Discover the Colorful World of Hana

HERE & WHERE®: Eclectic Travels with the Creative Director of Where®, worldwide.

Our first day on the remote east shore of Maui begins with a tremendous tropical downpour. The dense canopy of a Monkey Pod tree outside our window provides little defense as almond-sized raindrops shoot through to a swelling creek below, suddenly bringing it to a full roar. The netting over our bed hypnotizes in a swirling motion caused by the same breeze that now escorts our rain shower down the distant slopes of Haleakalā.

 Netting over a bed in Hana, Hawaii

The ocean is where all eyes eventually turn to from this hillside perch, but the normally distinct line between sea and sky is vague today in the mist. Eventually, noontime comes and with it, a lunch break from the rain, so we head down our vacation driveway to the road that leads to the little town of Hāna.

Drift driving car in Hawaii

Hāna is the only place I’ve visited where everything seems to be green. Clearly, this is due to the abundant moisture here on the windward side of the island. Yet the predominance of green is not just in the lush plant life. The buildings are in shades of green too. The schools, the churches, the one hotel. It's not by regulation or design guidelines, but rather, by Nature's stain. Even the whitest wall is a shade of lived-in-paradise green. Nothing stands out above or beyond nature here. There is no Trump gold and even if The Donald were to build a spa here, his favored brassy metals would oxidize to green very quickly (and thankfully) as the result of Hāna's regular rinses.

If there is a color that stands out amid the consistent green, it's red. Red sand. One of the world’s only two red sand beaches is Maui’s Kaihalulu Bay beach. (The other is aptly-named “Red Beach” in Santorini, Greece.) Here, Kaihalulu beach is hidden away in one of the many curves that define Maui's east shoreline. One gets one’s first peek at this treasure from above, along the easy ridge trail that betrays the red beach’s secret setting. An intimate crescent of terra-cotta sand relentlessly pursued by an amorous aqua sea. A tumultuous but lasting relationship well known to the locals, but kept fairly confidential from the rest of the world. Yet it's just behind Hāna's signature Gibraltar-like volcanic rock that frames the center of town. And by "center of town," I mean the aforementioned school, two churches, a couple of stores and one hotel.

Hana School, Hawaii

But red sand was yesterday’s excursion. Today, we drive through town on the newly rewetted Hāna Highway, past 50,000 shades of green, headed for the incredible Wai’ānapanapa State Park where nature—and legendary sister volcano goddesses—dared to introduce another color into the local tableau long ago. Black. This is the original new black, fashioned into a showstopper of a beach that simply outdoes all others. (Except perhaps the red sand masterpiece a few miles back.)

Lava stepping stones on a beach in Hana, Hawaii

This much beauty does not come without sacrifice. Legend has it that Pele, the volcano goddess, had a major, fatal scrap with her sister, and her bones rest forever below a tranquil hillside nearby, just south of Hāna.

Tragically, Wai’ānapanapa State Park is also home to legendary, ancient spousal abuse. A youthful royal maiden took refuge here from her violent husband, the local chief, by hiding in a lava cave with her dutiful attendant who gently cooled her with a fan made of bright royal-issue feathers. Most unfortunately, the colorful fan was visible from above, reflected on the ultramarine pond at the entrance to the cave. The Chief killed his spouse on the spot and to this day, when seasonal red shrimp show up in the pond, it is believed to be the queen's blood spilled once again.

Wai’ānapanapa State Park, Hawaii

I cannot imagine a more horrible story! We were stunned upon reading the legend on a sign above the cave. But we gathered our emotions and exited the fabled forensic site, climbing up along a path of wet stone steps that I'm certain were dry just a moment ago on our way down. Yes, more Maui moisture greets us from above as we walk beneath eerily arcing branches last seen on the road to Oz. At the top, we pop open our umbrellas and find that we now have the shoreline park to ourselves as the other explorers have taken to their dry cars and tour buses to await their turn back onto the infamous and once-again wet “Road to Hāna.”  As for us, we walk through a beaded curtain of light rain, discovering white flowers flourishing in the folds of black lava while colorful birds fly through a prismatic lace of sea spray.

Waianapanapa State Park beach front in Hawaii

Renewed, we return to town with a brief stop at a fruit stand next to the Hāna Health Center – a rough-hewn honor bar selling an abundance of fruit in various sizes and shapes. My traveling companion is noted for his inventive skills in the kitchen and he recognizes even the most unusual varieties among this roadside bounty by their Hawaiian name, some of which will soon infuse our cocktails and adorn our dinner plates.

Mangoes and lilikoi fruits on a plate in Hawaii

After a shower back at our rustic, yet elegant rental bungalow, I dab my face with a towel and notice out the window a sudden vivid orange explosion at the farthest edge of the sea. After a minute, I realize to great relief that this mushrooming phenomena is a Hawaiian style Harvest Moon rising like a giant Olympic torch, re-illuminating the graying clouds that the sun had just abandoned.

A porch looking out over Hana, Hawaii

As of 7:30 pm, the full moon now rules the sky. A gathering of clouds honors it by forming a wide senatorial circle over the sea. The rain has cleared for the day as the silver night sky alights the little town of Hāna. The glow of some tiki torches and a few window lights is all that reveals this treasure along the rugged edge of paradise.

Tomorrow morning, the sun will upstage the moon, and the clouds will again take on the sky. It’ll be business as usual here in Hāna, in even more shades of green.