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Driving through paradise

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By Wayne Lazarus on January 4th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

If cold weather has brought the thought of an island vacation to mind, consider Hawaii. There are plenty of touristĀ  attractions in our fiftieth state, in fact, sometimes it’s a little hard to dial down and find a non-commercialized part of paradise. The Hana Highway on Maui’s east side is a perfect way to escape the condos and restaurants and discover the beauty that people come to Hawaii to see.highway

Hana itself is a very small town with few restaurants. The Hana Highway (HI-360) is the attraction. The road was named a Millennium Legacy Trail in 2000. It is between 50 and 60 miles, has over 50 bridges (more than half of which are one-lane) and some 600 curves — many hairpin turns. It takes between three and four hours to get to Hana from the airport at Kahului, depending on how often you stop. You’ll want to have a full tank of gas and plenty of snacks — there are no fast food places or convenience stores.

seven poolsAnd you will want to stop. The road travels along the edge of the island, so various overlooks offer spectacular views of the ocean. You’ll see waves crashing against rocks and some of Hawaii’s famous black beaches. A little hiking will take you to a red beach. The road passes the entrances to Pua’a Ka’a State Park and Wai’anapanapa State Wayside Park, as well as exotic flowers, eucalyptus groves, banyan trees and tropical rain forest. Famed aviator Charles Lindberg is buried at a small church graveyard along the way. A number of waterfalls are visible from the road, including the dramatic 80-foot high Wailua Falls.

The end of the Hana Highway is nine miles past Hana at the O’heo Gulch. Here you can park and walk 45 minutes to the Kipahulu Visitors Center at Haleakala National Park to see the Seven Sacred pools. Most rental car companies void their contract beyond this point because the road becomes pretty rough, requiring four-wheel drive in some places. You’ll want to plan your day with enough time to return to your motel in Lahaina, Kuhului or Kihei, or use to overnight in Hana. Those 600 turns change from fun to tediousĀ  in the dark.

(Photos courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority. Used with permission. Highway photo by Tor Johnson. Seven Pools photo by Ron Dahlquist.)

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