Jim is the activities director in our relationship. He truly makes me feel pampered when we travel. He takes care of our flights, rents the cars, handles our accommodations, and even books activities at our destinations prior to our departure. My job is to shop, pack, and get my hair and nails done. And of course, he always lets me have the window seat when we fly. He is a keeper.
Doctors may make the worst patients, but retired school teachers make the worst students.
Besides, how much could be new under Maui’s ever present sun, much less the logistics of lying in the sun.
I am such a dunce. Where’s my corner? I’ll go quietly.
My window seat on United Airlines felt a lot like a corner after 9 hours of flying, so when it was all said and done I did manage some prep time prior to landing.
Before I did my homework, I had no idea Maui was more than just a pretty face. Yes, the goddess delivered when it came to sex appeal; the allure of those pristine beaches and tall palm trees have seduced the gods as well as every explorer, preacher and tourist since she first stepped out of the water thousands of years ago. But she has substance too. I bet you didn’t know her curves, Haleakala and Hale Mahina, are just the tips of the largest underwater volcanic mountain range in the world. Go figure. One volcano is even bigger than the other, standard in the curves department.
Jim and I were feeling more curious than obliged when we took off on the Road to Hana (R2H), one of the last vestiges of old Hawai'i that welcomes between 1000 and 1200 visitors a day. Hana is truly a fitting altar of worship to Haleakala; both are legendary.
Hawaiian legend (not the ramblings of a tourist with just enough literary license to make it look like she’s done all her homework) says the demigod Maui, (obviously half man and half god), lived in Hana with his mother Hina when the day was only three or four hours long (probably when Haleakala was busy spewing hot lava and blotting out the sun).
And of course, what little demigod doesn’t want more time to play outdoors especially given he is without a computer or video games. And so as legend goes Maui went up to the top of Haleakala and lassoed the sun god Kala, letting Kala go only after he promised to move slowly across the sky, thus extending the daylight hours and Maui’s time outdoors. That’s the unadulterated truth, at least as far as myths go and my imagination.
I find history so much more interesting now that I’ve accumulated enough years to fashion a few legends of my own. But I digress.
The R2H is a narrow, two-lane road with more attractions (40 pages worth in the guidebook) than we could handle in one day. Okay, I confess. I didn’t do my homework, again! As you well know by now, any homework was done on the fly (this has an all too familiar ring to it);
which is how we missed the trail leading to the bamboo forest that I really, really, really wanted to see and photograph. And by the time we got to the mile marker for the grave site of Charles Lindbergh, Jim was on a mission for which there was no stopping. The destination was becoming a wee bit more important than the journey. Needless to say, one day hardly does justice to this Garden of Eden. For numerous reasons, we should have booked a room in Hana for the night.
We did see lots of the tropical rainforest (including the rain responsible for this lush paradise)
Hailey was the female version of Bob Marley, complete with dreadlocks and a sense of peace about her that seemed more organic than temperamental. I consciously tried not to do the
20-questions-parental-thing as we made small talk for the 15 remaining minutes it took to arrive in Hana. I thought of my own two daughters back when they were awkwardly morphing into their adult versions and felt protective enough of this young wayfarer to throw caution to the wind.
Hailey shared she’d grown up in Salt Lake City before coming to Maui two years earlier. She’d left behind a family and a two year investment in a college education. She lived with other likeminded friends, working the farm and farm stand just outside of Hana. She disappeared as soon as we delivered her to the farm stand, but her friends were quick to show their appreciation for our generosity with a free loaf of chocolate chip banana bread.
Tomorrow, the next forty miles through the dry, rugged terrain on Maui's leeward side. The barren, uninhabitable landscape allows for incredibly expansive views of an isolated and rugged coastline molded thousands and thousands of years ago by Haleakala eruptions and the incessant, hot afternoon sun.
The bottom line on Maui's Road to Hana:
- Verdict: There is so much more to Maui than pristine beaches covered with palm trees
swaying the a gentle breeze; much of that more is hidden along the Road to Hana. If you
can spare a day, two if you are the explorer type, don't miss this Hawaiian jewel!
- How to Get There: Pick up Highway 36 just past the town of Pa'ia and head for the hills
(southeast). Eventually the Highway changes to 360 as you begin to descend Haleakala in
earnest. This country road takes you all the way around to Pi'ilani Highway or Route 31.
Most travel around the volcano of Haleakala in a clockwise direction given the windward side
is sunny in the morning, shady in the afternoon.
- Insider Information: Gas up before you go. This is Maui's version of the Amazing Race
where you never know what's around the bend and your choices are minimal. An early start
might help you avoid the rush hour of tourists headed in the same direction. If you prefer
the open road to narrow switchbacks every minute or so this drive may not be for you.
Plan your stops along the way to insure you get to see all you'd like to see and pass up
what isn't calling out to you. Pick up the guidebook, Maui Revealed, by Andrew Doughty or
something comparable to help you wade through the plethora of sites along the R2H. If
you're truly the adventuresome type, you may want to stay one might in Hana to maximize
your experience. Restrooms are few and far between if a toilet and roll of paper is a must.
The first restrooms are at Kaumahina State Wayside at the 12 mile marker. That doesn't
seem that far down the road, but remember, you're moving about 10 miles per hour and
stopping every 10 minutes or so to see the next attraction. Pack snacks if roadside stands
don't sound appealing or end up too few and far between.
- Nearby Food: Small roadside stands open and close along the R2H as unpredictably as the
rainfall feeding the forest on either side of the highway. Pre-Hana dining opportunities start
to show up around the 27 miles marker in Nahiku. There are several places to eat in Hana:
Hana Ranch House, Tutu's Snack Shop and Hotal Hana Maui. According to Maui Revealed,
the first has improved immensely, the second still has a long way to go and the third is good