Hidden Hawaii: Hana, Maui
Cut off from the rest of Maui by a tortuous cliffside road with twists and turns over 140 degrees, Hana is the most remote and most "Hawaiian" part of Maui. While most tourists who make the three-hour trip dart in and out of spots like the epic waterfall and the Seven Sacred Pools before retreating to their resort the same day, you can't really feel the full "dropout" vibe unless you stay a while.
Hana is rural Hawaii, where large native families know everyone in town and get on with their lives despite the tourists. The insular local community isn't interested in opening yoga studios or hippie cafes; the general store carries provisions like white bread and Spam. You can do better, though. Pick up some fruit from a farm stand or stop by home-based spots like Coconut Glen's, which has ice cream made from coconuts, or Hana Farms, colloquially called "the banana bread stand," for pizza night. Hana has white-, black-, and red-sand beaches (the first two are accessible by car, the last one by scrambling down a narrow, unmarked path), or you might hike the King's Trail by the turquoise ocean on black lava rock. Despite what your guidebook says, avoid the Blue Pool – a surly local guards the road with a hatchet.
Unless you've got a friend in town, most of the accommodations in Hana are cozy but quasilegal guesthouses that can be little more than DIY additions on locals' homes. The one high-end option, the Travaasa Hana, on a manicured bluff above the ocean, has prices that aren't for the faint of heart. Besides, rustic is the Hana way, and it doesn't get much more bare bones than the Wai'anapanapa cabins, run by Hawaiian State Parks, which – despite screens for walls, bunk beds, and being overrun by geckos – book up months in advance. Porches are set right over the black-sand beach, where a lava-rock "blow hole" shoots up ocean steam. Stay here and no home in Hana is closer to the beach than yours.
More information: To get here, fly to Kahului, Maui and drive three hours east. Local, semi-legal homestays (found on the internet and through word of mouth) are a cheap and charming way to go, but it's hard to beat the views from the Hana Kai, which overlooks the black sand beaches of Hana Bay [from $205 per night; hanakaimaui.com]. The one thing worth splurging for in Hana is dinner at the Travaasa resort. One of the few options in town for a proper sit-down is in the Ka'uiki dining room. The menu is inventive, and the food is delicious [5031 Hana Highway; travaasa.com]. 'Maui Revealed,' known by locals as 'The Blue Book,' is essential for finding hidden waterfalls, swimming holes, and roadside banana bread stands. Billed as "the finest Maui guidebook ever written," you can get one for $13 on Amazon.com.