The beautiful isle of Maui came about as the result of the fiery explosion of two volcanoes. To one side of Maui is 5,788 foot Pu'u Kukui and on the other Haleakala, a 10,023 foot dormant volcano with a Manhattan size crater that houses a vast desert of unusual flora including the rare Silversword. Add to this 125 miles of dazzling coastline, both dramatic and diverse for surfing, snorkelling and canoeing, plus waterfalls plunging a thousand feet, rainforest bursting with colour and exotic vegetation and a start lunar landscape, so barren that the astronauts practised their moon landing here and you have the extraordinary island of Maui.
The second largest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui was settled by Polynesians and had its own ruling family. King Kamehameha's warriors overthrew the kingdom of Maui to unite it with the other Hawaiian islands. He made Lahaina, in Maui his capital in 1802.
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Today Maui has evolved into a peaceful agricultural island of charm and rustic beauty, particularly Lahaina Town which has been restored to its previous colonial splendour. The non-profit Lahaina Restoration Foundation which began over 36 years ago has preserved and restored a rich collection of sites in Lahaina. Visit the Master's Reading Room built in 1834 for seamen looking for a room to rest away from the heat and dust of the market.
The Maui Historical Society Museum in Wailuku is a delightful old structure built between 1833 and 1850 and was the home of missionary Edward Bailey and his family. Today, it contains Hawaiian artefacts as well as furniture and household items from the missionary days.
Baldwin House, built in 1838 is the oldest standing building in Lahaina and is made of thick walls of coral, stone and hand hewn timbers. Stone is very important to the ways of the Hawaiians and healing stones such as the giant Hauola Stone were in areas designated as holding powerful forces of nature.
The Banyan Tree came to Lahaina from India when only eight feet tall. William O. Smith, the Maui sheriff, planted it in 1873 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Lahaina's first Christian mission. Today the Banyon has twelve major trunks varying girths and reaches upwards to a height of 50 feet stretching outwards over a 200 foot area shading two-thirds of an acre of the almost 2 acres of land in the courthouse square.
The Carthaginian, a replica of a 19th century brig which now houses a whaling exhibit, graces the harbour, which is also the departure point for a multitude of cruises and in season whale watching tours. Lahaina Jodo Mission Cultural Park sits on a point of land known as Puunoa. The area was once a small village fronting the Royal grove of coconut trees. It is now the best known landmark in the area and one of the busiest for tourists. The largest Buddha outside of Japan sits majestically in the small park commemorating the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in 1868.
The famous sugar cane train modelled after the turn of a century railroad train that transported sugar to Lahaina mills is a journey not to be missed. The steam driven locomotive makes an hour long run between Lahaina and Ka'anapali. While on Maui, you can explore the Maui Tropical Plantation which consists of 112 acres of crops, from cane to coffee, mango to macadamia, pineapple to papaya. Then catch the Tropical Train on a 40 minute circuit to see fruit cutting demonstrations, visit the market place and learn how to start your own tropical garden in the nursery full of colourful orchids and other exotic blooms.
At the Sugar Museum you will see the production of sugar once one of Hawaii's biggest cash crops, from beginning to end, plus historical exhibits, rare artifacts, photo murals and scale models of working sugar factory machinery. For those who like outdoor activities, you can take a ride on horseback, or hike through the luna landscapes on Haleakala. Early risers can enjoy the sunrise from the summits of Haleakala and then coast down on a mountain bike.
Perhaps the ultimate experience is a drive along the 50 mile road to Hana whose 600 curves and 52 bridges wind past dozens of tumbling waterfalls, lava cliffs, spectacular ocean views, lush tropical foliage and trees laden with bananas. On the way back, stop at Oheo Gulch, popularly known as the "Oheo Pools".
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