HANA, Maui, August 28, 2011—Driving along the Hana Highway from Kahului airport on Maui, I had it all: luggage, snacks for the road, cell phone (with mostly good reception), stand-up paddleboards strapped to the roof and paddles crammed from corner to corner inside the car. Summer may not be optimal for surf in Hana, but I was determined to get the right mix of pure relaxation and improving my SUP skills on the waves I could find.
I was convinced there would be a decent swell.
As it turns out, the waves were about calf-high (that’s my calf, not a young cow), which nixed my surf dreams.
I suppose that if I were really dedicated, I would have driven around the island to find surf. But there’s an allure to out-of-the-way Hana once you get there, and how it makes you feel like everything is much less urgent that you thought it was.
Even if I did intend to spend plenty of time chilling out, I had to find something that would satisfy my need for a little adventure, as well. I’m not the kind of person who can lounge on the beach all day.
If you’re not spending time on the water surfing or snorkeling, one of the best places for some outdoor adventure near Hana is in the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park—about 12 miles past Hana. The Pipiwai Trail runs for about four miles along the O’heo Gulch, which is also known to some as the Seven Sacred Pools. There are far more than seven pools here, fed by the Pipiwai Stream, with waterfalls of varying lengths cascading into each other.
The best time to get to the O’heo Gulch is in the morning; the visitor center opens at 9 a.m. It’s these quiet moments before crowds head over from the rest of the island when you can be the only person swimming in one of the pools near the ocean, or hiking through the bamboo forest on your way to Waimoku Falls.
Back at my hotel, the Travaasa Hana (formerly known as the Hotel Hana Maui), there were a variety of adventure experiences offered on a daily basis. The hotel focuses on different “pathways,” such as Adventure, Culinary, Culture, Fitness, and Spa & Wellness. Adventure options range from stand-up paddling and snorkeling to walks and horseback riding.
Even though it was on the culture listing and not considered adventurous, the Hawaiian “Throw Net” Fishing class offered the opportunity to learn how to throw a handmade net and catch fish, Hawaiian style. Taught by Andrew, a longtime hotel employee, my small group stood around under a banyan tree in the hotel garden. After we learned the important parts of the net and what kinds of fish we could catch, we took turns looping a green net around one arm and shoulder, while grabbing chunks of it in the opposite hand and throwing it across the lawn into a wide circle—trapping nothing but blades of grass.
After a few tries, Andrew declared that we were ready to walk to Hana Bay and see if we were good enough with the net to catch some fish. Wading into the water, Andrew warned us, “No matter how careful you be, you can still get hurt.” I stepped carefully among black lava rocks and the sand, hopping up when small waves rolled in, until I stood in the water to my waist.
I found a cloudy spot where it would be difficult for fish to see me hovering above, waited for a wave to roll in, and threw the net out in front of me. I may not have caught any fish on that outing, but the two-hour experience was enough to teach me a little more about Hawaiian culture than I knew before. And I just might try it again the next time I visit. Watch out, fish!
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill and her husband are avid kayakers and own Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.