The ocean bungalows of the Travaasa Hana resort and spa offer the same distinctive, relaxing tropical appeal they did when the venerable lodging property, originally constructed in 1946, was known as Hotel Hana-Maui.

Photo By Tanner Powell/ Travaasa Hana

A visual journey along Maui's breathtaking Hana Coast

Take in the lush inland views, azure ocean vistas and cool stops along the Hana Highway.

There are 35 miles of winding Hana Highway curves and breathtaking east Maui coastline separating the picturesque taro farms of the Keanae Peninsula and the remote, sparsely populated seaside outpost of Kaupo. And on every one of the dozen or so drives I’d taken along the Hana Coast over the last couple of decades, I’d never given myself more than a day to explore it all. I wasn’t alone.

Every morning, hundreds of visitors depart from the Valley Isle’s largest town, Kahului, take in the luxuriant inland views, azure ocean vistas and cool stops along the highway in quick succession, lunch in quaint bayside Hana town, maybe visit the sparkling river pools of Oheo and head back to town before sunset. Rarely, it seems, does anyone stay more than a day. I decided it was time I did.

Staying on the coast for a few days offers a wholly different experience. On an early morning drive south from Hana to the verdant valleys and roadside waterfalls of Kipahulu, and remote beaches and precipitous cliff faces on the way to Kaupo, the refreshingly empty highway is suddenly your own private playground. A private sea cottage at one of the most unique and long-in-business hotels on Maui offers the rare opportunity to wake up to an ocean sunrise so stunningly close, you’ll feel as if you can reach out and touch it. Hiking trails and natural wonders, once too far away to explore completely in a day, are now right in your backyard. More than a day on the coast will have your digital camera’s photo card bursting at its virtual seams. A good thing, actually.

Now, spoiled for life after five straight days exploring the Hana Coast, I don’t imagine I’ll ever be able to visit for a mere daylong roadtrip again. After taking in the photos on the pages ahead, you’ll want to linger on the coast, too.

 

hana fresh farm
Sam Kalalau checks on tomato plants at Hana Fresh Farm, which grows more than
100 varieties of certified organic vegetables, fruits and herbs for Maui markets
and its own roadside market stand in Hana.
Photo: David Croxford

 

hana
The farms of Keanae Peninsula have produced a large share of Hawaii’s kalo (taro) crop since the 1800s.
Photo: David Croxford

 

hamoa
Beachgoers contemplate the afternoon waters at Hamoa Beach, which globe-trotting writer James Michener called “the world’s most perfect beach.” Spend a few hours on its salt-and-pepper flecked sands and decide for yourself.
Photo: David Croxford

 

wailua falls
The 200-foot cascade of Wailua Falls emerges dramatically alongside the Hana Highway,
near Kipahulu.
Photo: David Croxford

 

hana
An old water pumping station near a Hana Highway stream offers a positive modern message.
Photo: David Croxford

 

waikani falls
Upper Waikani Falls, also known as Three Bears Falls for its trio of cascades, appears
roadside near Keanae.
Photo: David Croxford

 

kaupo store
Über-remote, rustic Kaupo Store is the last stop for snacks and ice-cold drinks
before negotiating 20 miles of narrow, mostly unpaved road along Maui’s scenic,
if dry and unpeopled, leeward coast of Haleakala. Built in 1925 by a family
that once owned several stores along the coast, Kaupo Store is now run by
Linda Domen, whose warm smile and friendly conversation has welcomed
Hana Highway travelers for more than 35 years.
Photo: David Croxford

 

aunty sandys
Sandy Hueu (with flower), daughter Jocelyn and granddaughter Tammy bake the
best homemade banana bread on the coast every day at their roadside stand in Keanae.
Photo: David Croxford

 

palapala Hoomau church
The cemetery of Palapala Hoomau Church in Kipahulu is the final resting place of
famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who lived nearby during his final years.
Photo: David Croxford

 

opah
Grilled opah (moonfish) dinner with local greens at Travaasa Hana’s dining room.
Photo: David Croxford

 

pranee
Chef Pranee Collins (in red apron) crafts some of the best homemade curries and Thai seafood dishes we’ve tasted anywhere in the Islands at her tent-covered roadside kitchen in Hana, utilizing fresh-caught fish from resident Hana anglers.
Photo: David Croxford

 

pranee thai
Ahi panang with red pepper at Thai Food by Pranee.
Photo: David Croxford

 

 

st joseph
Built in Kaupo in 1862, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church’s underlying structure
is coral reef and ocean rock.
Photo: David Croxford

 

cross
Fagan’s Cross, overlooking Hana from a hill above the bay since 1960, honors Hana Ranch and Hotel Hana-Maui founder Paul Fagan.
Photo: David Croxford

 

waianapanapa
Honokalani Black Sand Beach is one of a handful of natural wonders at
Waianapanapa State Park near Hana. Trails straddling the park’s coastline
lead to sea arches, several ocean caves and lava tubes.
Photo: David Croxford

 

road to hana
The famous serpentine curves and lush cliff faces of the Hana Highway.
Photo: David Croxford

 

hana
Another day on the coast breaks with a brilliant sunrise over the rocky, wave-tossed
shoreline fronting the ocean bungalows of Travaasa Hana resort and spa.
Photo: David Croxford

 

Where to find it

Fagan’s Cross
Trailhead begins at Travaasa Hana parking lot, access only by hiking

Hamoa Beach Park
Off Haneoo Road, Hana

Hana Fresh Farm/Hana Fresh Market
4590 Hana Highway, Hana
(808) 248-7515, www.hanahealth.org

Kaupo Store
Near mile marker 35, Hana Highway, Kaupo, south of Hana

Keanae Landing Fruit Stand/Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread
210 Keanae Road, Keanae, north of Hana
(808) 248-7448, keanaemaui.blogspot.com

Palapala Hoomau Church
Near mile marker 41, Hana Highway, Kipahulu, south of Hana

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church
Near mile marker 34, Hana Highway, Kaupo, south of Hana

Thai Food by Pranee
5050 Uakea Road, Hana

Travaasa Hana
5031 Hana Highway, Hana
(855) 528-1144, (808) 248-8211, www.travaasa.com/hana

Upper Waikani Falls
Near mile marker 19, Hana Highway, near Keanae, north of Hana

Waianapanapa State Park
Near mile marker 32, Hana Highway, Hana

Wailua Falls
Near mile marker 45, Hana Highway, Kipahulu, south of Hana

This photo essay originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 print issue of HAWAII Magazine.