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Blame it on the road.

Any way you work it, getting to Hana takes on the air of an expedition.

And perhaps that's how it should be. Isolated on the eastern tip of Maui not so much by distance as by time and terrain, Hana is an island within an island: a fragment of rural Hawaii barely surviving on the edge of the state's second largest tourism center.

The intense development that consumed Maui's sunny leeward shores during the 1970s left the miles of dramatic shoreline around Hana mostly untouched. Buffered on the Keanae side (see map, page 104) by wild State Forest Reserve lands and on the Kipahulu side by the fragile Seven Pools area, the town itself is mostly a ranching and farming center.

While zoning and terrain have helped, ask any of Hana's 300 residents why the area hasn't changed and many will shrug, then smile and blame it on the road.

Ah, the road! The 62-mile squiggle on our map--state officials have the nerve (or sense of humor) to call it the Hana Highway--is one of the most cantankerous stretches of pavement in the Islands. It is also one of the most spectacular.

Threading a cautions route above a rocky, wave-pounded coastline, it passes through some of the island's wildest tropical forests. Trails beckon everywhere, leading beneath the jungle canopy into deep rain forest where green light softens the vibrant blooms of ginger and orchids.

Rain is a way of life here. There are 54 bridges on the road to Hana, and at every turn other stream cascades through rocks or plunges over cliffs into quiet pools that beg a quick swim.

Close to town, the forest gives way to agriculture: rolling acres of green pasture for cattle, small plantations specializing in papaya and kiwi fruit, commercial nurseries growing cut flowers for export to the Mainland. Youngsters sell fruit, flower leis, and shells at roadside stands.

Tucjed around the coast's only safe harbor, Hana town is a center for working ranches and farms, complete with general store, gas station, old church, new museum, and post office. You make your own entertainment here: there are no high-rise hotels, no designer boutiques, no fast-food franchises. There isn't even a stoplight.

Smoothing the bumps. For years Hana residents fought improvements to the highway, preferring to dodge potholes and tourists in rental cars rather than face the hordes of grinding tour buses that a modern highway would bring.

But slowly and quietly over the past few years, the state has been widening and resurfacing the road that inspired the T-shirt proclaiming "I survived the Hana Highway." Barely 12 miles of narrow old patchwork remains between Kahului and Hana. While driving time isn't dramatically reduced (see box page 104) and the curves are still there, the route is smoother and--with two narrow lanes--safer.

Most visitors make the tortuous drive to Seven Pools and back in a long day that leaves little time to explore all that the Hana coast has to offer. But a growing number of travelers are making overnight stays. Two days is barely enough time to sample the highlights on our map; five days would give plenty of time for hiking and horseback riding.

With winter storms about over, now is a good time to visit or to reserve ahead for summer lodging. Late spring and early summer may be the best times to go, with enough rain to keep the falls full yet enough sun to let you work on your tan.

Exploring Hana . . . a short stroll. By the town's very nature, a stop in Hana shouldn't be rushed. Overnighters will have a few hours to explore properly.

At mile 49.3 on the map, turn down Uakea Road (most lodging is along here). Near the bay turnoff, you'll see the new Hale Waiwai O'Hana Museum, with a collection of local artifacts that chronicles the area's history. It's open 11 to 4 Tuesdays through Sundays; the 1871 courthouse next door is beging restored.

Walk up Keawa Place to the highway and go left a block past the Hotel Hana Maui to the 1838 Congregational Church (note royal palms), then stroll down plumeria-lined Hauoli Street to picturesque old Hana School, now a community center. Turn right; a path at road's end leads down to a secluded red sand beach below a Japanese cemetery perched on a bluff. Turn left back to the road to Hana Bay. The sandy beach fronting Hana Bay offers the safest ocean swimming along this coast. You can hike out to the lighthouse on Kauiki Head (Queen Kaahumanu was born in a cave here) or picnic on tables or grass. Fishermen sometimes sell part of their catch on the pier in late afternoon--about the time local paddlers practice racing outrigger canoes across the bay.

Beyond town to Oheo Gulch. Overnighters can also do justice to the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park near the highway's end. Main attraction: the pristine chain of pools in Oheo Gulch. Right after breakfast, drive out from Hana to Oheo Gulch for a cool hike up the grassy bluffs to two mist-shrouded waterfalls. From the trailhead across the street from parking, it's a gentle 1/2 mile to Makahiku Falls. Beyond, in the 1-1/2 miles to Waimoku Falls, you pass an old Hawaiian farm site and wind through a bamboo grove; don't ford streams if they look swollen or if it has een raining hard.

Afterward, spread your picnic mat on the grassy bluffs of Kuloa Point above the wave-pounded shore near the mouth of Oheo Stream. When runoff isn't too high, the pools below the road offer a refreshing dip; a water-smoothed natural chute slides you from the middle of the lowest. Walk carefully on the slippery rocks.

For details on special Saturday morning hikes and camping, call (808) 572-9306, or write to Haleakala National Park, Box 369, Makawao 96768.

A mile beyond Oheo Gulch in the community of Kipahulu (no services), the Greg Lind family offers horseback rides into the park for $12 per hour. A 2-hour trip goes to the two upper falls; bring lunch. Call 248-7722 or write to Oheo Stables, Box 254, Hana 96713.

For more reading. On the Hana Coast is an illustrated 164-page glimpse into the fabric and soul of the Hana experience. Island stores have it, or order from Emphasis International, Box 61366, Manoa Station, Honolulu 96822, for $11.95 ($13.95 for air-mail delivery).

Hawaii, A Guide to All the Islands (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Calif., 1984; $7.95) has been completely revised.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Maui, Hawaii
Date:Mar 1, 1985
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