Enjoy the pleasure of a vivid Maui sunset with a mai tai cocktail in your hand. RIGHT: Wailua Falls.
Enjoy the pleasure of a vivid Maui sunset with a mai tai cocktail in your hand. RIGHT: Wailua Falls. Hclphotography

Exploring Hawaii's legendary road to Hana

ON THE Hawaiian Island of Maui, there is a legendary drive called by the locals "the road to Hana".

We heard about this famous and dangerous drive each time we visited the magical island of Maui but had not been tempted to tear ourselves away from the pale pink sandy beaches at Wailea, our favourite Maui enclave.

How we loved Wailea, with its rolling green lawns and gently swaying palms leading down to the glittering ocean which presented itself so calm and still in the mornings.

We would swim way out towards its horizon and stay out there treading water in the deep blue ocean just for the joy of it.

Then in the afternoons, with the changing winds, the ocean would morph from a mirror-like expanse of calm into a surf ocean with powerful waves that pounded the shore.

The afternoons were time to sink into sun lounges and mai tai cocktails, watch the moody ocean, wait for the vivid sunsets - not to get in the car to drive to Hana.

But on our fourth, or maybe it was our fifth visit to Maui, we were admonished by locals for not going on this epic island road trip, so decided to do something about it.

"It is something you must do when you visit Maui," we were told. "The road is very twisting and bendy with tight hairpin curves. It is a challenge. In fact, most people are afraid to do it, it's very frightening, can be very dangerous, but it's beautiful. It will take hours, the bends are often so tight you have to slow to a crawl, but it's a must-do."

When we heard there were souvenir T-shirts to be bought at the end of the drive boldly pronouncing "I survived the road to Hana", we had to go.

I admit to jitters. What were we getting ourselves into? Who needed a souvenir T-shirt to tell everyone we'd completed a drive along a bendy road?

I barely slept the night before, tossing, turning, drifting into a troubled slumber, dreaming of updating our wills in case we died on this notorious road.

Our research told us it was 103km of narrow, tight and winding road with 59 bridges to cross, most of them with only one lane.

What's more there were 600 curves to contemplate before we reached the safety of this almost mythical outpost called Hana.

What provisions should we take? Extra petrol? Water? A two-way radio? Emergency flares? Sustaining health bars of the kind found in lifeboats?

We set off very early, butterflies fluttering in our bellies.

Yes, the drive was very bendy, more than winding, some of the curves so tight they were shaped like horseshoes.

Yes, the going was very slow and frustratingly laborious.

But after the first 15 minutes, all fears were forgotten as we passed lush tropical flowers, plunging pools, small and towering waterfalls, palms and thick rainforest growth - all intermingled with pretty art galleries and endearingly quaint shops.

When we finally reached Hana in the late morning, a town of infinite tropical charm, untouched by any development due to its isolated location, I raced to the sea.

After such fears about this infamous journey, a celebratory swim was called for. Unfortunately, I didn't reckon on the power of the midday ocean, the current almost swept me back to Wailea.

To survive the road to Hana to perish in the ocean? And I didn't even buy the T-shirt.