10 great reasons to trek to Hana

Anyone who’s driven the long and winding road to Hana knows it’s resplendent with waterfalls, cool pools, lush valleys and soaring cliffs. The drive is reason enough to go there.

These days, you may also fly to and from Kahului and you’ll find kamaaina specials and packages at Travaasa Hana.

1. East Maui Taro Festival:

The 21st annual cultural and food festival is all about taro, or “kalo.” It’s based on the “elder brother” of all Hawaiian plants and will be pounding with nonstop fun from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Hana Ballpark and Travaasa Hana.

Come enjoy Hawaiian music and hula and peruse 20 food booths, 40 arts-and-craft booths, an ag tent and farmers market. Cultural demos of poi pounding, kapa cloth making and lauhala weaving will provide plenty of photo ops. It’s family friendly and free and open to the public.

Buy taro seafood chowder made by the Kawaiaea family each year; kulolo at four different booths, and sample coffee by Maui Coffee Association. For more details, you may visit www.tarofestival.org.

2. Music to your ears:

The taro fest headliner is Danny Estocado, who will also perform at the Hana Ranch Restaurant Saturday night. Willie K, Lava Moon, Steve Sargenti, Bluegrass Keiki and many more will entertain you. Travaasa Hana also features live music in its Ka’uiki Dining Room during dinner on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.

3. Travaasa happenings:

“Since we’re situated right next to Hana Ballpark, we’ll also have a couple of things happening at our Travaasa Hana property,” says Danny Mynar, general manager and Hana boy. “We’ll have a restaurant tent with drinks as well as fried poi balls and poke with taro chips.”

Travaasa will also be tapping into kegs of Maui Brewing Co. beer such as Bikini Blonde and IPA for revelers. Garden walks, talks about kalo and noni medicinal plants on the property will be featured.

“We have a lot of cultural activities going on at the hotel such as ukulele lessons, hula, and archery,” says Mynar a certified archery instructor. “We also offer horseback riding and hotel/airfare packages in conjunction with Mokulele Airlines.

“Kamaaina rates start at $295 per night (two-night minimum), and include roundtrip air for two from Kahului Airport to Hana (a $240 value) and $150 in resort credits. This is ongoing for now as we’d love to have more people come check out Hana.”

Visit www.travaasa.com/kamaaina.

4. The Queen’s Challenge:

This East Maui Taro Fest competition is open to all taro farmers on Maui growing Hawaiian taro varieties in two categories – wetland or dryland – and each will win $500 as the prize.

Entries must be Hawaiian varieties found in Bulletin 84. Visit www.kupunakalo.com for more details. Entrants will get a two-point lead for growing taro organically in honor of Queen Emma’s proficiency in growing kalo the “pono” or righteous way.

There is no cost to enter. But you must bring your whole plant to be judged before 11 a.m. Saturday. Direct questions to Taro Security and Purity Task Force at (808) 754-7395.

5. Taro Pancake Breakfast:

Sponsored by the Hana Business Council, this popular annual breakfast is served the day after the East Maui Taro Fest and is the perfect way to start your day.

“It’s going to be served down at Hana Bay starting at 7 a.m. and running until 10:30 a.m. Sunday,” says board member Gary Chow. “This is our 21st annual benefit for community nonprofits.”

Come to Hana Bay for plates piled high with rice, scrambled eggs, pancakes, fresh pineapple, sausage, hot Maui coffee or tea, and orange juice. Cost is $8.50 for adults and $6 for children. You’ll also find loco moco breakfast of eight-ounce ground beef patty with two eggs, rice and brown gravy for $9 adults. It includes beverages, too.

“We would like to thank Ruby’s Diner and Maui Coffee Association for donations,” continues Chow. Call 268-8816.

6. Sunday excursions:

Bring some good walking shoes and a camera, and take scenic tours. At 11 a.m., Kahanu Garden Tours will be offered at the National Tropical Botanical Garden and the Hale O Pi’ilani Heiau off Ulaino Road near the airport. You may also sign up for the Mahele Farm at Ulaino tour at 12:30 p.m. Both will depart from the taro fest.

In addition, the Kapahu Living Farm Lo’i excursion will be hosted by Kipahulu Ohana and Haleakala National Park, and will start at 11 a.m. Travaasa Hana also offers a number of scenic excursions in the area to hotel guests on a daily basis.

7. Ice Bar Paniolo Lounge:

At Travaasa Hana’s open-air Paniolo Lounge, live contemporary island music gets locals and hotel guests in the pau-hana groove on Fridays.

The new Ice Bar menu fills the bill with kim-chee style green-lip mussels with fresh scallions and ginger along with Hawaiian chili water for extra kick.

Share some chilled peel-and-eat shrimp and snow crab cocktail pupu; platters of Big Eye tuna sashimi; and chilled organic tofu with dashi-scented shoyu.

The best pupu of all is the “flight” of three ahi tuna preparations such as sashimi, poke and ceviche. Music is “kanikapila” style, or like an impromptu jam session, and Kimo Helekahi leads it.

8. More on things culinary:

Many gluten-free and healthful options are offered at Travaasa Hana. Calories and fat contents are listed on the menu at Ka’uiki Restaurant.

“If this was 1972, we’d be offering a huge buffet with pork and starches,” says Manny Arriaga, director of food and beverage. “But now our guests are more conscious of their health.

“Travaasa also offers juicing classes, fresh pineapple cutting, tropical cocktail demos, name that grape class and more. Every day it’s something different.”

9. Murphy-Goode dinner:

Like its sister Ka’uiki Restaurant at the Travaasa Hana Hotel, the free-standing Hana Ranch Restaurant is operated by Peter Longhi of the famous Longhi family of Maui and Oahu restaurants.

On Saturday, May 4, wines from Murphy Goode in Sonoma, Calif., will be uncorked in a pairing with a special barbecue feast from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

After-dinner music and dancing by Harley Brown will be part of the night’s fun. For reservations, call 270-5280.

10. Hana Spring Harvest:

The tranquil town of Hana will come alive again on May 11 for an elegant evening of culture, cuisine and community.

For one night only, Travaasa Hana and executive chef Barry Villiarimo will present the Hana Spring Harvest, welcoming three talented, passionate and community-minded innovators who represent the next generation of Hawaii’s cuisine.

These innovators are Sheldon Simeon, executive chef at Star Noodle and Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in West Maui, as well as a finalist and fan favorite on the Bravo Channel’s “Top Chef”; Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, chef/partner at Taste and Pili Hawaii on Oahu and a contributor on the Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats”; and bartender/mixologist Dave Power of the Feral Pig on Kauai.

The dinner will take place at Travaasa’s intimate turn-of-the-century Plantation Guest House, and will feature an inspired five-course menu highlighting Hawaii’s cultural diversity and honoring the roots of Hana’s kupuna (elders).

Power will complement the menu by serving his selection of craft cocktails and guests will be treated to live Hawaiian music under the stars in one of Maui’s most magical settings.

The festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. with pupu to be announced, cocktails, and live entertainment from Hana’s award-winning musicians CJ Helekahi and Leokane Pryor, followed at 6 p.m. by the dinner showcasing the bounty of fish, beef and produce from the greater Hana area.

The Hana Spring Harvest will benefit two local nonprofits: Hana Youth Center, promoting Hawaiian values and providing after-school programs for youth ages 8 to 18; and Mahele Farm, a cooperative acreage in Hana. Representatives from both will be on hand to engage with dinner guests.

The day prior, attendeess may also have a fun and interactive opportunity to visit Mahele Farm with the students from Hana Youth Center to source produce with the chefs.

“It’s important for us at Travaasa to give back to the Hana community and honor our people, stories and agriculture,” said Danny Mynar, general manager of the hotel. “We look forward to a great collaboration with our visiting chefs and bartender and know this event will be a truly memorable experience for all of those involved.”

Tickets are priced at $100 per person, and seating is limited. Visit www.travaasadinner.com.