Hana is the most Hawaiian of places you will discover in Hawaii. It has the slow pace and friendly people of time long past. It also has the history. Hawaii’s most powerful queen, Ka’ahumanu, was born in 1768 in a cave at the base of Ka’uiki, the large hill at Hana Bay. After the death of her husband King Kamehameha, she immediately overthrew the kapu system, which had the affect of giving women the same rights as men. Then she allowed Christianity into Hawaiian life, and became the missionaries’ major convert.
When the gold rush hit California in 1849, Hawaii stepped in as a major supplier of commodities. Produce was quickly attempted in Hana, with sugar cultivation the only crop to succeed. By 1883, there were six separate sugar plantations in the Hana area. You can see the remains of the old pier at Hana Bay where sugar cane was loaded onto ships. And in addition to carrying cane to the mills, these inter-island cargo ships also carried a few hearty souls wanting to discover the islands. The first visitors to Hana liked what they saw.
By 1940 sugar was becoming too expensive to grow in isolated Hana due to the increases in labor cost brought about by the influence of the expanding labor unions. Sugar plantations were closing and the Hana people were losing their jobs. To the rescue came Paul Fagan, one of the Hana sugar growers.
Paul Fagan also had a cattle ranch on the Island of Molokai. At Hana he looked at the hills before him where sugar used to grow, and he decided to realize a dream. In 1944 he purchased 45,000 acres of now unused land in Hana, had his cattle shipped over from Molokai, and Hana Ranch was born.
He next noted the millions of military visitors to ‘Oahu during and after the war and thought “why not?” He and his wife built the Hotel Hana Maui, and constructed a nearby airfield for wealthy travelers who wanted to see something other than Waikiki in Hawaii. His next step was genius.
Paul Fagan also owned a professional baseball team in San Francisco. Once his hotel was up and running, he brought his team to Hana for spring training, along with every sports writer he could find. The word of Hana was quickly introduced to millions of people around the country by the writings of the sports writers, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Paul Fagan died in 1970. For all he did for the people of Hana by giving them jobs and a future, they erected a memorial to him. It’s called Fagan’s Cross, and this stone structure looks down from a hill above his Hotel Hana Maui, now named Travaasa Hana.
Hana History: Queen Ka'ahumanu to Cattle and Sugar