As you know from my recent trip report, I took my Cranky Concierge team to Maui. We had planned this long before the fires tore through West Maui, but when that happened, we werenʻt sure what to do. When we talked to people on the ground about whether we should delay, the answer was an emphatic “no.”
Maui needs tourism dollars, and with West Maui closed, visits had plunged. The best thing we could do was come to the island and spend money while steering clear of West Maui.
For those who may be considering a trip to Maui but are hesitant… go. I have two posts here to talk about the two other parts of Maui that we visited, hoping that is sparks someone to head out there as well. Today, Iʻll focus on Hāna on the lush, eastern side of the island.
My plan was to arrive with my wife early and head to the Hāna-Maui Resort for a couple nights. The hotel is now managed by Hyatt after a stint as a Travaasa wellness resort, and I was able to get a $350 a night travel agent rate.
Most tourists know Hāna because of the long, twisting road with more than 50 one-lane bridges making it a one-of-a-king experience. Tourists tend to go in the morning, wander around the tiny town, see ʻOʻheʻo Gulch (often called the seven sacred pools in tourist materials), and then head back in the afternoon. But staying out there makes for a completely different experience.
After landing at Kahului, we texted Cruisin’ Maui, our rental car agency, to come pick us up. These guys were great. They are off airport, but the beauty is that you can rent the exact car you want, including specialty vehicles. With West Maui closed, rental cars were dirt cheap for the remaining tourists. We opted for a BMW 430i convertible with a red leather interior for about $75 a day, and man was it fun.
The afternoon drive to Hāna was mellow and relaxing. I was surprised that there wasnʻt much traffic coming back the other way, but we hit the timing right. With all those West Maui tourists gone, the road was a breeze compared to the often traffic-filled experiences on busier days. That alone makes this a great time to visit.
After a couple hours, we reached the hotel which is designed to get you away from it all. Thereʻs not even a TV in the room… but there is internet so itʻs hard to escape fully unless you have better self-control than I.
The hotel is broken into two parts. Near the lobby and restaurant are the Waikaloa Suites and the Garden Junior Suites (to the left of and above the baseball field in the photo below). These are not oceanfront but they are surrounded by lush green lawns and that local baseball field. Itʻs really interesting to see a resort in the middle of the townʻs activity like that. Our second night there saw a bunch of kids playing ball.
Across the street to the south is where the wellness pool, pool bar, and Ocean Bungalows lie (at the bottom of the photo above). We were given room 217 which was just about the best room in the resort, the one closest to the ocean. The Ocean Bungalows lie on a grass-covered hill that slopes down toward the ocean. There is no sandy beach here, but the view is spectacular and the sound of the crashing waves absolutely serene.
Each bungalow has two units, and they are spacious.
There is a large bathroom with a tub and a shower. The main room has a bed and a sitting area with the latter facing out toward the ocean.
Thereʻs also a large lanai with multiple seating options and, as a recent addition, a private hot tub.
The doors open all the way out and there is a screen. We slept with the doors open each night.
There arenʻt many food options in Hāna, but food trucks do a brisk business. Right near the resort thereʻs one food truck area, and we had some really good poke from Poke Bobs. Other than a quick visit to the pool for a drink, that was really all we did the first day, choosing to fall asleep exhausted but happy.
The next morning I was up at 4, and I spent my time on the lanai watching as the sun eventually crept over the horizon. This is a pretty unique experience for many in Hawaiʻi, because most of the big resorts are on the leeward side where the sun sets over the water instead.
We had breakfast at the hotel, and this exceptional papaya boat did the trick for me.
Once done, we ventured off. We stopped at Hana Gold where they grow and make their own chocolate from start to finish. I thought this was more of a tour, but itʻs not. The owner was there on a small lanai to talk about the process and sell their various wares. We did get some chocolate, but the most interesting thing to me was that they take the fleshy pulp of the cacao and turn it into a popsicle. It tastes just like lemonade without any added flavoring.
We then headed down the road a bit to the lava tube. This was a surprising treat in that it doesnʻt have all the over-protective safety precautions you might normally expect. You walk up, pay the money, and they give you each a flashlight.
Then you descend into the tube via some stairs and walk along the path for a good 15 minutes or so, seeing various parts along the way. The path is smoothed a bit, but it is not paved. The only light inside is from your flashlight.
The scenery is unique and there are some signs as you go explaining what youʻre seeing and how it formed. I loved it.
We then made our way over to Hamoa Beach which is a picturesque white sand crescent just south of Hāna.
This is a tricky place in that there are signs warning people to respect the remains of the ancestors buried nearby. Yet at the same time, there was some kind of beach hut that had Travaasa branding on it. I guess they tried to make it a beach club and eventually failed, because the ruins looked like they hadnʻt been touched in a long time. Good on the locals for winning that fight.
At nearby Koki Beach, thereʻs a Huli Huli Chicken stand that really hit the spot. After that late lunch we went back to the hotel to relax, read books, and have a drink by the pool.
This part of the island is the rainy side — why most resorts arenʻt built here — but we did have only sporadic showers and welcome shade from the clouds. The weather was ideal.
For dinner that last night, we were going to the Hāna Ranch Restaurant which is technically part of the hotel but physically across the street… but the building itself was under renovation. So, they served the usual menu in the breakfast/lunch restaurant instead. It was fine, but it wasnʻt anything that called me back again.
The next morning our Hāna adventure was done and we had to head back to join the team in South Maui. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone for a couple of nights. Beyond that, you have to be more interested in relaxing and being with your own thoughts to really enjoy it. This is not on a white sandy beach. Rain falls frequently, especially outside the summer months. There arenʻt a ton of tourist activities to occupy you on a long stay. For some, thatʻs a turn-off. For me, I could have easily spent a week here and been very happy.
Iʻll be back with a post about South Maui soon.