Maui’s Magnificent Mountains

Maui, the “Magic Isle,” is really two mountain masses that run together in a low-lying central isthmus, or valley. The West Maui Mountains, old and intensively eroded into razor-

sharp ridges and steep canyons, lie considerably lower than their tower­ing East Maui neighbor—a single broad-shouldered peak called Haleakala. Actually a dormant vol­cano, Haleakala rises more than 10,000 feet above sea level, high enough to receive a cap of snow if winter conditions are just right. Mea­suring more than 16,000 feet from its base on the Pacific sea floor, this mountain, whose name literally means “the house of the sun,” can make an accurate claim to being the tallest single mountain on Earth.

From sea level, you can make the drive to the summit in about an hour and a half. Here, you find yourself in an ecological marvel, staring at a stark lunar landscape and the bizarre dishes and domes of “Science City,” an astronomical research facility. Haleakala is one of only two places in the world where the rare silver-sword plant grows (the other is on the Big Island). Designated a national park, it also boasts a network of well-maintained trails, and is a popular site for hiking, camping and horse­back riding. Although Haleakala’s last eruption was in 1790, it still has an awe-inspiring presence on Maui.

A wide plateau links East Maui with the much older and smaller vol­cano known as the West Maui Mountains. Towns and roads cling to the shore on this side of the island, but only a daunting hike or helicopter ride can reveal the .spectacular wa­terfalls and high walls of its often cloud-cloaked interior. All day long, the- mood of the West Maui Moun­tains changes dramatically. Steep can­yons arc often crowned with mists, clouds and streams of sunlight threaded with rainbows.

When you move to the dry, lee ides of the two great mountains, you arc rewarded with a sight unequaled in the world—starting from the right as inii gaze out across the still blue water arc Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and tiny crescent-shaped Molokini. Look far enough to the left and you can also see the snow­capped tips of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii— faint images hovering on the hori­zon You are standing among a family of peaks, each of which has made a long, willful journey from the sea floor.

West Maui: Where Whales and Vacationers Play

The channel between Maui and its neighboring islands is calm and shallow. This is the winter home of the humpback whales, who arrive every October from the Bering Sea to give birth to their young. Whale-watch­ing cruises that leave from Maalaea and Lahaina harbors give you the opportunity to get a close-up view of these gentle giants and their ba­bies frolicking in the waves.

Humans play here, too. The wa­ters of West Maui are bright with spin­nakers and sleek sailboats, and just about everywhere you look, people are snorkeling, surfing, sport fishing and parasailing.

A lot of this activity begins and ends along the placid shoreline of Kaanapali. In ancient times, this three-mile stretch of perfect white sand was a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Today, a master-planned re­sort—including six hotels, six con­dominium villages and an open-air shopping complex called Whalers Village—offers guests the chance to live like royalty, too…in graceful Ha­waiian tranquility or in contemporary elegance. The resort’s two champi­onship golf courses are home to the Hyatt Regency Maui Senior PGA TOUR

Ka’anapali Classic Golf Tournament, and the interactive displays at Kaanapali’s Pacific Whale Museum pro­vide an unforgettable lesson on the natural history of Maui’s most famous annual visitors—the humpback whales.

Farther north lies Kapalua, another master-planned community compris­ing luxury hotels, condominiums, award-winning tennis complexes, championship golf courses (which host the Lincoln Mercury Kapalua PGA International Golf Tournament) and historic sites surrounded by 23,000 acres of growing pineapple. This region’s dramatic lava coastline includes five spectacular bays; in fact, the name Kapalua means “arms embracing the sea.” This resort is committed to both conservation and culture. Its three golf courses have been declared Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. The Kapalua Nature Society, which hosts the Earth Maui Nature Summit each year, has begun to offer visitors and resi­dents exclusive hikes into the West Maui Mountains.

The starring role on the West Maui stage is played by a charismatic little port town named Lahaina, which is a living museum of Hawaiian history and a national historic district. Kamehameha III built his palace here, the first seat of government in a united Hawaiian kingdom. In 1834, the Christian missionaries established Lahainaluna School, the oldest school west of the Rocky Mountains. They set up a printing press on the school grounds, and created the first writ­ten form of the Hawaiian language.

The missionaries fought sinfulness in Lahaina, less with the Hawaiians than with their own fellow New Englanders—rum-thirsty crews from whaling ships. For forty years, rowdy whalers stopped in Lahaina to load up on provisions and to make the most of their shore leave. During the peak whaling year of 1846, more than fifty vessels at a time anchored in the Lahaina roadstead. Testament to the town’s years as the capital of de­bauchery is a thick-walled prison where carousers in the nineteenth century were locked up until they sobered up and came to their senses.

The discovery of petroleum led to the demise of Hawaii’s whaling in­dustry in the 1850s—there was no longer a demand for whale oil to light lamps—and the harpooners vanished before their prey did. Lahaina’s tribute to whales is the Whale Museum of the Pacific at the Whalers Village Shopping Center in Ka’anapali. Har­poons, scrimshaw, ship’s logs and historic photographs are among the artifacts that make up the museum’s many fascinating exhibits.

In Lahaina, visitors can also hop aboard a real sugarcane train, dive beneath the waves in a submarine for a close look at neon-colored ma­rine life, shop for fine art, and dine and dance till the wee hours of the morning in the many lively restaurants and bars that line Front Street.

The Sunny South Shore

The sun always seems to shine on Maui’s southern coast; no wonder it’s a popular playground. Windsurfers, kayakers, swimmers and snorkelers bob in the waters off Kihei, and there’s usually a steady flow of traf­fic on South Kihei Road, the area’s main artery and commercial hub. There’s no question—Kihei is a booming community with a plethora of affordable vacation rentals, shops, restaurants and a string of great beaches to boot.

Further south you’ll find Maui’s third resort community, Wailea, with its grand hotels rising like fantasy palaces along a coastline dotted with lovely white sand beaches. Golf en­thusiasts are drawn to the resort’s three world-class links, two of which were designed by acclaimed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Junior.

Keep heading south and you’ll pass a few more smooth, broad beaches (Maui is certainly blessed with them), a pair of championship golf courses and Makena resort’s luxury hotel, the Maui Prince, which overlooks a secluded cove. The Prince recently expanded its meeting and banquet facilities to include a 5,200-square-foot ballroom that opens to lovely gardens and koi ponds. Its Prince Court restaurant is known throughout the Islands for its exquisite Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

beyond Makena, the road dead­ends in a vast, blistering black lava flow—a rugged remnant of Haleakala’s last eruption.

Wailuku and Kahului: The Not-So-Big Cities

On Maui’s central plain—largely planted in thick, waving fields of sugarcane—is the island’s commer­cial center, the twin towns of Kahului and Wailuku. The capital of Maui, Wailuku is low-rise and laid-back. Many of the businesses in town are mom-and-pop operations that have been run by the same families for three, sometimes four, generations. The historic Bailey House Museum and Ka’ahumanu Church allow you to step 150 years back in time to the days when missionaries walked Wailuku’s streets.

Ten minutes away by car, tucked back into the hills at the end of a relaxing, beautiful drive, Iao Valley State Park offers an easy way for visi­tors to nestle against the bosom of the West Maui Mountains. You’ll want to photograph the gurgling ‘Iao Stream, the breathtaking volcanic spire known as Tao Needle, and pretty Kepaniwai Park whose reconstructed houses honor each of the ethnic groups that, wave after wave, pioneered and settled Maui.

Upcountry Views

The northern (or windward) slopes of East Maui are laced with two-lane roads that wind their way over deep gulches and past blazing green pas­tures. This is rural Maui—Upcountry as most kama’aina call it. Here, sug­arcane and pineapple fields give way to cattle ranches, fields of flowers and picturesque farms that grow the world’s sweetest onions and other

agricultural crops.

With its charming shops, eateries and art galleries, Makawao rests in the heart of Upcountry. The town’s Old West look provides clues to the colorful history of the region.

A long, easy drive through Kula, Maui’s verdant farming district, brings you to 20,000-acre Ulupalakua Ranch, with its wide-open pasture-land, fabulous little general store and—of all things—a winery. The tasting room at Tedeschi Vineyards makes a fine turnaround point in a day of Upcountry exploring.

Heavenly Hana

The fabled road to Hana heads out of the hang-loose North Shore town of Paia, curves past Hookipa Beach Park (known as the Aspen of wind­surfing), then seems to depart the real world altogether. More than 600 hair­pin turns lead you gradually east­ward, into East Maui’s spectacular rain forests.

Along the way are postcard scenes aplenty—waterfalls plunge in natu­ral swimming pools just steps from

the road; cliffs soar over surging blue waves; bananas, guavas, liliko’i and other fruit are ripe and ready to be picked. Stop and look out over Ke’anae, a patchwork of taro fields planted on a lava peninsula that juts like a big black thumb into the pounding sea.

You then reach a town that’s more a state of mind than a place—Hana, which many consider to be the state’s “Most Hawaiian Place.” One reason, certainly, is its sheer natural beauty— a lovely, round bay; black sand and red sand beaches; flowers in full bloom everywhere.

Were it not for modern-day trap­pings, it would seem that Maui has not aged. It looks so fresh and vi­brant that everyone who visits feels they are the first to set foot on its shores; the first to see the radiant morning light over Haleakala; the first to see raindrops dust verdant Hana pastures; the first to see a full moon rise over the majestic West Maui Mountains. Of course, they are not. But on Maui, everyone is caught up in the magical spell of newness

Police, Ambulance, Fire: 911 Maui Visitors Bureau: 244-3530 or (toll free) 1-800-525-MAUI
Coast Guard: (toll free) 1-800-331-6176 Moloka’i Visitors Association: 553-3876 ot (toll-free) 1-800-
Weather Forecast: Maui, 877-5111; 800-6367
Moloka’i, 552-2477; LSno’i, 565-6033 Destination Lana’i: 565-7600
Marine conditions: 877-3477 Governor’s liaison: 243-5398
Time of Day: Maui, 242-0212; Mayor’s Office: 243-7855
Moloka’i, 553-9211; Airports:
Lana’i, 565-9211 Kahului, 872-3803 or 872-3893
Hospitals: Hfina, 248-8208
Hona Medical Center, 248-8294 Kopolua, 669-0623
Kula Hospital, 878-1221 Moloka’i, 567-6140
Maui Memorial Hospitol, 244-9056 Kalaupapa, 567-6331
Moloka’i General Hospital, 553-5331 Lana’i, 565-6757
Lana’i Community Hospital, 565-6411 Office of Consumer Protection: 984-8244


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