Maui History

Around the time of the Dark Ages in Europe, on the other side of the world the legendary Polynesian navigator, Hawai’iloa, was making wide ranging voyages of exploration in open boats. In one such voyage, he stumbled upon the Hawaiian islands. Struck with its beauty, Hawai’iloa returned home and organized a colonizing expedition, made up of his family and eight other navigators.

Maui history begins shortly after the Polynesian expedition settled on the Island of Hawaii, which they named after Hawai'’iloa. Hawai'iloa then named the island of Maui after his son, who bore the name of a legendary Polynesian hero. The Polynesians introduced the Kapu System, a code of honor and conduct, which governed Hawaiian life for the next several centuries.

Modern Maui History

Modern Maui history began with King Piilani, who united all of Maui in the early 15th century. Then in 1790, the famous Hawaiian King Kamehameha I invaded Maui and defeated Kahekili - Maui’'s last king. Kamehameha then made Lahaina the new capital of the unified Hawaiian Kingdom. For half a century, Lahaina served as seat of Hawaiian government, while at the same time, it became a whaling center and served as anchorage for as many as 500 ships at a time in the mid-19th century.

Early Industries in Maui

Whaling was one of two major industries that dominated Maui in the 19th century, the other being sugar. Maui’'s first sugar mill opened in 1828 and brought in plantation workers from Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Europe. This melting pot was the source of modern Hawaii’'s multi-ethnic culture.

We recommend the Lahaina Historic Trail as a way to get close to Maui history. It’'s a self-guided tour over 55 acres of Lahaina, covering the highlights of Hawaiian history and many National Historic Landmarks.

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