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Road to Hana Highway

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Less is more on Hawaii’s Hana Highway or Road to Hana, a celebrated 52-mile (83 km) road running along the northeastern coast of Maui, part of Hawaii State Routes 36 and 360. The road begins in the central town of Kahului and ends at the charmingly remote, rustic town of Hana, once the site of a flourishing sugar cane plantation and mill. With over 600 sharp curves and bends along with 59 bridges (46 are just one lane), the road is an awe-inspiring drive of cliffs, beaches and waterfalls. Regardless of its countless snaking twists and turns, you’re instantly awarded by a lush, panoramic drive of tropical jungles and towering cliffs overlooking the azure and emerald Pacific Ocean.

The road bends through kukui trees, Hawaii’s state tree, growing along the slopes of the mountain. There isn’t a bad view in sight. Period. Every turn reveals extraordinary vistas, abundant waterfalls, botanical gardens, iconic surf spots, black sand beaches and green taro food crop patches. Thankfully, the road blissfully lacks mass developments and big resorts. There’s no speeding on this leisure road. Plan on two to four hours in your car, depending on how many times you stop.

Your journey begins in Paia, the quaint village on Maui’s North Shore and the last place to fill up your gas tank until Hana. For a leisure lunch, Mama’s Fish House is a classic beachfront, at-your-leisure mainstay. Otherwise, grab some picnic provisions at either Paia Fish Market or the Tina’s Garden Gourmet Café (note, the only food choices along the road are various fruit stands).

Twin Falls at mile marker 2 reveals waterfalls and excellent swimming. The small community of Huelo is a rural spot showcases two churches. The Waikamoi Nature Trail (markers 9 and 10) is a nice place to stretch your legs and soak in the expanse of the bamboo forest and sweet scent of ginger. The Keanae Arboretum allows the active individual to take a challenging forest hike while the brilliantly colored botanical flowers at Garden of Eden Arbortem are sure to awe. The dramatic Waikani Falls affords a breathtaking backdrop for photos. Waiʻanapanapa State Park is a 120-acre park featuring the spectacular black sand beach and spring-fed freshwater caves. At the highway’s end, you will come across the a stunning expanse of waterfalls and pools called ‘Ohe’O Gulch, or the “Seven Sacred Pools.” You arrive in Hana, the sweet and sleepy town nestled in an emerald rain forest.

Keeping the windows down allows the fresh sea air mixed with a sultry essence of white ginger and sweet guava. You’re at the end of the road, ready to turn around and repeat the same stunning mise-en-scene. After this sojourn, one can deservedly place the iconic bumper sticker on their car, “I Survived the Road to Hana."

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