This article was first published in March issue of Valley India Times.
For long I had heard great things about Hawaii islands that had created in my mind a picture of a heavenly place that everyone in the US must visit at least once. But our fascination for foreign travel never actually gave us an opportunity to experience any of those spectacular Hawaiian Islands. Last year, when both our daughters visited Maui, the second largest island in the Hawaiian chain, and raised its praises to the skies, I and my husband decided to plan a one-week trip to this magnificent island. I must say the island’s unique culture and abundant natural charm enchanted us instantaneously. From December 5 to December 12, we explored the diverse facets of its primary attractions– Luau, Banyan tree, whale watching, submarine trip, blow hole, Iowa needle, Haleakala sunrise, and lastly, a one day road trip to Hana. Today, I would like to share our experiences of the most exciting and unforgettable road trips I have ever taken- Road to Hana.
We preferred to venture to Hana in our rental car instead of opting for a guided tour so we could spend time at our preferred stops at will. Leaving our condo Kihei ka Nani at 7:00 am, we drove 13 miles to get to Hana Highway 36. It was strongly recommended that we fill up our gas tank before Paia because after that, there will be no gas station on the 45 mile drive to Hana. So we filled up the gas tank and set off on our exhilarating journey to Hana. After a couple of miles, we spotted a fresh fruit shop. That reminded me that our daughters were highly appreciative of the fresh fruits shops on the way, so we made it a point to pull over at the very first fruit shop and bought a pack of fresh pine apple. Taking a bite of the delicious pineapple, we began treading a nearby trail alongside tall bamboo trees for some distance until we decided against spending too much time on the first stop itself and walked back to the car to move ahead on our journey.
At 9: 00 am, we made it to our first major stop ‘Arboretum & Botanical Garden at mile marker 10. There is an admission fee of $ 15 per person, which is absolutely worth it, considering the heavenly experience it entitles you to. The garden is rightly called the Garden of Eden, and you instantly get a feel of its sanctity when on entering the garden you receive a warm welcome by the peacocks and ducks leisurely wandering near small pool and across the dirt road with no fear of the approaching car. There is something magical about them that makes you get off your car, walk up to them to just admire them, talk to them, picture them or buy food to feed them.
This pristine unspoiled garden has the finest collection of 750 botanically labeled and meticulously nurtured trees, exquisite flowers, and tiny pools that you cannot stop gazing at. The garden is also known for the large rock near the ocean below that is seen in the opening scene of the movie ‘Jurassic Park’- a great photo opportunity for all. Also, it boasts of a 100 years old mango tree and a beautiful painted Eucalyptus tree. Unfortunately, we missed the Eucalyptus tree. We kept searching for it in the map they provided us with the entry ticket, but we later discovered that it stood right near the entrance of the garden. (Actually, we happened to listen to this part of the CD after we left the ArboretumL) .
I fell in love with the garden for its quiet, serene splendor that seemed to whisper into my ears, ‘slow down, be quiet, and take in the beauty around you.’ I responded to it inadvertently and strolled around, gazing in wonderment at the trees, flowers, and ducks frolicking in the tiny pools that I lost count of time. I would have spent the entire day in the Garden of Eden if my husband hadn’t gotten mad at me for taking too long at the first stop, knowing fully well that we had a long journey ahead and also had to drive back home the same day.
We finally bid good bye to the ‘Garden of Eden’ and continued our onward journey. Traveling through the lush rain forests, exotic flowers and fruits, lively waterfalls, scenic look outs offering a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean, I felt a unique proximity with nature. The only thing that reminded me of the modern times was the sound of the cars, and the flashing of cameras.
We made two photo stops before reaching half way to Hana at about 11:30 and then pulled over at a shop before Nahiku market for a taste of the delicious homemade Maui ice-cream and fresh coconut water. Nahiku market is the only big market on the road to Hana that is known for its amazing fish tacos and Maui grown coffee. The fish taco shop was closed that day. We, however, had a taste of Maui home grown coffee at the coffee shop on our return journey. We made our next stop at the Kahano garden- a somewhat less touristed but uniquely spectacular spot. Before you take a turn to explore this garden, be mindful of the mile long rocky road that leads to the Kahanu garden. When passing through this bumpy dirt road, I was so engrossed in taking pictures that I accidentally dropped the camera on to the road and broke it. Looking at the smashed camera, the attendant at the entrance felt so sorry that she waived the $ 10 admission fee for us. The camera episode obviously upset me momentarily, and I forgot to explore the temple in this garden which is said to be the oldest remaining structure in the US. We, however, did roam around the sprawling gardens to savor the breathtaking view of the palm trees that seemed to reach the sky, and also walked up to the shoreline with ocean waves crashing at the shore.
The last stop before the town of Hana was Wai’anapnapa State Park. Here cabins are available for rentals, and some people stay here for 1-2 days to get a real Hana experience. For me, the park stood out for its unique black sand beach. Soaking my feet in the black sand, letting it slip under my feet while gazing at the sea felt like being transported to another world. Another magical feature about this beach is the caves along the shoreline that simply take your breath away. We spotted some people lay relaxing on the black sand, enjoying the slow pace of life at Hana.
We, however, could not afford that luxury as we had planned to go back to Maui town. Some people take the entire loop of the mountain to experience Waimoku Falls and Seven Sacred Pools at Haleakala National Park. But we drove around this beautiful, seemingly lazy Hana town and then started heading back home for another dose of amazing experience on our return journey. I believe it’s not the destination Hana that one is looking for, rather it is the entire 100 mile drive back and forth that has countless hidden natural treasures for everyone to uncover.
This journey has so much to offer to everyone that you can ever get tired of it. If you enjoy soaking under the waterfall, you will find it an exciting place. If you are fond of hiking, there are numerous trails on this route that you can explore. And if you are a laid back nature lover like us whose preference is to share nature and let your imagination wander, this road trip has more to offer you than you can imagine. The truth is there is no right or wrong way for your Hana adventure; each one of us can create our own way to make this adventure an everlasting memory.
This is an experience I would love to repeat, for I am sure next time this journey is going to reveal many more secret treasures to me. Aloha J