Categorized | Take a Trip, Travel & Leisure

The Road to Hana is worth the trip


By Victor Block


The continuous torturous twists and 180-degree turns are interspersed only sporadically by straight stretches of the narrow road. The sight of the first of a number of waterfalls along the route, water splashing down a deep crevice, provided relief, at least temporarily, from the queasiness in my stomach.

Such is a ride on the road to Hana — which traverses the northern coast of Maui in Hawaii — one of the most magnificent drives anywhere, The drive from the rustic village of Paia to the eastern tip of the island is only 52 miles long, but it can take up to three hours to negotiate.

Some 600 twists and turns, dips and dives, along with 56 one-lane bridges, make for slow and careful driving. Fortunately, 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 daylong round-trip adventure.

In places, the road narrows even further as the vegetation increases in lushness and hue. Forests of sugar cane, stands of coconut trees and fields of pineapples abound. A sign of caution, “Narrow Winding Road Next 30 Miles,” must be one of the world’s greatest understatements.

I took the advice of a local who drives the route often to stop now and then and enjoy a stroll. I rested beneath a banana tree enveloped by giant six-feet-long leaves. Wondered at the crinkled mountains lacerated with ridges created by 2 1/2 million years of rainfall. And watched the ocean below, in a variety of hues rivaling every shade of blue in the largest box of Crayola crayons.

If you’re a flora and fauna buff, a stop at the Keanae Arboretum will be a treat. It’s as close to a Hawaiian jungle as you can get, with a wealth of native trees, plants and flowers.

At Puaa Kaa State Park further along, a footpath reminiscent of the road winds in and out along streams and past dramatic overlooks, eventually reaching a complex of pools and waterfalls. A swing on the Tarzan-like hanging vines overhead adds a dimension to the tropical swimming hole that backyard pools lack.

At yet another double-U bend is a roadside stand offering a variety of native refreshments, including bananas, papayas, coconuts and pineapples. As I munched, the proprietor, machete in hand, walked down a nearby path and returned with bunches of bananas to meet the demands of the lunchtime crowd. Now that’s fast food made to order.

Another stop, at nearby Waianapanapa State Park, temporarily transports you into an otherworldly excursion. A steep path meanders beneath extensive overhangs of gnarled twisted branches, so thick with growth that 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.

Lightness and color return as you approach your destination, the town of Hana. Towering trees with red-blossom canopies and green-laden hillsides announce your arrival. However, considering that this is the only real civilization in a three-hour trek, you hardly know you’ve arrived. A few 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 — is a must. The cluttered and cramped shop contrasts sharply with the airy openness of the natural beauty all around. Even so, it’s worth a stop and look — and perhaps a welcome opportunity to pick up some anti-motion sickness Dramamine, the store’s best-selling item, for the drive back.

For more information, go to or call 800-464-2924.

One Response to “The Road to Hana is worth the trip”

  1. These are some great tips for visiting Hana. The Puaa Kaa State Park is definitely one that is missed by most travelers on the road to Hana but it should not be.


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