I had heard of it, I think many of us have: the Road to Hana. Sounds a lot like manna, and so my brain always equated the trek with a visit to paradise. That correlation wasn’t too far from the truth as I found out on my drive along one of the most amazing roads in the world.
Technically a highway, the Road to Hana starts near the airport in the town of Kahului and Hana itself lies a mere 52 miles away. However, thanks to an intensely windy and sometimes perilous road, the trip usually takes about 2 ½ hours to complete. The road has 59 bridges (46 of which are one-lane wide) and an incredible 620 curves, mostly hairpins. The trek isn’t for newbie drivers or for those exhausted from a long flight, but it is something every visitor to Maui should try at least once.
I however ignored this sage advice and started on the Hana Highway immediately after a long day of flying. It was sunny, at least near the airport, and I was excited to journey the famous road and see the mythical Hana for myself. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the level of concentration the road demands though. At first the journey was fine; I drove through lush fields of sugar cane, flowing gently in the breeze. It was like living in James Michener’s Hawaii and I loved every second of it.
Then, about 30 minutes or so into the trip the turns started. As did the one-way bridges. And for good measure tourists in rented convertibles who had apparently never driven a car before decided to join me as well. In spite of these annoyances, the trip was surprisingly delightful.
I say surprising because although I knew it was a famously beautiful route, I had no idea just how beautiful it really was. The road snakes through acres upon acres of lush, tropical rainforest in so many different shades of green that I doubt the English language could accurately describe them all. I later learned that this lush appearance is thanks to the more than 300 inches of rain Hana and environs receive every year; but that day the sun was shining, mostly, and I could enjoy many random stops.
That’s the true beauty of the Road to Hana. It’s great of course to drive it, but there are scores – no, probably thousands – of stops along the way where one can discover hidden paths, secret gardens and private waterfalls. A lifetime may not even be enough time to truly discover all the treasures on this classic trail. I managed to stop a few times, but not much more. The road was tough during the day and I shuddered to consider what the windy, cliff-hugging turns would be like at night and so I kept a watchful eye on the clock.
Even with just a few stops though, it was obvious to me why the Road to Hana truly is one of the most amazing drives anywhere in the world. The best part though was finishing in what has long been called Heavenly Hana, a name truly fitting the serene paradise.
Have you driven the Road to Hana? What was your favorite part?