is a must. It's as close to an Hawaiian jungle as you can get, with a wealth of native trees, plants and flowers visible to the knowing eye.

Puaakaa State Park is the next stop -- with everything an everyday Paradise should have. The footpath, reminiscent of the road, winds in and out along streams and overlooks. Overlapping paths through multi-colored bushes lead ultimately to a consortium of pools and waterfalls. Irresistibly clear, clean, cool waters flowing in, under, and around rocks entice even the most hardened hold-out. A swing on the Tarzan-like hanging vines overhead adds a dimension to the tropical swimming hole most backyard pools lack.

waves breaking on rocky, black sand beach

At the rise of another double-U bend in the road is a small roadside stand proffering manna in the form of a variety of native refreshments. Home-grown bananas, papayas, guavas, coconuts and pineapples. While there, we watched the owner, machete in hand, traipse down a nearby path and return with bunches of bananas to meet the demands of the lunchtime crowd. Now that's fast food made to order!

Spirits refreshed and stamina rekindled, a visit to nearby Waianapanapa State Park temporarily transports you into an otherworldly excursion before entering the tranquil town of Hana. Although the Big Island of Hawaii is better known for its black sand beaches, this park presents its own opportunity to experience this incongruous adornment to a surf-side setting. A steep-stepped path meanders beneath extensive overhangs of gnarled twisted branches, so thick with growth than an eerie darkness prevails even on a sunny day. Hidden within the rainforest vegetation, cavernous rock formations envelop crisp freshwater pools connected by lava tunnels.

view of the coast and surf at Waianapanapa State Park

Lightness and color return with the approach to Hana. Large trees with red-blossom canopies, rainbow-lined sidewalks and green-laden hillsides announce your arrival. However, considering this is the only stretch of civilization in a 3-hour trek, you hardly even know you've arrived. A few small stores, the delightful Hana-Maui Hotel, and the presence of people who clearly are not tourists signal the change.

A visit to the Hasegawa General Store -- immortalized in a 1964 song of the same name by Paul Weston -- jolted me out of the tranquil reverie engendered by the town. The small store, well-known for its awesome accumulation of every conceivable item, is so cluttered and cramped that, for me, it conflicted with the airy openness of the natural beauty all around. Still, it is a worthwhile stop; if only to pick up some dramamine -- the store's best-selling item -- for the ride back.

Related Articles:
Lahaina On Foot, Upcountry Maui, Kaunakakai, Molokai, The Garden Island of Kaua’i, Kona Village Resort, The North Shore of Oahu, Tahiti and Her Islands, Tahiti: A Photo Essay

(Posted 1-9-2012)

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Let Fyllis know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Gullah Culture

I think a lot of the plantation enslaved Africans began with a variety of African languages and little contact with English speakers. Even today some of the speech patterns of modern descents of the enslaved hold onto this language or some of the patterns even after being away from the area for generations. That's what we heard in N Carolina.

-- Barbara, Mill Creek, WA

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Thank you for your extensive and accurate story of a remarkable, resilient culture!

-- Marlene O'Bryant-Seabrook, Ph.D. – Charleston, SC

And Marlene – thank you so very much for your comment. Nothing makes a writer feel better than hearing something like that!!!


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Nice story thanks, however there are also Gullah speak in southern Belize and Honduras coast to Trujillo, been all over both thanks.

-- Michael Johnson – Myrtle Beach, SC

Hi Michael,

Thank you so much for your comment. However, I think what you're referring to in the Belize/Honduras region is more accurately characterized as the Garifuna culture and language, which somewhat parallels the Gullah. If you'd like more information about that, please read my November 2011 story in about the Garifuna.


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Toooooooo cooooooool Now I want to go to Florida!!!!

-- Kathy Marianelli – Columbia, Maryland

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Feedback for Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

I'm a Vietnamese and I can't help but went through all of your pictures. They are beautiful, both the couples and the natural sceneries. Vietnam is such a beautiful place, I love it. I have been to Ha Long Bay once, in fact, I have been too all places that you took pictures of. I love your pictures and certainly will comeback for more. Thank you for these wonderful images of Vietnam and its people.

-- Quyen

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Feedback for Family Magic in Orlando

Great article!!! Makes me want to go back and experience it ALL all over again.

-- Ariane – Chicago

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Feedback for Mohonk

I love your signature and the writing (in "Mohonk: Sumptuous Old-World Flavor Tastefully Wrapped in Casual Elegance")... but the place is a bit expensive... more like the Romney types! Is Vic a "photographer" or does he just take pretty good pictures?

-- John Strauss – Campton Hills, IL

Hi John,

Thanks so much for your kind comments. Much appreciated! Yes, I do know Mohonk is expensive -- as is true for so many of the fine resorts -- but it is a historical structure that has been in operation for so many years and offers so many activity options for the whole family without nickel and diming the guest, that for those who can afford it, it actually is somewhat of a bargain.

And no, Vic is not a "real" photographer as much as he is a travel writer in his own right, but sometimes, as he says, he does get lucky.

Again, thanks for your feedback.


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Feedback for the Road to Hana

We enjoyed seeing the Road to Hana from a helicopter! After you get to Hana you've still got to make the return journey. Thanks but no thanks!

-- Betsy Tuel – Rosendale, NY

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Feedback for Dominican Republic

Thank you, Fyllis, for this engaging tour. For years I thought the Dominican Republic was all-tourists, all-the-time. You just made me want to go there! (those waterfall adventures look like great fun)

-- Richard F. – Saugerties

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Feedback for Traveling the Canadian Rockies

We (our family) also took The Rocky Mountaineer (gold leaf) in early June 2011. Great memories! Great food! Great service! I am sorry to hear about this labor dispute, as clearly, the attendants were a HUGE part of the experience. They felt like friends by the end of the trip. Good luck to all employees!

-- Susie – Hana

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Hi Fyllis,

I am one of the locked out onboard attendants. I enjoyed reading your lovely writing based on the trip you took with the level of service that was delivered until June 22, 2011. It is misleading to share this review at this time. Many current guests are dismayed when they experience the low level of service which does not live up to what this blog post boasts. The company is not even responding to the complaints of their guests who have paid top dollar, and are now consistently ignored when they write to ask for a refund. If you do not believe me, go to Trip Advisor and read the recent reviews. There are a few good ones, and they are almost all from pre-lock out dates. Many of those are from complimentary trips and the company seems to be pressuring them to post positive reviews. If you are unaware of what is happening, please consider visiting a site which has many news stories and letters of support from guests and local politicians.

--- City: onboard – Vancouver

Can I ask when this article was written? One of the managers onboard would have been travelling on it for more than 6 years by now...last I heard Shauna was in Edmonton.

--- tnoakes – Edmonton, Alberta

Dear Whomever --

I am so very sorry to hear about the lockout and the bad feelings that have been engendered between management and employees. It was not a situation I knew anything about and realize the timing of my article indeed was unfortunate.

What I wrote about was based totally on my personal experience and only reflects my trip at that time. Please accept my apologies for the difficulties current and former employees are now experiencing and the apparent disparate levels of service experienced by me and more recent guests. It was not something I had any knowledge of.

Fyllis, TravelingBoy

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Lake Charles’ Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras

dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

go there

Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
Puerto Vallarta: Magic and Mayhem on the Malecon

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
So I heard that you could spend from dawn to dusk on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and never get bored and I thought, "Okay, I'm up for that challenge." Well, maybe not the dawn part – I'm not a morning person – so I had no problem leaving those early hours to the joggers and those seeking an early start to catch their red snapper for dinner.

Go There

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