Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cool Down in Hana Town

Whoever said getting there is half the fun, may have underestimated the Road to Hana. Many tourists who make the adventure along 50-plus miles of serpentine highway with its dozens of white-knuckle, one-lane bridges may be disappointed when arriving at sleepy Hana Town. It's not another Lahaina, but rather a rural enclave with few shops and restaurants. Much of the excitement is indeed on the way—a day's worth of fun in itself—and in exploring the beaches and trails that extend for about 10 miles (of more twisty road) on the other side of town.

But still ... Hana has much to love. Its pier is perfect for a quick dip or snorkel, as well as being the trailhead for a short hike to the head that was the birthplace of Queen Ka'ahumanu. On the other side of the head is Red Sand Beach, a protected cove below a cinder cone that has excellent swimming when the conditions are right. You'll also want to visit Hana's homey museum, and the grounds of historic Hotel Hana Maui, where low-key luxury has been perfected. Across from the hotel is the trail to Fagan's Cross, a mile-long walk up several hundred feet to a viewpoint.

Nearby Waianapanapa State Park has forested hiking trails, as well as perhaps the best coastal camping in the state. On the other side of town is Hamoa Beach, a good-sized bay with sandy beach that is clearly the best along the coast for many (many) miles. Hotel Hana Maui guests use this for their beach fix. And, of course, down the road from Hana is the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park, which features the Pools of Oheo (formerly the "Seven Sacred Pools") and the superlative hike to Waimoku Falls (see your Maui Trailblazer for directions).

So, the takeaway: Have fun on the way to Hana, and consider doing the highway on one day, and saving the sights around Hana Town for a second day. To really get to know the place, you'll want to stay overnight, since the ambiance morphs in the late afternoon when the conga line of rental cars heads back to other parts of Maui.