The Hawaiian Islands are located just south of the Tropic of Cancer in the Pacific Ocean, 2,400 miles southwest of California. Maui is the second largest island in the Hawaiian Islands chain, sitting to the northwest of the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Hawaiian islands were all formed by volcanic activity on the ocean floor of the Pacific. Each island is essentially a mountainous volcano or group of volcanoes that has risen above the surface of the ocean and expelled lava to create land mass. Maui is the second youngest of the Hawaiian Islands and is home to a dormant volcano, Haleakala.
Before annexation to the United States, Hawaii was once an independent kingdom. Each island was a separate domain until 1795, when the first King Kamehameha united all of Hawaii. The charismatic Kamehameha and a dynasty of his progeny ruled the islands for the next century.
However, by the time King Kamehameha I died in 1819, Hawaii's socioeconomic system was already undergoing dramatic changes. Many of the ancient customs of the traditional "kapu" system were overthrown, and the burgeoning whaling industry and the missionary movement were beginning to alter the island's former way of life.
Hawaii slowly became populated by mainlanders trying to make money off of the islands' natural riches. And as in many parts of the world, the indigenous traditions of the Hawaiian islands ultimately gave way to sometimes violent pressures from missionaries, to be replaced by Catholicism and Christian morality. After the sugar industry came to Maui in 1849, the island changed even further. Laborers from all over the world were brought in to work the sugar fields--bringing with them foreign plants, animals, languages, and customs.
By the late 19th century, the United States was actively involved in shaping the islands' politics. Although the majority of Hawaiians opposed annexation, President McKinley signed an annexation agreement on July 7, 1898. Hawaii was granted full statehood on August 21, 1959.
The average year-round temperature on Maui is 80 degrees Farenheit, though nights tend to be a bit cooler. Maui's west side, where the resort towns of Lahaina and Kaanapali are located, is dry and very sunny; be sure to bring light cotton clothes, a hat, a bathing suit, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Temperatures are cooler on the slopes of Maui's 10,023-foot volcano, Haleakala; bring a warm jacket for hiking there. The east side of Maui gets the most rain, and you can expect brief showers when visiting towns like Hana.
Take a look at the current weather in Maui for an up-to-date forecast as well as surfing and dive conditions, and live video from different points around the island.
When To Go
Any time is a good time to visit Maui. High season runs from December to April, and the island tends to be more crowded during these months. Prices are generally less expensive during off season, and budget-conscious travelers take often vacations here during the summer. If you are interested in whale watching, plan on visiting between January and March.
Close to 100,000 people live on Maui, and it's real melting pot of cultures. Close to 31 percent of the population is Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian, 26 percent Caucasian, 16 percent Japanese, and 15 percent Filipino.
Although contemporary culture in Hawaii is similar to that of the rest of the U.S., Hawaiians strive to preserve cultural traditions. Language and hula classes are common, and traditional arts and crafts thrive. The social tradition of giving flower necklaces, or leis, illuminates the richness of the Hawaiian culture. Different leis have different meanings. Tourists are given leis of plumeria, while a bride might wear a lei of pikake. There are special leis for hellos and good-byes, and each island has its own particular lei.
Hawaii's sizable Asian influence is evidenced by much of the islands' cuisine. A typical "mixed plate" for lunch comes with rice and macaroni salad, as well as your choice of an Asian dish such as chicken teriyaki (Japanese), beef with oyster sauce (Chinese), or kalua pig (Hawaiian). Kalua pig, a favorite of luaus, is a suckling pig slow-cooked in an underground oven. Dried salted fish is also a favorite, as is poi, a stew made from the taro plant. Indigenous fruits such as star fruit and breadfruit are used in many traditional recipes.
For dessert, try a local favorite, shave ice--it's like a snow cone but even better. Or, sink your teeth into some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, available at nearly every drugstore, grocery store, and souvenir shop.
The 1990s have brought much resort development to Maui, and now about 50 percent of Maui's population works in tourism. There is no doubt that the island is a tourist hot spot, but residents are taking preventive steps so that the tourism industry does not destroy Maui's natural harmony. For example, helicopters have recently been restricted from flying so low that they create a loud racket on the ground. Before this regulation was instated, the sky buzzed constantly with low-flying sightseers, much to the annoyance of everyone below.
Calendar of Events
Below you'll find a listing of the many events and activities on Maui.
Maui Marathon: The race begins in Wailuku and ends in Lahaina.
Maui-O'Neill Invitational: World-class competitors show off their moves at this international windsurfing competition at Hookipa Beach.
- June 11
King Kamehameha Day: In honor of the king who unified the islands, Hawaii celebrates a state holiday with colorful parades and other events.
- July 4
Annual Makawao Rodeo: This fun-filled fast-paced event features stunts performed by paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) in an old-fashioned rodeo.
- Early August
Maui Onion Festival: This festival held at the Kanaapali Beach resort celebrates one of Maui's biggest crops.
Maui County Fair in Wailuku: This lively fair features livestock and produce shows, and arts and crafts.
Aloha Week: This is a statewide festival held in Wailuku with parades, dances, canoe racing, and sports.
- October through November
Aloha Classic Windsurfing Championships: This world-class competition is held on Hookipa Beach.
Lincoln-Mercury Kapalua International PGA Golf Tournament
- November through December
Hawaii International Film Festival
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