By Aaron Drake
Maui, Hawai’i, is seemingly already a world away from the grind of Los Angeles. But the cozy town of Hana on the island’s eastern shore is even secluded from the rest of Maui. It’s a bit of a trek to reach it—yet the journey there is equally as stunning as the final destination.
The roughly 52-mile winding Road to Hana from Kahului Airport is the literal definition of ‘taking the scenic route.’ The highway’s more than 620 curves are surrounded by a lush tropical rain forest made up of rare trees and exotic plants, sweeping ocean views and romantic waterfalls that can make for endless photo opportunities. The drive itself can take upwards of three hours, but it’s highly worth it as the start to any romantic getaway. Rent a car, grab a CD guide and map, load up on snacks and hit the road.
Among the stops you definitely won’t want to miss along your path are Ke’anae Arboretum, Black Sand Beach, Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o and Wailua Falls. The latter two are past Hana’s one and only resort, Travaasa Hana, but worth continuing the drive for sometime during your stay. Keep an eye out for waterfalls all along the route, as certain times of the year are better than others depending on rainfall, and fruit stands, which offer up local tropical fruits and freshly baked banana bread.
If you’re not in for a three-hour drive (that 5.5-hour flight from LAX can leave you itching to hit the beach), Travaasa Hana is pairing up with Mokulele Airlines to offer twice-daily, complimentary 20-minute flights from Kahului to Hana Airport when you book a three-night, all-inclusive stay. Otherwise, flights are $59 each way, which is about equal to a tank of gas.
No matter how you travel to get here, once you arrive, time will melt away. Travaasa Hana’s friendly staff will greet you with a traditional lei and a warm “Aloha” beneath a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains from the resort’s open-air lobby.
While here you may spy many honeymooners, longtime couples celebrating anniversaries or witness a few tying the knot. The resort offers a few different accommodation options depending on your budget (or the importance of the occasion)—23 low-rise garden-
view suites, 47 plantation-style Sea Ranch Cottages and four condos.
During my visit, I stayed in one of the oceanview cottages and didn’t feel like I was at a resort at all. There was nothing but a stretch of lawn between the private Jacuzzi on the back deck and the sea cliffs overlooking a roaring blue Pacific. Travaasa’s at first panic-inducing “no TVs, internet, radios or alarm clocks” policy was suprisingly easy to adapt to, and a welcome reminder of what peace and quiet felt like pre-Facebook. There’s nothing quite as calming as falling asleep to the sound of the waves—just to be woken up in the middle of the night by a fleeting rainstorm.
The resort, formerly the legendary Hotel Hana-Maui, is literally the center of town. If you blink, you’ll miss the remainder of Hana, made up of a general store, Hana Ranch Restaurant, two churches, a baseball field and Hana Cultural Center & Museum. Hana is populated by a community of families that have lived here since its beginnings. I highly recommend you check in at the resort’s activity center to rent bikes and take a romantic ride through town, out to the world-famous Hamoa Beach.
On the property, the Ka’uiki Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Footsteps away is the award-winning spa at Travaasa Hana. Here you can take part in a heavenly spa experience designed just for couples, Hana Couple’s Escape, which combines an organic myrtle saltwater foot soak with a sun-dried clay foot mask, a soothing full body massage and a hot oil scalp treatment.
A host of experiental programs are available on and off-property. On-site, try your hand at the ‘ukulele, lei making, hula dancing, coconut husking or cocktail recipes—just to name a few—each guided by a patient kumu (teacher). My personal favorite experience was the coastal horseback ride departing from the Hana Ranch stables across the street from the resort. Rides can range from one to three hours on trusty horses, and this one cut through a particularly beautiful piece of land owned by the one and only Oprah herself. The world over, it’s without a doubt one of the most majestic places you’ll find.
Travaasa Hana, 5031 Hana Hwy, Hana, Maui, (808) 248-8211; travaasa.com/hana
Voted “Best U.S. Island” this year—and best destination overall—by Conde Naste Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Maui has no shortage of luxurious resorts and adventures waiting to be had.
A gay hotspot on the island is a hidden stretch of sand you’ll lovingly come to know as Little Beach. The island’s only unofficial nude beach, it’s popular with locals and tourists alike, and the perfect place to make friends or get some sun sans tanlines.
Nearby is Makena Beach & Golf Resort. Besides being walking distance to Little Beach, the resort features five floors of recently renovated rooms and suites with partial and full shimmering ocean views. The grounds, spanning 1,800 acres, are a fabulous wedding and honeymoon destination—able to accommodate ceremonies or events with up to 5,000 people. The resort offers special packages for wedding parties and an in-house wedding planner to assist with all the details.
The most romantic meal you may ever experience will be here, in the hotel’s oceanside cabana. Watch the sunset as your own private butler serves from a multi-course menu created by the resort’s Executive Chef Marc McDowell. You absolutely must request Wilma, a sweet, longtime local who will provide you with excellent service, as well as entertaining tales and inside tips on Maui life.
Makena Beach & Golf Resort offers a full menu of activities so you never need to leave the grounds. You can take up golfing at the resort’s 18-hole golf course (with a killer Café on the Green that was recently rated #1 in Wailea by Trip Advisor), putting green, tennis and volleyball courts, a fitness center, day spa and beach activities, such as kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddleboarding. A handy outdoor kitchen and bar is stationed poolside, which serves up yummy wood-fired pizza and bespoke tropical cocktails made from herbs grown in the resort chef’s own garden.
If you do decide to take a day trip from here, I recommend heading to old Lahaina Town on the western side of the island. Here you can browse the quaint shops as you stroll along Front Street. Ululanis Shave Ice is an absolute must while you’re here (with locations in Kahului and Kihei also). This frozen treat alone is worth making the trip for, as Ululanis prides itself as having the best shave ice in the world. The charming staff takes a few extra minutes to make sure each order is perfectly refreshing, touting flavors like coconut, lychee and guava. Your mouth will be very happy you stopped by.
From here, continue west and you’ll find the most thrilling ziplining experience on Maui, Kapalua Adventures. The five-line course scales the West Maui Mountains and is ideal for couples, with side-by-side lines, culminating in a picnic lunch.
A little further up the road from Makena Beach, in Wailea, you will find the perfect spot to travel with friends or little ones in tow. Family-friendly resort Fairmont Kea Lani boasts luxury amenities and exciting activities right at the resort. Take part in one of the best cultural programs on the island that delves into Hawaiian history, and quickly learn a few Hawaiian language basics with the hotel’s cultural coach Jonelle Kamai.
Following your cultural lesson, put your new knowledge to the test and experience what I considered the most delicious meal I encountered while on the island—the hotel’s recently renovated restaurant, Ko. Here you’ll experience fine dining with Executive Chef Tylun Pang’s fresh, locally sourced cuisine influenced by the clash of cultures that made Hawaii what it is today. The Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese dishes are made from island family recipes passed down through the generations.
Though it feels like it’s a world away from little Hana, on this side of the island you can catch a memorable sunset—just a small reminder you’re in one of the most beautiful locales on the planet.