Historical Hawaii Maui

Maui’s beaches and tropical resorts might be the main reason people visit this beautiful Hawaiian island.  But if you know where to look, you will find various remnants of an ancient past that will excite any vacationing history buff. 

Maui’s history is separated into two periods – pre-contact with the European settlers and post-contact (late eighteenth century).  No one inhabited the island until the middle of fifth century A.D., when voyagers came from the Marquesas Islands.  Tahitian settlers began arriving on Maui around 700 A.D.  

At this time, the island was divided into two separate kingdoms. King Pi’ilani united the two kingdoms under one royal family, called the ali’i, in the early fifteenth century, bringing a long period of peace and prosperity to the native settlers of Maui. The Europeans began to settle on Maui at the end of the eighteenth century. They supplied the island with two new commercial traditions – whaling and sugar planting. Captain James Cook was the first European to set eyes of Maui (he never landed) in November 1778. Almost eight years later, a French Admiral stepped onto its shores and the European endeavor began.

In the midst of the European arrivals, a great battle was fought in the Iao Valley which aligned the Maui Kingdom with the Kingdom of Hawaii. It was called the Battle of Kepaniwai, meaning “the damming of the waters” because so many people were killed and their corpses were left floating in the river. This site had existed for years as a sacred burial ground for the royal family. Visitors can walk through the Iao Valley State Park, located just west of the island’s neck in Wailuku.

You may also enjoy visiting the older sites of the earlier Polynesian settlers and learning about Maui’s native culture. One of the most popular sites is the Halekii-Pihana State Monuments. The monuments sit on a small site that can be viewed during a fifteen minute (half-mile) walk. Visitors will marvel at the ruins of a lava rock heiau (an old religious temple) and a reconstructed house of refuge. The original house of refuge dates back to 1240 A.D., but it was reconstructed in 1958. The monuments are located along the north-west portion of the island’s neck.

After visiting the Halekii-Pihana State monuments, one can travel southwest along Route 30 (approximately 35-40 minutes) to the Olowalu Petroglyphs for a glimpse into the lives of the native Hawaiians. These petroglyphs, similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphs, are drawings that were etched over three hundred years ago into the rock. The pictures of humans and animals are carved into the side of Pu’u Kilea volcano in the Olowalu Valley. There are over a hundred images waiting for you on your next trip to Maui!