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Maui's Small Towns are Big Treasures

Maui's small towns offer a glimpse of daily island life with an easy going charm that elicits warm feelings from visitors and residents. The centers of commerce and social life, Maui's small towns continue to thrive as vital mixtures of family businesses passed down through generations and new enterprise, characterized by traditional architecture blended with contemporary structures.

Central Maui - The Island's Heartland

Wailuku, a commercial center and the seat of County government, is nestled at the foot of the dramatic West Maui Mountains, and is the gateway to lush I`ao Valley, once considered the scared burial ground of only worthy Hawaiian chiefs. The town's hilly streets wear a blend of the old and new. Known as the home of the "Mom & Pops," Wailuku's wooden storefronts showcase more than 40 family businesses that have been in continuous operation for generations.

A stroll along Market Street, where Mark Twain once lived, reveals some of the island's secret treasures at bargain prices. If you're looking for a gift from Maui, the difficulty here is not finding something but deciding which will fit in your suitcase. Wailuku is home to many manufactured and homegrown products that are sold throughout the world including manju, mochi, coffee, sushi, manapua, jams and jellies and dried fish.

A Rediscover Wailuku walking tour developed by Wailuku Main Street Association highlights more than 23 fascinating historic assets and an oral history project is being developed for all of Maui County. Representing the diverse cultures that shaped Wailuku's development and architecture, Wailuku's historical and cultural attractions are many: Bailey House "Ho'oike" Museum, Pihana Kalani Heiau, `Iao Needle, Tropical Gardens, John F. Kennedy Profile & Cultural Gardens, and the `Iao Theater, built in 1927, is the oldest of its kind in the state of Hawaii.

Nearby Wailuku lies the historical village of Waihee. Once was the site of the largest taro farm on Maui which ran from Waihee Valley Stream to Paukukalo, today's community anchors are Saint Anthony's Catholic Church and the small Waihee Store.

Maalaea, a small fishing village, is the site of the only remaining Shinto Japanese shrine in Hawaii dedicated to the fishing god Ebisu Sama. Surrounded by fields of sugar cane and the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, Maalaea borders on a bay favored by Maui's special winter visitors, the humpback whale.

Upcountry - A Piece of Heaven

Rolling hills and misty mountains unfold as cool breezes carry the scent of eucalyptus throughout the region known as Upcountry Maui. High on the slopes of Haleakala, Upcountry is covered with ranches and farmland and dotted with small towns. Kula, just below the volcano summit, offers spectacular sweeping views of Maui and the nearby islands of Kaho`olawe and Lana`i. Kula's most outstanding landmark, the brilliant white octagonal Holy Ghost Church built by Portuguese immigrants in 1894, has been recently restored and keeps stately watch over the area.The village of Keokea conveys the area's history of agriculture including cabbage, carnations, protea and famous Kula Onions. The Kwock Hing Society Temple in Keokea remains a memorable landmark and a visible sign of Chinese influence in an area that has been known as Maui's Chinatown.

Pa`ia, a historic coastal plantation town the island's north shore, has a rural ambiance that disguises its sophistication. As home to internationally famous Ho`okipa Beach Park, known as the "windsurfing capital of the world," Paia offers a variety of clothing stores, curio shops and restaurants. Its rich cultural heritage, like many of Hawaii's small towns, includes the influence of the sugar industry and the diverse cultures of those who immigrated to Maui.

One of the State's last paniolo towns, Makawao is replete with ranches, horses, cowboys, game birds and the Fourth of July Makawao Rodeo. Charming art galleries, boutiques, eateries and small shops offer the specialties of this area including cream puffs, nachos, Portuguese Sweet Bread, blown glass and Paniolo country wear and gear. In 1999, Makawao Town was voted one of the "Top 25 Arts Destinations in the U.S." Makawao's rustic setting adds to its rich tradition.

Hana - A Touch of Old Hawaii

Hana, on the eastern end of Maui, is considered the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontier. Visitors must cross 54 bridges and wind around 600 curves to reach Hana. Small towns, page 3

Along the way they are greeted by sparkling waterfalls, lush Hawaiian foliage, the taro patches at Keanae and Wailua and rich Hawaiian legends. In Hana, you will find Hawaii's largest heiau, Hale Piilani. It is now part of the tour of Kahanu Gardens, one of five National Tropical Botanical Gardens. The historic St. Sophia's Church is one of the landmarks that you've arrived in this Hawaiian community. Hasegawa General Store and Hana Ranch Store offer a variety of staples and souvenirs found only in the charming and remote village of Hana.

Moloka'i - The Friendly Isle

Kaunakakai, located on the island of Moloka'i, is a special experience and lives up to its reputation as "The Friendly Isle." A historic tour of the town developed by the Moloka`i Main Street Association is designed to let the walker appreciate the charm and sense of history Moloka'i offers. A place where you'll receive a wave from the friendly folks, Kaunakakai, is the base of day trips to Papohaku Beach, Waikolu Valley Lookout, Kamakou Preserve (home of native birds and endemic plants), Halawa Valley and Kalaupapa National Historic Park. The rural shops in this little town offer a variety of Moloka`i's best such as Moloka`i sweet bread, taro chips, poi and honey.

RESOURCES Tri-Isle Main Street Resource Center/Wailuku Main Street Association, Inc.,
Jocelyn Perreira, Executive Director/Program Co-ordinator
1942 Main Street, Suite 103, Wailuku, HI 96793 (808) 244-3888

Article Courtesy of the Maui Visitors Bureau

See also:
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