The island of Maui Hawaiian is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles (1883.5 km2) and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the state of Hawaii and is the largest of Maui County’s four islands, bigger than
Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, and Moloka’i. In 2010, Maui had a population of 154,834, third-most populous of the Hawaiian islands, behind that of O’ahu and Hawai’i. Kahului is the largest town on the island with a population of 20,146. Wailuku is the seat of Maui County. Other significant towns include Kihei, Lahaina, Makawo, Pa’ia, Kula, Ha’iku, Hana, Ka’anapali, Wailea, Makena, and Kapalua.
Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island's name in the legend of Hawai’iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. According to that legend, Hawai’iloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Maui. The earlier name of Maui was ʻIhikapalaumaewa. The Island of Maui is also called the "Valley Isle" for the large istmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the numerous large valleys carved into both mountains.
Geology and topography
The older, western volcano has been eroded considerably and is cut by numerous drainages, forming the peaks of the West Maui Mountains (in Hawaiian Mauna Kahalwai). Puʻu Kukui is the highest of the peaks at 5,788 feet (1,764 m). The larger, younger volcano to the east, Haleakala, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, but measures 5 miles (8.0 km) from seafloor to summit, making it one of the world's highest "mountains".
The eastern flanks of both volcanoes are cut by deeply incised valleys and steep-sided ravines that run downslope to the rocky, windswept shoreline. The valley-like Isthmus of Maui that separates the two volcanic masses was formed by sandy erosional deposits.
Maui's last eruption (originating in Haleakalā's Southwest Rift Zone) occurred around 1790; two of the resulting lava flows are located at Cape Kīna’u between ‘Āhihi Bay and La Perouse Bay on the southwest shore of East Maui, and at Makaluapuna Point on Honokahua Bay on the northwest shore of West Maui. Although considered to be dormant by volcanologists, Haleakalā is certainly capable of further eruptions.
Maui is part of a much larger unit, Maui Nui, that includes the islands of Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, and Moloka’i. During periods of reduced sea level, including as recently as 20,000 years ago, they are joined together as a single island due to the shallowness of the channels between them.
The climate of the Hawaiian Islands is characterized by a two-season year, mild and uniform temperatures everywhere (except at high elevations), marked geographic differences in rainfall, high relative humidity, extensive cloud formations (except on the driest coasts and at high elevations), and dominant trade-wind flow (especially at elevations below a few thousand feet). Maui itself has a wide range of climatic conditions and weather patterns that are influenced by several different factors in the physical environment:
- Half of Maui is situated within 5 miles (8.0 km) of the island's coastline. This, and the extreme insularity of the Hawaiian Islands themselves account for the strong marine influence on Maui's climate.
- Gross weather patterns are typically determined by elevation and orientation towards the Trade winds (prevailing air flow comes from the northeast).
- Maui's rugged, irregular topography produces marked variations in conditions. Air swept inland on the Trade winds is shunted one way or another by the mountains, valleys, and vast open slopes. This complex three-dimensional flow of air results in striking variations in wind speed, cloud formation, and rainfall.
Maui displays a unique and diverse set of climatic conditions, each of which is specific to a loosely defined sub-region of the island. These sub-regions are defined by major physiographic features (such as mountains and valleys) and by location on the windward or leeward side of the island. These sub-regions (and their characteristic climates) are:
- Windward Lowlands – Below 2,000 feet (610 m) on north- to northeast-sides of an island. Roughly perpendicular to direction of prevailing trade winds. Moderately rainy; frequent trade wind-induced showers. Skies are often cloudy to partly cloudy. Air temperatures are more uniform (and mild) than those of other regions.
- Leeward Lowlands – Daytime temperatures are a little higher and nighttime temperatures are lower than in windward locations. Dry weather is prevalent, with the exception of sporadic showers that drift over the mountains to windward and during short-duration storms.
- Interior Lowlands – Intermediate conditions, often sharing characteristics of other lowland sub-regions. Occasionally experience intense local afternoon showers from well-developed clouds that formed due to local daytime heating.
- Leeward Side High-Altitude Mountain Slopes with High Rainfall – Extensive cloud cover and rainfall all year long. Mild temperatures are prevalent, but humidity is higher than any other sub-region.
- Leeward Side-Lower Mountain Slopes – Rainfall is higher than on the adjacent leeward lowlands, but much less than at similar altitudes on the windward side; however, maximum rainfall usually occurs leeward of the crests of lower mountains. Temperatures are higher than on the rainy slopes of the windward sides of mountains; cloud cover is almost as extensive.
- High Mountains – Above about 3,000 feet (910 m) on Haleakalā, rainfall decreases rapidly with elevation. Relative humidity may be ten percent or less. The lowest temperatures in the state are experienced in this region: air temperatures below freezing are common.
Rainfall – Showers are very common; yet while some of these are very heavy, the vast majority are light and brief – a sudden sprinkle of rain and it's over. Even the heaviest rain showers are seldom accompanied by thunder and lightning. Throughout the lowlands, in summer an overwhelming dominance of trade winds produces a drier season. At one extreme, the annual rainfall averages 17 inches (430 mm) to 20 inches (510 mm) or less in leeward coastal areas, such as the shoreline from Maalaea Bay to Kaupo, and near the summit of Haleakalā. At the other extreme, the annual average rainfall exceeds 300 inches (7,600 mm) along the lower windward slopes of Haleakalā, particularly along the Hana Highway. If the islands of the State of Hawaii did not exist, the average annual rainfall on the same patch of water would be about 25 inches (640 mm). Instead, the actual average is about 70 inches (1,800 mm). Thus, the islands extract from the air that passes over them about 45 inches (1,100 mm) of rainfall that otherwise would not fall. The mountainous topography of Maui and the other islands is responsible for this added water bonus.
Daily Variations in Rainfall – In the lowlands, throughout the year, rainfall is most likely to occur during the night or morning hours, and is least likely to occur mid-afternoon. The most pronounced daily variations in rainfall occur during the summer because most summer rainfall consists of trade winds showers that most often occur at night. Winter rainfall in the lowlands is the result of storm activity, which is as likely to occur in the daytime as at night. Rainfall variability is far greater during the winter, when occasional storms contribute appreciably to rainfall totals. With such wide swings in rainfall, it is inevitable that there are occasional droughts, sometimes causing economic losses. The real drought years are the ones where the winter rains fail, with too few significant rainstorms. Droughts hit hardest in the normally dry areas that depend on winter storms for their rainfall and receive little rain from the trade wind showers.
Maui is home to a large rainforest on the northeastern flanks of Haleakalā, which serves as the drainage basin for the rest of the island. The extremely difficult terrain has prevented exploitation of much of the forest.
Agricultural and coastal industrial land use has had an adverse effect on much of Maui's coastal regions. Many of Maui's extraordinary coral reefs have been damaged by pollution, runoff, and tourism, although finding sea turtles, dolphins, and Hawai'i's celebrated tropical fish, is still common. Leeward Maui used to boast a vibrant dry 'cloud forest' as well but this was destroyed by human activities over the last three hundred years.
Polynesians, from Tahiti and the Marquesas, were the original peoples to populate Maui. The Tahitians introduced the kapu system, a strict social order that affected all aspects of life and became the core of Hawaiian culture. Modern Hawaiian history began in the mid-18th century. King Kamehameha I, king of Hawaii's "Big Island," invaded Maui in 1790 and fought the inconclusive Battle of Kepaniwai, but returned to Hawaii to battle a rival, finally subduing Maui a few years later.
On November 26, 1778, explorer Captain James Cook became the first European to see Maui. Cook never set foot on the island because he was unable to find a suitable landing. The first European to visit Maui was the French admiral Jean-Francois de La Perouse , who landed on the shores of what is now known as La Perouse Bay on May 29, 1786. More Europeans followed: traders, whalers, loggers (e.g., of sandalwood) and missionaries. The latter began to arrive from New England in 1823, settling in Lahaina, which at that time was the capital. They clothed the natives, banned them from dancing hula, and greatly altered the culture. The missionaries taught reading and writing, created the 12-letter Hawaiian alphabet, started a printing press in Lahaina, and began writing the islands' history, which until then was transmitted orally Ironically, the missionaries both altered and preserved the native culture. The religious work altered the culture while the literacy efforts preserved native history and language. Missionaries started the first school in Lahaina, which still exists today: Lahainaluna Mission School, which opened in 1831.
At the height of the whaling era (1843–1860), Lahaina was a major whaling center with anchorage in Lahaina Roads; in one season over 400 ships visited Lahaina with 100 berthed at one time. Ships tended to stay for weeks rather than days, which explains the drinking and prostitution in the town at that time, against which the missionaries vainly battled. Whaling declined steeply at the end of the 19th century as petroleum replaced whale oil.
Kamehameha's descendants reigned until 1872. They were followed by rulers from another ancient family of chiefs, including Queen Liliuokalani who ruled in 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown. One year later, the Republic of Hawaii was founded. The island was annexed by the United States in 1898 and made a territory in 1900. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state in 1959.
In 1937, Vibora Luviminda trades union conducted the last labor strike of an ethnic nature in the Hawaiian Islands against four Maui sugarcane plantations, demanding higher wages and the dismissal of five foremen. Manuel Fagel and nine other strike leaders were arrested, and charged with kidnapping a worker. Fagel spent four months in jail while the strike continued. Eventually, Vibora Luviminda made its point and the workers won a 15% increase in wages after 85 days on strike, but there was no written contract signed.
Maui was centrally involved in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a staging center, training base, and for rest and relaxation. At the peak in 1943-44, more than 100,000 soldiers were there. The main base of the 4th Marine Division was in Haiku. Beaches (e.g., in Kīhei) were used to practice landings and train in marine demolition and sabotage.
The island experienced rapid population growth through 2007, when Kīhei was one of the most rapidly growing towns in the United States (see chart, below). The island attracted many retirees and many others came to provide services to them and to the rapidly increasing number of tourists. Population growth produced its usual strains, including traffic congestion, housing affordability, and access to water.
Most recent years have brought droughts and the ʻĪao aquifer is being drawn from rates above 18 million U.S. gallons (68,000 m3) per day, possibly more than the aquifer can sustain. Recent estimates indicate that the total potential supply of potable water on Maui is around 476 million U.S. gallons (1,800,000 m3) per day, many times greater than any foreseeable demand.
Sugar cane cultivation once used over 80% of the island's water supply (The Water Development Plan of Maui, 1992 – Present?). One pound of refined sugar requires one ton of water to produce. Water for sugar cultivation comes mostly from the streams of East Maui, routed though a network of tunnels and ditches hand dug by Chinese labor in the 19th century. In 2006, the town of Paia successfully petitioned the County against mixing in treated water from wells known to be contaminated with both EDB and DBCP from former pineapple cultivation in the area (Environment Hawaii, 1996). Agricultural companies have been released from all future liability for these chemicals (County of Maui, 1999). In 2009, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and others successfully argued in court that sugar companies should reduce the amount of water they take from four streams.
In 1974 Emil Tedeschi of the winegrower family of Calistoga,Napa Valley established the first and only Hawaiian commercial winery, the Tedeschi Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch.
In the first decade of the 21st century, controversies over whether to continue rapid real-estate development, so-called "vacation rentals" in which homeowners rent their homes to visitors, and the Super Ferry preoccupied local residents. In 2009, the county approved a 1,000 unit development in South Maui in the teeth of the financial crisis. Vacation rentals are now strictly limited, with greater enforcement than previously. The Super Ferry, which offered transport between Maui and Oahu is now defunct, killed by a court decision that required environmental studies from which Governor Linda Lingle had exempted the operator.
The two major industries on Maui are agriculture and tourism. However, government research groups and high technology companies have discovered that Maui has a business environment favorable for growth in those sectors. Agriculture value-added enterprises are growing rapidly.
Coffee, macadamia nuts, papaya, tropical flowers, sugar and fresh pineapple are just some of Hawaii's premium exports and are a great example of its diversified agriculture. Maui Land & Pineapple Company and Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company[ (HC&S, a subsidiary of Alexander and Baldwin Company) dominate agricultural activity. HC&S produces sugarcane on about 37,000 acres (150 km2) of the Maui central valley, the largest sugarcane operation remaining in Hawaii.
A controversial feature of Maui sugarcane production is the harvesting method of controlled cane field fires for nine months of the year. Burns reduce the crop to bare canes just before harvesting. The fires produce smoke that towers above the Maui central valley most early mornings, and ash (locally referred to as "Maui snow") that is carried downwind (often towards north Kīhei). In November 2009 Maui Land & Pineapple Company announced it was ceasing pineapple growing operations on Maui effective January 1, 2010.
The Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) in Kihei is a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Center which is managed by the University of Hawaii. It provides more than 10,000,000 hours of computing time per year to the research, science, and military communities.
Another promoter of high technology on Maui is the Maui Research and Technology Center, also located in Kihei. The MRTC is a program of the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC),an agency of the State of Hawaii, whose focus is to facilitate the growth of Hawaii's commercial high technology sector.
Maui is also an important center for advanced astronomical research. The Haleakala Observatory was Hawaii's first astronomical research and development facility at the Maui Space Surveillance Site (MSSS) electro-optical facility. "At the 10,023 feet summit of the long dormant volcano Haleakala, operational satellite tracking facilities are co-located with a research and development facility providing superb data acquisition and communication support. The high elevation, dry climate, and freedom from light pollution offer virtually year-round observation of satellites, missiles, man-made orbital debris, and astronomical objects."
The unemployment rate reached a low of 1.7% in December, 2006, rising to 9% in March 2009.
The Maui Rugby team has teams in Rugby sevens, rugby league rugby and rugby union.
The big tourist spots in Maui include the Hana Highway, Haleakala National Park, and Lahaina.
The Hāna Highway runs along the east coast of Maui, curving around many mountains and passing by black sand beaches and waterfalls. Haleakalā National Park is home to Haleakala, a dorman volcano. Lahaina is one of the main attractions on the island with an entire street of shops and restaurants which lead to a wharf where many set out for a sunset cruise or whale watching journey. Snorkeling can be done at almost any beach along the Maui coast. Suffing and windsurfing are also popular on Maui.
The main tourist areas are West Maui (Ka’anapali, Lahaina, Napili-Honokowai, Kahana, Napili, Kapalua), and South Maui (Kihei, Wailea-Makena). The main port of call for cruise ships is located in Kahului. A smaller port can be found in Maʻalaea Harbor located between Lahaina and Kihei.
Maui County welcomed 2,207,826 tourists in 2004 rising to 2,639,929 in 2007 with total tourist expenditures north of US$3.5 billion for the Island of Maui alone. While the island of O’ahu is most popular with Japanese tourists, the Island of Maui appeals to visitors mostly from the U.S. mainland and Canada: in 2005, there were 2,003,492 domestic arrivals on the island, compared to 260,184 international arrivals.
While winning many travel industry awards as Best Island In The World in recent years concerns have been raised by locals and environmentalists about the overdevelopment of Maui. A number of activist groups, including Save Makena have gone as far as taking the government to court to protect the rights of local citizens.
Throughout 2008 Maui suffered a major loss in tourism compounded by the spring bankruptcies of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines. The pullout in May of the second of three Norwegian Cruise Line ships also hurt. Pacific Business News reported a $166 million loss in revenue for Maui tourism businesses.