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Hana and Piilani Highways

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As early as September 4, 1869, H. M. Whitney, editor of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, advised his readers that a journey by horse along the Hana coast was unforgettable thanks to its “paradisiacal” scenery that included steep precipices, frequent cascades, abundant tropical vegetation, and magnificent vistas of the Pacific. However, few enjoyed this adventure, as a road to Hana was not completed until 1926. The road, which in many places was chiseled out of the cliffs, remains an attraction in its own right. The fifty-two miles between Haiku and Kipahulu include more than six hundred turns and fifty-nine bridges, most of which are single lane. Much of the terrain it traverses remains undeveloped, with only small settlements here and there. Hana, with 709 inhabitants in 2000, is the main population center for the district. The town spreads along the highway without any real focal point or commercial core. Beyond the town the highway continues to Kipahulu. At the Kalepa Bridge, it meets the even narrower Piilani Highway, which runs around the south side of Haleakala Mountain. Approximately 4.5 miles of Piilani Highway are unpaved, including the segments on both sides of Kaupo.

Prior to completion of the road, the Hana district was accessed primarily by sea. Protestant missionaries established a station in this remote area in 1837, and by 1883, there were six sugar plantations in the area; not overly successful, the last of these operations closed in 1946. Paul Fagan started Hana Ranch in 1943, and shortly thereafter established Hotel Hana Maui (MA50) in an effort to diversify employment opportunities in Hana. Both the ranch and hotel remain the economic mainstays for the area.

Writing Credits

Don J. Hibbard

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