Hawaaian Adventures: Day Three
11.4.09 85 °F
Rumor has it that Maui’s road to Hana is the drive of a lifetime. Having never actually taken part in the twisting and turning of this tedious route, I am not one to accurately report on this supposed assumption. I have heard that it is incredible. Yet I have also heard that the 600 turns in the road leave some with their head hung over a plastic bag or other vomit catching device for the day long duration of the drive. Either way I had intentions of completing the Road to Hana while in Maui, yet something about the closeness of the rugged Northwestern coastline left me wondering why Hana gets all the claim to fame rather than this shorter, more relaxed route (so I assumed). So, with curiosity driving us, Dan and I loaded up the car with picnic lunches and grand intentions of discovering the Northwestern coastline on our third day in Maui.
The drive immediately proved stunning. Maui is one of many climates. There is the windy, rain drenched Northern coastline, the fertile moist farmland of the interior, and the desert like beaches of the West and South (cacti grow abundantly in some locations). The route we took would wind its way from the sunny beaches of Lahaina, around the rugged, mountainous coast, through a jungle like rain forest, and back again. The benefit of our chosen route over the rival Road to Hana is that ours would lead us full circle back to where we started. Whereas just as soon as you finish the roller coaster of the Road to Hana, the only way back is to turn around and drive it again.
As we drove away from the overdeveloped, resort communities of the West, the landscape slowly changed. Rather than hotels stacked upon one another, the landscape stretched as far as the eye could see and contained only the small dot of a house somewhere in the rocky hills above.
Our first stop was to visit the Nakalele Blowhole. Just a short five minute walk from the highway and suddenly we were faced with the craggy, black lava coast. Whereas Maui is known for miles of sandy beaches, suddenly the coastline was composed of hardened lava, weathered and beaten by the rough waves. The Nakalele Blowhole was just that: a giant hole which shot water up into the air with each crashing wave. Depending on the tide and surf, the blowhole can produce explosive jets of water or just a spittle of mist. Nakalele was in full force when we arrived, and the show was spectacular.
Back in the car we continued up the coast into a moist cloud packed jungle. Looking down upon the forest canopy above was like looking upon a rolling ocean of leafy green. Nearing the jungle opening vines swung from trees like something out of Jurassic Park. Here the road switched from highway to a single lane narrow route. Various pull outs were scattered along the hour or so drive to allow cars to let oncoming traffic pass. We passed through Kahakuloa, a tiny community of perhaps 40 or so houses nestled throughout the hills. Here locals lived relatively untouched by tourism (with the exception of the adventurous few travelers who chose to drive this route). If it weren’t for a gathering of people outside a small church and a local café, Kahakuloa could have been little more than a passing ghost town.
Finally atop Maui’s Central coast, we made it to Wailuku, home to the ‘Iao Valley. Here we drove into a narrow slit between the lush, green mountains to take a look at the well known ‘Iao Needle. The ‘Iao Needle is really nothing more than a knife-like ridge sticking out of the valley floor, but perhaps more significant this area is all that remains of the crater formed by the West Maui volcano. Sitting amongst the jungle interior of the valley, we enjoyed our picnic lunches while swatting away hungry mosquitoes. Over lunch we contemplated whether a drive down the Road to Hana would have been a better bet, but reflecting on the solitude and beauty we found along our route, I think it safe to say that we made the right choice. Rather than spend the day in bumper to bumper traffic with a bunch of other tourists, we enjoyed the relative untouched authentic Maui that I think most people miss out on. Authenticity and remoteness were definitely worth all the hair raising turns on our single lane route through the steep mountains.
The day was growing late, so we quickly headed back to Lahaina where we donned our most tropical looking vacation wear for an evening at the Old Lahaina Luau. Being a vegetarian at a luau is somewhat difficult as the main stay of the meal includes a pig roasted in the ground. Luckily between our late lunch and the plethora of free alcohol, I don’t think we noticed that our dinner consisted primarily of salad and bread. After my whole speech about authenticity in travel, I would like to say that yes, Luaus are a cheesy affair, but at least once it is necessary to partake in such festivities. The Old Lahaina Luau in particular gave the most accurate demonstration of traditional dance and music found in Hawaiian culture that I have experienced so far. The show was professional and the quality top-notch.
Our day ended with a stroll down Front Street in Lahaina. Congested and touristy, I find Lahaina a bit overwhelming, yet it is the only place in Maui with a “downtown” feel. Bars, restaurants, and an endless supply of souvenir t-shirt shops line the main drag, but the ambience is relaxed and subtle and the perfect way to end a busy travel day. Tomorrow would be full of festivities for our vow renewal, but in that moment, walking down the Lahaina boardwalk, the chaos of the day to come seemed miles away.
- Apology for the washed out quality of some of the pictures. My camera broke down on this trip and was experiencing difficulties setting the accurate exposure and is now being repaired. Hence I am trying to convince my husband that I require an additional camera for back up purposes... a Canon 50D would be nice...