Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Polynesian Adventure Tour to Hana Maui

It was bright and early in the morning when Joyce and I boarded the small bus that was to take us on our circle Polynesian Adventure Hana Tour north to Paia, east to Hana and then around the south of Maui to Kula in central Maui. We met John, our driver and tour guide and then we set off to pick up more people.  Finally, 17 of us were loaded on the bus and our adventure began. Our first stop was just past historic Paia town at the Hookipa lookout. Originally a fishing village, Hookipa means hospitality and we found out that it is still living up to its name. We received a warm welcome from Gen who was waiting for us with a light breakfast of coffee, juice and sweet rolls. As we munched on cinnamon buns we enjoyed the wonderful view out to this popular wind surfing beach.
Gen with our breakfast
Hookipa Lookout
John was like a "driving/talking" encyclopedia as he shared historic tid bits and pointed out various interesting landmarks and vegetation that we would otherwise have missed.  Fascinating to me was seeing the remains of an ancient 4' wide foot path that used to circle all of Maui, along the shoreline. In those days the wheel hadn't yet been invented, so there were no wheelbarrows or carts. Eventually this became a popular horse riding trail.

 John also told us that in the year 2000, President Clinton declared the road to Hana a Millenium Legacy Trail, which means that any repairs or restoration, have to be as originally built.  We saw proof of this later, at one of the 52 one lane bridges that had recently been restored. As part of the Millenium Legacy a monument was made out of rocks collected from every community along the way, and the communities names were inscribed into the rock.  Speaking of the 52 one lane bridges, they have a reciprocal yeilding system for taking turns that seems to work very well.  I know because we never crashed into anyone.

On the road to Hana
We stopped at the interesting village of Keana'e where there was a school, formerly a prison built to house the prisoners who originally worked on the road to Hana. Shark's Tooth Bay had huge waves that crashed into the rocks, and as we looked out to the ocean we could see the cliff that Steve McQueen jumped off in the movie Papillon, which was partly filmed on Maui.
Shark Tooth Bay
In the distance is the cliff that Steve McQueen jumped off
It started to rain, but we didn't care because after all we were in a rainforest, which is why we were able to enjoy the lush green vegetation and beautiful trees and flowers. This part of Maui gets over 200 inches of rain per year. 
My favourite tree was the African Tulip Tree which has beautiful red flowers that resemble a tulip. There were some purple flowers on the side of the road called Touch me Not, and John told us that if you touch the leaves of this flower, they shrink. Hemanta volunteered to give this a try and sure enough John was telling the truth, even though he was full of a few tall tales as well.
African Tulip Tree
Hemanta touching the leaf of the Touch Me Not
We saw some beautiful rainbow Eucalyptus trees, from Australia, lots of Monkey pod trees, Bamboo, Kukui nut (the state tree), Breadfruit, and the Pandanas Tree, also called the Hala tree. Hawaiians use the leaves of this tree to weave beautiful baskets, hats, mats, fans and many other useful items. We also saw Koa Trees, which John said are almost extinct. The Hawaiians used to use the wood from the Koa tree for their outrigger canoes and surfboards and now the wood is mainly used to make highly priced furniture.

As our adventure continues we came to the half way to Hana marker.

Half way to Hana
We passed many beautiful waterfalls and ponds.  The native Hawaiians used to fish with their hands in one pond that was inside a cave on the side of the road.

Looking back at the Hana coastline
John has a great sense of humor and betweeen watching the breathtaking scenery and listening to his funny stories, before we knew it we were approaching Hana. We turned off just before the village and went into Waianapanapa State Park. Waianapanapa means "glistening water" in Hawaiian and has much to offer. The views here are amazing and there is a black sand beach, ocean caves, easy walking trails, fresh water pools and a blowhole.  It is also a camping area and there are cabins you can rent. We started off to explore the caves, however we got caught in a torrential downpour so we hurried quickly back to the bus. John entertained us by conjuring up some mongooses, as he had earlier promised he would do.  He threw pieces of cinnamon bun onto the pavement and "voila" they came running out of the foilage for a feed. Apparently the mongoose was introduced to Maui to kill mice and rats but nobody had put it together that mongooses are daytime creatures, whereas rats and mice come out at night, so the idea didn't work. By the way, a lot of us were wondering about the plural of mongoose so I looked it up and yes it really is mongooses, not mongeese or monghi.

Looking towards the black sand beach
After the brave souls who had endured the rain returned to bus, looking like drowned rats, we made our way into Hana town.  First stop was for lunch at the Ranch Restaurant. 

Since we had a gold ticket our lunch was included in the tour. For those who didn't pre-pay their lunch they had a variety of choices including eating in the restaurant,  purchasing food from an outside stand, or  getting something from the general store.  We had lunch with a nice couple from Minnosota, named Mike and Marie. After lunch we had a bit of time to look around. Here are a few photos of Hana.

The historic Hasegawa General Store

Local Residents
Hana Gift Shop

Hana Post Office

John, our driver and tour guide
I almost forgot to mention that along the way John pointed out the homes of many well known celebrities including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Jim Nabors, Woody Harrelson (of the sit-com Cheers), Oprah Winfrey, and Owen Wilson. Of interest is that in 1989, Mike Love of the Beach Boys purchased the 5 acre Lindbergh estate from Charles Lindbergh's widow for 1 million dollars. We drove right by the gate to the estate. It seems that all these famous people enjoy getting away from the madding crowds. I wonder why?
Now we were back on the bus and heading for the Pools of Oheo (7 pools).

Pastoral countryside just past Hana
On the way we stopped to see a magnificent 100 foot waterfall called Wailua Falls.  On the side of the road were some venders selling jewellry and local crafts. Joyce bought a nice basket made out of Hala leaves.

Me with Wailua Falls in background

Joyce buying her Hala basket
Soon we came to Haleakala National Park and the Pools of Oheo.  An interesting story and one I had never heard was that Nelson Rockefeller's brother David had purchased the 7 pools way back when, and 3 days later he donated them to the Hawaiian people, so now they are part of Haleakala National Park.
It was still raining so luckily for us the visitors centre had lots of interesting displays, Hawaiiana books, and souvenirs to keep us out of trouble.  I bought a mug with a beautiful painting on it.  There were also puzzles by the same artist.

My souvenir from Haleakala National Park

Visitors Center with Pandanus Tree on the right

 Pools of Oheo
Before long we were back on the bus and heading towards Kipahulu, the resting place of Charles A. Lindbergh. The next stop was a local farm that had a funky little hut selling fruit, drinks, snacks and various other interesting things.  There was a girl cracking macademia nuts for people to sample, and some cacao papaya at a whopping $6.00 a pound. Apparently you can grind the seeds and they taste like chocolate.

Cracking Macademia Nuts

On the grounds there was a most interesting circle of bamboo creating a room in the middle. Joyce thought that it would make a great spot for meditation.
Joyce and Carolin in the bamboo circle

Breadfruit tree
Now off to Kaupo which used to be a thriving fishing community but now has only one store and a couple of churches.
The Kaupo General Store is owned by Linda, who has been on Maui for over 30 years. John had filled us in with a few stories about this colorful character so it was fun to meet her in person. Read more about the history of Linda and her store in Maui Magazine. The store was like a museum with antiques on display and interesting things to purchase such as bamboo tee shirts. We had a great time looking around and Liz, from BC Canada, said that for her it was the most interesting part of the tour.

Historic Kaupo General Store

Linda, the store owner

Carolin from Germany
Back on the bus it was time for a group shot.  John had mentioned that Linda sold individual bottles of beer so it looks like one of us took advantage and had himself a cold one.

As we drove by St. Joseph Church there was a sign that said celebrating 150 years.  Built in 1862, the church served a large population of Hawaiians.  It was built near the ocean because most of the people came to church by canoe.

St. Joseph Church in Kaupo
After we left Kaupo we were suddenly aware of the contrast between the lush vegetation we had just seen, and the desert side of the island. It seemed very barren and desolate in comparison. We were treated to a beautiful rainbow which made everyone's day!
Anita holding up the rainbow

The desert side of Maui
Five miles of the road on this side were very narrow and bumpy, but John was so entertaining we hardly noticed and before long we were on newly paved road.  Apparently the state is paving one mile per year so all the bumps will be gone before long.
Soon we had made our way around and we could look down on the last lava flow on Maui, and out to the island of Kaho'olawe and Molokini crater, which John said is apparently the most popular tourist attraction on Maui for snorkeling and diving excursions.
Our next stop was the Tedeschi Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch. Those who felt like sampling wine did a tasting and some people read the historic posters or wandered around the gift shop.
Rose, Leila and Liz from the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia
Wine tasting at the Tedeschi Winery
Across the road from the winery was the Ulupalakua Ranch Store, selling everything from snacks and drinks to cowboy and cowgirl attire, to funny signs as well as many souvenirs.

Ulupalakua Ranch Store

Now we are on the home stretch on a normal two lane road. Up ahead is a beautiful Jacaranda tree.  They are just starting to bloom so now is the time to take a day trip to Upcountry Maui.

John delivered all of us safe and sound to our respective hotels and condos.  It was a long day, but everyone
was happy that we survived the road to Hana and around.  I know now why they say that this trip is all about the journey, not the destinations.  Mind you, I loved seeing all the quaint Hawaiian villages so reminiscent of how it must have been here 150 years ago. It was like going back in time.
I recommend the Polynesian Adventure Tour to Hana and beyond for the following reasons.

1. You don't have to drive so you can sit back and relax while the driver worries about the curvy narrow road and the 52 one lane bridges.

2. It is so nice to have a knowledgable tour guide, who can point out things to see and relate historic information that you wouldn't otherwise know. John was the best at this and he made it a fun trip!

3. Your tour guide/driver knows exactly where to stop to give you the best experience possible.

4. You feel confident doing the circle tour because the driver is so familiar with the road, having driven it countless times.

5. It is fun to meet people from all over the world.

Read more about this tour or reserve it at:  The Road to Hana Highway Adventure and Wailua Falls Tour 


  1. It was a lovely trip.. I enjoyed every bit of it. Thanks for the blog as it refreshed my memories...:) Anita

  2. Love your very informative blog of the tour, we are coming to Maui soon and this will be on our to do list.. snorkelbuddy

  3. This looks like a great trip! It makes a huge difference to have good vacation guides. Otherwise you're just wandering around on your own, which can still be fun. But it is a whole different story if you have a local with you.