Where to stay
At Travaasa Hana (formerly the Hotel Hana-Maui), wood-and-bamboo cottages with giant lanais sprawl alongside the sea, a garden of mangoes, plumeria, and bananas, and a well-tended taro patch. The infinity pool (pictured) made of volcanic pumice stones is a nice distraction, along with the stellar spa that does lomilomi and other treatments. Start your day with honeydew melon juice and pick your own banana from a branch in the lobby. No TVs or wireless in the cottages. From $399; travaasa.com/hana
Good-bye, 21st century
Which brings me to my morning chant with Mapuana Kalaniopio-Cook, my guide from the hotel, who wants to show me Hana as it would have looked when the first settlers lived there, in the 500s to 800s. I glance at the quiet ranchland. Fruit trees. Pumice rock walls. A cow. Mapuana herself with long black hair, plumeria tucked behind her ear. She doesn’t have to work very hard to make her point—minus the hotel, I imagine the past looked just about like this. We walk to the village on foot and follow the road to a cliff overlooking Hana Bay. It was here, Mapuana tells me, that the god Maui turned his daughter Noe Noe into a misty rain, and her forbidden lover, Ka‘uiki, into a hill. The cliff Mapuana and I are standing on? Ka‘uiki Hill. And the rain that’s now begun to mist our faces? Noe Noe. The story stirs something in me. It’s as if the gods are still in charge here—and thousands of miles away from the i-universe chattering back home, people still listen to them.
The perfect wish
Later that evening at the hotel bar, I quiz a regular guest about Hana’s magic and the practical theories: that its volcanic soil has a high mineral content, that there are more kahunas (magic men) here. She lays it out for me this way: “You’re not going to find anything scientific about it. You either feel it or you don’t.” A tropical breeze blows through the open windows, and a man sitting on a stool starts plucking a ukulele. A woman with nut brown skin and a bright orange muumuu begins moving her arms gracefully. The palm fronds outside flutter, almost in time to her motions. In this moment, I understand it: Hana’s magic is not mystical. The real magic lies in what isn’t here. The long and winding road to get here, a skinny pipeline, allows only tiny drips of the 21st century through. It’s a place where bananas are still plucked from trees, storytelling lives on in legends about gods and in hula, horses run wild, and the wind is your air-conditioning. So if the ku-puna are listening, here is my wish: Please don’t widen the road.