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Day Four -
The Road to Hana on Maui

Story written by Rick Archer


Maui was the third island that Marla and I had been to.  Everywhere we went on Oahu, the Big Island, and now Maui, I noticed I was driving on "Kamehameha Highway" or "Kamehameha Avenue" or "Kamehameha Boulevard". It seemed like everywhere I went in Hawaii, the name "Kamehameha" kept popping up.  I even noticed there was a butterfly named after him.

It wasn't that big a deal when I saw the name plastered throughout Honolulu, but now that it was showing up on the other islands as well, the name finally impinged upon my consciousness.  Finally I got curious. Maybe this "Kamehameha" guy was somebody I needed to know about.  So  poked my nose into my handy little Hawaiian History guide. 

That is when I discovered that King Kamehameha was the single most important figure in the history of these islands.   Kamehameha was such an excellent military leader he was called the "Napoleon of the Pacific"... except that he outweighed Napoleon by a couple hundred pounds. 

Kamehameha (1737-1819) was indeed a very robust man.  He was also a very healthy man, living to the ripe old age of 82 during an era where life spans topped out around 50.  Kamehameha (pronounced Ka May a May a) was the man who united all the islands under one rule for the very first time.  This occurred over a twenty year period at roughly the same time as our American Revolution. 

Kamehameha was both ruthless as well as benevolent.  He was said to be perpetually dour and very guarded.  His name translated into English means "The Lonely One".  He got this name for a reason. 

Born of royal blood on the Big Island, Kamehameha was kept hidden in the mountains of Hawaii for the first years of his life. This was unusual treatment for a young prince, but it had been foretold at his birth that he would be a killer of kings.

Consequently, his life was in danger for a long time from those who wished to forestall his carrying out such a career.  When he was five, he was brought back to the court of Kalaniopuu, his royal uncle, and given the feather helmet and cloak of a nobleman.
From this point on, Kamehameha began his development as a warrior.

One of the important experiences of his life came at age 40.  In 1779, Captain James Cook pulled his ships into Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, which just happened to be Kamehameha's home.  And that king that Cook tried to kidnap as punishment for the stolen boat was none other than Kalaniopuu himself - Kamehameha's uncle and mentor. Therefore it very probable that Kamehameha himself was on the scene when Cook was killed.

As a close observer, Prince Kamehameha may not have believed that Cook was a god, but he certainly could see what an advantage it was to possess the weapons and skills of the Europeans had.

Kamehameha would put that knowledge to use in the near future.


At this time his uncle Kalaniopuu was growing old.  The Chief appointed Kiwalao, his own son, as his heir to the kingdom. Kamehameha was given the title of war chief, the next most important rank.  Kamehameha had become second in command.  Despite his status as a great warrior, there is no account that Kamehameha was involved in plots to advance his own career. Instead he lived quietly on his own lands and took no part in politics until the old king died in 1782 (three years after Cook's death).

The new chief Kiwalao was a moderate man.  He was terrified that his ambitious brother, Keoua, would cause trouble.  As is often the case when a king dies, there was an opportunity for a power grab.  Seeing that civil war was brewing, the other chiefs of the island appealed to Kamehameha for support.  

War did break out with the two brothers
Kiwalao and Keoua aligning against Kamehameha and his other chieftains.  In the fierce fighting, almost immediately Kiwalao was killed.  The new king was dead.  Who would rule now?

Keoua was declared king.  For eight years the war went on, always becoming more involved with the complicated politics of the various islands.  Neither side, it seems, could get an advantage on the other. The two kings were evently matched.  Keoua had his side of the Big Island, Kamehameha had the other side. 

Kamehameha got the break he needed from an unexpected source.  European merchants decided great profits could be made carrying cargoes of furs from what is now British Columbia over to China in exchange for cargoes of tea. By stopping at Hawaii, a natural mid-point for long Pacific voyage, the ships could take on fresh food and water.  One of these voyages, in 1787, a Hawaiian chief named Kaima was taken along to China.  He returned with many presents which included muskets, ammunition, and a small cannon.

This chief was persuaded - or blackmailed - into joining Kamehameha and his followers. In this way, the war chief got control of the new and powerful weapons he had first witnessed on the ships of James Cook.  Kamehameha was well aware of what these weapons could do and immediately put them to use.

About this same time, Kamehameha acquired two valuable assistants.  It seems that one of his chiefs massacred the crew of an American schooner in revenge for an insult. Only two men, John Young and Isaac Davis, survived.  Kamehameha at once made those two men his allies by giving them the rank of chiefs with lands and property.  He now had not only weapons but now he had the experts who knew how to handle them.  He allowed Young and Davis to train his warriors in their use.


In the summer of 1790 Kamehameha invaded Maui, the island next to Hawaii itself, and conquered it in a single battle.  The natives armed only with spears  and clubs were no match against muskets and cannon.

Any satisfaction over his military success on Maui was short-lived.  During Kamehameha's Maui campaign, Keoua had taken advantage of his rival's absence and invaded Kamehameha's territory.

Furious, Kamehameha returned to the Big Island with a vengeance to quell the uprising.  Kamehameha received assistance from a most unexpected source - the Volcano Goddess Pele!  

Upon his return to Maui, Kamehameha quickly counterattacked and drove Keoua back to Hilo.  However the battle in Hilo was not decisive, so both armies retreated. 

Keoua headed back to his home district of Ka`u. The route to Ka`u that Keoua and his troops chose was by way of Kilauea Volcano. Keoua and his army started their march to Ka`u.  On the first night his army camped on Kilauea near a shrine dedicated to Pele, the fire goddess. This was a period of volcanic activity at the Kilauea caldera. Fearing they had somehow angered Pele, Keoua decided to remain there for several days to bestow offerings in an attempt to appease her.

Upon leaving Kilauea summit, Keoua split his army into three different companies that left the crater at different intervals.

The first company had not gone far when the earth started to tremble violently. Volcanic ash and hot gas exploded out of the caldera. Then, a huge, dense cloud of ash, sand and rocks was ejected out of the crater and rained down for miles around. Unable to escape, all of the individuals in the second party died, mostly of suffocation from the sulfurous gas.

Not far behind, the rear-company by chance survived the catastrophe because they were not in the path of the hot ash. Picking themselves up, they continued on their journey determined to get to Ka`u. They were startled when they came upon members of the second company lying down across the desert floor.  There was not one survivor.  In a flash, Keoua had lost one-third of his army.

Not surprisingly, this broke the spirit of Keoua.  How was he supposed to beat Kamehameha now that Pele was aligned against him?   Demoralized, Keoua decided to negotiate.  In 1791, he accepted an invitation to visit Kamehameha for a discussion of peace on Kamehameha's turf.  Bad move. 

As Keoua stepped ashore, one of Kamehameha's lieutenants took it upon himself to throw a spear at the very first opportunity.  Keoua was able to dodge the spear, but not the musket fire that came next.  That ended the peace negotiations.  Thanks to the intervention of the Volcano Goddess Pele, Kamehameha had at last succeeded in making himself ruler of all the Big Island. 


This cliff is known as Nuuanu Pali.  This cliff figured prominently in one of the most brutal endings to a battle ever recorded in military history.

This remarkable military story involved Kamehameha's campaign against two formidable opponents - Kalanikupule, Chief of Oahu and Kaiana, a defector from Kamehameha's ranks - on the island of Oahu.

In 1794, Kamehameha did the most curious thing - he ceded the islands of Hawaii to Great Britain!

George Vancouver was in constant negotiations with Kamehameha to join the British Empire. 

Apparently England wasn't mad about Cook's murder 15 years earlier.  Let bygones be bygones, come join the Empire!

On February 25, 1794, the King made a formal proclamation of accession, declaring that his people were now "People of Britain".  This would prove to be a particularly smooth move for Kamehameha. 

In return for his promises, Kamehameha received assistance from Vancouver that was particularly helpful.  In addition to more guns, Vancouver lent him tools and skilled workers to help Kamehameha build him an armed 36-foot craft, the Britannia.  Oddly enough, in the following years Britain never once took advantage of this pact.  Advantage in deal: Kamehameha.

In 1795, Kamehameha and his army invaded Oahu, arriving in an imposing fleet of war canoes at Waikiki Beach.  Kamehameha launched an invasion fleet of some 1,200 canoes and more than 10,000 warriors, amazing figures for this sparsely populated area (at this time, the entire population of the Hawaiian Islands was less than 300,000).  He would need every one of these men to succeed because his opponents had three advantages. 

First, Kalanikupule knew Kamehameha was coming.  He had received prior warnings of the impending invasion from the chiefs of Maui and Molokai and had begun building several lines of powerful fortifications on Oahu.

Second, Kalanikupule was able to fight fire with fire. He had already begun buying muskets and cannons from European traders.

Third, he was assisted by one of Kamehameha's former chiefs, Kaiana, a defector.  Kaiana had fallen out of favor with Kamehameha's inner circle and feared that he was being plotted against.  His army was actually part of the armada that attacked Oahu, but in a surprise move during the approach, his army split off from the Hawaiian armada and landed on the north side of the island. There they began cutting notches into the Nu'uanu mountain ridge, which would serve as gunports for Kalanikupule's cannons. 

Kamehameha had more men and more guns, but the coalition of Kaiana and Kalanikupule held the high ground.  Using his cannons like a Hawaiian version of the Guns of Navarone, Kaiana was able to keep the superior force below pinned down.  In fact, the cannons were cutting Kamehameha's forces to shreds. 

Showing tremendous military acumen, Kamehameha made two strategic moves.  Kamehameha's army advanced westward, encountering Kalanikupule's first line of defense near the Punchbowl Crater. Splitting his army into two, Kamehameha sent one half in a flanking maneuver around the crater and the other straight at Kalanikupule.  Pressed from both sides, the Oahu forces retreated to Kalanikupule's next line of defense near Laimi.

But until those mountain cannons were silenced, Kamehameha's attack was stifled.  Kamehameha secretly detached a portion of his army to climb some undefended sheer cliffs.  This climb was made very near to the heights of the Nuuanu Valley where Kalanikupule's cannons were located.  In this manner, the commandos were able to sneak up behind the stronghold and butcher the stunned artillerymen.

As usual, Kamehameha enjoyed another amazing stroke of luck when his cannons took out both of the enemy leaders.  Using the armaments that George Vancouver had given him,  Kamehameha brought up his own cannons to shell Laimi.  During this part of the battle, Kalanikupule was badly wounded and Kaiana was killed.  Stripped of their powerful cannons and both commanders, now the resistance weakened considerably.  With its leadership in chaos, the Oahu army slowly fell back north through the Nu'uanu Valley to the cliffs at Nu'uanu Pali.  

Yes, it is ridiculous that the random cannon fire was able to take out both leaders (1,000 to one odds?), but it seems to me Kamehameha was also the benefactor of that old saying, 'the harder I work, the luckier I get'.  Vancouver's guns made a huge difference in Kamehameha's decisive win at Battle of Nuuanu, but then who made the deal with Vancouver?

The ensuing battle was fierce, bloody and unrelenting.  Gradually, Kamehameha’s men gained an advantage, forcing Kalanikupule’s forces to retreat even further up the valley. 

Now the men were trapped.  At their backs was a cliff that dropped a thousand feet.  They were fighting for their lives!

The Oahuans attempted to make a final stand, but Kamehameha’s army was too strong.  Then came the final remarkable moment.  The final 400 fleeing warriors were pushed or jumped to their deaths off the 1,200-foot Nuuanu Pali.

It is said that the victory was so complete that not a single Oahu warrior escaped alive. 

Kamehameha had conquered Oahu.  With it came the neighboring islands of Lanai and Maui.


During the reign of King Kamehameha, the islands of Kauai and Niihau were the last Hawaiian Islands to join his Kingdom of Hawaii. Their ruler, Kaumualii, had successfully resisted Kamehameha for years.  King Kamehameha twice prepared a huge armada of ships and canoes to take the islands by force and twice had failed; once due to a storm, and once due to an epidemic.

Meanwhile American and European merchants who did not want warfare to disrupt the lucrative sandalwood trade finally persuaded Kauai ruler Kaumualii to acknowledge Kamehameha as sovereign.  Their persuasion combined with the threat of further invasion eventually wore down his will. 

Kaumualii decided to join the kingdom without bloodshed, thereby becoming Kamehameha's vassal in 1810.  Kamehameha, in turn, permitted Kaumualii to govern the island until his death.  Kaumualii ceded the island to the Kingdom of Hawaii upon his death.

It took him nearly 30 years, but Kamehameha had finally created his empire.  The many islands were now united.

Ultimately he had succeeded because he allied himself with the Europeans who chose to back him.  Their armaments made the difference in every battle.  Of all Kamehameha's abilities, it was his resourcefulness in dealing with foreigners that inspired the most admiration.  Kamehameha viewed his "friends" as the necessary evil it took to gain his kingdom.  Throughout his years, he had a remarkable ability to keep the Europeans at arm's length.  In his dealings with white men, he was never their servant but always their master. 

The Ravages of Leprosy

Or at least so he thought.

Unfortunately Kamehameha's friends took this island nation down a very dark path.  The foreign merchants coveted Hawaii's valuable forests of sandalwood trees, a source of fragrant oil very popular in China for use as incense. The foreigners persuaded landowners not only to ruin forests that had taken centuries to form, but to neglect their own crops in the process so they could help them cut down more trees.  Unbelievably, the sandalwood economy led to famine!

In return for the valuable sandalwood, they traded guns and rum.  The population was soon hooked on this tasty drink.  What they didn't know was that soon the rum would lay waste to the health of thousands of natives.

Even worse, the foreigners introduced horrible diseases into a populace which had absolutely no immunity.  Thanks to imported diseases such as pneumonia, leprosy, smallpox, measles, syphilis, and gonorrhea, the population was decimated by one half.  In 1804 h
alf of the Hawaiian population was wiped out by the Black Plague or Cholera.

In just 26 years after first contact with Europeans, the Hawaiian population had shrunk from an estimated 300,000 to 150,000.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?  The foreigners were busy doing to the Hawaiians what the white man did to the American Indian.

Alcohol, disease, constant death, and ruined forests were the price Kamehameha paid to pave his road to destiny.  In the end, it surely must have seemed like a devil's bargain indeed.  Hawaii's Age of Innocence was clearly over.

After the unification of Hawaii, Kamehameha would only live for 9 more years.  Faced with this kind of horror, who could blame him for moving on?  



Maui's Road to Hana is world famous for the natural beauty of its unblemished landscapes and towering waterfalls.  Maui is understandably proud of Hana's successful fight against overdevelopment and the destruction of their Hawaiian culture.

Whoever said, "Life is about the journey, not the destination", probably had this fascinating drive in mind.  

One thing you should agree to do is give yourself plenty of time.  Hana Highway -- with its 54 one-lane bridges and slithering 52-mile course -- has already made the message clear that you aren't going to get anywhere quickly. 

In addition to the one-lane bridges that bring progress to a complete standstill, there is practically no way to pass people without endangering life. You find yourself at the mercy of the slowest turtle on the sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

If Marla and I had to do it over again, we would have bought one of those Road to Hana Audio Books that serve as a type of narration as you roll down the highway.  Instead we settled for a couple of books that basically were undecipherable. 

The entire route of the Road to Hana hugs the ocean.  It owes its curvy design to the fact that this entire side of the island is basically one giant volcano - Haleakala.     The letter of the Alphabet that best describes the Road to Hana is the letter S.  "S" as in Slow, Snaky, Swervy, and Sublime.  As you can see from the picture, this road hugs the coastline in a never-ending series of S-Turns.  Years of erosion have created constant gaps in the rock, so the road winds in and out, in and out.

This map indicates the road completely encircles the volcano, but that is deceiving.  The road on the rugged southern side of East Maui is open to special 4-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicles only. 

They say 99% of all vehicles turn around and head back after visiting the lush Kipahulu area (which serves as the biggest highlight of the trip). 

However I read one web site that indicates this "Forbidden Route" may be one of Maui's best kept secrets.  Apparently the road is in better condition than they say it is, but the locals prefer to reserve the route for themselves, not the crazy day-trippers like us.

That said, there is a rumor out that the Forbidden Road offers a much-swifter return to the center of the Island for three reasons - no traffic, no one-way bridges, and a shorter distance.

Too bad I didn't know this insider's tip the day Marla and I went - I would have been sorely tempted to give it a try.  They say there are two kinds of vehicles that can go anywhere - ATVs and rental cars.  hahaha

If you study the two maps, you will see that the lava flowed from the top in two major directions.  The largest flow headed towards Wailua on the north side.  Whenever it rains in Maui - which is all the time - a tremendous amount of the water flows through this low-lying area.  As a result, there is a never-ending number of beautiful waterfalls that can be seen as you drive along.

Another significant lava flow went south to Kipahulu.  Since this flow area is steeper and narrower, the rainwater takes a faster, more concentrated path to the ocean.  This explains why this area has such fascinating scenery.  The waterfalls in the Kipahulu region are very tall, thick, and quite spectacular.  And there are many beautiful water pools that invite you to wade in them. 

This is the place Marla and I wanted to visit the most. 

You see, Marla and I went slightly nuts on this trip.  We were desperate to see the Seven Sacred Pools in Ohe'o Gulch area (pictured at right) at the very end of the road, but we had no idea how much time it took to get there.  We had no way to make progress because the road does not allow you pass anyone without risking your life.

Apparently city slickers like Marla and I aren't the only ones who have emotional problems dealing with the slow pace.  Like us, it seems most Hana visitors can't bear the turtle crawl down the highway.   Dubbed "whizzers" by the locals, these people just come for the day.  Upon reaching Hana, typically after driving three hours, they're already calculating how long it will take to whiz back out. 

The problem is there is so much to see, you really need a few days, not a few hours, to appreciate this area.

Be that as it may, sometimes whether you like it or not, you have to obey the demands of the almighty clock.  My memory is that on this day we had to return our car and be back on the ship by 5 pm.  We had made a solemn vow that wherever we were at the halfway point time-wise, we were going to turn around.  Leaving at 11 am, Marla and I were only able to make it as far as Hana at 2 pm.  We were tempted to go further.  Like a great movie, we knew the Road to Hana had saved the very best for last... 8 miles further down the road.

Every wishbone in our body was screaming for us to keep driving to
Haleakala National Park in an area known as Kipahulu.  Here we would be treated to the beauty of the Seven Sacred Pools, the Makahiku Falls (pictured at right), the Ohe'o Gulch
, and the Waimoku Falls.

Ohe'o Gulch is one of the major sightseeing attractions on a trip to Hana. When you have made all the way to Hana, it is surely worth it to drive ten more miles. The Kipahulu Valley is part of the Haleakala National Park, and there is a Visitor Center at the parking lot.

Waimoku Falls Trail and Ohe'o Gulch are separated only by the street. A visit to Oheo Gulch is a stroll of 30 minutes on a paved way, while a hike to Waimoku Falls and back takes approximately one and a half hours.

The Pipiwai Trail, which is located above the Seven Sacred Pools, is one of the best hikes on Maui. It is 4 miles roundtrip, gaining 650-feet in elevation.  It takes 2 1/2 - 5 hours to hike, depending on how much nature loving you do. There are several great waterfalls along the route with the final destination being Waimoku Falls, falling 400-feet down a sheer lava rock wall.  And we missed it!  Oh no!
Oheo Gulch (pictured at right) is made up of many waterfalls and pools, one leading into the other. Conditions allowing, it can be a fantastic place to swim. The pools are of varying sizes and elevations, and lead straight out to the ocean.  And we missed it!

I kept doing the math.  This wonderful area was 8 miles past Hana.  Just 8 itty bitty little miles.  Here in Houston on a good day that would be 10 minutes, right?  Not the Road to Hana.  Eight miles could be another hour at the rate we were going. 

For the first time in my adult life I showed maturity and headed back to the ship.  Well, I guess I will admit the truth - Marla made me turn back.  Someone has to be the adult.  But it nearly broke my heart to turn back.  To this day, Marla and I still sick about missing this spot.

Our disappointment aside, all in all, Marla and I agreed without a doubt Maui was our favorite island.  Below I have listed four more spots we didn't even come close to seeing (much to my chagrin).

  1. Waianapanapa State Park
  2. Kahakuloa Head
  3. Iao Needle

  4. Makena Beach

These Hawaiian Islands are called the closest thing to Paradise for a reason.  There is so much beauty to be seen everywhere.

Waianapanapa State Park

Kahakuloa Head

Iao Needle

Makena Beach

Tomorrow:  Day Five - The Big Island Again

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