Now’s the Time for a Maui Vacation: Tips for Visiting Central Maui
We’ve reached the last installment – my fourth and final post in a series highlighting ways to spend your Maui vacation while Lāhainā heals from the recent wildfires. So far, I’ve covered South Maui, the Upcountry region, and Hāna. Last but definitely not least is central Maui, including the town of Wailuku and its surrounding regions.
First, Some Background
Wailuku is situated at the foot of Mauna Kahālāwai, usually referred to as the West Maui Mountains. The area is notable in Hawaiian history as the site of the battle in which King Kamehameha I conquered Maui, on his way to uniting all of the islands into a single kingdom.
At the Halekiʻi-Pihana Heiau State Monument, visitors to Wailuku can still see the remains of two heiau (ceremonial/religious structures) used by Maui’s last ruling chief, Kahekili. And for those who want to explore even more of Hawaiʻi’s past through art and artifacts, there’s Hale Hoʻikeʻike at the Bailey House, a missionary home constructed in 1833, which the Maui Historical Society currently maintains as a museum.
By the 1860s, Wailuku had developed into a hub of Hawaiʻi’s sugar industry, attracting workers from China, Korea, Japan, and Europe. And by 1905, the thriving community had become the seat of Maui County (which also includes the islands of Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi).
Now on Hawaiʻi’s Register of Historic Places, ʻĪao Theater opened in Wailuku in 1928, originally as a home to both movies and vaudeville acts. Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra made appearances there in USO shows during World War II, and in its current evolution, it hosts community-based theater productions that are popular among Maui residents.
More About Today’s Wailuku
Current-day Wailuku is the home of not only historical attractions, state and local government offices, and Maui Memorial Medical Center (the Valley Isle’s primary hospital), but a variety of stores, antiques and art, and restaurants. A stroll around town offers a unique shopping experience, complete with mom-and-pops like the Request Music record store, boutiques like Paradise Now, and Native Intelligence, a source for Hawaiian clothing, jewelry, books, musical instruments, and hula implements. And with dining options like Wailuku Coffee Company, SixtyTwo MarcKet, and 808 on Main, you certainly won’t leave hungry!
While you’re in the Wailuku area, be sure to visit the ʻĪao Valley State Monument, where a paved, non-strenuous 0.6-mile loop trail leads to Kūkaʻemoku (also known as ʻĪao Needle), a 1,200-foot-tall rock formation. Or if you’d like to venture a little farther into the mountains for a longer, more challenging hike, try the Waiheʻe Ridge Trail. This 4-mile out-and-back trek is strenuous! But the views are absolutely spectacular, from the West Mauis’ waterfalls to the breathtaking coastline – with everything from cows and horses to rainbow eucalyptus and Cook pine trees in between.
As you leave central Maui, stop off at Maui Tropical Plantation to enjoy a tram ride, a zipline tour, an extensive farmers’ market and gift shop, local coffee, and local art. The plantation’s restaurant, Café o Lei, also serves excellent breakfast, lunch, and dinner with magnificent mountain views.
Thanks for following my blog post series about Maui’s most visit-worthy areas! If you still find yourself with questions about this incredible island, please reach out to me any time.
Pamela Reader, Realtor Broker