The Hidden Gem of Hawaii: Roughing the Back Roads of Maui

hana-highway-maui-view-beach-roadtripTrucks hurtled along the two-lane dirt road with little regard for the cautions afforded by tourists who were unfamiliar with the windy road. The route snakes along the side of mountains and volcanoes, ever-surrounded by the greenery from dense foliage. This side of Maui – the well-traveled road to Hana –  was generally uninhabited, save for a few hermits who lived miles from the nearest store.

In a few stretches, the road narrows to one lane and a style of chaos only possible in Hawaii ensues. Traffic grinds down to a crawl as cars try to squeeze around each other in a discordant mess, or flock to the sides to let a large truck pass that has no business travelling the road. There are multiple attraction points along the way to Hana – waterfalls, viewpoints and small shacks that look woefully unkept. However, it is hard not to enjoy the natural beauty of the island when on this dangerous

The value of GPS cannot be understated, as it gave some indication of the curves that I had not yet approached. I swerved yet again to the side to avoid a wide-turning truck that rumbled its way contentedly around another corner, oblivious to the wracking fears that flew through my brain. Like the road that leads up to the village, Hana is just as undeveloped and roughshod. Yet, it is that rustic charm that draws so many people along the dangerous road.

Hana is decades behind the rest of the island in terms of modernity, which gives you the chance to experience a little of the Hawaii of old. The small community is serene and full of natural wonders in the stunning beaches of Waiʻanapanapa State Park and the rich history found in the Hana Cultural Center.  The experience at this end of the island are unique, not only to vacations, but also unique to the Hawaiian islands. Explore the lava tubes or the black sand beaches, two of the many sights that are only seen in this secluded part of paradise. However, the destination isn’t always what I find amazing.

The unrelenting clinks of loose gravel kicking up from the road and bouncing off the bottom of the car almost made me flinch. The occasional rough patch of unstable ground would catch one wheel unaware and throw the occupants of the car into a slight chaos, as if this bump would be the one to upset its balance.  We had chosen to take the circular route back to the more populated part of Maui, opting to travel the opposite coast, which was as wild as we got on these family vacations. At first, the trail was no different than our route going to Hana, but as soon as we exited the thick vegetation, the entire landscape changed.

Looking into the distance, my eyes started to strain to chart out the upcoming road. I found myself glancing towards the GPS more and more often as the light faded. Consistency was everywhere in Hawaii, from the abundance of green vegetation to the year-round brilliant sunsets. But, we were traversing the backroads of Maui along the south coast of the island, a scarcely traveled path that cut through swathes of farms and pastures. I didn’t notice the difference at first, but soon I couldn’t help but recognize the stark differences. Cows roamed freely, sometimes crossing the dirt road to gnaw on the same grass on the other side. Unlike our path to Hana, the stunning views of the ocean were not limited to a couple viewpoints, but offered in an unobstructed magnificence. Unfortunately, this is the part where the cameras were all packed and batteries drained of life. This majestic stretch of coast must be visited again!

It just goes to show that sometimes the journey can be more impactful than the destination, even if the destination is a small piece of paradise.


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