Heaven meets the earth in Hana. According to one legend, Maui the demigod stood at the top of Ka‘uiki Hill, a cinder cone that guards Hana Bay, and thrust his spear through the heavens, creating a portal to Hana.
In ancient times, Hana was a bustling community. Thousands of Native Hawaiians lived along the coastline in this isolated village. Kamehameha’s favorite wife, Regent Ka‘ahumanu, was born here. Hana’s proximity to Hawai‘i Island made it important to Maui chiefs as a strategic point, where attacks could be launched from and fought, and a vantage point from which to see warriors arriving by canoe.
In the mid-1800s, sugar cane was introduced to the Hana area, gradually followed by cattle ranching, which kept the town thriving at a population of about 3,500. When the last plantation closed down shortly after World War II, the population dwindled as people left Hana to find employment elsewhere. In 1946, Hana Ranch’s owner established the Ka‘uiki Inn to attract tourists, and it eventually developed into the celebrated Hotel Hana Maui.
Today, Hana Town is renowned for its unspoiled rainforest beauty, friendly faces and charming small town ambiance. A trip to Hana offers visitors and residents the opportunity to revitalize and connect with Maui’s last truly Hawaiian place.
The infamous Road to Hana, a national Heritage Trail, winds over 52 miles, 617 curves, and 56 bridges, many of which are only one lane wide. The original gravel road was completed in 1927, finally connecting Hana with the rest of Maui by land. East Maui’s natural wonders unfold as you drive past cascading waterfalls and clear pools, traverse lush canopies over deep valleys and under steep cliffs.
Take your time to travel this scenic highway (360) and embrace the journey. The photo opportunities are endless, and your senses will be heightened. There are several safe places to stop along the way, like the Kaumahina State Park and stunning Ke‘anae Peninsula overlook. You’ll also see fruit stands run by local families; stop for a ripe papaya or fresh coconut water and baked goods. Farmers’ markets offer a variety of tropical produce, culinary herbs and exotic flowers to take or ship home.
Waianapanapa State Park on the way into Hana offers camping in public cabins and a beautiful black sand beach with a coastal trail that leads to a freshwater cave. Millions of tiny red shrimp breed in the waters of that cave, turning the water blood red at certain times of the year.
Turn onto Ulaino Road at mile marker 31 and explore the underground world of the Hana Lava Tube. The volcanic molten rock flowing through the passages a thousand years ago cooled into daggers of stalactites, stalagmites and smooth flowstone. A self-guided cave tour is offered daily.
A perfect way to visit the town of Hana is to stay overnight and enjoy its gracious hospitality. Hana Kai Maui provides oceanfront vacation rentals on picturesque Hana Bay and Waikoloa Beach in fully-equipped studios and residences. For an experiential destination stay, consider a suite or Sea Ranch cottage at luxurious Travaasa Hana. The full-service hotel includes a fine dining restaurant, spa and wellness center as well as a multitude of activities.
While in town, shop for gifts at the the hotel’s art gallery or at boutiques in the Hana Town Center for made-on-Maui items. Visit the Hana Cultural Center & Museum and browse for souvenirs and artwork made by local artisans. Hasegawa General Store of local fame is open for good conversation and provisioning as is Hana Ranch Store. Between the Hana Beach Park and Hana Community Center, you’ll find multi-ethnic cuisine in food trucks and pop-up bistros.
There’s more to see beyond Hana. Highway 360 turns into 330 going south. First stop along the coast is legendary Hamoa Beach: a scenic cove with black sands, white water surf and picnic facilities.
Continue to the Pools of ‘Ohe‘o and the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park. You’ll find a drive-up campground and hiking trails. Go to the Visitor Center and check out several options. Kapahu Living Farm offers a Hawaiian Cultural Hike and Taro Patch Tour. Kuloa Point Trail wanders past a Hawaiian cultural demonstration area to Kuloa Point at the mouth of ‘Ohe‘o Gulch. Kahakai Trail extends from Kuloa Point to the Kipahulu Campground, passing by archaeological sites and panoramic ocean views. The Pipiwai Trail is a four-mile round trip through a bamboo forest to freshwater streams and the base of Waimoku Falls at a spectacular 400-foot drop. Pipiwai Lookout juts into a valley overlooking the bamboo forest, offering views of the waterfalls against cliffs and migratory birds soaring along the ridge. Remember that this ever-changing landscape has unpredictable natural hazards, particularly flash flooding, and pay attention to conditions before you set out. There’s much wildlife to behold, so keep an eye out for sea turtles, monk seals, dolphins and seasonal visitors, the humpback whales.
Whether you take a day trip or stay for a week, you’ll discover a sense of timelessness in Hana and the lush East Maui countryside. The aloha spirit of the gracious people who live here is infectious, and you’ll leave knowing you experienced Heavenly Hana.