Maui is the only island in all of Polynesia named after a god. Legend has it that the precocious half-man, half-god Maui was a powerful sorcerer who raised the Hawaiian Islands from the ocean floor, acquired fire for use on earth, and pushed the sky upwards so that humans could walk on two legs. Maui's antics rivaled those of any mythological being, and he ultimately met his end by angering the great goddess, Hina, who strangled him between her mighty legs.

Maui's legacy lives on in the glorious island that is his namesake. The second most visited Hawaiian island after Oahu, Maui captivates vacationers with such attractions as 150 miles of glorious coastline, mystical thickets of dense tropical rain forest, and Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano. The warm, shallow waters around the island are also important wintering grounds for North Pacific humpback whales, and whale watchers come from miles around to catch glimpses of these enigmatic creatures, whose haunting underwater calls are like a complex language.

Once a working whaling town, Lahaina is Maui's chief cosmopolitan center. Here, tourism is king: Funky wooden architecture is the trademark of Front Street, the town's bustling main drag, where gourmets and souvenir seekers alike are well rewarded by the wide variety of elegant dining establishments and island merchandisers. Nearby Kaanapali, located on Maui's westernmost point, is a newer resort area, home to high-rise hotels, two 18-hole golf courses, 40 tennis courts, and the modern Whalers Village shopping center.

The curvy road to Hana takes you far away from the fast-paced tourist track. From here you can venture into the island's pastoral upcountry, populated by exotic flower and vegetable farms and paniolos, or Hawaiian cowboys. Water-sports enthusiasts adore Maui's perfect weather conditions, which afford world-class windsurfing, diving, snorkeling, and more. Maui also boasts more swimming beaches than any other Hawaiian island, and if you venture a ways from the resort areas, chances are high that you will find an idyllic shoreline to call your own.

After visiting Maui, quite a few mainlanders have decided to give up their former lives and take up residency here. It is easy to understand why. Whether you are watching the sun come up over the ocean from the top of Haleakala crater, snorkeling amongst thousands of tropical fish in the submerged crater of Molokini, standing under a cold waterfall at Seven Sacred Pools, walking through the quiet town of Hana, or simply relaxing on one of many sun-kissed beaches, it is impossible not to be taken by Maui's matchless Hawaiian charm.

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