In Hawaii, the importance of mo’olelo, or stories, and storytelling, is a fine art form, a practice at which I’m going to give my best shot while I relive the tale of my recent travels to the glorious Travaasa Hana, an award-winning boutique property on Maui’s eastern tip, renowned for its authentic vibe and its experiential destination philosophy. Above Kaihalulu Bay, Travaasa is “the first resort on the island to greet the rising sun.”
The end of the famous, snaking “Road to Hana” (an exhilarating adventure in itself, with twists and turns at every moment; spectacular shoreline, towering waterfalls, and wooded ravines to behold; fruit stands to stop at; and landmarks like the 26-acre Garden of Eden), leads to Travaasa. Understated yet devastatingly luxurious, this is a place where spa treatments honor Hawaiian and Hana influences, and nature’s therapeutic properties take precedence; where horses graze against a lava-rock beach landscape steps from guest accommodations; and where the concept of wellness is elevated to the highest height, courtesy of a vast offering of daily-changing activities (complimentary and for a fee) such as ukulele lessons, stand up paddle boarding, farm tasting tours, and juicing class, part of the resort’s five unique “pathways”: Adventure, Culinary, Culture, Fitness, and Spa & Wellness. It’s, quite simply, a place to unplug so you can recharge.
A Hawaiian Sense of Ho’okipa & O’Hana
The remote Hana’s town center comprises a general store, florist, restaurant, bank, post office, and gift shops, at most—and its simplistic, unrushed feel flows to Travaasa, a few minutes’ walk away. The feeling is not at all forced but fluid in this town and its stellar resort centerpiece, gently removing all visitors from the stresses and ever-present technology of everyday life.
With a majority of employees who are Hana residents and have followed in their family, or o’hana, footsteps by working at the resort, Travaasa epitomizes a strong sense of culture rivaled only by its warm ho’okipa, or hospitality. A rich sense of history is alive and well here, and we’re invited to immerse ourselves in the unhurried, introspective way of Hawaiian life—lei making, hula dance, coconut husking, and throw net fishing are all taught here. A welcome ritual in the open-air reception lounge includes the offering of a kukui nut shell lei, lemon-infused cold towel, and passion fruit-guava drink (known as pog); come evening, live music plays while we enjoy a fusion of fresh flavors sourced from land and sea. And the guest rooms? One of the first things I notice (and am embarrassed to admit) in our lovely Sea Ranch Cottage is the lack of TV (to be fair, radios and clocks are also nonexistent). The unplugging process begins right off the bat, but the Pacific Ocean view alone, experienced from our lanai, makes up for any reservation about being disconnected from the too often stressful reality of work or life.
Embracing the Island’s Energy
Every moment here is designed to provide a deep connection between yourself and the island’s energy. With each concentrated deep breath in “tune into nature” meditation class, complemented by distant sounds of the sea crashing against the lava rocks, I truly did feel in sync with not only my Hawaiian surroundings, but my spirit as well. Each pose in daily morning yoga class readies me for the next charge of nature’s healing spirit. And a visit to the well-appointed Spa at Travaasa—where my 60-minute Pohaku Wela Hot Stone Treatment was a rhythmic manipulation of muscle tension-releasing kneading combined with smooth, heated stones placed strategically behind my knees, between my shoulder blades, on my palms, and other points—balances and centers my energy.
In the spa’s lovely garden courtyard, steps from the treatment rooms, is a coed, lava-rock whirlpool overlooking Hana Bay, along with relaxation loungers thoughtfully separated by lush vegetation and shadowed by large fronds. Inside the locker rooms is a collection of amenities to begin or conclude the wellbeing journey, including steam rooms, cold plunge pools, and outdoor showers.
But as calming as meditation, yoga, and massage were, on-site pastimes like standup paddle boarding class in Hana Bay can evoke the feeling of downing five energy shots—it’s grueling but satisfyingly invigorating, the promise of a good workout (and on a side note, it’s much harder than it looks; I stood up on the board maybe three times and fell just as quickly). Other awe-inspiring activities include a horseback ride amidst Hana Ranch’s pastures and hugging the coastline, guided by an alaka’i; a hike along the five-mile Waimoku Falls Trail at Haleakala National Park to explore the famed “Pools of Ōheo” and discover a 400-foot waterfall; and ukulele lessons, where I learned to play Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Who needs technology when you’re embarking on spiritual adventures such as these?
Mahalo, Travaasa Hana
It’s nearly noon in Maui when we depart from Travaasa, and as we wave goodbye to our new Hawaiian o’hana, it’s evident: I feel completely recharged.
I can’t even tell you where my phone is.
Images courtesy of Travaasa Experiential Resorts