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Maui’s Small Towns: A Little Bit of History

Often famed for the beautiful white sand beaches that line its coastlines, Maui has become a world class destination for travelers. But what lies beyond the sun and surf is an Aloha spirit so pure in its nature that it lends the traveler a unique experience found nowhere else in the world, including other Hawaiian islands. Smiles are what greet the visitors of Maui and it is with these initial moments and impressions that the building blocks of a fantastic vacation are made.

To truly feel the spirit of Maui, one must visit the many, small eclectic towns that are scattered throughout the island. Each town reveals a small portion of Maui’s history to create a collage of past and present. Historic buildings, gigantic old trees and quaint churches are just a few colorings of the past that remain mixed with updated hints of luxury and romance.

Much like the large Banyan tree located in the center of town, the roots of Lahaina are deep in the heart of Maui. Lahaina town, on the west coast of Maui, was once the capital of Maui and home of the Kamehameha dynasty in the early 19th century. Lahaina became a central trading and fishing village before and after the missionaries arrived. Today, Lahaina has nearly 50 acres of historic districts, and a number of its buildings and structure are designated as National Historical Landmarks. There are plenty of cultural celebrations in Lahaina that reflect on this historically enchanted town.

Showcasing a melting pot of culture, diversity and race, Paia town offers a snapshot into the sugarcane past of Maui. In the mid 1800s this area was a camp for the many workers who came from all over the world to work and seek fortune within the sugarcane industry. Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, Portuguese, Russians, Germans and Scandinavians all flocked to these plantations bringing with them many traditions, customs and cuisines. This North Shore town was later discovered as one of the world’s best windsurfing locations and since then has attracted water enthusiasts from all over the world.

Within the green rolling hills of upcountry Maui lies a town with the true rustic charm of the old west. The cattle industry began when cows were given to king Kamehameha I from Captain George Vancouver. After a ten year “taboo” was placed on the slaughter of any cow, the population had grown so prolific that the cattle trade soon flourished. Long before there were cowboys on the mainland, Mexican “Paniolos” came to Hawaii to teach the locals how to herd cattle.

Each of these small towns has now lent itself to the tourism industry featuring gourmet restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops. But as you walk along these main streets you might just hear the calls of the Conch shell, the whistle from the mill or the holler of an old time rodeo whispering through the tropical breeze.