Resorty, historical, upscale and world class the area of West Maui has come a long way from the riches of whaling pineapple and sugar cane. Honoapiilani Highway links the area from Lahaina in the south to Kapalua in the north along a coastline that is scattered with sandy beaches and ocean views that are never farther than a glance away.
Preserved in sharp contrast to the nearby mega-modern resorts, Lahaina is a fascinating exploration of Maui's days as the capitol of the newly unified Hawaiian Kingdom when it was a bustling whaling center. Today, many of the historical sites exist wedged between bars, boutiques, restaurants, supermarkets, theatres and more.
One of the largest planned resorts in Hawaii Kaanapali lies a few minutes north. A vacation fantasy, Kaanapali is a gathering of high end hotels, shopping, vacation condominiums, golf courses and restaurants. It is the destination for tourists seeking to soak in the West Maui sun, surf and sand.
Continuing northward toward Kapalua, Kaanapali gives way to the more laid back and casual areas of Honokowai, Kahana and Napili. Budget vacation condominiums have staked their ground alongside beachfront estates, parks and mom and pop stores. Smaller apartments and private residences fill the upslope or mauka side of the highway.
Honoapiilani Highway eventually brings all who come to West Maui to the doorstep of the world famous resort of Kapalua. Serene and sophisticated, the resort has stellar views of Lanai, Molokai and the Piholo Channel. The resort is a collection of vacation homes, but the Ritz Carlton is the only hotel. Kapalua is known for the best golf facility in the islands along with championship tournaments in the winter.
Encompassing the area from Maalaea to Makena, the South Maui area is an eclectic collection of everything from inexpensive budget vacation rentals to five star world-class resorts all of which have an expanse of sun-drenched coastline and beautiful beaches in common.
Located just minutes from Central Maui, Maalaea is best known for the harbor is the launching spot Maui's most memorable experiences. Along with the din of activity on the waterfront, Maalaea is home to a small collection of waterfront condominiums, restaurants and a very popular aquarium called the Maui Ocean Center.
Farther south is the lively and bustling area of Kihei. One of the few areas where tourists and residents intermingle regularly, Kihei shoreline area is a clutter of budget vacation rentals, condos and mid-size hotels intermingled with schools, private apartments and residences. All are attracted by the beaches of Kamaole, Keawakapu and Charley Young that swell on the weekends with families, body boarders, surfers and picnickers. It is an area where quiet relaxed island living is accented with stellar south shore and sunset views.
Wailea is sophisticated and serene with world-class resorts and the beautiful sandy beaches have names like Ulua, Polo and Wailea and two golf courses. Shaded roadways and sidewalks line the entrances to world-class hotels with names like Fairmont, Four Seasons and Waldorf Astoria. Further down the road is Makena. The area is quiet and more private which envelopes native vegetation and soft white sandy shorelines. The area has a sprinkling of beachfront homes and estates and stretches of some of the more remote and undeveloped sandy shoreline on the island
Located on the neck of land that joins the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala, the Central Maui area is the heart of commerce and government on the island. Wailuku bustles with county and state workers during weekdays and enjoys festivals and events on several weekends throughout the year. In stark contrast to the post-modern, multi-story office buildings, Wailuku is home to several historical buildings including the Old Wailuku Courthouse, the Wailuku Library and the prominent Kaahumanu Church which began as a simple grass shack over 180 years ago and has evolved into the landmark wooden structure seen today along South High Street. Also in the area is the historical Iao Valley. Sacred and spiritual, the valley is home to the Maui's 250 foot rock monolith, trails, streams and parks. Those who call Wailuku home enjoy close proximity to work, beaches, entertainment, recreation and the unique small town island atmosphere.
Neighboring Kahului is a conglomeration of post-modern necessities and suburban areas that has resulted in a bustling center of commerce and neighborhoods. Home of the mainstays of island life including the Kahului Harbor, Kahului International Airport, Maui Community College, Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Maui Medical Center, two shopping malls and big-box stores. Kahului residents enjoy quiet neighborhoods, excellent schools, churches, beaches and parks to round out the good life on the Valley Isle.
Just six miles east of the Kahului Airport beginning at Spreckelsville and continuing along the Hana Highway through Paia to Haiku, the north shore of Maui is filled with history, heritage and beauty. The area originally consisted of the small fishing village of Paia until the latter part of the 19th century when the arrival of westerners with names like Alexander and Baldwin and Spreckels came seeking wealth in the planting and harvesting of pineapple and sugar cane. Along with plantation owners a multitude of immigrants arrived from countries including the Philippines, Japan and Portugal to settle in the area and work the fields and support the mills at Haiku, Paia and newly established Spreckelsville.
Today the north shore of Maui's a jumble of vacation rentals, surf shacks, plantation-era homes and multi-million dollar estates wedged between sugar cane fields and the sandy shoreline. The lushly vegetated and gentle sloping tropical terrain is filled with an abundance of ocean views and tropical fruit trees. The area swells each day with wind and wave surfers headed to some of the best and beautiful beaches on the island, tourists in rental cars passing through on day-trips to Hana and others who enjoy the funky beach atmosphere, restaurants and collection of shops that include unique boutiques, galleries and antiques.
There is no area that is more beautiful, sacred, historical and cultural on Hawaii's Valley Isle than East Maui. Neither is there any place that is more remote. Access to East Maui is a strenuous, weather sensitive three hour odyssey along tight turns, one-lane bridges and a narrow two-lane highway that hugs the cliffs and ravines from Haiku to Kipahulu. The rural windward terrain is nothing more than fantastic and many island visitors attempt the difficult drive to be rewarded with canopied rainforests, hidden waterfalls and fresh water streams each one more beautiful the one before. Unlike the other plantation towns on the island, Hana has origins as a self-sustained Hawaiian village, and is known as the birthplace of Kaahumanu, the favorite wife of King Kamehameha the Great the unifier of the Hawaiian Islands. Today the area is still a vibrant tight-knit community with strong cultural values that is centered around the tiny town of Hana. Hana has a small airport, one oceanfront resort, one gas station and less than a handful of mom and pop stores. What East Maui lacks in shopping, entertainment and nightlife is easily made up in serene vistas and the natural beauty of places like the seven sacred pools of Ohelo Gulch near Hana, the Pipiwai Trail and Charles Lindburgh's grave at Palapala Ho'omau Church in Kipahulu. Hana residents enjoy a traditional island lifestyle filled with culture, beauty and serenity.
Unparalleled views, exceptional weather along with a casual country atmosphere make upcountry Maui one of the more unique places in all of Hawaii. Located on the slopes of Hawaii's third highest peak, Haleakala, the area is quite different from the balmy beach communities on the island but just a short drive to some of the islands best beaches. Therefore, it is not unusual to drive past homes with wood burning fireplaces in the living room along with surfboards in the garages. At the lower elevations, Haliimaile is known for warmer temperatures and easier access to beaches. It is a secluded back road older community cut out of sugar cane fields with gentle rolling hills and quiet neighborhoods and a popular recreational facility. Pukalani and Makawao are the center/crossroads of upcountry life with roads linking Maui's North Shore to Kula and beyond. The areas of Kula, Ulupalakua and Kanaio are fantastically serene and secluded with narrow winding roads and uncluttered tropical landscapes, ranches and multi-million dollar estates. Upcountry has been ranch land for generations, and ranching is still very much a part of the community today. Makawao holds one of the best annual rodeo and parades in the islands. Upcountry also offers some of the best views in all of Hawaii. The elevations of anywhere between 1200 and 3000 feet breathtaking sunset Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe views are unobstructed. On a clear day on can even see as far as Oahu.