The Road to Hana This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 25, 2007
It’s 9 a.m., and my family and I are on our way to Hana, Maui. It’s a 50-mile ride, and my brother and I are crammed into the back seat of the rental convertible. Within minutes, new-car smell and the sweet, sickening scent of sunscreen fills the car. I ask, “Dad, can you please put the top down?” He does, and the warm, Hawaiian sun pours down on us. I am ready for another perfect day of beautiful sights.

The first hour is uneventful; I see familiar Hawaiian towns, mountains, and the ocean. Around 10, we stop in a hippy-filled town called Pa’ia. Here, my dad gets gas. My mom, armed with ideas from Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and Maui Revealed, purchases a cooler and pre-made lunches. She explains, “There will be no places to buy food until we get there.”

About 30 minutes later, I begin to understand why this road is world-renowned. As we slowly twist and turn through the tropical forests, I see bright red, orange, pink, yellow, and green plants and flowers bursting everywhere. Trees and vines tower stories above us. I smell sweet fruit and freshly cut grass. My mouth feels dry, and I crave the juicy pineapples and papayas I see. I hear birds and wind through the forest. I feel the sun burning my shoulders and face.

The road gradually narrows until only one car can fit. Whenever one approaches from the other way, my dad pulls over, bringing my face inches from the jungle. Because of the unexpected turns and oncoming cars, we must drive very slowly.

After another long hour of slow, curvy roads, we reach our first stop: Waikane Falls. Mom’s book describes “A short hike to spectacular triple waterfalls and pool.” I put on my hideous black water shoes. At the entrance, a local man is selling banana bread and smoothies. We eat some bread and start our hike. The path consists of dirt and rocks and is uneven and difficult for me in my water shoes.

There aren’t many people, just a family in front of us. I am beginning to see why. After two miles, we finally approach a waterfall. I am immediately disappointed. The waterfall looks weak. The water runs off a hundred-foot cliff into a dark, muddy “pool” filled with leaves. The pungent scent clashes with the pleasant taste of banana bread in my mouth. I hear the trickling stream of the waterfall and footsteps gushing and sloshing in the wet mud. My feet hurt from the walk, and cold mud oozes through the holes in my shoes.

I am unimpressed with the “waterfall” and just want to get back to the car. However, my dad encourages us to explore the cave. To get there, I walk through the dirty, knee-high water. The bottom is covered with slippery rocks, making this an annoying challenge. Eventually, I reach the cave and discover a long, bright yellow rope hanging from the cliff above. It smells moldy and looks worn.

Dozens of approaching tourists watch me. I step onto a platform of stacked rocks and holding onto the rope, swing out over the water and through the waterfall. My stomach drops as I swing back. Though it reminds me of a playground swing, this is much more fun. I take a few more swings. Maybe this is worth the terrible hike. My brother takes his turn; my parents snap pictures, and then we hike back to the car.

As we drive, I hope the next stop will be a bit more enjoyable. My mom explains, “It will take us 45 minutes to get to Waianapanapa State Park, which has a black sand beach called Honokalani. We’ll eat lunch there.”

When we arrive, I walk to the beach ahead of my family and take my shoes off. I can’t believe my eyes at the round, fist-sized, black stones that surround me. These volcanic rocks scorch my feet as I rapidly tiptoe to the water. Their size gradually decreases into grains of sand. This black sand is not fine or powdery – its substantial, coffee-ground-sized pieces are irregular and rough. This natural foot scrub feels heavenly on my sore feet.

I lie on my back on the refreshingly wet shore and breathe in the beachy smells of saltwater and sunscreen. The air tastes sweet and salty. I close my eyes, letting the waves rush over my feet and up to my knees then pull back, over and over again. Little pieces of gravel sweep along my legs. Gentle waves crash, and I can hear people talking, laughing, and taking pictures. I am in a state of complete relaxation, without any cares or worries. The warm sun heats my forehead, stomach, and legs. A strong wave suddenly pours cool water over my stomach, bringing me back to reality.

I immediately squint into the unbearably bright sky. I sit up, hugging my knees so only my feet are in the path of the waves. I glance out at the ocean and see golden light dancing on the waves. The black sand and rocks amplify the ocean’s blue. I think of the tropical background on my laptop. Still adjusting to the light, I stare at my feet and the black specks covering them. Through the crystal clear water, I can see the sharp contrast of my hot pink toenail polish against the black bottom. I grab my camera and capture the image.

I then look around. The shore is shorter than it appears, less than a hundred feet. Yet, dozens of people cram on the sand, relaxing on colorful towels and mats. Children play in the water while their parents take pictures. Nearly everyone is smiling.

Looking to my left, I see a 40-foot cliff about half a mile away with waves that are white explosions as they hit the cliff. Volcanic rocks slope steeply upward, and at the top, lush greenness bursts from the rock.

To my right, clumps of volcanic rock are surrounded by water, like tiny islands. A long, thin peninsula sticks out from the land. Halfway between this peninsula’s tip and base, the rocks curve upward, forming a jagged arch. I find this scene beautiful, so I take more pictures. I feel blessed and amazed as I view these postcard-worthy sights.

My dad interrupts my bliss saying, “Sarah, we’re headed up to the picnic tables.” After we eat, we continue on the road to Hana. The drive becomes very boring, and I’m definitely tired of being cramped in the back seat. After the hundredth “Are we there yet?” from my brother and an hour and a half later, we arrive in Hana.

The town of Hana turns out not to be anything special. Though quaint and charming, there’s not much to do. When I tell my mom, she quotes, “It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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love Maui said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 11:47 am
I was in Maui with my husband and kids, and stopped at The Coffee Hut, near Lindbergs grave! It was so funny! I felt like we were in Hippie land and my husband had to ride a bike to ground his coffee beans! The girl behind the counter said "I'm not in a hurry if you're not in a hurry" and my hubby didn't get his coffee until she finished washing her glasses and dishes! I think it was in a rich commune because the girl said she would be there for 6 months. It was a farm t... (more »)
lillieborg said...
May 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm
If you're looking for exciting things to do when you're in Maui I suggest the Maui Trailblazer guide. We had so many fun adventures following their advice. Staying in Hana overnight is a good thing to do cause there's so much out there that is not touristy. Best coffee on the island is right past Charles Lindbergh's grave. At the coffee hut you can ride a bike that generates enough juice to run the smoothie machine.
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