Highway to heaven

The most beautiful road in the world leads to Maui's Hana — and true bliss

Thomas J. Story
Photo: Thomas J. Story

From the first light of morning, Hana turns your world upside down.

On the far windward edge of Maui, Hana faces east, so dawn is the show, as if the day can't wait to begin. For anyone accustomed to the sundown sea of the West Coast, there's a disorienting moment as the clouds over the ocean brighten with streaks the pinkish shade of guava juice.

The rising sun illuminates a place of inspiring beauty. Mists veil the mountains and albatross-like frigate birds glide high over the waves. The nighttime chirping of geckos under the eaves gives way to a mynah bird's first bossy calls. Palms along a horse pasture rustle with the morning's first breeze, the swishing of a mare's tail mirroring the movement of the fronds.

With Hana's beaches, hiking, tropical gardens, and sacred sites, it's tempting to skip that first cup of coffee and just get out and explore. But this is Hana, and rushing just isn't the point.

Long before you reach this onetime domain of the Maui ali'i (chiefs), Hana Highway ― with its 54 one-lane bridges and slithering 52-mile course ― has already made that message clear.

"Slow down, brah," the road commands. "You're going to Hana. Type A is kapu here. Forbidden. You wanted to see Hawaii, yeah? Well, welcome to the real Hawaii."

Most Hana visitors can't slow down. Dubbed "whizzers" by locals, they just come for the day. Upon reaching Hana, typically after driving three hours, they're already calculating how long it will take to whiz back out. The problem is you need a few days, not a few hours, to start experiencing Hana.




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