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Ponder the meaning of ahhh

Nan Wiener | April 17, 2012 | Story News and Features Travel Further Afield

Zen masters would do well to send their students to Hana—and advise them to stay a few days. Most people experience this unspoiled terrain on Maui in typical Western fashion: a see-it-and-leave day trip. But that’s missing the point. Hana’s mind-boggling beauty lends itself to a slow, meditative pace. And the landscape—if you let it—can impart some Eastern-minded ideals that devoted enlightenment seekers spend years trying to achieve.

To wit:

It’s the journey. The drive along Hana Highway hasn’t been called a trip through Eden for nothing. Waterfalls, rainbows, the greenest greenery you’ve ever seen, coconuts, tropical flowers, spectacular ocean views—it’s 52 miles but can easily fill the better part of a day.

Pay attention. Before you start, you figure you’ll stop at a few waterfalls—how different can they be? But your curiosity about what’s around the bend soon gets the better of you: This one’s bigger! That one’s wider! Look, a double rainbow! Oh, sounds like a piano solo. You hear that? This one’s more like a symphony. Each loaf of the banana bread that’s sold everywhere is unique, and if you think a beach is a beach, then you haven’t seen Hana’s Waianapanapa Black Sand and Kaihalulu Red Sand beaches. (The black was created by lava colliding with the sea, and the red by iron in volcanic cinders.)

Life is change. The trip to the Seven Sacred Pools (Oheo Gulch) is a must, but the Venus Pool is a better setting to convey life’s mutability. (And it’s equally magnificent and practically deserted, save for a few local kids diving off the cliffs.) On a recent trip the rocks were perfectly dry, but the next day, after a big rain, they were host to two raging waterfalls, rainbows included.

Be here now. It’s worth springing for a few nights at the recently revamped Travaasa Hana (formerly Hotel Hana Maui), for its quiet elegance—particularly the one-story Sea Ranch cottages overlooking the ocean (the no-kids policy in that section helps). The resort’s new roster of activities means you barely have to leave the premises, and many of them—lei making, ukulele lessons, and, of course, ocean-view yoga—allow you to stay in that Eastern frame of mind.

When you're ready to stop om-ing...

CHARTER A HELICOPTER (or a glider) to see one of Hana’s most impressive sites: the massive 57,600-square-foot temple Piilanihale Heiau in Kahanu Garden. You’re not allowed inside—you can only get close enough to see its stone walls from a distance—so flying next to it is the best way to gain a sense of its scale.
HEAD TO Hana Ranch Restaurant on a Tuesday, when tourists and locals pour in for open-mike night.

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BIG ISLAND - Push the adrenaline button.
OAHU - Bring the kids. Really.
KAUAI - Romp on the island of natural delight.
KAUAI - Work on nothing but your suntan.



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