On a mini-break on Maui, striking out on the celebrated Hana Highway took top-billing on my to-do list.

A quick glance at a map would suggest it's a short and sweet drive, but appearances can be deceiving.

Set aside the entire day, because you'll absolutely need that amount time to truly savour its rolling brilliance. Truth be told, you'll want a lot longer to linger in its myriad pockets of untouched paradise.

Even though the official route spans just 65km, the pencil-thin highway is carved into the volcanic cliffs of the hillside, producing a very twisty driving affair.

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I set off early from Kaanapali, heading east to the gateway town of Paia, just east of Kahului airport. With its raffish good looks and bohemian shopping, Maui's "Hippie Haven" is an ideal pit-stop to top up your fuel and grab some snacks for the road. The Hana Picnic Lunch Co opens from 7am, for tasty breakfasts and food to-go.

Just 3km into the trip, the first of a multitude of waterfall stops beckons, at Twin Falls. I pulled into the turnout and took the gentle hike to reach a fabulous cascade, where I waded into the swimming pool at its base.

Next up, Waikamoi, a gushing 20m-long curtain of cascading water, particularly impressive after rainfall.

At Keanae, I jaunted out to the peninsula, wreathed in taro fields, where muscular breakers battered the jagged outcrops of lava rock.

A beloved marker is at the "Halfway to Hana" sign, flanking the roadside and adjacent to a welcome food stall. Buy a loaf of melt-in-your-mouth banana bread from the family-owned store. It was fresh, moist and straight out of heaven's oven.

All along the Road to Hana, enterprising locals operate roadside stalls, selling a spree of fresh and flavourful produce. Underpinning the innocence of the area, many food stalls still operate by way of honesty boxes.

Shortly past the Halfway to Hana, one of the most panoramic views shuffles into frame in the Wailua Valley. This cross-hatch of black sand beaches, the roiling ocean and the undulating sprawl of verdant rainforest is an elemental delight.

Falls fanatics should also pull over at the Upper Waikani Falls, a trio of towering cascades, set amid rocks, lush vegetation and crowned with a swimming hole. Disney couldn't improve on the dream-like aesthetics.

Waianapanapa is another thrilling spectacle, leading you down to a classic black sand beach, freshwater caves and booming blow holes.

Take the time to revel in a hike along the ancient coastal lava trail.

Shortly past Waianapanapa, the laidback embrace of Hana Town encircled me, with its old coral rock churches, boutique art galleries and abundance of eateries.

Hawaiian Airlines will soon be celebrating 90 years of continuous service.
Hawaiian Airlines will soon be celebrating 90 years of continuous service.

The aloha beneath airline's wings

As it nears the celebratory milestone of 90 years of continuous service, no airline knows Hawaii quite like Hawaiian Airlines.

The aloha spirit is readily apparent from the moment you step on board, as you wing your way across the Pacific, nestled in the authentic warmth and charm of Hawaiian hospitality.

If you're travelling to the American mainland, Hawaiian Airlines is the only domestic carrier that offers all guests complimentary meals, including a Koloa Rum Mai Tai — a signature tipple from Kaua'i.

Coinciding with the airline's fifth anniversary servicing New Zealand, the carrier now operates five non-stop flights a week, between Auckland and Honolulu, based on strong demand.

Departing Auckland just before midnight, I awoke mid-morning to swaying palms and the striking silhouette of Diamond Head.

Travellers have the option of taking a dual-destination vacation with a free stopover in Hawaii before connecting to North America or on the return to New Zealand.

From Auckland, Hawaiian operates the wide-body Airbus A330 which offers three cabins, including Business Class with fully lie-flat seating, Extra Comfort premium economy and the Main Cabin. Hawaiian's Main Cabin offering is roomy, with seats at 46cm, kitted out with LCD touchscreens, offering a wealth of entertainment and a personal USB port.

I enjoyed the increasingly popular Extra Comfort seating, with 68 such seats, featuring an extra 12.5cm of precious legroom, on the reconfigured Auckland service.

You'll also enjoy priority boarding, a personal power outlet and amenity kit.

TOP TIPS

I enjoyed a gorgeous lunch at Hana Fresh Farm Stand, from a bistro style menu showcasing locally grown organic produce and freshly caught fish.

Their poke bowls of ahi sell like hot cakes. It's a wonderful enterprise, with proceeds directly supporting the well-being of the Hana community. gohawaii.com/nz

For just NZ$145 per person, per sector, Extra Comfort Seating is a great-value way to accentuate the experience, particularly as you trek across the Pacific. hawaiianairlines.co.nz