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Hana State of Mind: The Journey is the Destination

5am. It might actually be a crime to be up this early when you’re on vacation, but we’re told it’s a long drive to Hana and we should start early. So early that the sun is just rising as we leave the hotel. So early that the hotel had not started serving breakfast yet. Which is a crime when you have a teenager in the car. First stop: Anyplace that has breakfast. And coffee.

We leave Lahaina with a bag full of musubi with eggs, and piping hot, island-grown, fully caffeinated coffee. In my mind, we have won the lottery. The girls’ minds are on the road ahead, and they have questions: What’s in Hana? What’s so special about the Road to Hana? Is there a beach? Can we stop along the way? Where ARE we going?

Photo Collage: The Road to Hana via

The journey is the destination

This is an internationally famous drive. 64.4 miles of blacktop. 59 bridges, 44 of which are just one lane. 620 curves and turns. The journey is alternately breathtakingly beautiful and just plain breathtaking. Open fields. State parks. Scenic pull-outs. Waterfalls. Bamboo for miles. Cats and chickens. Mountains. Beaches. Tropical rainforests. Roadside shave ice and fruit stands. At times, you’re cruising through Hawaiian back-country taro fields with occasional cattle. Then you turn Makai and the road hugs the mountainside, tempting your attention away to endless seaward vistas. Just as suddenly, you’re pointed inland again – Mauka – tunneling through forests of bamboo, eucalyptus, and the occasional banana tree.

On the Road to Hana near Kaumahina State Wayside Park via

The Road to Hana sometimes seems to hang off the mountainside as it winds around the southeastern side of Maui near the Kaumahina State Wayside Park.

The 64.4 miles of the Road to Hana can literally take hours to drive, only in part because of the narrow bridges and harrowing turns. The trip becomes exponentially longer when you give in to the urge to stop and explore. Like most journeys, that’s where the real adventure lies. And there are plenty of great stops along the way, from the Garden of the Gods botanical garden to the Nahiku Marketplace, from the charmingly rugged town of Keanae to the enchanting Pu’u Ka’a Park. If the Hawaii you’ve known consisted of sandy hotel beaches and umbrella drinks, you will come to know a far different Hawaii on the Road to Hana.

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Reaching Hana

Photo Collage of Hana, Hawaii via

The village of Hana is authentic Hawaii; it is the state’s most traditional settlement.

By the time we pull into the town of Hana it is late afternoon, but we very well could have traveled 64.4 years back in time. The village is not just quaint, it’s evocative of what you may have dreamt Hawaii was. Before all of the tourism and development. Before statehood. Before annexation and The War. At the Hana Cultural Center, we learn that Hana is, in fact, the most traditional town in all of Hawaii. Traditional, not outdated. Not “old fashioned.”

Walking along a nearly-empty Hana Beach Park, I reflect on the journey to this point. Besides the incredible beauty, the people met at every stop come to mind. Smiles. Traditions. Handcrafts learned from elders, and passed on to children. Aloha. Mahalo. No worries about tomorrow, no regrets from yesterday. Living. In the moment.

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The destination is the journey

Far away from the everyday world, it’s easy let things go, to take it all in and enjoy the here and now. How nice it would be to live like the locals, in my locale. It sounds like it should be simple, but learning how to do that would be another story. Many of them, most likely. As with any good adventure, it could leave marks. It could affect you in unexpected ways. But reaching that state of being seems a road worth taking. What I realized in Hana is that, sometimes, the destination is a journey.

You can see more of this iconic road trip in our Road to Hana Gallery!

You might also enjoy these reflections on our time in Hawaii:

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Discovering that Hana State of Mind - The Road to Hana via

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50 comments on “Hana State of Mind: The Journey is the Destination

  1. Pingback: Hawaiian Airlines Be Mine Travel Sweepstakes - TravelLatte

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    • Hi guys – That is a beautiful road trip, with an equally pretty destination! It seems like around every corner was one great vista after another. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Getting up early for trips is something I always do – i love exploring places without hordes of tourists and getting up a couple of hours eaelier makes such a massive difference sometimes. Love the look of this drive – would absolutely love to do it one day!

    • Lexx, you seem to be the King of Early Risers! But you’re right – sometimes that’s the best or only time to see a place without the crowds. In this case, although there were quite a few people at some of the stops, Hana itself was surprisingly un-crowded when we got there. Getting up early was just to be sure we actually got there with time to enjoy it. Another early riser activity on Maui is sunrise on Haleakala, the volcano. I know you enjoy physical activities, so you’d probably like one of the bike rides to Hana, or down from the volcano. One of these days, you’re going to have to go give Hawaii a great big Aloha! 🙂

    • Hi guys – The Taro fields are beautiful. I had no idea how big it got! But then, the whole drive is beautiful, with huge stands of bamboo, rain forests, and of course the sea! Thanks for reading, and good luck getting away for a road trip!

    • Hi Sarah – you hit this one right: getting away from the noise of modern life! Sitting at Hana Beach Park, that’s one thing that really sunk in: Quiet. Calm. It was really relaxing…and really hard to get back in the car to go back. Sigh… Thanks for your comment!

  4. I actually don’t mind getting up early on trips if there’s something special to do that day. A little bit of sacrifice for big reward. Would definitely be nice to see what Hawaii may have been like before mass tourism so Hana really does sound like an intriguing spot. As for travel time, driving on islands always takes far longer than it would on mainland it seems. Nice one!

    • Boy, that is so true about driving taking longer on islands. Although, I suppose the driving is about the same…it’s all of the picture taking!! (Just me?) When I think of a tropical vacation, I imagine a slower pace someplace quiet and remote. That is Hana. Definitely worth getting up early! Thanks for your comment, David. Much appreciated!

  5. Hawaii is such a beautiful and magical place especially Maui. Yes, everyone needs to do the Hana Hwy. It’s quite a journey. Great post especially for first time visitors.

    • Thanks Lisa! We really fell in love with Hawaii, me particularly with Maui. Granted, that’s not hard to do. Glad you enjoyed the story, and thanks for your comment!

  6. That Road to Hana is one of my all time favorite drives (probably because hubby was driving, and I was free to gaze around). I think you really captured it well with your writing and photos. We spent the night in Hana, so it was a relaxing drive with plenty of time to explore.

    • Spending the night there is a GREAT plan. Not only does it let you relax and enjoy the drive more, you get to know Hana a little better. That’s a win-win if ever there was one! I think a lot of people get there and feel they have to turn back right away, which is too bad. Thanks for reading!

    • Hi Tracy – It is a beautiful drive and destination. In general, Hawaii is so pretty. Add to that, all of the great food and the Aloha spirit, and it’s a great destination! Hope you get there soon – you’ll love it. Thanks for reading!

  7. I barely remember driving up the road to Hana the first time I visited Hawaii when I was a little kid. On my second trip, we didn’t make it and I regret that. What a beautiful place!! 5am wouldn’t be too bad with the time change!!

    • It was a lot of fun, and so pretty! 20 years is a long time…maybe time to go back? You know, for “research.” Yeah… 😉 Thanks for your comment, Rhonda!

  8. Hana is a dream-come-true for those who want to experience the wilder part of Maui. I spent half a day trying to photograph those waterfalls last time I was there. During the rainy season however the road to Hana can be pretty dangerous unless you have a 4-wheel drive and a good driver behind the wheel. We’ve been through some ‘adventures’ on this road once and we’ve learned our lesson. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Hi Anda – That’s a really good point. It’s a beautiful drive, and can be challenging even in good weather. When those streams are running, and the road is wet, it can be downright dangerous! Same if you’re easily distracted by beautiful ocean vistas. And if you like taking pictures, to your point, you can be there all day. And then some! Thanks for reading, Anda!

    • It was so pretty! And there was a variety, too. Grasslands, bamboo forest, beaches and mountains. If you get the chance, we highly recommend it! Thanks for reading, Amila!

  9. 5am?! what a killer! but definitely worth it by the looks of things, I can’t wait to visit Hawaii one day, I’ve already pinned this 🙂 Tropical rainforests and waterfalls sound amazing!!! Hana looks like the sort of place we’d love away from the tourists, which is good to do now and again.

    • Hey Garth, you want to hear the kicker? That’s a late start! People start hitting the road for Hana around 4 or 5, and Haleakala (the volcano) as early as 3am to catch sunrise up there! No…that’s just not right. But wow, it sure was worth it! I know you guys are going to end up going. You won’t be able to resist! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  10. We made the drive to Hana six years ago and it’s still etched in my mind. What a memorable drive! And Hana is such a cool place. Thanks for helping me remember for a short while!

    • Hello Jill – I think the Road to Hana is one of those drives that you remember for a very long time. I know we’ll never forget it! Although, I do think we’ll need to return, just to be sure we can’t forget any of it! 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

    • Hi Jim – It is a great road trip, exactly for those reasons: Beautiful area away from the resorts. Well, there is one resort in Hana (Travaasa) and it’s beautiful, too! Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Hello Oana, thanks for reading! The village is a great place to get away. I like the beach, too, because it’s not always packed with tourists, and it’s so scenic. It’s also very relaxing! We’d love to go back and do more hiking up “mauka” – towards the mountain, which is the back side of the Haleakala volcano. Beautiful place!

  11. I will take the entire day to drive the road and stop as many times as possible. I would like to stay in Hana and drive back the next day. My grandfather lives up in the mountain, so, I am used to steep and windy curves. Hope the that helps me out to conquer this road. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Hi Ruth – That’s the best plan: Stay overnight in Hana if you can. Not many options, but Travaasa Hana looks fantastic – that would be worth spending much more than the night! Honestly, the drive wasn’t all that difficult, aside from the temptation to look at all of the scenery! Patience is required though, with all of the one-lane bridges. Also, if you have time, you can drive past Hana for some great hiking and more amazing views. I hope you get there soon – I’m sure you’d love it!

  12. Great story, guys. Where did you find lunch eats, and how many hours did the drive end up taking? We’ve been known to take ages to get places, too; for us it’s usually because there are some stunning shots we just HAVE to capture with our cameras. And this is exactly why we travel: to see more of a destination than the usual resorts and beaches. Those poor tourists who never leave their lounge chairs are really missing out. Speaking of which, we’ve been in Malaysia since November and still haven’t seen the coast!

    • Hi Linda! I don’t think I could go that long without getting to the beach if I knew it was close! Thanks for the kind words, and really glad you liked the story. We stayed in Ka’anapali, so pretty much entire opposite end of the island from Hana. Maps will tell you it’s about 3 hours, but we took six getting there, and another four coming back. We stopped A LOT! Along the highway, there were several places to stop for grinds – we stopped at a farmer’s market and a roadside stand selling fruits and smoothies. A couple of other stops included a BBQ and taco place where we had lunch, with a few other shops to browse through. On the way back, we had dinner at Mama’s Fish House in Paia – reservations suggested, but we managed to get in and it was fantastic! Thanks for your comments!

    • Hi Brooke – That is so true. Having something to focus on, in this case the drive, helps keep those “real life” issues out of mind for a bit. And then you realize the world didn’t end while you weren’t looking. The trick is remembering that when you get home. 😉 Thanks for reading!

  13. My family did this drive when I was a kid. I don’t think I really fully appreciated it. I need to go back and do it again. Your pictures are lovely, thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Hi Anisa – You really should go back! I kind of expected our teen to be bored by the drive, but she seemed to really enjoy it – especially the stops. Thanks for reading!

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