Thank God For Hana! is a bumper sticker often seen on locals’ cars on Maui. For many, it’s their favorite place on the island. Once you go there and really experience it, you will understand why. It is one place where Old Hawai’i shines through.
Hana is one of the most isolated communities in the State of Hawai’i. The sleepy town and its environs are beloved and recognized among travelers everywhere, as one of Maui’s must-see spots. 25% of Maui’s three million visitors a year find their way to this remote part of the island.
How to get there? Some folks prefer to fly in a helicopter or a small plane to experience landing at the manini* Hana Airport. Many others would prefer to drive out and back – all in one day. Campsites, hotels, cabins, and AirBnb’s are also favored by those who have the time to stay a night or more.
These are usually the folks who, during an earlier visit to Maui, came for a day and recognized immediately that they must revisit Hana. So, they return and spend more time discovering the abundance of beautiful places and the legendary history that starts as soon as you’re on The Road to Hana.
My husband and I have spent many a long, 4-day weekend in Hana. More than 15 times, we have driven the Road to Hana, stopped at many places along the way, and spent 3 nights and 4 days exploring. Delving into Hana like this gave us a feeling of having Hana steeped in our bones. We will always carry the dolphins playing in the waves at Hāmoa Beach, the surf pounding on the cliffs in Wai’anapanapa, or rubbing the shampoo ginger in our hair at secluded waterfalls. We feel as though a part of Hana will remain with us forever.
The Road To or From Hana – 2 Easy Stops Worth Your Time
Reminiscent of Highway 1, California’s coastal route, The Road to Hana is known for over 600 curves, and 57 one-lane bridges combined with sweeping views. The road itself is enticing, but when you embark on this journey, you realize, this is only the beginning.
Once you leave historic Pa’ia, the last real town on your trip, there are ten unique and charming villages before you get to Hana.
The fifth of these villages on your journey is Kaumahina*, and it is a place you must stop and take a break. Here there are panoramic views of Honomanu Bay and the Ke’anae Peninsula. PLUS, Kaumahina State Wayside Park has exquisite coastal views AND facilities for a pit stop!
Although Kaumahina is close to the halfway mark, it is really the beginning of an exquisite trip of sweet tropical smoothie stands, breathtaking vistas, waterfalls, and hidden valley settlements. Beauty beyond compare.
View of Honomanu Bay and the Ke’anae Penisula from Kaumahina
Wailua, three villages down the road, is another excellent stop with an opportunity to stretch your legs and get a bit of exercise when you climb up the short pathway to the view of Wailua Valley and Waikani Falls. Waikani Falls are fed by underground fresh-water springs and are not totally dependent on the rain as so many of the roadside waterfalls you will see are.
As you travel further into the lush forest landscape, with enormous roadside swathes of blooming ginger, ferns, and unusual bird calls, you will want to drive even slower. You never know when a magnificent waterfall is just around the next bend! Stop where you can at a roadside turnout and catch some of the spray on your sunglasses. Each waterfall has its own melody, its own personality, and many, its own freshwater pool.
In 2010, Hana had 1,235 residents. It has not changed since then. With a balance of male and female residents, the median age is the late 30s. What do these young adults do?
Besides tourism and the Hana Ranch*, a big part of the local economy is generated by the Hāna-Maui Resort. There are also quite a few AirBnbs contributing to the economy. Also, some residents teach at Hana High School and the Elementary School. There are a handful of Maui Police, Maui Firefighters, and Wai’anapanapa State Park caretakers. You will find a few restaurants, some food trucks, and a couple of stores, including the famous Hasegawa General Store. Why is the store famous? Well… that’s one of the many stories that make up the lore surrounding Hana.
Hana’s surfing culture was the inspiration for the 2002 surf film, Blue Crush. When the surf is up, there are always expert surfers, riding Hana waves. Especially at the pristine Hāmoa Beach. You will always see surfers when there are the perfect waves at Hāmoa Beach.
The beach James Michener called the most beautiful South Pacific beach, which just happens to be in the North Pacific. It has soft white sand, interspersed with grey sand so that when the wave you’re riding pushes you into the bottom, it’s nice and fluffy.
A Calm Day for Swimming at Hāmoa Beach
One compelling piece of evidence that Hana is so extraordinary is how many people, celebrities, and cultural icons have chosen Hana as their residence. They could live anywhere. And not just well-known famous people, but also a Hawaiian monarch, Queen Ka’ahumanu, who was born and raised in this isolated piece of heaven.
A shortlist of Luminary Hana Residents
- Born and raised in Hana
- First Kuhina Nui*
George Harrison and his wife Olivia
- Home in Hana they visited every year for a lengthy stay
- English musician, singer, songwriter, music and film producer, and lead guitarist of the Beatles
- Wrote the song Soft-Hearted Hana for his love of this place
- Actor, singer, macadamia nut grower
- Moved to Hawai’i in 1976 and lived in Hana and on ‘Oahu
- Singer, songwriter, actor
- Spends time in her Hana home with her husband every year
- Country singer, songwriter, actor
Words cannot begin to capture the magic of Hana. There is a feeling of peace and harmony that will wash over you when you take the time to really stop and drink in the surrounding beauty.
There is the thrill of body surfing at Hāmoa, snorkeling at Kaihalulu*, and the glorious starlit nights or watching the moon rise over the sea.
This is just an overview of Hana, with a couple of brief stops along the way to tantalize you. We know you will want to explore more of what is in store for you on The Road to Hana.
Whether you are going out on the Road to Hana or coming back, flying or driving, there will never be enough time to see all the beauty. This is one more part of the allure of this special place – she always leaves you wanting more. More time for one more moon rise, one more fresh coconut, one more beach walk, or hike along those stunning coastline trails. Or please, just one more swim in the freshwater pool at the bottom of a waterfall.
Hana beckons us again and again and again.
Join us next week to discover more of the charms of Hana.
Writing and graphic creation by Sugandha Ferro Black
GLOSSARY* of Hawaiian Words
Hana Ranch – Founded by Paul Fagan in 1944
Kaihalulu – Red Sand Beach
Kaumahina – moonrise
Kuhina Nui – Queen regent or a type of prime minister in modern time
Manini – small
Wailua – double/two waters
*Please keep in mind that all Hawaiian Words have many meanings. The meanings we share here are the specific translations for the words as they pertain to this particular blog’s subject matter.
Photos courtesy of paid-for or free sources unless otherwise noted.