Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian
Islands at 727 square miles (1883 km²). Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of
the island's name in the legend of Hawaii, the Polynesian navigator
attributed with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story
relates how he named the island of Maui after his son who in turn
was named for the demi-god Maui. According to legend, the
demi-god Maui raised all the Hawaiian Islands from the sea. The Island of
Maui is also called the "Valley Isle" for the large fertile
isthmus between its two
Maui is part of the State
of Hawaii and is the largest island in Maui
The population is diverse, with many ethnic groups having
originally arrived in the islands to work sugar cane and pineapple
plantations from countries of the Western Pacific rim. Maui is part
of Maui County, the other islands comprising the county being
Lanai, Kahoolawe, and
larger towns on Maui Island include Kahului, Hawaii,
Wailuku, Lahaina, and Kihei, Hawaii. See
Maui County, Hawaii for a list of towns.
Polynesians, from Tahiti and the Marquesas, were the original
peoples to populate Maui. The Tahitians introduced the kapu system, a strict social order
that affected all aspects of life and became the core of Hawaiian
culture. Modern Hawai'ian history began in the mid-1700s. King
Kamehameha I took up residence (and later made his capital) in
Lahaina after conquering Maui in the bloody Battle of
Kepaniwai in 1790 in the
Cook "discovered" Maui on November 26<, 1778. In Cook's wake came traders, whalers, loggers
(e.g., of sandalwood) and missionaries. The missionaries began to
arrive from New England in 1823, choosing Lahaina because it was
the capital. They clothed the natives, banned them from dancing
hula, and greatly altered the culture. They tried to keep whalers
and sailors out of the bawdy houses. The missionaries taught
reading and writing, created the 12-letter Hawaiian alphabet,
started a printing press in Lahaina, and began writing the islands'
history, until then existing only as oral accounts. They started
the first school in Lahaina, which still exists today: Lahainaluna
Mission School. The Mission school opened in 1831 and was the first
secondary school to open West of the Rockies.
Looking into Haleakalā "crater"
At the height of the whaling era (1840-1865), Lahaina was a
major whaling centre with anchorage in Lahaina Roads; in one season over
400 ships visited Lahaina and the greatest number of ships berthed
at one time was about 100. A given ship tended to stay months
rather than days which explains the drinking and prostitution in
the town at that time. Whaling declined steeply at the end of the
19th century as crude oil (petroleum) replaced whale oil.
Kamehameha's descendants reigned in the islands until 1872. They
were followed by rulers from another ancient family of chiefs,
including Liliuokalani of Hawaii who ruled in
1893 when the monarchy was overturned. One year later, the Republic of
Hawaii was founded. The island was annexed by the
States in 1898 and made a
territory in 1900.
Hawaii became the 50th state in U.S. in 1959.
Maui was centrally involved in the Pacific Theatre of World War
II as a staging centre, training base. At the peak in 1943-44, the number of troops
stationed on Maui exceeded 100,000. The main base of the 4th
Marines was in Haiku. Beaches were used for
practice landings and training in marine demolition and
The island has experienced rapid population growth in recent
years (e.g., 4.6% in 2001/2002) with Kihei one of the most rapidly
growing towns in the U.S. (see chart). The growth is occurring
because many people, having visited Maui, decide to move or retire
to the island.
Maui County Population,
2000 Census analysis
Population growth partly due to an influx of new people
typically from Canada and the U.S. mainland is producing
strains, including growing congestion on many of the major roads.
There is concern about the availability of affordable housing and
access to water. Property prices have risen to levels that families
on average incomes find it difficult to afford housing (either
renting or buying). Property developers have insufficient
regulatory or financial incentive to build less expensive
(affordable) homes. Maui County Council has been investigating ways
of changing the situation.
There have been long-term concerns about the reliability of
supply of potable water: droughts have been declared in
most recent years and the Ī‘ao aquifer has been
drawn down at what are believed may be unsustainable rates of above
18 million gallons (68,000 m³) per day. Whilst the situation
remains unclear, and reliable supply has not been secured, recent
estimates indicate that the total potential supply of potable water
on Maui is, at an estimated 476 million gallons (1,800,000 m³) per
day, many times greater than foreseeable demand.
There is a great deal of discussion about the meaning of, and
the way to achieve, smart development. There is clearly a tension
between economic growth and urbanisation on the one hand, and the
wish to preserve the beauty of Maui and a relaxed way of life on
the other. In the past there existed a pro-growth bias in policy
with developers and politicians working to stimulate the economy;
now the balance has swung toward more sensitive consideration of
community concerns (about the dangers of unwise growth/development)
and developers no longer have everything their way.
The major industries are agriculture and tourism. Maui Land & Pineapple and Hawaiian
Commercial and Sugar (HC&S - a subsidiary of Alexander and
Baldwin Company) dominate agricultural activity. HC&S produces
sugarcane on about 37,000 acres (150,000,000 m²) of the
Maui central valley, the largest sugarcane operation remaining in
Hawai‘i. The cane is irrigated mostly with water drawn from
aqueducts that run from the windward (northern) slopes of Haleakalāthat receive
considerable rainfall. A controversial feature of sugarcane
production is the burning that is done for about 9 months of the
year. These are controlled burns of fields to reduce the crop to
bare canes just before harvesting. The fires produce smoke that
towers above the Maui central valley most early mornings, and ash
(locally referred to as "Maui snow") that is carried downwind
(often towards north Kihei).
The retail center for Maui residents is Kahului.
Maui is also an important centre for astronomy with the Haleakalā High
Altitude Observatory Site being one of the five best astronomical
and space surveillance sites in the world.
Maui is a volcanic
doublet: an island formed from two volcanic mountains that abut
one another to form the isthmus between them. The older volcano,
Kahalawai, is much older and has been eroded considerably; it
is now called the West Maui Mountain. The larger volcano in the
East, Haleakalā with its famous caldera — rises above
10,023 feet (3,050 m). The last eruption occurred around 1790, and
the lava flow can be viewed between ‘Āhihi Bay and
La Perouse Bay on the southwest
shore of East Maui. Both volcanoes are shield volcanoes
and the low viscosity of the Hawaiian lava makes the likelihood of large explosive eruptions
Maui welcomed 2,225,060 tourists in 2002. The main tourism
centres are Lahaina to Kapalua and Kihei-Wailea, each of which has
several luxury resort hotels. Whereas O‘ahu is most popular
with Japanese tourists, Maui tends to appeal especially to visitors
from the US mainland and Canada.
Maui is a leading whale-watching center in the Hawaiian Islands
due to the fact that many Humpback whales winter in the sheltered
Hawaiian islands channels between
the islands of Maui county. The whales migrate approximately 3,500
miles (5,600 km) from Alaskan
waters each autumn and spend the northern hemisphere winter
months mating and birthing in the warm waters off Maui. The whales
are typically sighted in pods: small groups of several adults and
one or more calves. Humpbacks are an endangered
species protected by U.S. federal and Hawai‘i state law.
There are estimated to be about 3000 humpbacks in the North
Among the many features on Maui popular with tourists are the
"Road to Hāna" (the drive from the central valley to Hāna
and beyond), the drive up to Haleakalā crater, Makawao (and
Maui's Upcountry region), the
Iao Valley, and Lindbergh's grave
(near Kaupo on East Maui).
At sea level Maui has a remarkably stable tropical climate with
highs in the region of 29 °C (80 to 85 °F) and lows around 20°C (65
to 70 °F); rainfall is greater in the northern hemisphere winter
(wet season is November through April). However, because of the two
volcanic mountains that dominate the topography, Maui has a very
wide range of climatic conditions depending on elevation and
whether an area faces toward or away from the prevailing Tradewinds
(blowing from the northeast). For example the top of the West Maui
mountain receives over 400 inches (10 m) of rainfall per year,
whereas Kihei receives less than 10 inches (250 mm), being in the
East Maui Volcano (see Orographic precipitation);
Kahului airport (the main airport on Maui) has average rainfall of
about 19 inches (480 mm), whereas Olinda (upslope from the airport)
receives about 73 inches (1.8 m).
Maui has an unusual weather feature known as the Maui
vortex, an area of clear sky that often forms over Pukalani due to the swirling of air
(a vortex) as it enters the central valley after being forced to
move around Haleakalā.
Maui, like the whole of the Hawaiian Islands, has a hurricane
season in the late summer and fall, with tropical storms typically
approaching from the southeast. Storms initiated by hurricanes or
tropical depressions that approach from the southeast are known
locally as Kona storms.