This is windswept, forgotten Maui. Named after the island's last ruling chief, Kahekili Highway/Route 340 follows an ancient Hawaiian footpath winding in and out of valleys, through steep ravines, and above crashing surf and a jagged lava coastline. The middle section of this 28-mile stretch of road undulates and narrows to one lane with blind, hairpin curves and few guardrails. It's not for the faint of heart -- or some rental car agreements.
Go: From Kapalua, take the Honoapiilani Highway/Route 30 east past aquamarine and ruggedly romantic Honolua and Honokohau Bays. At mile marker 42, the Honoapiilani meets the Kahekili Highway, and the journey through Maui's secret side begins. The route will take you past Nakalele Point, the northernmost point of the island. A short distance away you'll come upon the Ancient Paved Trail that leads to the beach. Back in the car you'll find the paved sections of this one-time Hawaiian footpath end around Mokolea Point. Just past the point and mile marker 16, you'll come to the dramatic Nakalele Blowhole, and a bit farther, the Bell Stone in Pohaku Kani, a huge rock that resonates melodically when struck. Then prepare to be awestruck at the lookout over Kahakuloa Bay. The West Maui Mountains descend to the main-street storefronts of Wailuku.
Stop: Order a celebratory clay-pot dinner of fried rice, chicken and shrimp at the Saigon Café in Wailuku, a town that exudes a perfect hometown feeling to complete the country drive.
Along the Route: There are no restaurants on this drive and few snack stops, so be sure to eat before hitting the road. Try the macadamia-nut pancakes at Gazebo Restaurant in Lahaina.
To get a true pulse on west Maui, make a snorkel stop just after mile marker 42. A short hike down takes you to a series of interconnecting tide pools at the ocean's edge. Look for olivine (a greenish mineral common in lava) embedded in the rocks. After this, drive down the road a couple miles and walk a classic, seven-circuit labyrinthine meditation path ringed in white coral on a meadow overlooking the sea. You'll see iwa (great frigatebirds) gliding overhead with 43-inch wingspans and distinctive forked tails.
When you reach Nakalele Point Light Station, you'll be standing at the northernmost point on Maui. Before mile marker 39, hike a half-mile down to sea level, following a worn, dirt trail to geyser-shooting Nakalele Blowhole. When surf rolls in under the lava shelf, it rumbles through an opening and shoots water upward for 100 feet. After the noise and drama, pull over just after mile marker 10 and meander through a sculpture garden with views of distant east Maui and Haleakala at Turnbull Studio. Or reserve some time with Maui Eco-Adventures to explore a rainforest on this typically dry side of Maui.
Be sure that you slow down to better explore the forgotten village of Kahakuloa and the Kaukini Gallery, tucked safely behind two cinder-cone sentinels -- Kahakuloa Head and Puu Kahulianapa. Browse the gallery featuring more than 100 local artists. Gaze down at the bay and the historic, red-tile-roofed Kahakuloa Hawaiian Congregational Church.
While in Kahakuloa, do not pass up the dried mango -- with just the right amount of red li hing mui -- at Julia's Best Banana Bread in the bright green treehouse overlooking a wet taro patch.