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Maui: Hawaii's Valley Isle   by Kelly Stoneman


At 728 square miles, Maui is the second largest island in the Hawaiian chain, and is actually formed from two separate volcanic eruptions. The first volcano became the West Maui Mountains and has been extinct for over a million years. The other, Haleakala, is considered by experts to be dormant. Lava flows and natural erosion on the land eventually formed an isthmus, or bridge, connecting the two land masses that is now Central Maui, hence the nickname "Valley Isle". Maui was originally settled by Polynesian voyagers traveling from Tahiti and the Marquesas, who braved the seas in outrigger canoes with only the stars and the birds for navigation. These new settlers became farmers and fishermen and built new lives, including places of worship (Heiau), fishponds and even used aqueduct irrigation systems to water their taro farms (Lo'i). While we are uncertain exactly when these first brave souls touched ground, archeological evidence has been dated at A.D. 700 and earlier. In 1778, Captain James Cook set sail from the waters of Tahiti on a fateful journey that led to the "discovery" of the small group of islands Cook would later name the Sandwich Islands. Almost overnight, the lives of the natives were transformed as subsequent explorers brought with them diseases the islanders had never been exposed to, wreaking havoc on the local population. These new arrivals also brought something else the islanders had not yet been exposed to, cannons and guns. While there had previously been battle between the islands, this created a very new way to fight, indeed. In 1790, King Kamehameha began using these new weapons and would eventually become the first leader to unite all of the islands under one rule. Lahaina, Whalers & Missionaries

Kamehameha's one-time Capitol of Hawaii, the historic port of Lahaina has quite a colorful past! In the early 1800's, as the first whaling ships found their way to Maui's shores, sailors found an idyllic paradise, exotic women, intoxicating spirits and tropical breezes. Lahaina would eventually replace Honolulu Harbor as the favorite resting place for the whalers, playing host to more than 500 visiting whaling ships annually.

The sailor's free-spirited life-style was soon to be challenged with the arrival of the first Missionaries in 1823. These new visitors to the island brought about great change in social morays and were able to effect missionary taboos on "womanising" and public drunkenness, keeping them at constant odds with the sailors.

Today, Lahaiana Harbor plays host to a number of cruise ships, yachts, sailboats and even a passenger submarine. The old buildings are occupied by oceanfront shops and restaurants and the rich history is kept alive with guided and self-guided walking tours, photographs and a surprising number of historic homes, churches, museums, original courthouse and prison. Lahaina is also the home of the Maui Myth & Magic theatre and their original production "Ulalena".

Nature & Eco-Tourism

The natural beauty of Maui's rainforest areas, volcanic craters and waterfalls have more recently made the island a popular destination for the eco-tourist. The Eastern shores of Hana and the slopes of Haleakala offer challenging hiking, cascading waterfalls & pools and a host of native and non-native flora and fauna while the lava flows of South and West shores offer stark landscapes and panoramic views that are stunning settings for hiking, kayaking and horseback riding.

A number of ranches, hiking companies and local guide services make the dream of really exploring the island an easy reality for almost every skill level. There are also a number of well-written guidebooks that can assist the budget traveler or those who prefer to "go it alone".

Beaches & Leisure

Second only to Oahu as a visitor destination, Maui has had the distinction of being voted "Best Island in the World" the readers of both Condé Nast Traveller and Travel and Leisure magazines for 10 years in a row. Surrounded by over 120 miles of coastline, warm Pacific waters and some of the most sought after beaches in the world, this is a water enthusiasts' dream come true.

Visitors to the island are able to enjoy a wide array of leisure activities, including snorkeling from the beach, boating tours from Lahaina, Maalaea and Kihei harbors, jet skiing, parasailing and seasonal Humpback Whale watching. The monster waves of Jaws and perfect conditions at Hookipa Beach have made Maui's North Shore a Mecca for surfers and windsurfers the world over, creating an awesome spectacle for those who prefer to stay on the beach and watch.

Maui's Top Visitor Attractions:

Molokini Crater & Marine Preserve Heavenly Hana Town Haleakala Crater & National Park

Resources: www.hawaiiactive.com, www.hawaii.gov

About the Author

While always writing poetry and short stories in high school, my interest in writing piqued upon entering the University of South Carolina. There I joined a creative writing club and began to have short "essays" published. Continuing to write for pleasure after school, I began writing professionally for a Maritime and Hawaiian Art dealer. My interest in copy work and web design led me to work for a variety of web sites.

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