Maui, the Valley Isle
Called “The Valley Isle,” Maui is named for the demi-god the Hawaiians believed to have pulled the chain of Hawaiian Islands up from the sea. Known for it countless waterfalls, breathtaking hikes, stunning beaches and resorts, Maui is one of the most popular Hawaiian vacation destinations as an island full of enchanting history and exceptional beauty.
Maui History and Fun Facts
A well-known local saying is Maui no ka ‘oi, meaning Maui is the best.
November to May is the whale-watching season on Maui, which is one of the best places in the Hawaiian Islands for vacationers to view kohola or humpback whales.
Maui’s first sugar mill opened in the early 19th century, drawing immigrants from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines and even from Portugal as the industry grew.
The primary source of Maui’s economy was once based on large scale plantation farming of sugar and pineapple. Tourism is now the driving force of Maui’s economy as well as the entire State, due to the steady increase in visitors since the 1970’s and the steady decline of plantation farming.
Maui, about 48 miles long and 26 miles wide, is the second largest Hawaiian island, and has a population of over 131, 500 people.
Maui was formed by two volcanoes that are now bridged by an isthmus connecting the islands. The larger volcano on the east side, Haleakala (meaning House of the Sun), is slightly over 10,000 feet in elevation. The Valley Isle has more than 80 beaches, with a combined shoreline of over 120 miles, making it one of the most desirable Hawaiian vacation destinations.
Must-see Maui Attractions
The opportunities to find adventure and make long-lasting memories in Maui are endless. Here is a link of popular island activities you can book, but we’ve also highlighted some of our favorite things to do on Maui below.
Lahaina, is a town noted on the National Register of Historic Places and was the erstwhile capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the 19th century. Once known as “Lele,” meaning the town of relentless sun, Lahaina is also a historic whaling harbor. With theaters, museums, luaus, hotels and tours, this town is full of cultural sites and landmarks. On Front Street you can see the impressive Lahaina Banyan Tree planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first missionaries’ arrival in Hawaii. The tree covers two thirds of an acre with numerous weaving trunks. For those who want to take a peek into the past, explore the history of whaling at the Lahaina Whaling Museum or tour the Hale Kahiko, a traditional thatched-roof village open to the public. The Lahaina Historic Trail also offers a self-guided tour of over 60 sites.
The road to Hana begins after the town of Paia and the famous windsurfing beach of Ho’okipa. The road winds eastward along 53 miles surrounded by dozens of waterfalls and rugged seacoast. Twisting through more than 600 turns, this iconic road crosses over nearly 60 bridges some of which are one-lane only. This Hana Highway journey is lined with occasional rest-stops and serene waterfalls as well as venues for short hikes for those wishing to stretch their legs. The eastern shore of Maui includes the quaint and picturesque town of Hana and the idyllic Seven Sacred Pools at Kipahulu known for its waterfalls, swimming holes, rainforest and rugged shoreline. For anyone wanting to add intrigue to their honeymoon in Hawaii, this romantic Maui adventure is a must-do.
Haleakala National Park is one of the country’s premier national parks for good reason. In addition to its stark natural beauty beauty and awesome vistas, the summit is known as a wahi pana (a legendary place) where the demi-god Maui was said to have snared the sun to slow its journey through the sky. Once used by ancient Hawaiian astronomers as a sundial and marker of seasons, Haleakala is steeped in cultural significance and is definitely worth adding to your Maui vacation package itinerary. One aspect that makes the summit truly unique happens when Haleakala Crater is filled with mist or clouds. A person standing at an overlook may find their shadow cast on the clouds below, entirely circled by a rainbow. It is not hard to imagine why the ancient Hawaiians valued and respected this sacred place.
Makena Beach is one of the largest white sand beaches in Maui. This stretch of land is free from hotels and homes, offering a peaceful alternative to busier beaches. Ka’anapali Beach, a beautiful four miles long stretch of white sand facing the sparkling clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, is a highly popular tourist destination. During the winter months, humpback whales can be viewed from these glittering shores. Kapalua Beach has notably gentle waters creating the perfect family environment. This beach proves a prime snorkeling location and is sure to be a swimmer’s favorite. Napili Beach, with idyllic crescent-shaped shores, is a scenic place to lie in the sand and bask in the Hawaiian sunshine. Another beach of unique variety is Red Sand Beach, a site you will not want to miss. Though it is not typically a swimming location, the vibrant ruby-colored shores make this beach one of the most unusual coastal attractions in Hawaii.
Iao Valley State Park has historical significance as the ancient burial ground of chiefs. It is also known for it famous battle site where King Kamehameha I triumphed over Kalanikupule in the year 1790, bringing the island of Maui under his rule. The state park prominently features Iao Needle, a distinctive mountain spire standing at an elevation of 2,250 feet. The Hawaii Nature Center offers hiking and informative activities in the Iao Valley State Park and is a fantastic place for families to visit or partake in the nearby Interactive Nature Museum exhibits on their trip to Hawaii.
Farm tours in Hawaii have become some of the most popular activities for visitors and locals alike with Maui having many different types to choose from. The Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm is a 8.5-acre lavender farm near the slopes of Haleakala. With over 55,000 lavender plants, it is impossible not to let the soothing aroma and their beautiful colors sink in and relax you. Guided tours by foot or on golf carts are offered daily. Craft classes, gourmet lunches, and product-samplings are also available. Another farm to note is O’o Farm in Kula, which is dedicated to the principle that food should be grown and harvested naturally. At O’o Farm, you can enjoy a gourmet lunch following a guided tour every Monday through Thursday.
A Taste of Maui
On Maui, the culinary options are endless. The Upcountry Farmer’s Market offers a plethora of seasonal riches such as fresh local bread fruit, coconut, coffee, lilikoi butter and macadamia nuts. If you prefer to do farm tours, you can taste the goat-milk chocolate truffles and famous cheeses at Surfing Goat Dairy. If you are dining in Lahaina, stop by for freshly harvested food from O’o Farm at Pacific’O or at I’O on Front Street. Also be sure to visit the Aloha Mixed Plate, which is a favorite local hot-spot, offering casual outdoor dining also on Front Street. Shave (not shaved) ice is a popular Hawaiian dessert, and at Ululani’s in Lahaina, you can give your taste buds a treat with unique flavors like tiger’s blood or salted plum. Our Culture and Culinary Tours page gives further details about what events food-lovers may want to explore on Maui.
For whatever adventure you seek, Panda Travel ® can help you plan the ideal Maui vacation package for your whole family. From all-inclusive packages to individual activities, let us help you arrange the holiday of a lifetime on one of the most glorious of the Hawaiian Islands. Check out our travel tips page for more details about how to be prepared for vacation in paradise. Do not hesitate to us toll-free at (800) 303-6702 for any questions that can’t somehow be answered on our website.