KAHULUI, Maui --
Id been in the Hawaiian islands for nearly a week (on a cruise)
before somebody mentioned the Road to Hana. And suddenly -- and
isnt this always how it is? -- I started hearing about it in nearly
I was en route to
Maui, and people were beginning to discuss their shore plans for
the two-day stay. The Hana Highway emerged as a must-see,
I also heard that
it was too long and too exhausting for the driver. However, the
people enthusiastic about the drive far drowned out the naysayers
-- and everybody admitted it was an amazing experience.
The Hana Highway,
or the Road to Hana, is a stretch of road that begins in a town
called Paia and ends in a town called Hana.
In between are
twisting, turning corners; switchbacks; and dips and inclines as
the road snakes its way along the Maui coastline and through a rain
forest created by weather conditions from the dormant Halekuala
volcano, which dominates the interior area of this part of
Rather than take
an organized tour, I opted to rent a car at one of the major auto
rental outlets by the Kahului airport -- a popular option that lets
visitors go at their own pace and pick their stops along the
I rented a Jeep
Wrangler from Budget at a discount for cruise passengers, but the
typical rental price is around $70 per day, depending on the season
As soon as I
claimed the bright yellow Wrangler, I rolled the top back,
slathered on the sunscreen, threw some Hawaii-inspired music into
the CD player and started up Route 36.
advised to stock up on gas and food in Paia because theres very
little between there and Hana except a few fruit stands selling
The town itself
has a very tidy, walkable main street, with clothing stores, surf
shops and restaurants that sell tuna burgers and the local Kona
brew. At least one eatery sells picnic lunches to Hana-bound
visitors. Others sell music tapes.
Beyond Paia is
the infamous highway. The first half-hour or so is pretty easy
driving; I caught some great views of the ocean and saw a gaggle of
windsurfers taking advantage of the breeze.
I passed a few signs
warning of curvy roads ahead. And then I left
As I drove on,
the road got more narrow and more curvy. It twisted left and then
immediately jackknifed back to the right. The foliage grew a lot
more dense, and the Wrangler kept a steady uphill climb. I switched
to the right again and switched to the left.
Then there were
the bridges. There are more than 50 one-lane bridges spanning deep ravines that, for some
reason, seem to be located just at the point where you cant quite
see whos coming in the opposite direction. Id stop, look around the
bend and then roll across the bridge. By this time, my average mph
was about 15. I couldnt believe that, until recently, this road was
later, I gave up on sightseeing, as I could barely keep my eyes off
the twisting road lest I miss a hairpin curve and smack into a wall
(or get too close to a cliff).
behind was going as slowly as I was.
But when I was
able to catch a glimpse of the surrounding environs, I was
flowers, blue skies and azure seas were all around.
Each time I
rounded a corner I looked left, out to the ocean, or right, at a
The air smelled
fresh and tropical.
Going 10 mph does
have some advantages -- I didnt speed by any of the
I made at least
two stops before the Halfway to Hana highway marker.
One was just a
pull-over-and-hike stop where I took a mile-long loop up and down a
hill to see some truly amazing trees with aboveground roots,
hillsides just crammed with foliage and redheaded birds.
Hana itself is
nicknamed Heavenly Hana.
Im guessing this
means that, not only is the town beautiful, but those who drive the
route are beyond relieved when they come to the end of the
reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].