Craig Henderson is the creator, writer, and narrator of the best CD audio guides for the Road to Hana and the drive up Haleakala. These are CD’s that you play in your car CD player as you drive along the Road to Hana or the road up Haleakala Volcano, to help you find the best sights to see along the way.
I interviewed Craig in February of 2011 to learn more about his background and his creation of these CD guides. The complete interview is below.
Jon: How did you get the idea for your Hana Cassette Guide?
Craig: I am a photographer (and now a videographer) and I often photograph the Hana coast. I overheard visitors talking about problems finding what to see along the drive. While doing a photo shoot on Oahu, my wife and I got lost, and wished we had better directions. That’s where I got the idea to create a narration on a cassette tape, describing the sights as you drive along.
Jon: When did you first create it?
Craig: In 1985 I made the first recording of the Hana guide. I also created a hand-drawn map to go with the narrated tour.
Jon: The first time I used your Hana Guide more than 20 years ago, I rented it directly from you along the roadside. Was that how you did it before you had your booth?
Craig: Yes, I used to rent the tape and cassette tape player from my van, before cars came with built-in tape players. Then the police told me that I was not allowed to conduct a business along a state highway. A gas station owner allowed me to park my van at his station, and later I put up a booth there to use instead of the van. It was a used booth from Clic Photo, shipped over from Oahu. We are still at that same location.
Jon: How did people find out about your audio Hana Guide back then?
Craig: We had a small ad in a visitor magazine.
Jon: When did you switch from cassette to CD?
Craig: When the rental cars began having CD players in them, about 1999. Until then, we had to keep an inventory of cassette players. After the change, we had to change the name on our booth from Hana Cassette Guide to Hana CD Guide.
Jon: How often do you update the Hana CD?
Craig: The last update was about 7-8 years ago. In the beginning it was once a year, but I found few things changed between re-dos. The natural beauty of the drive remains the same. There are minor changes over time. We put those small ones on the Hana Coast Map that goes along with the CD. We have a new printing about every other year, and I update the map along the way.
Jon: When did you create the Haleakala Cassette or CD Guide?
Craig: Less than a year after the Hana one, when I saw the possibility of a Haleakala tape, about 1986.
Jon: I notice your name on the Maui Driving Map, the best free map of Maui available in the brochure racks in many tourist areas all over the island. How did you get start in map-making?
Craig: I was first attracted to maps when I was a little kid, checking the maps of the different states out when my parents took my sister and me on a cross-country road trip.
Jon: When did you move to Maui?
Craig: I moved here in 1979, from Southern California, to get away from the traffic and smog.
Jon: What other jobs have you done on Maui, besides the audio guides and the maps?
Craig: My claim to fame is that I was a waiter at 12 different restaurants on the island, with the Lahaina Yacht Club being the first. Now my main business is Maui videos. My first day as a waiter at the then InterContinental Resort I walked into the restaurant and there was my Maui-born future wife as a cashier. Waiter and cashier. Guess it was love at first sight.
Jon: Does your wife Charlene help you with the Hana and Haleakala guides?
Craig: She actually does most of the work. She does everything: does all the accounting, financials and record keeping. I work on keeping the Hana map updated, besides working on the videos we have been producing. We are finishing up on our fifth, produced in hi-definition.
Jon: What do you like about living on Maui?
Craig: In-laws, the people, the island, and the slow, un-rushed life-style.
Jon: Where can people buy the Hana and Haleakala audio CD guides?
Craig: At the Shell Service Station on Diary Road (Route 380) in Kahului.
Jon: I have found your Hana and Haleakala CD Guides to be much better than other brands sold in stores around Maui. Is yours available at stores too?
Craig: No, ours is only available at that Shell Station in Kahului. People pass by our booth on their way to Hana or Haleakala, so it’s a convenient place for them to buy our audio guides. We don’t want “a partner.” The stores get more than half your profit. Plus, we like to give the personal touch and answer visitors’ questions and make suggestions they ask for when they come to our booth.
Jon: What comes with your guides?
Craig: Along with the narrated CD tour, we give a Maui Island Paradise DVD, a Hana Coast map, and a colorful flower guide. For a refundable deposit, people can also have a cooler filled with ice for the day. The Haleakala CD Guide is half-price when bought at the same time as the Hana CD Guide. The Haleakala narration includes the drive into Iao Valley, and maps for both Haleakala and Iao.
Jon: What do you like about making and selling these audio guides?
Craig: I enjoy the creative process that goes in to making them, which gives me satisfaction of accomplishment. And I like being able to give the visitor something that is helpful to them, and provides them a richer enjoyment of the drives, and gives them a better understanding of the island and the people who have been the caretakers of it.
Jon: Who works at the booth selling the guides?
Craig: Our son works six days; mom works one, allowing her to track inventory and talk with our customers.
Jon: What else would you like to tell readers of this website?
Craig: To go out and enjoy and appreciate the beauty that Maui has to offer, and try to make some form of contact during their visit–if only a smile–with the kamaaina (residents) of Maui. They’ll feel better about themselves if they do. Life is more than a spectator activity. There are so many things to see and do, and hopefully my narrated tour provides them a little guidance in what is available to enjoy along nature’s buffet called the Road to Hana.