5 Reasons to Explore Hana, Maui

After driving 36 miles along a sinuous highway dotted with waterfalls and breathtaking lookouts onto the Pacific Ocean, you've finally made it: Hana, that tiny outpost on the far-eastern edge of Maui. The Road to Hana, one of the most iconic drives in the United States, ends here, and for many visitors, the most logical next step is simply to turn around and do it again in reverse to make it back to the other side of the island before nightfall.

But drivers shouldn't be too eager to circle back once their hours-long journey is complete. Indeed, staying for an extra day or two in Hana is perhaps the best way to experience the wild side of Maui—a place teeming with lush rainforests, windswept beaches, and rustic comforts. Here are five reasons to linger in Hana following your drive.

Colorful Beaches

Along Hana's shores you'll find some of the most colorful beaches in Hawaii. At Waianapanapa State Park, just north of Hana, you can trek through an austerely beautiful strand coated with black-volcanic pebbles. While this beach isn't ideal for soaking up the rays, there are plenty of rocky outcrops, sea arches, and hollowed-out lava tubes to explore. It's especially memorable to come here during high tide to watch the waves squirt through the coastal blowholes.

For a more relaxing experience, drive just south of Hana to the enchanting Hamoa Beach. This half-moon-shaped strand with black-and-white sand vies for the title of Maui's best. Lay out under a palm tree while watching surfers brave the choppy waves. It's the perfect place to get away from it all.

Stunning Hikes through the Rainforest

Ten miles south of Hana is Oheo Gulch, an extension of Haleakala National Park and one of the top spots for hiking in Maui. The many trails in this park take you to a series of shimmering pools—commonly referred to as the “Seven Sacred Pools”—and several spectacular waterfalls.

The most ambitious hike is along Pipiwai Trail, a two-mile journey uphill to Waimoku Falls, an especially thunderous waterfall. As with the Road to Hana, the journey is as much about the hike as the destination. You'll get muddy and wet—the trail cuts through two shallow streams—but you'll also wander through a tranquil bamboo forest and gawk at some massive banyan trees. It's a great opportunity to get down and dirty in East Maui's rugged landscapes.

Rustically Luxurious Accommodations

Just because Hana itself is remote doesn't mean that you have to rough it while there. The Travaasa Hana, the oldest resort in Maui, provides visitors with all the amenities they might expect in the resort-lined sections of the island's leeward shores. The spacious bungalows are spread out over a sprawling property, so even during high season the resort never feels crowded. Despite its many luxuries, the Travaasa Hana maintains a rustic charm. It truly feels like a slice of Old Hawaii.

Hawaiian Cultural Activities

More than many other towns on the island, Hana has preserved its distinct heritage. You'll find plenty of opportunities during your stay to engage in traditional cultural activities. The Travaasa Hana offers hands-on lessons in everything from ukulele-strumming to throw-net fishing to lei making. In Oheo Gulch visitors can trek with guides from Kipahulu 'Ohana up to a living farm that cultivates picturesque patches of taro, a Hawaiian plant often consumed during luaus and special occasions. It's an informative way to learn about the traditional agriculture of the islands.

Even More Scenic Drives

While the Road to Hana is unparalleled in its beauty, there are other drives along Maui's southeastern coast that offer plenty of thrills and spectacular vistas. The road from Hana to Oheo Gulch winds through scenic hills dotted with rolling farms and secluded celebrity estates. Past Oheo Gulch you can continue along Maui's southeast side on Kaupo Road, where the stunning terrain becomes more desert-like. It's worth noting, however, that a portion of this rough road is unpaved, and might be inaccessible in rainy weather.

But never fear—if you're unable to make this drive, simply turn around and head back to Hana. Even if you've exhausted most of the activities there, don't be surprised if the town's leisurely pace and lush scenery lures you back for another day.

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