If you’ve never been to Maui, you may not know about the Road to Hana, but if you have, you know it’s a must for anyone visiting the island. With over 600 turns and 80 one way bridges, the road to the isolated village of Hana is both breathtakingly beautiful and stress inducing, especially when driving in a beat up Toyota Corolla, with over 150,000 miles that often times refuses to accelerate. But if you do take a chance to wind your way through the curvy roads, you’ll find numerous sights, and hidden gems throughout the trip, including road side stands selling food, like banana bread or mango bread. I was so taken with the mango bread (having never had it before) that I ended up buying it twice and when I finally got back to the mainland, I decided I need to make a version for myself, a Honey Orange Mango Bread.
The Road to Hana starts at the town of Paia. A former sugar plantation town, it’s now a charming little place, full of shops selling slightly overpriced t-shirts and other touristy items as well as a few decent restaurants and coffee shops. Just past it is where all the world class windsurfers hit the waves, so it’s worth making a trek out there for that alone (even if you don’t want to do the Road to Hana). Anthony’s Coffee Company particularly stands out as a great place to have breakfast if you aren’t in a rush. We drove up there to check out there coffee, which people seemed rather fond of, but clearly we have been spoiled by the coffee culture here in San Francisco. Not to say it was bad, just not what we were used to. It also doesn’t help Hawaiian coffee tends to be dark roasted and AJ and I like a strongly brewed light to medium roast. The town has some “secret” gems like the beautiful stupa in from of the Buddha Temple and a local organic grocery store, Mana Foods, which locals and tourists from all over the island travel to.
AJ and I have done the Road to Hana before. One thing to keep in mind is that the journey itself really is the reason to do the drive. There isn’t much to do in Hana itself, but experiencing the lushness of the surroundings while you drive around the island, with its one-way bridges and roadside waterfalls, is the whole reason to do the Road to Hana. It’s a gorgeous journey and if you have a chance to do it in a convertible or jeep, all the better. AJ and I did manage to make it in our beat up Toyota however, so as long as your car is functional, it’s totally doable.
Driving on from Paia, we knew to skip the first stop, Twin Falls, as it was a completely tourist trap and drive directly onto the Kaulanapueo Congregational Church which was built in 1853. Built of corral block, the church is still in use. Kaulanapueo apparently translates to “The Resting Perch of an Owl” and the owl is a protective guardian for Hawaiians. Peering into the church we felt like we were looking into the past, with the bench pews and pulpit perfectly preserved from the 1950s. The small local cemetery right behind it was hauntingly beautiful in its tranquil tropical setting.
Our next stop was the Wakiamoi Ridge Forest Trail where we hiked for a bit, experience the gorgeous views and amazing plant life. The views were stunning, with little surprises around every corner (Wild pineapple! Bamboo! Fallen moss covered trees!). It made me realize that I need to do more nature hiking in general as I rarely get out of the house. Well, actually all of Maui made me realize I need to get out of the house more.
We later stopped at the Ke’anae Arboretum for a brief walk to look up close at some of the crazy greenery. We saw Monstera Deliciosa (which sounds like a plant name out of a Harry Potter novel) as well as Rainbow Eucalyptus, Heliconia (false Bird-of-Paradise) and these huge Torch Ginger flowers. I felt a bit like I was visiting a different planet, with all these insanely brightly colored giant plant life.
Of course no trip on the Road to Hana is complete without stopping at the numerous waterfalls on the side of the road. Some are more easy to get to and see than others (a few are viewable from the road itself). Of course, many are pools that people go swimming in as well. AJ and I opted not to go into the pools, as we were driving around the island, and didn’t want to have to sit in the car with wet swim trunks afterwards.
Halfway on the trip is a small town on a penisula called Ke’anae. The coastline is rocky from lava flow and the crashing waves are both dangerous and beautiful to look at. AJ and I stopped here to pick up some Mango bread and to watch the waves crash into the rocks, reminding us that ocean can deadly as well. Many tourists and even locals have been lost on the lava rocks. Traditionally on the penisula is where taro root (the plant that makes poi) is farmed. I’m not a huge fan of poi, finding it rather bland, but it’s quite possible I just have an unaccustomed palate to it.
Arriving at Hana, we stayed an eco-resort overnight, which allowed us to arrive late and not have to worry about hurrying back. The bed and breakfast was charming though it’s remote area meant we were forced to not use our computers (no wifi, and the power was run from solar generators which meant at night, we couldn’t recharge our laptops or even our cell phones). This meant I was forced to read a book, something I haven’t done in ages. I’m not sure why it takes flying to a remote island, and driving all day to a remote place on the island, to get me to pick up a book, but apparently that is what is needed. Reading has become something of a luxury for me, which is just sad. I need to work on that one. That or I just need to visit more tropical islands.
AJ and I had visited Hana before, the last time we visited Maui, so we didn’t bother to trek down to the Red Sand beach, which is one of the main attractions in Hana. Instead, in the morning, we did a quick stop at the Hasagawa General Store for supplies and continued on around the island, onto the “dangerous backroads” that everyone warns you about. On the way there, we stopped to take the requisite tourist photo of ourselves in front of the Wailua Falls, a gorgeous 95 foot waterfall that you get a great view of from the road. No hiking necessary (though I have to admit I nearly got run over like a dumb tourist, by one of the tour buses as I wandered over the bridge to take a picture).
One of the main reasons we wanted to drive all the way around the island, as opposed to just backtracking, is to go to the Mt. Haleakala National Park. We have visited the summit of Mt. Haleakala for the sunrise (the sunrise is utterly spectacular but that’s a post for another time) but had not been to the southern tip of the national park, to see the “seven sacred pools (a misnomer as there are more than seven pools) as well as hike up to see the waterfalls and wander through the bamboo forest. There is no way to properly describe the magic of hiking through the dense bamboo forest, the incredibly towering stalks (some varietals reach up to 98 feet) reaching up to the heavens, with only the sun peering in here and there. The silence, other than the clicking and clacking of the hollow grass (yep, bamboo is a grass) hitting each other because of the wind is so intensely peaceful.
Past the bamboo forest, at the end of the hike, is the Waumoku Fall which is utterly majestic. Dropping 400 feet on lava rock, you can literally go and stand under the waterfall if you want to. I choose not, as falling water, often means falling branches, rocks or debris, but not everyone was as careful as I was. In fact there was some guy there with his girlfriend shooting her in a bikini who stood there under the falls posing “seductively” under the falls. I really hoped she didn’t get hurt by anything, because that would have made the photos really unsexy.
We left the park and continued our journey around the island, ending up in upcountry and then driving back home for dinner. They warn people about driving the unpaved backroads, and a lot of car rental places will tell you that it voids their rental agreement if you do it, but since we had rented a beater car, we weren’t concerned about breaking any agreement (though there was the real possibility we could get stranded by breaking down on the road, but there were plenty of other cars on the road with us, so we weren’t super concerned). We were SO glad we did it, as the back of Maui was fascinating, a completely different environment from the lushness of the road to Hana, dry and dessert like. The roads were a bit dicey, but nothing like the horror stories that they warned you about. We just took it easy, went slow and enjoyed the scenery.
All along the trip, we enjoyed the mango bread that we bought at the Kanaea penisula, along with the banana bread that our bed and breakfast host had left for us in the fridge. I couldn’t wait to get back to the condo to make the mango bread but I had really hard time finding locally grown mangos, as this year’s crop didn’t come in that well and I couldn’t bring it in me to buy imported Mexican mangoes in Hawaii. In the end, I decided to make the mango bread back in San Francisco, knowing a bite of it would instantly transport me back to our journey around the island of Maui, to Hana and beyond.
This mango bread gets its moisture from both the honey and the coconut oil, along with the moist mangoes themselves. The coconut oil lends a allusive tropical flavor to the bread. Try not to overbake the bread as it will end up dry and flavorless. Feel free to play with the spices too. I picked ginger, cardamom and white pepper, but cinnamon, nutmeg or black pepper would work lovely with this bread too.
225 g (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
140 g (1 cup) whole wheat spelt flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
zest of 1 navel orange
1 3/4 cup chopped mango (roughly two medium sized mangos)
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup orange blossom honey (or another mild flavored honey)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (~juice of 1 medium orange)
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (brand name Sugar in the Raw)
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with a neutral flavored cooking oil and then lightly dust it with flour.
2. Place the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and orange zest in a large mixing bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients until they are uniform in color and well blended. Add the chopped mango and toss to coat them with the dry ingredients.
3. Place the eggs and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a fork until the eggs are uniform in color and you cannot see any translucent egg white. Add the honey, coconut oil, orange juice, butter and almond extract. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the wet ingredients. Beat with a fork until well blended.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Stir until just wet (do not overmix). Scrape into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds and turbinado sugar. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
5. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then remove from pan and cool further on wire rack to room temperature.
Makes 1 loaf.