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Destination: Hawaii : Luck Be a Lizard Tonight

POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE. The Paget family explores Hawaii on a budget. Their reports appear weekly

July 10, 1994|DALE PAGET and SUSAN PAGET

KAANAPALI, Maui — Welcome to the Fryers Club.

From early morning to late afternoon, on air mattresses and rented cabanas, they roast. Lying on beach mats, dripping in coconut oil and reading John Grisham novels, they bake.

Tourists come by the planeload to the high-rise resorts and smooth beaches of Maui's Kaanapali coast, determined to work on the most prized Hawaiian souvenir, a golden tan.

Coated in ultra block we join the oiled and the broiled on the hot sheltered beach for our final snorkel and swim on Maui.

Our second week on the Valley Isle began with a journey away from the sun to the small northeastern town of Hana where rain--or liquid sunshine as it's called here--falls 300 days a year. But first we encounter a "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" of a road called the Hana Highway.

On Hawaii 360 we rise from the cane fields of central Maui to the east coast and past Hookipah Beach Park, beyond which dozens of daredevil windsurfers do flips and aquabatics on the fresh trade winds.

There aren't any signs to announce that we're on the legendary Hana Highway but soon the road narrows and begins to twist and turn.

With more than 600 hairpin bends, the road to "Heavenly Hana" can quickly turn into a "Highway From Hell." Car sickness is a real road hazard. While the kids are unaffected, we roll our windows down and do some serious deep breathing.

It has to be even worse for the tour buses that do the Hana shuffle. They're crammed with passengers and take the turns at twice the speed.

"People do get sick and we try to rotate their seats," says bus driver, Andy Raymond, during a waterfall photo break.

We survive the ride and pitch our tents at the free-of-charge Waianapanapa State Park, three miles from Hana. The million-dollar view from our tent screen window is of a black sand beach in a rugged rocky cove.

At night a full moon rises like a huge spotlight. It's so bright we don't even need our flashlights. For the first time, baby Presley, 1, discovers that she has a shadow and chases it in the moonlight, squealing and laughing, until it's time for bed.

Hana is a sleepy place with just two general stores, a couple of gas stations and a few hotels.

But the peaceful seclusion ends abruptly when we park our car among a hundred other rentals above the waterfalls and ponds that flow through Oheo Gulch, more commonly known as "The Seven Sacred Pools of Hana."

At the visitor center, ranger Byron Cooke is not a happy camper. At every opportunity he exposes the myth of the "Seven Sacred Pools," as a con to fill tour buses. "The pools are not considered sacred by the Hawaiians," he tells us firmly.

But Cooke is fighting a losing battle to slow down the flood of tourism. The crowds keep on coming, asking the way to the Seven Sacred Pools.

After three clear days on the Hana coast, gray clouds burst above our campsite. The tropical storm finds every hole in Henri and Matilda's generic tent, soaking their sleeping bags and clothes as they sleep. Our sturdy North Face model doesn't let a drop in.

"I'm all wet," a sad and soggy Henri, 7, complains at dawn, wringing out his hair.

In need of a clothes dryer and a sunshine fix, we head back to the dry side of the island and the Kaanapali coast. Using the Entertainment '94 card we get 50% off at the Aston Maui Park Hotel near Lahaina and for $55 a night move into a nearly luxurious one-bedroom suite with a pullout sofa and a full kitchen.

The guest book in our room informs us: "If you're lucky enough to come across a gecko (lizard) in your room, treat them kindly. They are a sign of good luck in Hawaii."

A lizard in the room! Henri and Matilda mount an intense but fruitless gecko search for the shy nocturnal critter.

Since there's a free shuttle from the hotel that takes guests to Kaanapali and Lahaina we dump our rental car a few days early.

It feels great to act like normal tourists. We indulge in mai tais at midday, snorkel at Black Rock beach and kick back in the room watching O.J. updates.

On our last night on Maui, we go across the street to watch the sun as it sets over the Friendly Island, Molokai, our next destination.

In the orange glow of a Hawaiian dusk we walk back to the condo to pack our bags and prepare for an early morning ferry.

"Look," Matilda points above our doorway.

Two geckos are clinging to the wall.

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