4/5/22: To Maui’s Heavenly Hana & Back!

Family and friends,

I understand that taking back-to-back hair-raising drives on Maui’s west and east coasts is probably not on most tourists’ wish lists on a visit to the island but that is exactly what Steven and I chose to do last month. The Road to Hana is one of the most exciting drives we’ve ever done although the village itself certainly wasn’t an OMG moment. Just know, it’s all about the journey and not the destination and that journey IS out of this world!

All the best to you and your loved ones,


Remember – clicking on any photo enlarges and enhances the picture for much better viewing!

After Steven and I had spent quite a bit of time discovering extensive lava tubes on Maui’s celebrated Road to Hana, it was fun getting back on the road itself. The nearer we got to Hana, the more roadside trucks and farms there were.

At Waianapanapa State Park on the outskirts of Hana, many of the flower stands just had honor boxes out. Known as the ‘Hana honor system,’ people put money in the box in exchange for exotic wild ginger and plumeria.

Before reaching Hana Bay, we saw the old wood-frame Hana District Police Station and Courthouse that was built in 1871. The courthouse is still used infrequently for minor local affairs. Next door was the Hana Cultural Center & Museum. Both were unfortunately closed.

It was ironic that the last unspoiled town on Maui was, in fact, the home of Maui’s first resort which opened back in 1946. Really a small, coastal village, Hana is located in a rainforest inhabited by just 1,200 people. Green, tropical Hana owes its lushness to the fact that it receives more than 90 inches of rain per year. Commerce was brought to Hana when the first sugar plantation was planted in 1849. That was followed by five more sugar plantations and rubber, wheat, and pineapple farms nearby by the turn of the 20th century.

Even before the state paved Hana Highway in 1962, Hana had caught the eye of writers who dubbed the community Heavenly Hana. Tourists “discovering” Hana in the 1970s were willing to make the long trek there from Central Maui. 

I admit to feeling a little anticlimactic once we reached Hana as, although it was certainly pretty enough, it wasn’t an OMG moment or spot. Our day had been all about the road to Hana and not the destination itself – definitely, the journey was why we’d traveled the famous road!

A view of the village from the far side of the bay:

Beside the bay was the 386-foot, red cinder cone Kauiki Head, the scene of many fierce battles in ancient Hawaii.

A Maui institution was supposed to have been the Hasegawa General Store but it was undergoing a major facelift at the very least.

The stately 1838 Wananalua Congregational Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its location atop an old heiau or temple. Am I the only one to think that it is rather perverted to honor a Christian church intentionally placed on top of an indigenous religious building? 

Close by was St. Mary’s Catholic Church. I hope it didn’t share the same history.

On the green hills above Hana stood the 30-foot Fagan’s Cross made of lava rock that was erected in honor of the man who put Hana on the map in the mid-1800s.

A full seven hours after setting out that morning, Steven and I left Hana for the drive back to Kihei in Central Maui. However, we decided to live life on the wild side and not just return the way we came but to continue going all the way around the eastern coast of the island. It was one of the best decisions we made as there was virtually no traffic on the road so it was far easier to find a spot to pull off the road when we saw spectacular sights like this waterfall!

We happened to be at the waterfall just moments after the man had proposed. As she was holding a printed sign that said: “I said YES,” the proposal had obviously been in the works for a while!

One of the highlights of our trip to Maui had been the terrific drive several days earlier from Central Maui to the 10,023-foot summit of Haleakala National Park. The park’s Kipahulu District could only be reached by continuing east along the sinuous Hana Highway. There were five phases of land use in the Kipahulu district beginning with Hawaiians settling there several hundred years ago. After Western contact began in 1848, major changes occurred when land ownership was privatized for the first time. 

Kipahulu began as a sugar plantation in the late 1880s followed by pineapples being grown in the mid-1920s. The area later became the Kipahulu Cattle Company and almost was converted into a resort until the Rockefellers, The Nature Conservancy, and local residents advocated for the lower Kipahulu Valley to be added to the national park in 1969. 

The Hawaiian proverb, “Water that recognizes no friend,” describes a dangerous stream or waterfall and could easily be applied to Makahiku Falls in this section of the national park. The proverb was a warning to always be respectful of the power of natural forces as flooded streams, waterfalls, and falling rocks stop for no one in their path. I read that Makahiku also referred to water for people and the food they grow and consume. This wasn’t simply a beautiful spot but a cultural journey for Hawaiians.

This tree was almost as glorious as the Indian banyan we saw in Lahaina, also on Maui.

 A hale or Hawaiian house:

Trees were in all stages of growth as park staff, volunteers, and partners worked to restore the native landscape that had been changed by a hundred years of plantation and ranch use. A key species of native Hawaiian coastal forests were these hala trees as they had so many traditional uses from weaving canoe sails to making a tonic for women following childbirth to paintbrushes to perfume and cloth!

The Kipahulu coastline has always provided bountiful marine resources for residents. The steep cliffs are home to limpet and nerite snails and the lava shelf offshore is home to mackerel, tuna, and Hawaiian spiny lobster. This ku’ula or fishing shrine generally indicated good fishing grounds and was also where Hawaiian religious offerings were left to help ensure successful fishing.

We had to make our way extremely carefully along the path because of the strong wind and proximity to the cliff. As one park sign said, your safety depends on your good judgment!

As you can imagine, sightseeing and exploring in Oheo Gulch have always attracted people. Swimming in the chilly pools became a local tradition long before this area was added to Haleakala National Park in 1969.

Though called the Seven Sacred Pools, there were actually about 24 pools!

IF you ever have a chance to visit the Kipahulu section of Haleakala, I am confident you will also count your lucky stars.

A mile past Kipahulu or Oheo Gulch as it’s properly known was a dirt road off the Hana Highway to Palapala Congregational Church. Built in 1857 of limestone coral, the church was famous for being the final resting place of Charles A. Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927.

After his young son died in a notorious kidnapping in 1932, Lindbergh reportedly found peace in the Pacific in the 1960s, settling in Hana where he died of cancer in 1974.

Though it was getting late, we still found the church doors open. A sign said all were welcome but visitors were reminded that out of respect for church members, relatives, and descendants buried in the graveyard, all should treat this religious site with reverence and care.

It didn’t take us long to find the famous aviator’s grave under river stones in the small cemetery shaded by Java plum trees. 

After visiting the church, our phone/camera batteries were so low I had to turn them off so I could use Google Maps to find our way home that evening. Everyone who loves to take photos finds themselves in the situation from time to time of missing a certain shot. That was my case times 100 as we drove along the southeastern coast of Maui from Hana and found ourselves on an 8-mile-long, scarily narrow dirt road, hugging the cliffs with one blind curve after another! Driving that road was a very fine line between extreme danger and being so excited and thrilled you didn’t want to turn away. We were so lucky that there was barely any traffic as it was sunset. I know it was hellacious driving for Steven but I just ached to take photos of the experience! 

Steven wasn’t too happy with me when I mentioned I’d love to redo this drive someday only so I could take photos of that treacherous road! I felt safe enough to turn on my camera again when these awesome scenes begged me to capture them.

This is actually the road for miles!!!!

We felt like we’d been transported to the wilds of Ireland or Scotland in the blink of an eye!

Steven was pretty exhausted when we finally reached our condo after 8, almost 13 hours after we left Kihei. We’d never driven so many blind curves and one-lane bridges as we did on the back-to-back hair-raising drives these last two days – one, all around Maui’s east coast followed by its west coast!

Next post: On to our last Hawaiian island, Hawaii itself also called the Big Island for obvious reasons.

Posted on May 10th, 2022, from our home in Denver just before we leave the Rocky Mountains for a three-plus-month road trip east, north, AND eventually south! Steven has never been to the Canadian province of Newfoundland so The Rock will be our easternmost destination for 2.5 weeks before driving to the Florida Panhandle for our annual summer respite beginning in mid-July.


5 thoughts on “4/5/22: To Maui’s Heavenly Hana & Back!

  1. Wow, that was some drive, especially the last part! Such a contrast to all the lushness elsewhere 🙂 I love all the waterfalls! And I never knew Charles Lindbergh was buried in Hawaii – you learn something new every day 😀


    1. People always talk about the Road to Hana meaning literally the road to the town on the east coast. It was a thriller with the waterfalls et al but a walk in the park compared to the far more challenging road from Hana that so few people take. Everyone I’ve talked to opt to return the same way they went and, much as I like seeing things from a different perspective, for us driving the new road was one hell of a rush.

      Glad I added to your knowledge base with the Lindbergh burial location!


    1. It was a very, very long day indeed but broken up with so many stops which helped. I can hardly believe it took us 13 hours to drive approximately 150 miles!

      The next day was fairly long, too, with a flight over to the Big Island and then a drive the entire width of the island in the rain over to Hilo!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It was a very, very long day indeed but broken up with so many stops which helped. I can hardly believe it took us 13 hours to drive approximately 150 miles!

    The next day was fairly long, too, with a flight over to the Big Island and then a drive the entire width of the island in the rain over to Hilo!


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