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Maui History

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Legends say the demigod Maui pulled the Hawaiian Islands from the sea and lassoed the sun atop Haleakala, the island’s highest peak. The island of Maui was named after this mythological being, perhaps because the shape of the island is said to resemble his head and body.

King Piilani was the first ruler to unite all of Maui under a single family of alii (royalty) in the early 15th century. In 1790, King Kamehameha I defeated Kahekili, Maui’s last king, after a fierce battle in the iconic Iao Valley. Kamehameha took control of Maui and made Lahaina the new capital of the unified Hawaiian Kingdom. For nearly five decades, Lahaina served as the center of government for Hawaii. Simultaneously, the town experienced a surge in its whaling industry. At the height of the whaling era (1840-1865) as many as 500 ships anchored in Lahaina’s port.

Maui’s first sugar mill began operations in 1828. As the sugar industry in the islands grew, an influx of plantation workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal and Europe arrived in Hawaii. These immigrants became the foundation of the multi-ethnic culture of Hawaii today. You can experience these influences at places like the Lahaina Jodo Mission and in the fusion of flavors found in Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

The Lahaina Historic Trail and other notable attractions allow you to explore Maui’s rich past today, adding a fascinating new dimension to your visit.

Featured Sites and Attractions

Haleakala National Park, Maui

Haleakala National Park, a scenic national park on the island of Maui and home to Maui’s highest peak.

Iao Valley State Park, Maui

Central Maui’s Iao Valley State Park features one of Maui’s most recognizable landmarks, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle.

Lahaina Historic Trail, Maui

The Lahaina Historic Trail covers 62 important sites from Lahaina’s rich past, many of which have been designated National Historic Landmarks.

Lahaina Jodo Mission, Maui

The Lahaina Jodo Mission is a Japanese Buddhist temple that features one of the largest statues of Buddha outside of Asia.