3/31/22: Onto Marvelous Maui!

Family and friends,

After spending eight fantastic days on Kauai, I didn’t know what to expect to see on Maui, how it could possibly compare visually with the other island’s stunning Napali Coast and its gorgeous Waimea Canyon. After being on Maui for just one day, Steven and I knew the island known as the Valley Paradise had a more understated beauty with idyllic farm vistas that stretched for miles and miles, the very impressive Iao Needle, and a picturesque coastal walk.

All the best to you and your loved ones,


Steven and I loved the view of the Hawaiian island of Maui and its wind turbines on our approach from Kauai.

Janina: I thought of you when we picked up our rental car and, because the car we’d reserved was no longer available, were “upgraded” to this convertible. I was so, so excited as I don’t think I had ever been in a convertible before and the thought of my hair blowing in the wind with the roof down while driving down Maui’s highways sounded blissful beyond belief. I now believe more in the adage “Be careful what you wish for” as the car had too many problems to list here. We ended up returning it hours later for a Skittles-lime green KIA Mom-type car that was perfect for us old folks!

Under the airport flight path was the  tranquil 235-acre Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. We must have been living so, so right as the dates on the sign for the Open Period were only from August 31st-March 31st and we were there that last day of March!

The Sanctuary, once a royal fishpond believed to have been built around 1500,  is a waterfowl sanctuary home to over fifty species of birds, including three endangered Hawaiian bird species. One was the ae’o or Hawaiian stilt. The pond was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.

We didn’t see more than a handful of birds at Kanaha so were relieved we didn’t travel out of the way to visit!

En route to the Iao Valley, we stopped in Wailuku, the valley’s historic gateway, to see the Bailey House Museum, named for the missionary and sugar planter Edward Bailey.

Since the early 19th-century, Hawaiian land snails have been extensively studied and collected. This collection was so important because land snails have largely disappeared once European settlers introduced aliens that preyed upon the snails and shell collectors like Bailey had a serious effect on the shell population.

The Hokule’a or Star of Joy was a copy of a double-hulled canoe that was named for the brightest star in the universe. It may have been a guide for navigators returning to Hawaii from long voyages to the Southern Pacific.

I hadn’t realized that eating was considered a time of special pleasure among the island’s chiefly classes. Religious beliefs demanded that men eat separately from women. Men sat cross-legged with their feet tucked under their legs and their knees serving as armrests.

Conversely, women had to sit with their knees together and their feet to one side extending backward.

Unsurprisingly, fish was one of the chief foods of the Hawaiians. Using nets or lines, they fished from the shore or fished along the reefs from lightweight canoes and faster ones for deep-sea fishing.

Kamapua’a was a supernatural being that was part man and part pig. As a man, he was tall and handsome with sparkling eyes. As a pig, he/it could be small or large as a mountain.

The circa 1900, 33-foot-long Honaunau fishing canoe was built of one koa log in Kona. The original adze marks could still be seen in the hull. The canoe’s Calabash shape was unique and no longer being made. The 600-pound Honaunau was one of the last koa fishing canoes of this type.

In the lush Iao Valley was Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens, a beautiful public park that contained displays honoring the cultures that contributed to modern Maui. The park’s name referred to the infamous Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790 between Kamehameha I and Maui King Kahekili. 

African diaspora: After learning so much about Hawaii’s inhabitants while on Kauai, it was a bit of a shock to find out that African settlers actually arrived in Hawaii well before the missionaries in 1820. Whaling ships arrived in various parts of the islands up to 1880 carrying descendants of Black Portuguese men from Cape Verde Islands, the Caribbean, and slaves and free Blacks from the Northeast US.

Blacks in the state made contributions, and had success, in the whaling industry, medicine, sports, law, social work, the military, science, etc – in all facets of what comprises the island state. Hawaii-born Barack Obama reached the ultimate plateau when he became President in 2008.

One of the prominent Blacks in Hawaii was T. McCants Stewart, an attorney in King Kalalaua’s cabinet, who helped draft the Organic Act for the new territory of Hawaii. He also assisted Hawaiians to regain their lost properties.

Korean immigrants: The temple honored the first Korean immigrants who arrived in Honolulu in 1903.

Portuguese immigrants represent Maui’s earliest link to European culture. The country’s heritage, from food to music to politics, is evident throughout the state today.

How I would love to return to Portugal someday to see more of the exquisite tilework.

Chinese exhibit: Buildings like this were important community exchange centers in rural China. Farmers entered these ‘cooling gazebos’ to rest from toiling in the fields and also catch up on their neighbors’ news. Though Chinese immigrants initially worked in the sugar fields, Chinese-Americans are now active in all aspects of Maui’s contemporary life. 

This Kwai mi lychee tree was planted in 1989 to commemorate the 200 years since the first arrival of Chinese immigrants in Hawaii. 

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, considered the Father of the Modern Chinese Revolution, was once a resident of Maui. He arrived in Honolulu at the age of 12 in 1879, not speaking a word of English, but received second prize in an English grammar competition less than three years later!

Japanese exhibit: The first Japanese immigrants set foot on Hawaii’s shores and started in the sugar industry in 1924. When that immigration was effectively ended by a new American immigration law, 200,000 Japanese had already come to Hawaii. Some then returned to Japan or moved on to the mainland while others remained, becoming the pioneer generation of Japanese in Hawaii.

Beautiful Kepaniwai was a great place to celebrate the diverse heritage of Hawaii’s immigrants as well as the original people inhabiting the islands. 

A little further on was the Iao Valley State Monument where Hawaiians gathered a thousand years ago to celebrate and honor the bounty of Lono, the god of agriculture. Visitors began coming to the valley more than a hundred years ago to witness its natural beauty. It has since become recognized as a very special place for both its spiritual value and spectacular scenery.

We saw few swimmers in the Kahawai or stream because of the threat of flash floods in the fast-flowing water.

It wasn’t surprising that Iao Valley was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1972 because it possessed “exceptional value as an illustration of the nation’s natural heritage and contributed to a better understanding of the environment.”

You think?!!

After 133 steps, we reached the top where we were thankfully rewarded with a great view of the 2,250-foot-high peak of Iao Needle, also known as Kuka’emoku, which was used as a lookout by warriors during periods of warfare. Some of the Maui warriors retreated here from the forces of Kamehameha I during the battle of Keaniwai.

From upland Maui, we returned to the shore and the majestic Waikapu Valley, a fertile expanse that served as an agricultural hub during Maui’s sugarcane era. Unlike anything we saw on Kauai, there were miles upon miles of farmland here on Maui.

We stopped at Maui Tropical Plantation which got its start as a venue constructed to showcase the island’s loveliest botanicals. 

The plantation was many things for many people: an entertainment center with a zipline, a fine restaurant, magical views, a trolley tour through the 40 crops cultivated in the gardens, great shopping opportunities, and, for us, the chance to view farm machinery refashioned into works of art!

In the plantation’s Gear Pond, we learned that sugarcane was commercially harvested for over 150 years on Maui. These antique pieces, salvaged from the Wailuku Sugar Mill and Puunene Sugar Mill after they closed, were then integrated throughout the property to remind visitors of the state’s rich history of sugarcane production on Maui.

The Gear Pond displayed several gears, each weighing 12 tons, which worked in tandem with the even heavier flywheels on the bridges to turn the cane roller which pressed and extracted raw liquid from the cane stalks. 

Refining raw cane into syrup relied heavily on water and heat. These riveted pipes aided in that process. 

The Hawaii Cane and Sugar Mill in Pu’unene was the state’s last mill to operate, making its final sugar shipment in 2016 after 115 years of operation. Before the arrival of railroads, most of Maui’s sugar was transported via a small waterway.

Five big sugar companies, including C. Brewer, the previous owner of Maui Tropical Plantation, not only dominated the sugar industry but also Hawaii’s economic landscape.

It was sweet to read that the plantation ducks were considered part of the ‘ohana or family.

As we wandered through the plantation, we spotted betel nut palms.

What a joy seeing this grove ofover25 varieties of plumeria trees, something we’d never seen before.

Our convertible wannabe from the beginning of the post!

The Kealia Coastal Boardwalk was the perfect way to end our first day on Maui as Google Maps had our original destination of the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in the wrong location.

From the boardwalk, we had stunning views of Ma’alaea Bay.

A sign said the pond across the road was the largest natural pond that remained on Maui and the mudflats on this side of the road were all designated as Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. However, there was no public access to the pond itself, in spite of what Google Maps said.

In the distance were the wind turbines we’d flown over that morning.

The water chemistry of Kealia Pond changes as it shrinks and expands. No native fish can withstand its high salinity, low oxygen, and changing temperatures when water levels rise. Because African tilapia can tolerate extreme water conditions and can eat anything in the pond, they out-compete other fish as well as the endangered coot and stilt.

After reaching the end of the boardwalk, we walked back along the beach.

I think Steven’s beverage of choice that night, a Big Wave beer, got a thumb’s up!

Next post: Kahekili Beach and whale watching from Lahaina.

Posted on April 25th, 2022, from our home in Denver after a smattering of snow overnight helped boost Colorado’s precipitation to 0.01″, the driest April since 1963.


4 thoughts on “3/31/22: Onto Marvelous Maui!

  1. I may have mentioned before (I think) but we met some Maui residents in India a few years ago and, theoretically at least, have an open invite to visit. Also, my buddy of 40-odd years is a regular visitor and lists it as one of his favourite places on Earth. So all in all I’ve been really looking forward to reading your posts and this first one has done a lot to increase our interest! (Footnote…..sitting here in Muslim territory during Ramadan I’m more than a little jealous when I see a photo of someone drinking beer!)


  2. Yes, you did mention having friends in Maui that you met in India. I’m hoping that the next few posts might pique your interest even more as I can certainly understand why your friend has long admired the island known as the Valley Paradise. IF and when you do visit, I wonder if the Kanaha Wildlife Sanctuary might have more birds than we saw and also whether the Kealia Pond is open. Give a pass, though, to both the Bailey House Museum and Maui Tropical Plantation as were both of minimal interest compared to what we later found on the island. The Iao Valley is a keeper, though!


  3. That valley landscape is stunning and I found the exhibits you describe at Kepaniwai fascinating as I knew very little of Hawaiian history and settlement there. I’m not surprised you exchanged that car. It may look glamourous but it doesn’t look comfortable or great if you’re transporting luggage!


  4. The Iao Valley and Needle were indeed absolutely stunning, Sarah. I am happy that you also found the info on the immigrant cultures that comprise present-day Hawaii of interest.

    The convertible was a total disaster – filthy inside, minuscule trunk, no water bottle holders, extraordinarily uncomfortable, and a weak engine – apart from that, it was great!


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