An affordable vacation on Maui’s Hana Highway


An affordable vacation on Maui’s Hana Highway

MAUI, Hawaii It all came back to me when a mud splattered pickup with giant tires fishtailed from around a tight bend ahead. My breath sucked in with an audible whoosh as our fenders air kissed like starlets at a Hollywood premiere.

Fleeting thought: Maybe I should have popped for the full damage waiver at the car rental counter.

This was Maui’s road to Hana, 50+ miles that has long been fabled among tourists for being as bendy as a garter snake with cramps. One lane bridges? Enough to give a Formula One driver a permanent nervous tic.

But it had been well more than a decade since I’d last driven it. With my mainlander’s view of how “progress” inevitably straightens roads, I was braced on a recent visit for the adventure to have been tamed out of the Hana Highway.

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Embrace it. Shut off the AC and open your windows to savor the heady aromas of wild jasmine and rotting guavas. Relish views of jungle waterfalls, lava rock coast and swaying palms while you keep your eyes peeled and fingers crossed.

Many make the mistake of white knuckling the round trip drive to the little town of Hana on Maui’s fabulously scenic wetter side in a single day instead of staying overnight. Even the most fun loving motorist can end http://www.cheapjerseys11.com/ up with a vacant stare. With rooms for two starting at $450, it’s not for everyone’s budget. So I set out to find the cheaper side of Hana.

Here’s a roundup of tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do without emptying your wallet.

Airbnb and online vacation rental sites have opened up Hana’s lodging market.

But don’t stop there. On VRBO, I found a modest room in a local family’s back garden for $87 a night plus tax, a wild bargain no matter where in Hawaii. (Pay $11 more for a full kitchen; sorry, no credit cards.) It was nothing fancy, but it was as clean and well equipped as a Super 8 with a riotous garden of torch ginger outside the door. Among dozens of campsites including many with ocean views I saw only one tent camper when I visited in October. Included are picnic tables, barbecue grills and vault toilets. Bring your own water jugs, which can be refilled at the visitor center. First come, first served.

Braddah Hutt’s BBQ Grill, off the highway just south of Hana, draws you in with sweet smelling smoke wafting across the road as you drive through a tunnel of Cook Island pines. Chicken plate $11, fish tacos for $8.

Da Chow Wagon, just south of Hana’s only gas station, is a good place for classic Hawaiian dishes such as loco moco (beef patty topped with fried egg and gravy, on rice), $10; or catch of the day, $14.

In town, there’s also the Surfin’ Burro trailer (burritos), and for dessert, Shaka Pops, a stand that sells fruit packed ice pops in flavors such cheap jerseys as strawberry banana and ginger.

Lunch at the beach? Head 1.5 miles south and turn toward the ocean on Haneo’o Road. The first sand you’ll come to is Koki Beach, popular with surfers. As the road curves you’ll see a cement block barbecue where locals take turns fixing and selling lunch. For $10, I got a big plate of kalua pork with sides of rice and macaroni salad from David and Ilona Phillips.

Come to Koki Beach around dawn, David advised, to see locals fish with nets and catch lobsters.

Sated with carbs and salty pork? Stop by the Hana Fresh tent at Hana Health Center, 4590 Hana Highway. Not only do they sell lots of fresh produce, but the smoothies are a bit of tropical, icy heaven: mango, passion fruit and pineapple blended with coconut water, $7.

If you rent a place with a kitchen (good idea!), two Hana stores sell groceries: historical Hasegawa General Store, 5165 Hana Highway, and the Hana Ranch Store, 1 Mill St. Both have limited inventory and steep prices. To save money, shop in Kahului (Safeway, Costco) before heading east.

The other Hana Highway budgeteer’s treasure: roadside fruit stands. Here’s where to find the ripest papaya for a buck or two.

Take another drive

This might sound crazy after spending your day in the car to get to Hana, but the next day you’ll want to see more. This side of the island only gets more junglelike as you tour the shore south of Hana. Pack a lunch and the day won’t cost you more than gas and the $15 admission to Haleakala National Park.

Here you benefit from the Hawaii law that every beach is public. Since the Travaasa Hana resort isn’t on a beach, this is where the hotel shuttles its guests. They have exclusive access to some dressing rooms and showers, but there are public restrooms, too. And everyone gets to use the well built stone stairway leading to the beach.

After a wade, continue south on the highway, which gets bumpier and narrower. Signs recommend 5 mph on some turns as you tunnel beneath thick canopies of monkeypod and breadfruit trees.

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