Hawaiian language is full of references to heaven (lani), wind (makani) and stars (hoku). For me, heaven will forever be Hana, a tiny village of 2000 people on the easternmost tip of Maui. I’d always thought of Maui as being full of resorts populated with honeymooners and while yes, Hawaii is the land of the recently wed, Maui is so much more than people wearing matching outfits.
I flew into Hana – a 20 minute Mokulele flight aboard an 8-seater aircraft from Kahului airport in Maui – and went straight to dinner in a rainforest.
Normally you don’t need mozzie repellant when you go to a wood-fired pizza place but Clay Oven Pizza is like no other. Run by a bunch of hippies, this open air establishment is a throwback to the ‘60s. The ‘restaurant’ is two ovens, a few shacks and a shed and the food is – well – sublime. The menu features salads made out of wacky greens, flowers and veggies grown on the adjoining organic farm, the pizza is smoky and loaded with local Maui produce like Surfing Goat Dairy cheeses and Maui beef. There’s also a little shop front selling six kinds of banana bread that, as it turns out, are famous all over Maui.
Loaded with carbs, I checked into Travaasa Hana, a long-running Hana property that reminds me of Kellermans (the resort in Dirty Dancing). Started in 1944, the property has had a few name changes but the ethos of the place is the same. It’s where you go to rest, rejuvenate and restore your faith in humanity.
I stayed in an Ocean View cottage that was modelled on a plantation house. I have never stayed in a more comfortable room; the deck overlooking acres of lawn and the ocean was bigger than most hotel rooms. No TV and only natural air courtesy of overhead fans or the ever-present Hana breeze meant that I actually slept. No battle with a cryptic air con unit. No noise. No interference.
The rooms do, however, have WiFi (aka my umbilical cord to all that I hold dear) so you can still make all of your friends jealous with Instagram posts.
I went for a trail ride ($75pp) with the friendly crew at Hana Ranches on a handsome quarter horse named Cody. The ride takes you along the shoreline and through some paddocks. I went on a Sunday morning so the whole experience was set to the harmonies of the local congregation belting out songs of praise. For an atheist such as myself, it was almost enough to make me believe in god a little bit.
Certainly, Hana has spirit; something moving and alive that moves you and makes you more alive too.
Even the food is bursting with life. I tried executive chef Konrad Arroyo’s menu of local, regional produce that featured things like pohole ferns (my absolute favourite new find), mahi mahi ceviche, Maui beef tataki and lilikoi (passionfruit) crème brulees. True Hawaiian cuisine is a mash-up of Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and native Polynesian with a hefty dose of US dressing so it’s full of surprises, especially when you leave it up to the chef to just bring it on.
In keeping with Hana’s dedication to fresh produce, it stands to reason to visit Ono Farms, a famous organic farm that grows all kinds of weird and wonderful things that I’ve never heard of, let alone seen. The farm offers a fruit and vegetable tasting and educational that allows guests to sample the bounty of the property, including the owner’s very own giant avocadoes. There’s also a walking tour where you can see all the plants in situ which gives a fascinating insight into what everything looks like in the wild.
The thing about Hana is this: it’s tiny, it’s green and it’s quiet. It’s not the kind of place you go if you want to go shopping because, let’s face it, there are about 10 shops, most of which sell things like agricultural supplies.
You go to Hana to remember your way back to feeling good, to knowing quiet and feeling the love which as any Hawaiian will tell you, is what Hawaii is all about.