East Maui is more than just a destination—it’s a completely different mind-set. Lush, tropical, and laden in waterfalls, East Maui is home to the famous Road to Hana. From the windswept taro patches of the Ke‘anae Peninsula to the empty pastures of Kaupo, time in East Maui ticks by at a slower place. By no means, however, does that make East Maui lazy. It’s also the island’s adventure center, where an average day could consist of trekking to remote waterfalls, cliff jumping in a bamboo rainforest, spelunking hidden caves on a black sand beach, or bodysurfing off sandy shores.

Laid-back and worry-free, Pa‘ia is a town that skanks along to the beat of its own bongo.Many who drive the legendary Road to Hana end up confused when they pull into town. Perhaps the two most commonly asked questions are “This is it?” and “Where is the rest of town?” Understand that Hana is not a destination unto itself; it’s more famous for what it isn’t than for what it is. Hana is not like the rest of the island. This sleepy little fishing hamlet is content to drift along at its own pace. You don’t come to Hana to reach something; you come out here to leave everything else behind.

Mist above waterfall on the Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii.

The Road to Hana is Maui’s most popular attraction: a winding drive to a sleepy town in a lush setting. Photo © iofoto/123rf.

Hana was already a plantation town in 1849 when a hard-boiled sea captain named George Wilfong started producing sugar on 60 acres. Later, Danish brothers August and Oscar Unna came to run the plantation. Through the years, the laborers were a mixture of Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino, and even Puerto Rican stock. The luna were Scottish, German, or American. All have combined to become the people of Hana. After sugar production faded out by the 1940s, Paul Fagan founded Hana Ranch, which still raises more than 1,200 head of cattle on about 4,500 acres today.

A worthwhile stopover on the Road to Hana is trendy, funky, and undeniably sexy Pa‘ia (Pa-EE-ah). Nominated by Coastal Living magazine as one of the “happiest seaside towns in America,” it’s unlike anywhere else on the island. It only takes 10 minutes in town to realize that the residents of Pa‘ia are stoked on life in every sense of the word. Laid-back and worry-free, Pa‘ia is a town that skanks along to the beat of its own bongo. Pa‘ia is Maui’s token hippie outpost.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.