The hand-painted sign for Huelo Lookout caught our attention before the view. Now we can see jungle spreading out from the viewpoint, green swaths punctuated with the reds, yellows and blues from the sign, and we’re happy we stopped — again. We’re 20 miles and one hour into a 52-mile drive down the Hana Highway. My husband and I are still soggy from this morning’s dive at Molokini crater, and our usual post-dive nap is calling. But this is Maui; there’s a lot to see. So instead of rushing to the end of this well-worn road, my husband has pulled over and snapped the camera every time I’ve squealed over a dramatic cliff or a colorful fruit stand. Until a question occurs to him: “What’s at the end?” he asks through a stifled yawn.
“What do you mean?” I reply. “It’s the Road to Hana. Hana is at the end. Look! Another waterfall!” He pulls over, again.
We don’t realize how much more there is to Hana until we drive over the last of the more than 54 one-way bridges. Our legs are crumpled into car-seat-shaped curls. Our eyes are weary from peering around every corner for a better look. Our stomachs growl, that last pineapple shave ice now an hour-old memory.
Then the road widens. We pass a fire station with one sleepy-looking engine, a primary school with a marquee boasting “In the Heart of Old Hawaii,” a bustling farmers market peddling bundles of fruit and flowers. The marks of a small island town tell us we’ve arrived, magnificently, in Hana. The queue of rented convertibles has thinned, dispersed among turns toward black-sand beaches. Instead of high-rise resorts, there’s Hotel Hana-Maui blending seamlessly into the town. Its green plantation-style cottages stand beside the Hana Community Center, the municipal baseball field, the Hasegawa General Store and the local church. So as we unfold from the car and enter the resort’s open-air lobby, we take in the town at once — in all its quaint, quiet glory. At the end of our three-hour-plus road trip, this place is like heaven. And we have a room.
We’re led to an ocean-facing bungalow, where we learn that a baseball team originally owned the property. Once just a warm destination for spring training, Hana became an annual vacation for players and wives. Over time, six rooms turned into 70 bungalows, but the town of less than 1,000 people stayed much the same. The bellhop leaves us, now decorated in matching kukui-nut leis and refreshed with cool fruit drinks. Standing on the slatted-wood porch, we survey the ocean as a canoe-load of local paddlers passes and a cluster of roosters crows in the distance. The 47 photo-op stops and fruit-stand perusals were only buildup; this is why we drove all that way.
The next day, I open my eyes to the rising sun, as I have every morning since arriving on Maui. Except this time there’s no alarm to switch off, no tour guide waiting for us, no schedule to keep. As the light floods our room, we sip organic dark-roast coffee and eat banana bread and fruit from nearby Ono Organic Farms. The grounds are quiet, not just because it’s dawn, but because everyone here is enjoying the same peaceful start to the morning.
By the time the sun has risen fully, we’ve made our plans for the day — hike to Waimoku Falls, picnic at Hamoa Beach, stop at the town center to mail postcards and browse the shops. It’s a full agenda, with plenty more miles to log and plenty more photos to take.
We stand up from our lounge chairs, ready to break the morning’s spell. But first, we stop and look around: A group practicing yoga poses in the eastern-facing Wellness Center Pavilion just up the hill. A couple strolls hand in hand on the lawn below, and unseen birds fill the coconut palms with a song. “Maybe one more cup of coffee?” my husband asks. I collapse back in my chair and hold up my cup for a refill. When you wake up in heaven, even Maui can wait. hotelhanamaui.com