story by Genevive Bjorn
photo by Dana Edmunds
Some drive to Hana for the waterfalls; others just to say they survived the infamous road. But the true traveler knows that it isn’t the destination that makes the journey; it’s the banana bread.
Each trip to Hana is always a little different: Some roadside banana bread stands open, others close. “Gone to Town” reads a sign by one stand in Nahiku (it’s been there for months). Still, on any given day, it’s possible to car-crawl from stand to stand along Hana Highway and sample dozens of fresh-baked loaves made with sweet/tart apple bananas. Francis Harrow sells her ultra-moist bread at the Twin Falls fruit stand (mile marker 2). She lives nearby and collects her own fresh eggs to create a fine bread that slides down smoothly. Two miles later, at Huelo Lookout (marker 4), people living on a communal farm sell their funky-looking loaves; the bread is tasty, with big, steaming chunks of apple banana inside.
An hour later, if you’re weary of navigating curves and your blood sugar is crashing, pull into Halfway to Hana (marker 17). Nita Chong and Auntie Marilyn whip up these perennial favorites for tour vans, but don’t be put off if there’s a line (nor by the menagerie of stuffed wild animal heads in Nita’s carport); their bread is smooth like poundcake with just-right hints of apple bananaworth the wait.
At marker 18 a mural-size taro leaf sign announces Uncle Harry’s, where Kaweu‘au Hatchet creates dainty loaves with the texture of spongecake. “Most of the other stands sell something like banana cake baked somewhere nearby, but I bake everything here fresh from scratchright here in this stand,” she says with more than a hint of pride. “My bread is lighter and fresher.” Sit, savor a still-warm loaf and gloat as the oblivious cars pass by.
Kea Gulino named her stand at marker 28 after her toddler, Lehua. “She’s a punishing critic of banana bread, and it’s because of her that I have to bake it right every day.” All Hana Highway crawlers benefit from Lehua’s discerning palate. Kea’s bread is near perfect: moist and spongy, ripe banana flavor with a swirl of cinnamon, rich taste of farm-fresh eggs. Buy extra loaves for the drive home and the next day’s breakfast. HH