Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Maui
Looming volcanic eruptions, vanishing towns, and long-lost capital cities- one might find it hard to believe that these things could be associated with idyllic Maui. Yet, the Valley Isle’s storied history and unique characteristics just might surprise you. Bookmark these ten things you didn’t know about Maui, and blow your family away with these intriguing facts next time you’re on the island.
1. Maui’s massive volcano, Haleakala, will one day erupt again.
Although Haleakala is considered dormant, volcanologists say that a future eruption at Haleakala is inevitable- it’s not a matter of if, but when. Haleakala is thought to erupt every 200-500 years, and scientists believe the mountain still has some juice left. The last eruption occurred roughly 200 years ago, which means we might be due for a fresh lava flow. That being said, Haleakala won’t erupt in a fiery explosion like Mount St Helens (shield volcanoes like Haleakala don’t do that), and there will be plenty of warning signs before lava starts flowing. However, the probability of Haleakala erupting again is so significant that scientists are urging lava flow hazard zones to be put in place in East Maui. Experience Haleakala with professional tour guides and skip the drive up!
2. Maui is home to the oldest high school west of the Rocky Mountains.
Lahainaluna is a huge source of pride for Maui’s West Siders. Not only is the high school consistently at the top of the ranks for all sports (including surfing, which, believe it or not, is now a sanctioned high school sport on Maui), but Lahainaluna is the oldest high school west of the Rocky Mountains. Lahainaluna was first constructed in 1831 as a missionary high school for the children of Hawaiian royals. Today, the high school boasts the largest alumni base in the state of Hawaii. If you’re ever driving through Lahaina, keep your eyes peeled for a large red “L” etched into a hill that honors each year’s graduating class.
3. Lahaina was once the capital of Hawaii.
Lahaina was established as the capital of Hawaii in 1820. However, the capital was moved to Honolulu in 1845 during the reign of King Kamehameha II. This move was due to Honolulu’s sizeable protected harbor and Lahaina’s lack of ports. This makes Lahaina one of the most charming of Hawaii’s small historic towns. Read 8 reasons to stay in Lahaina.
4. The largest banyan tree in the United States is located on Maui.
Also located in Lahaina, this famous banyan tree was only eight feet tall when it was planted on April 24, 1873. Today, this mighty tree encompasses an entire city block and reaches 60 feet high. Yet, despite its 16 trunks, the famed Lahaina banyan tree is just one singular tree.
5. The West Maui “Mountains” are really just one giant eroded volcano.
Although the West Maui Mountains might appear to be a cluster of several volcanoes, this mountain range comprises just one eroded volcano- Mauna Kahalawai. Hundreds of thousands of years of rain and wind have carved massive valleys into the once-mighty volcano. As a result, the West Maui Mountains offer a glimpse of Haleakala in the distant future.
6. Kaho’olawe and Molokini were once used for target practice by the US military.
During WWII and the decades that followed, Maui’s neighbors of Kaho’olawe and Molokini were used by the US military for target practice. The bombing of Molokini ceased shortly after WWII, but Molokini’s back wall is still visibly scarred. The bombing of Kaho’olawe continued for another 50 years. The bombs dropped on the island were so intense that the island’s water table was cracked, and Kaho’olawe remains uninhabitable to this day. The bombing ended in 1990, but the island is still littered with unexploded ordinances. Cleaning up Kaho’olawe will take generations.
7. Maui is home to several different microclimate zones.
Conifer forests, arid lava deserts, and rainforests that see hundreds of inches of rain a year- it’s all part of the Maui package. The climate on the island can change within just a few miles. You can expect to find desert microclimates on the leeward sides of the island (Lahaina, Kihei, Kaupo), rainforest microclimates in the West Maui Mountains, and the Road to Hana, and mountainous climates on the slopes of Haleakala. this makes hiking in Maui truly unparalleled.
8. Maui is home to rare species that exist nowhere else on the planet.
From ultra-rare bird species to the otherworldly Haleakala greensword (a relative of the silversword), some of the most unique species in the world can be found on Maui- albeit in slim and dwindling numbers. An endemic Maui parrotbill, known as the Kiwikiu, lives only on the upper slopes of Haleakala. Fewer than 300 are estimated to exist today and are threatened by mosquitos carrying avian malaria and climate change.
9. Some of the most significant towns on Maui have since vanished.
Maui was once dominated by sugar plantations. In fact, some of the biggest settlements on the island were clustered around sugar mills, where many plantation workers and their families lived. Take Upper Paia, for example, where the skeletal remains of a sugar plantation still stand. Today, this area is home to not much more than two small schools, a neighborhood, and a gymnasium. But back in the early 1900s, this area was a booming city, home to hospitals, two movie theaters, shops, restaurants, several schools, and a train station. Much of this bustling town seems to have evaporated, and today Paia is considered a small beachy outpost. In Central Maui, camps in Pu’unene once housed thousands of workers. Shops, schools, churches, and even a hospital dotted the dusty roads. Only a post office, the historic Pu’unene School, a lonely battered church, several small unused buildings, and the decommissioned Sugar Mill stand today.
10. Maui’s waters are home to the densest humpback whale population in the North Pacific from December-April.
It’s estimated that over 10,000 humpback whales make their way to Maui’s warm waters every winter to mate and give birth. In fact, humpback whales like Maui’s shallow waters so much that the island is home to the densest humpback population in the North Pacific. See Maui whale watching tips.