One lane road hugging the cliff
In Maui, they don't talk about the Kahekili Highway much.
It's the road, known also as State Highway 340, that skirts the north side of West Maui, along its jagged shoreline. The rental car companies wouldn't want their cars on that road. Guidebooks recommend against driving that road. But, as it happens, for those that brave the road, there are many treasures waiting at every turn.
We started from Kahana in West Maui on a sunny day. It did rain the night before, and again a bit in the morning, so we were prepared for wet conditions on the road. What we got was more than what we bargained for. But, of that later.
The first stop was the jagged coastlines of Honokohua Bay, and then on to Honolua Bay. Blue waters, big surfs; is how I would describe these places. Honolua Bay is quite popular with surfers. The true "surferetti", however, go to the wild surfing beaches around Paia in East Maui.
We could not but stop at the rather cleverly named shop on the way: "At Witt's End". There were lots of knick-knacks on display, small pieces of artwork made of shells, wood, and the like. I found the artist more interesting than his art.
At this time, the road goes down towards the ocean as you approach the Honokohau Bay (yes, its different from Honokohua Bay, which we crossed earlier). The Honokohau Bay is really a small cove, and is a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the waves. There were some brave surfers among the rather high waves. By this time, Maui was beginning to look rather different from the resort-infested parts we have seen earlier.
As the road started to climb up from Honokohau Bay, the conditions on the road slowly started getting worse. The road was still good, but there were rockfalls at many places on the road. We came across a really huge rock on the road.
Keeping our eyes peeled for rocks and stuff on the road, we drove on towards the north-most tip of West Maui, or the Nakalele Point, which is known for its blow hole. There are two parking lots to get there, the second one being closer to the blowhole, and we parked there. It was a bit of a climb down to the area where the blow hole is, and we could see its large spray from the distance. The ocean was rough, and the water was coming in through the lava tubes near the shore, and spraying up the blowhole to a height of perhaps 40 feet or so. It was an amazing sight. There were the usual clutch of intrepid souls (mostly teenagers), who hung around as close to the blow hole as they possibly could, and even contemplating to jump across it. Thankfully, good sense prevailed at the end, and no one tried the stunt.
Past the Nakalele Point blowhole, the road starts going down towards Kahakuloa Bay, and, all of a sudden, you are on a barely one-lane road along the mountainside, and praying that there is no one coming in the other way, because the only way to pass is for one of the cars to reverse all the way. Thankfully, we reached the bottom, where a tree had fallen across the road, and has been just cleared by the crew. We "mahalo"ed them profusely, and carried on up the one-lane road on a prayer. Again, thankfully, no car till we reached almost the top, where a car appeared, but he reversed the ten or so feet, so we could pass. There was a small parking lot here with a great view of the Kahakuloa Head, the famous landmark along the Kahekili Higway. The was a bright yellow old school bus parked here, supposedly a roadside restaurant. We met up with two young men who were hanging around, contemplating the scenery. They turned out to be from the Boston, and were on a long stay in Maui, enjoying nature. They informed us that they have never seen the "School-bus restaurant" open, even though they come by this side pretty often. We asked about the road ahead, and were told: "You just crossed the worst part of the road". Now, that was good news.
As it turned out, we had crossed only some of the worst part of the road, not all of it.
One lane road along steep mountainside again, this time getting down into the Kahakuloa Valley. This is where one of the bigger streams from West Maui mountains hit the ocean, and the ocean is a color of muddy brown. The tiny village of Kahakuloa occupies most of the valley near the ocean. It looked idyllic in the bright sunshine. We had a great view of the cloud-covered West Maui mountains from here.
The one-lane road reached the valley, and widened slightly to allow us to park right next to the "Pink Shop", or thats how I love to call it. It was pink all over, and even the roadside stones were painted pretty pink. This is what advertisement that leaves a lasting impression is all about. R picked up an ice-cream at the Pink Shop, and claimed that the ice-cream was really good. As it soon turned out, Kahakuloa Valley had more than one gourmet food place.
Just a few hundred feet ahead, as the road starts to climb into another dreaded one-lane cliff-hugging portion, we came across Julia's Banana Bread shop, which has been called as the "best banana bread in the planet" by many who have come this way before us. The shop turned out to be a tree house, painted a bright shade of green. For all of five dollars, you could taste this planet's best banana bread. After a mouthful, I realized that this must be the biggest bargain in Maui, for it was undoubtedly the best banana bread I have ever eaten, and by miles. This particular sample was of 2010 vintage, with a delectable crust, soft and juicy in the interior, vaguely reminiscent of the sweet moist aroma of Maui rain forests, and, I surmised, there was perhaps a hint of rum. You can feel it as it makes it way around your tongue, setting it afire with all those indescribable tastes.
Now I was in food heaven!
Energized by the banana bread, and the assurance from Julia that "the worst road is over, it just gets better from here on", we climbed up the one-lane road up to Kahakuloa Head, and soaked in the scenery for some time. The crisp mountain air, the bright blue sky, and splendid sunshine; I wonder what it must be like to live in Kahakuloa village on a day like this.
After the usual photos have been taken, more banana bread devoured (we even contemplated going back down the narrow road to pick up some more banana bread), we continued on our way to Wailuku, and to our next destination, the Iao Valley State Park. But there was still of a lot of road left to travel, and by this time the clouds started to come in. We drove on in the mild drizzle, enjoying the greenery, and the red clay of the hills. An occasional turn would bring us closer to the ocean, blue as ever.
The next big landmark was Mendes Ranch, which was largely hidden somewhere away from the road. We did see a honey stand though. The road started to get better soon, houses started to appear along the road at regular intervals, and we guessed we were approaching Wailuku.
Bye, the beautiful Kahekili Highway. On to Iao Valley State Park, then.