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Hana

By now the relaxed pace of life that Hana residents enjoy should have you in its grasp, so you won't be discouraged to learn that the "town" is little more than a gas station, a post office, and a general store.

Hana, in many ways, is the heart of Maui. It's one of the few places where the slow pulse of the island is still strong. The town centers on its lovely circular bay, dominated on the right-hand shore by a puu (volcanic cinder cone) called Kauiki. A short trail here leads to a cave, the birthplace of Queen Kaahumanu. Two miles beyond town another puu presides over a loop road that passes Hana's two best beaches—Koki and Hamoa. The hill is called Ka Iwi O Pele (Pele's Bone). Offshore here, at tiny Alau Island, the demigod Maui supposedly fished up the Hawaiian Islands.

Although sugar was once the mainstay of Hana's economy, the last plantation shut down in the 1940s. In 1946 rancher Paul Fagan built the Hotel Hana-Maui (now Travassa Hana Hotel) and stocked the surrounding pastureland with cattle. Now it's the ranch and its hotel that put food on most tables. It's pleasant to stroll around this beautifully rustic property. In the evening, while local musicians play in the lobby bar, their friends jump up to hula dance. The cross you can see on the hill above the hotel was put there in memory of Fagan.

Hana Cultural Center Museum. If you're determined to spend some time and money in Hana after the long drive, head to the Hana Cultural Center Museum in the center of town. Besides operating a well-stocked gift shop, it displays artifacts, quilts, a replica of an authentic kauhale (an ancient Hawaiian living complex, with thatch huts and food gardens), and other Hawaiiana. The knowledgeable staff can explain it all to you. The center is open weekdays 10 to 4. 4974 Uakea Rd., 96713. PHONE: 808/248-8622. www.hanaculturalcenter.org. COST: $3.

Hamoa Beach. Just outside Hana, take a left on Haneoo Loop to explore lovely Hamoa Beach. Indulge in swimming or bodysurfing at this beautiful salt-and-pepper beach. Picnic tables, restrooms, and showers beneath the idyllic shade of coconut trees offer a more than comfortable rest stop. The road leading to Hamoa also takes you to Koki Beach, where you can watch the Hana surfers mastering the swells and strong currents, and the seabirds darting over Alau, the palm-fringed islet off the coast. The swimming is safer at Hamoa. Haneoo Loop Rd., 2 mi east of Hana, 96713.

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