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Everything You Need to Know About Maui History

outrigger canoe on the water

The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui boasts a rich history that fascinates visitors from around the world. From the legendary demi-god Maui to the whaling, ranching, and sugar industries, there’s plenty to learn about the Valley Isle. Here are some things you should know about our ancient land and its people.

Start planning your trip to Maui, Hawaii when you download our free vacation guide. It’s full of recommendations for things to do and see that will teach you more about Maui history!

A Brief Look at Maui History

Early Settlement

Paddling outrigger canoes, the first ancestors of today’s Hawaiians followed the stars across the sea to Hawaii. These settlers were part of the great Polynesian migration. No one is sure exactly when they came to Hawaii, but a bone fishhook found at the southernmost tip of the Big Island has been carbon-dated to A.D. 700. The Polynesians were responsible for establishing Maui’s traditional culture and developed a language, religion, economy, and class system.

The following centuries were comprised of many wars and conquests, with one king taking over another king’s land. It wasn’t until 1778 that 50-year-old Capt. James Cook, a British explorer, discovered the floating island in the Pacific. Christian missionaries soon followed and became the island’s business leaders and politicians, and the Hawaiian monarchy began to crumble. Maui was annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a state in 1959.

Local Legend

Did you know the name “Maui” comes from a mythological being? According to legends, the demigod Maui was on a fishing trip with his brothers when he caught the ocean floor with his magical fishing hook. He told his brothers to paddle as hard as they could, and an island rose from the sea into the sky. Maui repeated this several times, creating the Hawaiian Islands.

Maui was later persuaded by his grandmother to slow the sun down so she could grow more food. Standing on the summit of Mount Haleakala, he lassoed the sun’s rays and demanded that days be long in summer and short in winter. The sun obliged, and now you have Maui to thank for those long, lazy beach days!

Learn More

If you want to discover Maui history first hand, you’re in luck! There are plenty of notable attractions that allow you to experience the island’s rich past, adding a fascinating new dimension to your visit. Whether it’s a unique natural wonder, a National Park or monument, or a sacred burial site, these places have been visited by the people of Hawaii for generations. Some of our favorites include:

Experience Maui History at The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono

Another great way to learn about the island is to book your stay at The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono. Built in 1924, our Central Maui inn is brimming with Hawaiian history. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and even features a variety of Hawaiian quilts, books, and antiques. With a unique blend of old-world charm and modern conveniences, our bed and breakfast is perfect for history buffs. Visit our rooms page or call (808) 244-5897 to make your reservations today!

Find out how you can save on your trip to Maui with our vacation specials.

The Old Wailuku Inn

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  • 808-244-5897
  • 2199 Kaho'okele Street Wailuku
    Maui, Hawaii 96793