I glanced up to see a rusty, utility truck barreling down the road directly at us. A right turn would have resulted in a 2,000 foot drop into the Pacific Ocean and a left turn would have sent us into a sheer rock wall that jutted up from the roadside. It was a close your eyes and pray to whoever is “up there” moment. But then a quick honk opened my eyes and two hard hat wearing Hawaiian guys flashed us great big smiles. As a maintenance crew on one of the world’s windiest highway, they were used to this and probably got a kick out of scaring the shit out of tourists. This was Route 36, which is also known as the Road to Hana – a road notorious for slapping people across the face with horrible bouts of car sickness. After multiple attempts on previous Maui trips, my stomach toughened up this time and with a little deep breathing I was able to fully take in the sights. A single lane road at times, the highway cuts through pockets of lush jungle and open green meadows.
On one of the hairpin turns, a colorful collection of food stands draws in Hana travelers. A fairly touristy pit stop, there is one stand that is worth the drive. Jen’s Thai Food is a collection of three big woks, a cutting board and a few coolers. Jen does a playful, hypnotic dance, bouncing from one foot to the next as she fires up pad thai with one hand and stirs a bubbling yellow curry with the other. She’s proud of her food and there’s a reason for it.
Wailuku, on west Maui, is a quaint locals’ town at the mouth of the breathtaking Iao Valley. On the main road sits a bright green storefront called Farmacy Health Bar. Colorful salads, quinoa and tempeh bowls, and kombucha on tap are just a few of the gems on their menu. We were reminded that all of their food is sourced locally when a local walked through the door with an armful of dark purple sugar cane and handed it across the counter. The Farmacy is a nice detox when you have been making Hawaiian plate lunch and rummy, pina coladas a daily ritual. Speaking of Hawaiian plate lunch, Da Kitchen near the airport is a must stop to get your fill of potatomac, kaluha pig, and fried Spam.