Best Things to Do in Maui: Ancient Hawaiian History of Maui and Ke’anae

Maui's Ke'anae Beach Park

Maui's Ke'anae Beach Park

Hawaiian legends claim that the god-chief Maui pulled the Hawaiian Islands up from the Pacific Ocean by tricking his brothers. While out fishing, he claimed to have caught a great fish, and instead, hooked his line to the ocean floor. As his brother paddled furiously, they brought the islands up from the bottom of the ocean.

It is also said that Maui and his grandmother captured the sun at Haleakala (“House of the Sun”), the island's highest volcano. The island of Maui was named after him, and is said to resemble his head and body,

It is believed that an ancient Maui chief ordered the building of Ke’anae peninsula into farmable land. Workers hauled, by hand, baskets of soil from the valley above to fill in the entire area.  Since the Ke’anae peninsula is relatively young, geologically speaking, it is possible that the story is based in fact, and not just in legend.

In 1790, King Kamehameha The Great defeated Kahekili after a tremendous civil war in the iconic Iao Valley. Kamehameha took control of Maui and made Lahaina the new capital of the unified Hawaiian Kingdom. For nearly five decades, Lahaina served as the center of government for Hawaii. At the height of the whaling era (1840-1865) as many as 500 ships anchored in Lahaina’s port. Kamehameha is perhaps best remembered for the Kānāwai Māmalahoe, a law that protected non-combatants in times of war. The “Law of the Splintered Paddle” became the inspiration for the rights of civilians around the world. They like maiʻa (banana), and they also like fish.

There are many stories of “little people” called the Menehune in Hawaii, protective magical creatures that are similar in many ways to brownies or pixies. Some believe these stories were introduced by English and European sailors and settlers. Others believe the Menehune were at one point real people, the descendants of early settlers who were displaced by the Tahitians or non-Tahitian immigrants who considered of “lesser” social status. Regardless of their origins, the Menehune are now believed to have magical powers that help good people and punish evil-doers. They are master craftsmen and gifted archers said to have magic arrows that can pierce hard hearts and bring forth feelings of love.

Explore Maui’s rich past on theLahaina Historic Walking Trail, and you will find the Lahaina Banyan Tree, one of the largest banyan trees in the United States. Its extensive trunk and aerial root system now covers more than an acre. Arts and craft fairs are often held in the shade of the gigantic tree. There are museums and historical buildings including an historic fort, churches, lighthouse, prison, and the brick ruins of one of the palaces that King Kamehameha built for his Queen, Kaahumanu.