Hawaii Guide


History of Maui, The Story Behind the Island


Unique aspects of Maui's history are the myths and legends that have been woven into it. Ancient Hawaiian's believed that the islands were the product of the trickster god " Maui," who tore them out from under the sea with a magic fishhook. According to legend, he then kidnapped the sun god "La" from his abode atop Haleakala. The condition for his release was for him to agree to move through the sky slower, thus giving the islands plentiful bouts of sunshine and warmth. According to Maui's history the first settlers on the Island's were from the Marquesa islands. They brought with them the first constructs for the development of an agrarian culture. The Tahitians shortly followed and their chiefs quickly became the ruling authorities on the island. For further information on this agrarian history we recommend visiting the History Room at the Tedeschi Vineyards.

It was only in the late eighteenth century when Kahului Bay saw the arrival of Captain James Cook, thus marking the start of western influence in Maui's history. It was only eight years later when the first settlement was set up by a Frenchman called Captain Jean Francois La Pérouse (hence where the name La Pérouse Bay comes from.)

But the biggest western influence was that of the missionaries, under the guidance of a Reverend Richards. Laws based on the Ten Commandments shortly followed and by 1824 Lahaina was a thriving whaling town. Missionaries were educating the local communities and by 1850 Hawaii was reported to have the highest literacy rate in the world. But books and Bibles are not all these "newcomers" brought with them they also were carriers of measles and smallpox. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation has maintained a number of buildings from this era. The Maui Historical Society can be found in Wailuku in a restored missionary home called the Bailey House.

With the gradual increase in off shore trading and the growing whaling industry, Lahaina established itself as Maui's foremost port. Come 1854 pineapple plantations and sugar cane fields started appearing slowly at first but then they literally started popping up overnight, as shrewd American businessmen saw possible cash cows. For more information on the Maui's historical sugar plantations, why not visit the Alexander Baldwin Sugar Museum in Pu'unene.

According to the history books by the end of WWII the drift towards tourism started and the first hotel (Hotel Hana) opened its doors. By 1959 Hawaii became the 50th state and the Maui's full potential as a vacation hotspot was realized funding for its development came hurtling in. The resorts in Kaanapali were the first to emerge, Kapalua Bay followed and not to long after Wailea and Makena also soon found itself a bustle with tourists.

For any other queries and recommendations we strongly recommend contacting the Maui Historical Society:
Maui Historical Society
2375 A Main Street

Telephone : 808 244 3326