This beautiful isle was born in a fiery explosion of two volcanoes.
To one side of Maui is the 1764 metre Kukui and on the other Haleakala, a 3055 metre dormant volcano with a Manhattan size crater that houses a vast desert of unusual flora including the rare Silversword. Add to this 190kilometres of dazzling coastline, both dramatic and diverse for surfing, snorkelling and canoeing plus waterfalls plunging 300 metres, rainforests bursting with exotic vegetation and a stark lunar landscape so barren that the astronauts practised their moon landing here, and you have the extraordinary island of Maui.
The dramatic variations in climate and land formations are a large part of what makes Maui so exciting. The West Maui Mountains are rugged and verdant, with jagged peaks and deeply grooved valleys hiding waterfalls. Central Maui and the slopes of Haleakala are agricultural areas where the rich volcanic soil supports sugar, pineapple and ranchlands. The south shore, except where irrigated, is desert and scrub because Haleakala snags the rain clouds and empties them before they cross her peak.
The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui was settled by Polynesians and had its own ruling family. King Kamehameha’s warriors overthrew the kingdom of Maui to unite it with the other Hawaiian Islands. He made Lahaina in Maui his capital in 1802. Today Maui has evolved into a peaceful agricultural island of charm and rustic beauty, particularly Lahaina which has been restored to its previous colonial splendour.
The non-profit Lahaina Restoration Foundation which began over 36 years ago has preserved and restored a rich collection of historical sites in Lahaina.
The Maui Historical Society Museum in Wailuku is a delightful structure built between 1833 and 1850 and was the home of missionary Edward Bailey. Baldwin Home, built in 1838, is the oldest standing building in Lahaina and is made of thick walls of coral, stone and hand-hewn timbers.
The banyan tree came to Lahaina from India when only eight feet tall. William O. Smith, the Maui sheriff, planted it in 1873 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Lahaina’s first Christian mission. Today the banyan has 12 major trunks, varying girths and reaches upward to a height of 15 metres stretching outward over a 61 metre area.
The Carthaginian, a replica of a 19th century brig which now houses a whaling exhibit, graces the harbour, which is also the departure point for a multitude of cruises and whale watching tours (in season). However, if it is off season, Whaler’s Village in Ka’anapali houses an excellent whale museum. Lahaina Jodo Mission Cultural Park, on a point of land known as Puunoa, was once a small village fronting the royal grove of coconut trees. Now the best known landmark in the area, the largest Buddha outside of Japan sits in the small park commemorating the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in 1868. Don’t miss a journey on the famous Sugar Cane Train, modelled after the turn of the century railroads that transported Valley Isle sugar to Lahaina mills. The steam driven locomotive runs between Lahaina and Ka‘anapali and visitors can hop aboard at Puukolii and Ka‘anapali as well.
While on Maui, you can explore the Maui Tropical Plantation which consists of 45 hectares of crops. Learn how to husk a coconut, create a delicious tropical fruit boat and string a fragrant lei. Then catch the Tropical Tram on a 40-minute circuit to see fruit cutting demonstrations, visit the marketplace and learn how to start your own tropical garden.
At the Sugar Museum you will see the production of sugar, once one of Hawaii’s biggest cash crops, from beginning to end.
The Island of Maui is very popular for traditional Hawaiian cuisine, as well as modern fusion recipes. It is not uncommon to find restaurants that serve food that is a blend of Chinese, American, Polynesian, Korean, and Filipino cuisine.
Open air restaurants by the seaside are a common sighting here and are known for their exquisite sea food specialties. Popular dishes include the tequila shrimp and crab lumpia. If that’s not enough, you can always find several other seafood options.
Some of the most popular dishes include the Kalua Roast Pork, which is basically roasted pork meat. The meat, which is usually an entire pig, is prepared in a traditional imu pit. This is a Hawaiian delicacy that cannot be missed, especially by those who love their pork. Other popular Maui delicacies include Poi, Ahi Poke, Mahi-Mahi.
Maui is also popular for its desserts, that are known for their rich ingredients. Ingredients in these desserts usually include chocolate, tropical fruits, macadamia nuts and coconut.
There are tons of places to explore in Maui for both adults and children. The island is home to wonderful flora and fauna, housed within its pristine rain forests. There are also mountain ranges, where adventurous families can take off for a day of trekking and exploration. There are quite a few attractions that are specifically suited for children as well, such as the The Hawaii Nature Center, which is known for its educational and entertaining nature programs that teach children to preserve the environment.
There is also the Maui Ocean Center, which is a high end aquarium that provides visitors with a glimpse of marine life. Adults and children are taught ocean ecology through informative displays here and have the unique opportunity of observing the Hawaiian Tako or Octopus. The Maui Ocean Center is also America’s largest tropical aquarium.
Other popular points of interest include Haleakala National Park, Wainapanapa State Park, Iao Valley State Monument and Ohe’o Gulch Kipahulu.
Activities in Maui
There are plenty of things for tourists to do in Maui. Visitors can engage in a ton of activities such as windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, jet-skiing, parasailing and the likes. There are plenty of operators and clubs in the island. Visitors can sign up with these service providers in order to indulge in a range of exciting activities.
Snorkeling tours are also quite common in Maui and are a favorite activity among first time visitors. So if you are visiting Maui for the first time, make sure you sign up for a snorkeling tour. For instance, the Molokini Snorkeling Tour hosted by Pride of Maui is a great option for families. The snorkeling trip takes visitors through the 150,000 year old Molokini Crater, where one can experience unique marine life and observe the famous Spinner Dolphins and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.
Other activities include mountain biking in the Makawao State Forest and whale watching with Pacific Whale Foundation.