You may already know that Maalaea is the charming harbor town nestled between Mauna Kahalawai (or the West Maui Mountains) and Maalaea Bay. Only 7 miles from Kihei and 15 miles from Lahaina, and part of the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, it’s renowned for its excellent location, whale activity each winter, and fabulous trade winds. But there’s so much more to know about this sunny little village!
Maalaea’s Early History
Maalaea had a notable role in Maui’s history as early as 1793, as the location where cattle first disembarked onto the island. By 1910, Maalaea General Store opened its doors to provide goods for the local fishing community and the workers from Wailuku Sugar Company. Maui’s first airport was also established in Maalaea, in 1929 (although the dangers presented by the nearby mountains resulted in the relocation of the airport in 1938).
World War II and Beyond
At least two Marine divisions used Maalaea Bay for ship-to-shore landing practice before the 1945 battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The 1950s then saw the construction of the small boat harbor that exists today. An interisland ferry service operated in Maalaea in the late 1970s, and the harbor now serves as the departure point for many of Maui’s sailing, fishing, whale watching, and sunset dinner cruises.
Amazing Surf Breaks
On top of everything else, Maalaea boasts one of the fastest rideable surf breaks in the world! During south swells, surfers flock to the wave known as Freight Trains, a marvel that breaks over a shallow reef when conditions are right.
Walkable Small Town
As of the 2020 census, Maalaea’s 7.8 square miles were home to just 310 residents, who enjoy the convenience of being within walking distance of the Maui Harbor Shops, Maui Ocean Center aquarium, and Maui Golf & Sports Park amusement center. Haycraft Park, which connects Maalaea Beach to Sugar Beach, also gives residents direct access to the longest uninterrupted stretch of beach on the island. This tiny-but-mighty community might just be Maui’s best-kept secret!
Leslie MacKenzie Smith, REALTOR(S), RS-42147