Hana, Maui, Hawaii
BEST PLACE TO LIVE WITHOUT SHOES
Annual Household Income: $42,000
Median Home Price: $200,000
Climate: Not as hot as the local surfers.
This remote town on the eastern shore of Maui isn’t the kind of place that shouts Don Ho. There’s just one hotel, and two stores where you can stock up on sunblock and snack bags of dried cuttlefish, but not much else. Still, Hana isn’t exactly off the radar. An estimated 600,000 people come to this coast each year for the craggy landscape, the epic surfing, the lotus-eating lifestyle, and the utterly sublime temptation to more or less exist like Robinson Crusoe. For those who decide to stay, Hana is a last-shot sort of place where you can live in the shadows of lush peaks and survive by your wits, through the creative use of flora and fauna, or with the help of a trust fund.
THE HOME FRONT: When locals say things are looking up in the housing market, they aren’t kidding: Tree houses have sprouted here. Though primarily for vacationers (for now at least), they add an only-in-Hana twist to the local housing stock. Transplants may prefer to rent more traditionally at ground level, paying $800 to $1,000 for a one-bedroom cottage with covered lanai and ocean views. Units at the one true condominium complex, the Hana Kai Maui, sell for about $140,000. Cliffside homes fetch $300,000 to $1,500,000 or more, depending on the amount of undulating acreage.
THE BACKYARD: Surfers rule Koki Beach, sending more than their share of top finishers to statewide–and stateside–contests. Kayakers launch at Hana Bay, a protected put-in even when the waves are wild. Mountain biking and road cycling have belatedly arrived; the first full-service bike rental shop just opened in January. Check out Blue Pond for hiking and doubletrack trails not yet overrun by biking converts.
NINE TO FIVE:How are you at folding beach towels? Alas, it might not matter: Most of Hana’s jobs are in tourism and agriculture (orchards and papaya farms splay out north of town), but even those tend to be few and far between. Telecommuting is by far your best option, though you’ll need to wean yourself from Express Mail, which is something of a foreign concept in Hana.
ON THE TOWN: “Laissez les bon temps roulez!” is not, needless to say, a phrase that rings through teeming streets. There are two restaurants, one in the Hotel Hana Maui for more upscale suppers (imposing plates of fruit and mahimahi) and the Hana Ranch for takeout and buffet. Those in dire need of Pad Thai or a pepperoni-and-mushroom pie make a night of it and drive two hours to Kahului, the closest city. The Hasegawa General Store sells tapes, CDs, and an impressive selection of ukuleles. The Taro Festival, a spring celebration of the native taro root, will become a high point on your calendar.
THE PRICE OF PARADISE: Haoles, be warned: One local recently let slip that he and a partner were “learning how to make espresso and cappuccino.” If pineapple lattes become the rage, it’ll be time to pack up for Bali.
DON’T BE SEEN WITHOUT: Gnarled feet, from one too many brushes with the local reefs.
BEST OF THE REST SAYULITA, MEXICO: More hammocks than gringos. JOST VAN DYKE, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS: Few inhabitants, plenty of rum, and St. John ripe for the plundering just across the channel. MALPAIS, COSTA RICA: When Jacó starts to seem way too urban…