My husband and I drove to Hana last week. After numerous one-lane bridges and a slew of hairpin turns along a shady road, we stopped here to stretch our legs and snap a photo. You can tell by this picture that this area is lush. Those are taro patches in the valley. In places, it even seems the road is carved out of vegetation. Green in a range of shades is the predominant color here. Because this is East Maui, the winward side, it receives more rainfall than the dry, desert-like West Maui. While it was mostly sunny last Thursday when we drove the 54-mile stretch from Kahului to Hana, we did encounter patches of cloudy skies, as evidenced here, and bouts of misty rain. But only enough to require a few swipes of the windshield with the wipers.
Two hours after departing the airport in Kahului, we arrived in Hana. It was 1:00 p.m., and we were hungry. We made a quick left when we saw this sign and enjoyed fresh ahi sandwiches at the Hana Grill. Of course, the Hana Grill isn’t your typical restaurant grill. Here, there are no TVs blaring sports broadcasts. There is no bar with beer flowing. There is only a converted bread van. Seating is plastic tables and chairs under a tent.
Hana is famous. Actually, it’s the road to Hana that is famous. For the traveller, driving to Hana gives you bragging rights. When someone asks, “What did you do today?” and you say, “We drove to Hana,” the response is always one of big eyes and surprise. “You did?” they ask. “All the way?” they continue. “How was it?” they want to know.
Here’s my response: Yes. All the way. It was green. It was windy. It was curvy. For me, it wasn’t nearly as treacherous as I was expecting; there were not as many cliffside curves as I was expecting. It was more like a long, meandering Sunday drive through a beautiful rainforest. Me? I wouldn’t drive to Hana for the road. I would, however, drive to Hana for the people. Everyone we met–on the road, at the farmers market, in the grocery store–greeted us. It was like we were at home in our own neighborhood, but we weren’t. Driving your standard issue, metallic blue PT Cruiser, we were obviously tourists. Yet the locals made us feel like neighbors.