We set out at 8 a.m. from Wailuku and adopt a leisurely pace along Hana Highway (Hwy. 36), pausing to marvel at emerald-hued rain forests and to sample treats from eclectic roadside stands. Those “Last Stop to Hāna” signs? Not true—except for gas. In fact, the last chance to fill up your tank before Hana is in Paia.
After mile marker 16, Hāna Highway changes from Hwy. 36 to 360 and the markers start over again. Half a mile past the second 10 mile mark, we reach Garden of Eden Botanical Gardens & Arboretum. It’s worth a stop, if you can spare at least an hour—time enough to visit the highlights of this twenty-five-acre site, which include a vast collection of ti—one of the original “canoe plants” introduced to Hawaiʻi by the early Polynesians.
With Kodak moments in every direction—plunging waterfalls, Technicolor flora, and even a few resident peacocks—I’m constantly reminding myself to step away from the camera and explore with my own eyes. Good thing, too. Otherwise I may have missed the sign marking Keopuka Rock in the distance, which movie buffs will recognize from the opening sequence of Jurassic Park.
It’s about 10:30 a.m. when we leave Garden of Eden, and our next stop is Coconut Glen’s ice cream stand in Nāhiku, near mile marker 27. Glen scoops up some of the most creamy and potently delicious coconut-based vegan ice cream you will find anywhere. Never mind that it happens to be in the middle of nowhere on an island—this stuff is legit. Opt for the classic coconut, or introduce your sweet tooth to flavors such as spicy chili or liliko‘i (passion fruit). It’s served in a coconut shell that reminds you you’re not in Kansas anymore.
We hop behind the wheel and embark on the final push. Just as we’re starting to think about lunch, we spot the sign that reads, “Welcome to Hāna, the Heart of Old Hawai‘i.”
Rather than stop in town, we drive on to Kīpahulu—not far from where we’ll camp tonight—for a tour and tasting of exotic fruits at ONO Organic Farms. Tours are available by reservation, and when I called owner Chuck Boerner earlier in the week to confirm, his parting words had been: “Come hungry.”