Although locals describe Hana as a town, it's actually less than three blocks long. Besides the bank and the post office, the two general stores, a few churches and the filling station, it contains little else. Only Hotel Hana-Maui, which is low-rise and low-key; the seven-unit Heavenly Hana, the Hana Kai Resort and Hana Bay Vacation Rentals. There were questions when Hotel Hana-Maui (along with the ranch) was bought awhile back by Caroline Hunt Schoellkopf, who operates the Bel-Air Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas. High society coming to Hana? Well, that turned out to be far-fetched, of course. Schoellkopf intended only to refurbish the hotel, which she is doing at a cost of $20 million. It will remain low-rise, a colony of fashionable cottages with French doors, trellised verandas, four-posters and loads of marble, wicker and rattan. Only instead of 82 rooms, there will be 102 tucked away on 21 acres. The new owner is also remodeling the restaurant and putting in a new bar. Meanwhile, she is keeping the hotel open. Otherwise, the 176 employees would be jobless, which would be a disaster since Hotel Hana-Maui is the town's major employer.
Nearly everyone on the staff is related in one way or another. Displayed in the lobby is a graph that reads like a genealogy chart. For example, it tells how Louisa Roback Pu is related to James Pu, Lorrie Mendonsa Pu, Annie Pu, Lavern Elaban Bednorz, Dorothea Strait Pua and Carol Kapu.
For miles in either direction there is only the rugged coastline, a few taro patches, and ravines choked with the splendor of tropical blooms. Beaches, like those pictured on the travel posters, are mostly deserted. Guests at Hotel Hana-Maui swim at Hamoa Beach, which James A. Michener described as one of the loveliest in the entire Pacific.
In earlier days, the land between here and Paia flowed with sugar cane. Contract laborers were recruited during the 1800s. They came from China, Portugal, Japan and the Philippines. By 1900, workers earned $15 a month for 10-hour days, which figured out to a nickel an hour. Even by the 1940s, in the dying days of the sugar industry at Hana, the average wage was barely $500 a year.
Meanwhile, Hana had grown. Lining its country roads were more than a dozen stores and a couple of movie houses. A restaurant turned out steaks and saimin and a billiard parlor provided recreation for scores of cane-field workers.
It was during the last gasp of the sugar-cane industry that San Francisco entrepreneur Paul Fagan established his famous Hana Ranch with thousands of white-faced Herefords, which graze even to this day over pastureland that once produced cane.
Even with the ranch, though, jobs were scarce, and to provide work, Fagan opened Hotel Hana-Maui. After that he sent for his San Francisco Seals baseball team to engage in spring training there; a sportswriter sent home dispatches calling it Heavenly Hana, a name that survives to this day.
Vacationers seeking solitude do pilgrimages to Hana, but it is not for everyone. By 8 o'clock, even today, the town is asleep. Those searching for the action of Waikiki or Kaanapali would be bored silly.
Hana is peaceful and isolated and so draws the discriminating traveler who searches for a Hawaii that's stereotyped in the minds of dreamers--the Hawaii of the early 20th Century, before the era of the jet and the high-rise hotel. Indeed, there is not a single tall building along the entire road to Hana. No jets arrive--only the little Cessnas and flights by Maui Helicopters.
Hana gets dozens of day visitors. They arrive in rental cars from Lahaina and Kaanapali to visit Hana's famed Seven Sacred Pools and the grave of Charles Lindbergh, who is buried on a bluff near Kipahulu Hawaiian Church. After that they negotiate the curves again and cross the little bridges, returning to the lively tourist centers of Maui.
I had this nagging need to be certain that the image of my drive 26 years earlier hadn't been exaggerated by time and memory, so I rented a car in Hana and drove to Paia and back--a trip that took nearly the entire day.
Paia is called the Last Chance Town on the road to Hana. At Paia, motorists gas up and stop for meals before zeroing in on this wilderness road. They stop at Mama's for fish, and at Dillon's with its six-stool bar and Tiffany lamps. Others drop by Picnics, so called because it prepares gourmet lunches for the trip to Hana. Picnics fills the hamper with spinach nutburgers, smoked turkey sandwiches, fresh pastries and other delights.
Paia is an old plantation town that comes into focus like a scene from a Hollywood Western. Barely a whisper long, it provides a lineup of sagging buildings chewed to pieces by termites, time and winter storms. Besides being an art colony of sorts, Paia is the windsurfing capital of Hawaii. Or rather, Hookipa Park down the road is. None of this is far from Makawao, the cowboy town on the slopes of Haleakala.