Tag Archives: Maui

The Road to Hana

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Seaside view along the Hana Highway.

One of the most picturesque drives you can take in Hawaii or perhaps anywhere else in the world could very well be the road to the idyllic town of Hana on the island of Maui. The approximately 64 mile journey along the Hana Highway from Maui’s largest town of Kahului to Hana can take 2 ½ hours, provided you don’t stop along the way.  But you should stop by as many places as you can because the when driving to Hana, the goal should not be the destination, but the journey.

Plan on making your sure-to-be memorable journey–to and from one of the most famous places on Maui–a whole day affair.  Not only because there are a lot of things to see; but most of the road will be narrow and winding with more than 600 curves. There are 59 bridges along the way, while 46 of them can only be traversed by cars going in the same direction. The highway was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.

There are many interesting and scenic stops that you should make during your journey to Hana as well as after you pass the town. You can visit one of innumerable secluded waterfalls in a lush tropical setting made possible by abundant rainfall along the northern slopes of Haleakala. Some of the more notable waterfalls that you can see on the Hana Highway include:  Twin Falls at Mile Marker 2, Upper Waikani Falls or the Three Bears at Mile Marker 19, Hanawai Falls at Mile Marker 24 and Wailua Falls at Mile Marker 45.

There are a number of quiet and beautiful public roadside areas, such as the Kaumahina State Wayside Park, Wailua Valley State Wayside Park and the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park. Stop at any one of these parks to take a break from your drive and enjoy some of Maui’s best places for leisurely strolls and relaxation.  In addition to waterfalls and parks, there are numerous scenic lookout spots as well as roadside stands where you can sample exotic fruits and other locally made food products.

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View from a scenic lookout along the Hana Highway.

Other very notable places to stop include the Garden of Eden Arboretum and the Keanae Arboretum where you can see a large number of native plants and farm crops on display. You should also stop by the Kahanu Garden which is a part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Once used as a sugar plantation and pasture, the garden is now used to showcase Hawaiian plants, history and culture. The area is also home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau or temple which is one of the largest in all of Polynesia.

Once you get to the town of Hana, take the time to explore the sights and attractions for which the town has become famous for. One of the things you definitely do here is to head out to Wai’anapanapa State Park, which feature the black sand beach named Pa’iloa.  You can also visit the Wai’anapanapa freshwater caves which are good examples of anchialine pools, which are landlocked bodies of water, typically freshwater, with a subterranean connection to the ocean. Such pools are unique to places where there are aquifers within coastal bedrock formed by lava, as in the case of Hawaii.

Another must see place in Hana is the rustic and inventory-crammed Hasegawa General Store. The store sells almost anything and everything to the local Hana residents and visitors and has been a long-time part of local island lore and culture.

Don’t plan on just stopping in Hana as there is still much to see beyond this town. In Kipahulu, stop by the Palapala Ho’omau Church to visit the grave of one of America’s most famous aviators, Charles Lindbergh. In his latter years, Lindbergh and his wife lived in this part of Maui on a half time basis and loved it so much he opted to be buried here when he died in 1974. Another very famous attraction in the Kipahulu area is the Ohe’o Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools area. Here, you can find waterfalls, picturesque freshwater swimming pools, forest trails, waterfalls and a historic heiau.  This area, stretching down from Haleakala’s summit, was added to Haleakala National Park in 1969.

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Seven Sacred Pools in Kipahulu.

Major Motion Pictures Shot on Maui

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The State of Hawaii has provided the beautiful backdrop of a number of great Hollywood blockbuster movies, including Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Descendants and more. However, most of those films were either filmed on the island of Kauai or Oahu. One wonders if any major motion pictures were ever filmed on the Valley Isle of Maui. The answer is yes and here is an overview of the relatively few that were.

The Devil at 4 O’clock – This 1961 disaster epic of a controversial priest’s efforts to rescue his flock of Hansen Disease-afflicted children from an exploding volcano had all of the essential components for a successful major motion picture. It had arguable two of the biggest name stars during the time it was filmed in Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra. The special effects in the movie, which was supposed to be set in a fictional island in French Polynesia, were leading edge for the times. Last but not least, it featured a great setting, Maui.  Most of the movie was shot on location in the town of Lahaina.

The Hawaiians – This 1970 movie, staring Charleston Heston and Geraldine Chaplin, is based on the later chapters of the best-selling James Michener novel, “Hawaii.” The movie had a number of scenes shot on Maui in addition to covering key historic events in Hawaii, such as the Chinese and Japanese immigration to the islands, the overthrowal of the Hawaiian monarchy, the spread and control of Hansen’s Disease and the development of the pineapple industry in Hawaii. The movie’s depiction of how the pineapple industry got started in Hawaii is particularly appropriate for a movie shot on the Valley Isle as Maui is one of the last places in Hawaii that still grows pineapples.

Papillon – When you have big name stars like Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman and Maui as a backdrop in this 1973 Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning movie what more do you need? This movie, about life in the infamous penal system in French Guiana, had a number of key scenes shot in Hana, Maui. Here the climactic scene where Steve McQueen’s character Papillon jumped off a high and dangerous cliff to escape imprisonment from Devil’s Island was shot. Steve McQueen, being Steve McQueen, actually did the dangerous cliff jumping scene himself.

Despite such the success of such major motion pictures being shot on Maui, it still remains a mystery why more aren’t filmed in the beautiful Valley Isle of Maui. Perhaps, even though millions of tourists throughout the world know and appreciate Maui’s enticing charms, hopefully the movie industry will one day discover it as well as utilize it more fully.

Where Locals Eat on Maui

Haleakala Crater on Maui

Haleakala Crater on Maui.

Wherever you travel, do you ever wonder where the locals eat? Most probably, these places not only serve good food, they probably offer the best value for your money. The Valley Isle of Maui is not any different. Here are just some of the places where local people on Maui love to frequent whenever they go out to eat.

One of Maui’s favorite local eateries is Sam Sato’s. Sam Sato’s is famous for its dry mein dish. Dry mein is almost the same as Hawaii’s saimin, which is the island’s own unique version of Japanese ramen, except the soup is served separately from the noodles, hence the name, dry mein. This place is also known for its barbeque sticks that typically accompany dry mein as well as for its manju, a Japanese rice cake with a variety of sweet fillings.

Another local favorite on Maui is Ichiban Okazuya, located in a small, very old building with very limited parking. You know this place is popular because the office building across the street had to hire a parking attendant during lunch hours to keep customers out of their lot. While they offer a wide variety of take out offerings, people rave about their chicken katsu and their chicken katsu don. Other popular take out items include their miso ahi, butterfish and Korean chicken.

Saigon Cafe is another popular establishment among Maui’s residents. The restaurant is somewhat hidden away under a small bridge in the sleepy town of Wailuku. While it might be tough to find for the first-timer, people say it’s worth the frustration. Saigon Cafe features Vietnamese food as well as a large selection of local menu items like oxtail soup, steamed local fish, saimin and is a favorite for business lunches and dinners.