Go Off the Grid in Hana, Maui
Any trip to Maui should be about unplugging, but nowhere more so than Hana. In this sleepy town, tradition and the aloha lifestyle reign supreme. When you reach the end of the road to Hana, you'll take a big step back in time. The Hawaiian language is still alive and thriving and generations of native Hawaiians speak proudly of their heritage and culture. Hana feels like an anachronism in the 21st century, and it's one of the last places where the gentle spirit and pace of "old Hawaii" still exist.
Located off the beaten path on the East shore of Maui, Hana was isolated from the rest of the island until 1927, when the completion of a road from Kahului (where the main airport is on the north) finally made it accessible by land. Today, it's still a 52-mile, nearly 3-hour drive to get there, which might be enough to deter huge throngs of tourists (one of the things that makes a trip to Hana so special). Just ask the handful of celebrities—Oprah Winfrey, Woody Harrelson, Carlos Santana, Owen Wilson—who come here to escape the paparazzi. And for an extra $120, you can hop on a short, 20-minute puddle jumper commuter flight that easily rivals the best helicopter tour of rugged coastline you could imagine.
Located at the end of the famous Road to Hana, Travaasa Hana is the only full-service resort on this side of the island. If you're looking for a Vegas-like mega resort, you're in the wrong place. They're all on the West side (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua) and South shore (Wailea,Makena). Instead, Travaasa Hana, which opened in 2011 and has already gained accolades from both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel+Leisure, is a quiet retreat (read: lots of privacy) made up of 70 cottages and suites, surrounded by natural beauty and known for its Hawaiian cultural heritage and small town charm.
The resort dates back to 1944, when retired San Francisco industrialist Paul Fagan purchased a sugar plantation and founded Hana Ranch. Two years later, he built Ka'uiki Inn, which later became Hana Ranch Hotel and eventually transformed into the Travaasa Hana resort that we see in Hana today. For the last 60 years, the hotel has been the largest private employer in Hana, and several generations of families have worked and continue to work there. There are about a dozen B&Bs and inns in town, but if you're keen on a non-resort, resort experience, Travaasa Hana is your ticket.
In the spirit of place and pace, Travaasa rooms come sans internet, radio, clocks, and TVs, forcing you to unplug and embrace time as it slows down before you. The resort features an award-winning indoor/outdoor spa, complete with a lava rock jacuzzi overlooking the ocean. The onsite restaurant, Ka'uiki, sources the majority of its produce, fish, and beef from Hana and the Hawaiian islands, and the fresh catch of the day is procured from local fisherman. Hawaii isn't typically credited for its cuisine, but foodies will appreciate the fresh poke and mahi-mahi fish tacos. But perhaps the best resort feature is its selection of mostly free programming that gives you a taste of local Hawaiian traditions—'ukulele lessons, throw-net fishing, ti-leaf lei making, coconut husking, and bamboo pole fishing. A trip to Hana wouldn't be complete without really taking in the natural beauty of the place. Here are three not-to-be-missed destinations to hit up before heading back to the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland.
Hamoa Beach: You'll want to spend a day lounging at this pristine, white-sand protected cove. The crescent-shaped beach surrounded by sea cliffs and lush vegetation is open to the public but offers special amenities for Travaasa Hana guests like beach umbrellas, lounge chairs, towels, private bathrooms, and snorkeling equipment. There's also a free shuttle that takes you there from the hotel. Place your order for a picnic box lunch, and the shuttle will drop it off in old-school, brown-bag style at your desired time. Take the short, 20-minute walk up to Koki Beach, a haven for locals, and watch the surfers in action.
Wai'anapanapa State Park: Here, you'll find Maui's only black-sand beach. It's pretty small and very pebbly, but it's set against rocky cliffs that make for a fantastic view. More adventurous types scramble to the top of the rocks and dive into the water. Take a detour on the ancient King's Trail to a mythical fresh-water cave, where the brutal King Ka'akea murdered his wife Popu-’alaea. Legend has it that the waters here turn red in the springtime (caused by an influx of shrimp) as a testimony to the tragic event.
Haleakala National Park: It's a winding, 11-mile drive from the town of Hana, but it's worth the trek. Here, you'll find the famous Pools of Ohe'o, a series of cascading pools that lead out to the ocean. There's also the easy/moderate 5-mile roundtrip hike to Waimoku Falls, an absolute must for anyone who appreciates the outdoors. On the way to the falls, you'll experience wafts of tropical fruit, and you'll make your way through a dense bamboo forest that feels like it's straight out of a movie set.
Travaasa Hana rates start at $200 per person, per night based on double occupancy. travaasa.com