The windward coast of maui was once navigable only by canoe or boat. It is now accessible through the infamous 52 mile long Hana Highway that meanders through a landscape of rainforest, streams and gulches. Dotted with concrete bridges, narrow hairpin turns alternate with waterfalls and scenic lookouts. The area near Hana was the birthplace of Queen Ka’ahumanu the favoured wife of Kamehameha the Great, who unified the Kingdom of Hawaii, and this side of the island retains a quiet, Hawaiian character.
I am staying at the Hotel Hana-Maui where I am greeted with a welcome fruit drink, kukui shell lei and sincere smiles from the staff. After my three hour drive along the Hana highway it is a welcome greeting. “How was the drive down?” Leilani (one of the employees at the hotel) asks as if we were her extended family coming in for the weekend. In ancient times the lands here were used by royalty. In 1946 Paul Fagan converted the former sugar plantation into ranch lands and built a hotel that has, in the ensuing years, become a private retreat for guests, many of whom return year after year. The 69 room resort is still a bastion of old Hawaiian ways in detail (there is a bunch of bananas near the front desk that guests an pull from whenever they feel like a snack) and in general practice (near the front desk there is a wall of photos dedicated to longtime employees at the hotel). The charm is accentuated by a bright red vintage automobile that has been at the property for decades and shuttles guests to various spots near Hana. I am instantly enthralled. Mikey, a new employee at the hotel offers a ride in the vehicle to nearby Hana Bay and delights in tooting the horn at villagers and waving to them. After a swim in the calm waters Mikey comes to pick me up. “You know how to say calm in Hawaiian?” he asks gauging my interest. “Maalea. It’s also the name of my horse,” says Mikey who is a paniolo (a Hawaiian cowboy) when not working at the hotel. He shows me a picture of his mare on his cellphone.
“Mahalo, Aloha,” he says when he drops me off at my bungalow. It is not the practiced aloha of a drilled in marketing campaign, it is not the carefully placed aloha of a showman. It is an aloha that I have never before heard –long, drawn out, with a sing song quality that sounds like a blessing.
Hotel Hana-Maui is a lullaby of a place – comforting, relaxing and soothing. Open windows let in light in the morning as well as views of the sea. I sit in my jacuzzi on the patio listening to the silence. Each bungalow feels enclosed in its own private space; partly owing to the fact that there are no televisions or radios in the rooms. One of my favourite touches at the hotel is receiving a nightly word of the day in Hawaiian. Employees are instrumental in coming up with the words, one day it is opihi (limpet), another day it is oheo after the seven sacred pools and waterfalls, part of Hana’s Haleakala National Park. At the hotel there is always a way to access Maui’s past, whether through lei making activities, tours or simply by sitting outside contemplating the sea.
“With a history dating to 1946 the hotel has mindfully kept an old fashioned plantation aesthetic in its 22 bungalow style bay cottages featuring private patios and views of Hana Bay and 47 Sea Ranch cottages including seven private one-bedroom ocean front suites. The eco-conscious resort maintains a sense of tranquility throughout its extensive, lush grounds.
Use of the award winning Honua Spa is complimentary to guests, as is daily yoga and many other sporting and cultural activities (inquire for details).”
Read more about Maui, Hawaii in the Summer 2010 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.