Along with being a beautiful tropical island with soft sandy beaches, Maui is also a place of fascinating history, from ancient times when chiefs fought over the fertile land to more recent days, when missionaries and sugar plantations changed life forever. No trip is complete without a visit to at least one historical site in Maui, and the glimpses of the past you experience will stay with you for a long time to come. Depending what part of the island you’re on, and your personal interests, you’re sure to come away learning something you hadn’t expected when you visit a historic site on Maui.
Pre-Western Contact Life
In ancient days, the lives of the Hawaiian people were governed by the wishes of the aliʻi and the powerful priests. Many temples, or heiau, were built to honor different ceremonies and gods. Possibly one of the largest such temples in all Polynesia is Piʻilanihale Heiau at Kahanu Garden, part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. This massive rock structure took over 300 years to be completed, starting in the late 13th century. This historic site on Maui is located at the 31-mile marker along the road to Hana.
While visitors are welcomed to the heiau, please bear in mind that this and other ancient structures are still considered sacred to the majority of Hawaiʻi’s residents to this day. Please respect our history and tradition by not climbing on the structures, moving rocks, or leaving non-biodegradable offerings. Treat them as you would a church.
Among the first Christian missionaries to Hawaiʻi were the Baldwin family. Their legacy is still an important part of Maui’s landscape and history, both as missionaries and business owners. A great place to get a sense of this part of our history is by a visit to the historic Baldwin Home Museum. Completed in 1835, it’s the oldest standing building on the island of Maui. A second story was built in 1849, resulting in the current historic site on Maui. The house offers a view into missionary life, as well as life in a traditional Hawaiian village. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Maui Nei Native Expeditions
For visitors with a deeper interest in Hawaiʻi’s past, particularly traditional life, how about a cultural tour experience with Maui Nei Native Expeditions? With tours in Lahaina and Kaʻanapali, you will be immersed in legends, lore, and history. They also offer a three-hour cultural arts immersion, for those who want to learn more about indigenous skills such as poi pounding and bamboo stamping.
Enrich your visit by stepping back in time at one of the many historic sites on Maui!