Maui day 5: Hāna Highway, again

Hāna Highway again? Yes, I made the drive two days in a row. Yesterday I did a solo trip so I could focus on plants (and the Garden of Eden Arboretum); today I went with the family.

We got a somewhat late start because we had an early lunch at a fantastic vegetarian restaurant called Veg Out in Haiku, a small town a couple of miles off the Hāna Highway. Vegetarian restaurants are few and far between in Maui, and this one is worth seeking out (reasonably priced, too, even by mainland standards).

Yesterday I thought I prettiest spot on the coast was Nahiku but today I changed my mind. It’s got to be the village of Ke’anea. The surf was wild here, waves crashing against the black lava rocks, and there were virtually no tourists. Even though it’s only a few miles from the Hāna Highway (left turn 1/2 mile past mile marker 16), Ke’anea felt like it was in a different world altogether, maybe even a different time.



Note on pronunciation: While it’s logical to want to pronounce the name of this villeage “KEEN-ay,” it’s actually pronounced “KEH-ah-neh-ah.” In Hawaiian, all vowels are pronounced separately.


Ke’anea was virtually wiped out in the 1946 tsunami. Only the stone church, built in 1856, survived. I bet it looks pretty much the same today as it did then.


Surrounded by coconut palms and other tropical vegetation, this church is impossibly picturesque. The graves, some of which have been abandoned, are made entirely of black lava rock.


The interior is plain, the only piece of decoration a white-and-green table cloth. If I were religious, this is the kind of place of worship I’d find myself drawn to.


Some of the coconut palms next to the church were heavy with fruit. I have no idea if they get harvested. I didn’t see any on the ground, which leads me to believe that somebody must gather them.


On the edge of the church property I found several giant spider lilies (Crinum asiaticum). These are fairly common all over Maui.


At mile marker 29, you will see the Nahiku Marketplace on your left. This small huddle of food and souvenir stands looks to be a good pit stop if you’re stomach is growling. They even had fried breadfruit on the menu, something you don’t see very much. We weren’t hungry but took a look around. For me, the main draw was the lush vegetation.







A small fruit stand (even here on the honor system) had local delicacies such as bananas, noni, avocados, lilikoi (passionfruit) and limes.


Bananas and noni





Somebody at the Nahiku Marketplace must have a coconut obsession because they were everywhere. I didn’t see any coconut palms so they must have been transported here and scattered about liberally. Some had sprouted and were turning into trees right where they had been dropped.


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The next photo was taken at the edge of the Nahiku Marketplace. This looks like private property. I wasn’t sure if somebody was trying to sell these plants but there were no prices or signs and nobody was around.


The porta-potties looked like they were being slowly eaten by the jungle. I bet if they stopped hacking back the vegetation, the porta-potties would be invisible in just a year.


Yesterday I’d shown you some photos of Waiʻanapanapa State Park famous for its black sand beach (the turnoff is just past mile marker 32, a few miles before you get to Hāna). Today I got a chance to go down to the beach. The black sand was quite coarse and felt rough on your feet—a bit like walking on sandpaper.


However, the sand and the pebbles are just beautiful.


Just off to the right from the beach is a small sea cave. To me this was the coolest discovery of our entire Maui trip. It was dark and damp and full of mystery.


The bigger waves came crashing right into the cave…


…shifting the pebbly sand underneath my feet.


In the dim light of the cave, the wet black sand looked like polished onyx.


The final stop after Waiʻanapanapa was Hāna Town. While there really isn’t much “there” there, I didn’t care because I was busy studying the vegetation.







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On our way back home, I spotted two breadfruit next to a telephone pole. Why were they there? I have no clue. There was no breadfruit tree in sight. The larger of the two was about 8 inches long.


I took this opportunity to snap a few photos of the African tulip trees (Spathodea campanulata) right across the road from where the breadfruit was.


African tulip trees were our constant companion on the Hāna Highway and I will miss them back home.


Here are a few more photos of “houseplants gone wild.” I’m endlessly fascinated seeing what I consider houseplants covering entire trees…


…or walls. The vigor in this warm and moist climate is astounding. If left unchecked, how long would it take for nature to swallow up the Hāna Highway?


Below is final photo I took along the Hāna Highway. Rural Maui in one snapshot, complete with payphone.




  1. Every photo is fantastic in both content and execution of course, but I really, really love the pebbles on the beach photo. That would make a great (but incredibly impractical) mulch on some of my bamboos. :)

    The thought of having a coconut as a volunteer in my garden is making me smile.

    1. Thanks, Alan!

      I was saying to the kids how much wealth is lying around on that black sand beach (and in the sea cave), considering how expensive black pebbles are at the rock yard!

      The sprouting coconuts were amazing. I bet if you tried that at home, it would be an utter failure. Here it just happens naturally.

  2. I really liked the cave. Super photos and how fun and beautiful at the same time!


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