Island Drives

By , June 19, 2010 3:00 am
Kipahulu coastal region of Haleakala National Park
Image via Wikipedia

Drive The Road To Hana

Although it’s only 52 miles from Kahului Airport to the Hana Airport, driving to Hana is an all-day event. Get an early start; the road twists its way around 600 curves, over 54 bridges, and along the most scenic coastline in Hawaii. Before leaving the mo re populated center of the island, definitely no later than Paia, plan on stopping to fill your gas tank and to stock up on soft drinks and snacks. After the Maui Grown Market in Haiku, there are no stores or gas stations other than The Half Way Stop, a r oadside snack stand, in Keanae 18 miles from Hana. Definitely stop for some of owner Netta Chong’s home-made banana bread; it’s the best on the island! It’s possible to drive to Hana in just over two hours, but if you do, you’ll miss the whole point of ma king the drive. Every curve of the road reveals another reason you should have bought more film! Waterfalls, tropical jungle, checker-board fields of taro under cultivation; black lava rocks rimmed with white foam set next to towering green cliffs in an o cean of the bluest blue…this is the Hawaii you see in travel posters and it reaches out and demands that you stop to admire it! Stretch your legs, take more photographs, smell the flowers. When you’re on the road again, if there are other cars in back o f you, pull over at the first wide spot alongside of the road to let them past. Although Hana residents are not immune to the beauty of the scenery, they do resent getting caught behind sightseers. Stay on your side of the road while going around corners and yield, there are no two car bridges along the entire road! Getting to Hana is almost anticlimactic. The road straightens out as you drive through the village but, if you drive too fast, you’ll go right past the only hotel, Hotel Hana Maui, and may eve n miss the famous Hasegawa General Store. The store’s reputation was made during the 1950′s when a “hapa-haole” (English words, Hawaiian heart)song was written about its amazing variety of merchandise. Most day visitors continue their drive to Haleakala N ational Park’s Kipahulu Section. The pools in Oheo Gulch are exceptional. It’s popularly called “Seven Pools.” If you ask the park rangers about “Seven Pools” or “Seven Sacred Pools,” they’ll turn purple and start to stutter. They’ve been fighting a loosi ng battle to get everyone to call it by its proper name, “Oheo,” which means “a gathering of pools.” Turn around and drive to the “other side” (that’s what the Hana natives call the rest of the island) along the same road. If you’re adventurous, you may w ant to continue to drive around the island the long, long way. Be forewarned that most u-drive companies will not come out to get you if your vehicle breaks down. The road is newly paved for approximately five miles before it becomes a dirt track for four miles. Dusty and very bumpy; this section of the road may become impassable if the weather is very stormy because it crosses two major dry stream beds that will flood. When the pavement resumes, it is still very bumpy and goes through open cattle range. Do not drive this road at night. The average driving time, with no stops along the way, is three hours from the center of Hana town to the Hana and Haleakala Highways junction. When you finally get to wherever you started from, you’ll understand why Hana residents call every place else on Maui “the other side.”

Take A Scenic Drive
This drive holds much extraordinary beauty and is not very frequently traveled. You should check with your rental car company before venturing past Kahakuloa. The road used to be virtually impassable after bad weather but has been re-paved. It is not as r utted or bumpy, but still is less than 2 lanes in many areas. Backing up to avoid an oncoming car when you are against a mountain with a cliff on the other side of you is not much fun! Having said all of that, there is still much unspoiled beauty here. Br ing plenty of film. As we leave Kapalua, we head north for a while and pass a magnificent blow hole about a mile before we come to the little fishing village of Kahakuloa. It is one of the oldest towns on Maui. A few miles past the little town, mile marke r 11, the pavement begins to get wider. We are relieved! A little farther and we see two small beach parks, and a small town. Waiehu and Waihee. Next we see the county golf course turnoff, right at the Kiwanis Park ball field. Turn left and go towards the water. Turn right to the golf course and left to the beach.

Admire A Silversword
“Ahinahina,” gray-gray, is what the Hawaiians named the Silversword, a plant so rare that it only grows above the 6,000 ft. level on Haleakala and on a remote mountain top in South America. When you first see the plant, you’ll marvel at how it can grow at all in the rocky cinders of the volcano. Botanists tell us that the Silversword is a relative of the common sunflower. Each plant can live from five to 20 years, ending its life cycle when it explodes into bloom, usually between June through October, spr outing a stalk anywhere from three to eight ft. tall covered with purple-reddish blossoms from the center of its silvery gray sword-like leaves. The leaves are covered with a fuzz of fine hair, which is said to help protect the plant from the effects of t he sun’s radiation and lack of moisture above the mountain’s timberline. An endangered species, the plants can be seen growing behind a fenced enclosure at the visitor center, alongside the road near the Kalahaku Overlook, and while hiking along the Silve rsword Loop on the floor of the crater. Do not leave the roadside or trails to photograph them, or try to touch their leaves or flowers. Not much is known about how their seeds germinate so its best to protect the areas around them so future generations o f Maui residents visitors can enjoy the ahinahina’s rare beauty in the years to come.

Go Horseback Riding On Lanai
If you are going to Lanai for the day, there are rides through the countryside over varied terrain, and children are accommodated. As the rates and rides vary from stable to stable, it is best to call for information. If you’ve never ridden before, (wrang lers call new riders “greenhorns”) don’t be afraid to say so. Many of the stables offer horses that “go with the flow,” gentle horses that can be put on automatic pilot so you can relax, enjoy the ride and savor the scenery!

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