At the eastern tip of Maui is Hana, a sleepy little town less than four square miles in size with wonderful beaches, waterfalls, and picturesque views. Hana can be reached by driving the famously windy and scenic "Road to Hana." The drive to Hana from Kahului along the Hana Hwy. is 52 miles and can take up to four hours if you allow for numerous viewing stops and plenty of time to navigate the many hairpin turns and one-lane bridges.
Hana is home to about 800 people, including a higher percentage of native Hawaiians than most other Maui towns. Centered on Hana Bay, the town’s attractions also include the Hotel HanaMaui, historic churches, botanical gardens, the Hana Cultural Center and Museum, ancient heiau (Hawaiian sacred places) and other important historical and cultural sites. Hana was also the birthplace of the powerful Queen Kaahumanu, the wife of King Kamehameha I. She was born in 1768 in a cave on the southern side of Hana Bay on a hill called Kauiki Head, which was also the site of major battles between the warriors of Maui and the Big Island.
In Hana town, you can stop for some supplies and snacks at the Hasegawa General Store and then go for a swim at Hana Bay Beach Park, Koki Beach Park or the lovely Hamoa Beach which author James Michener called the Pacific’s most beautiful beach.
The Hana Cultural Center and Museum is located on Uakea Rd. near the turnoff to Hana Bay. The museum exhibits historical and cultural artifacts including fish hooks, poi boards, stone lamps, quilts, tapa cloth and more. The museum is housed in the former police station built in 1871, and you can still see the courthouse jail. Also on the site is a reconstruction of a precontact Hawaiian village.
The Hotel Hana-Maui was built in the 1930s when it was called Kauiki Inn and encompassed 14,000 acres. Over the years the hotel has hosted many prominent guests including Clark Gable. The hotel’s founder Paul Fagan, who was the owner of the San Francisco Seals baseball team, also ran a cattle ranch in the Hana area. He is honored with the Fagan Memorial Cross which stands above the town.
Across from the hotel is Wananalua Church which was built in 1838 using lava stone with mortar made from coral. Just east of town after Mile Marker 32 on the Hana Highway is the turnoff to the Hana Airport.
Tucked away at the base of Kauiki Head is the Kaihalulu Beach, also known as Red Sand Beach due to the volcanic cinder cone that has colored the sands of this beach deep red. Surrounded by green ironwoods and set beneath a black lava sea cliff, Kaihalulu’s red sands and clear blue water make a very picturesque scene.
Just east of Hana town are the black sand beaches of Waianapanapa State Park known for its rugged lava coastline including caves and arches. Also just east of Hana town is the ancient Piilanihale Heiau said to have been largest heiau (sacred place of worship) in all of Polynesia. The heiau is on the site of the Kahanu Gardens which has an extensive collection of plants of Polynesia and the broader Pacific region.
The area just west of Hana town is home to several celebrities who have built estates in the area though you can’t see them from the road. About seven miles south of Hana town is the impressive Wailua Falls cascading about eighty feet down a steep cliff into a gorge.
Ten miles southwest of Hana town is Kipahulu and the Oheo Gulch section of Haleakala National Park. In the lower section of the park is the area known as Seven Sacred Pools, more properly called Pools of Oheo where you can swim in the cool mountain stream.
The Pipiwai Trail leads two miles upstream past Makahiku Falls through a bamboo forest to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. Also in Kipahulu you can also visit famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s Grave at Palapala Hoomau Church.
The Hana region is a land of dramatic seascapes, cascading waterfalls and lush rainforests. There are few places on Earth more beautiful than “Heavenly Hana.”