Maui History

Centuries of island history unfold in modern day, comprising an interesting cultural and ethnic mix seen on the island today. This island's history reveals many interesting facts about Maui that can be discovered through many different activities, tours, and other things to do. The history of Maui has tales of explorers and settlers, and of peace and conflict. Second-youngest among the islands, Maui was created by the Haleakala volcano, the world's largest dormant volcano and one of the island's biggest attractions. Puu Kului, another of the island's now-extinct volcanoes, also had a hand in shaping the island of Maui.

History of Maui
History of Maui

It is unclear when the first inhabitants arrived on Maui. The earliest Polynesian explorers arrived around 450 A.D. from the Marquesas Islands, yet recent archaeological studies show the initial settlers in Maui history likely arrived much earlier. The arrival of the Tahitians to the islands around 700 A.D. is well-documented, and they colonized vast areas of Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, Oahu, and the other islands.

The 1700s marked a crucial epoch in Maui history. Europeans made contact with Hawaiians for the first time, one of the most influential Maui facts in island history. Captain James Cook became synonymous with Maui, becoming the first explorer from the western world to set foot on the islands. Sailing into island waters, he glimpsed Maui but never went ashore to explore. Almost a century later, Captain Jean Francois de Galaup de La Perouse was the first foreigner to arrive on Maui, another of the important Maui facts. Named after the first foreign explorer, La Perouse Bay lies along the south coast of Maui. Though at the time the king of France demanded Maui be taken into French possession, La Perouse left Maui in the hands of its original settlers.

Another pivotal period in Maui history came three years later. Kamehameha the Great with the aid of Western defenses, invaded and took control of Maui from King Kahekili, the last known island king, in the famous Iao Valley. This brutal battle changed the history of Maui forever as King Kamehameha—born on the Big island—tried to unite the Hawaiian Islands under one rule and did eventually succeed. Today, some of Maui's best hiking opportunities lie in the Iao Valley where the Iao Needle is the most dominant feature.

The following century brought the greatest changes in Maui history. Industry, commerce, cultural norms, government, and religion were all monumentally altered. Lahaina became the islands' capital in 1802 by word of Kamehameha the Great. Near the shoreline, the royal seat was established at Mokuula, a sacred plot where the royal family lived. Five years later, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, became and remains the capital of Hawaii. 1893 saw the Hawaiian Monarchy overthrown by American settlers who lived on the islands. Both Hawaiian society and government were greatly influenced by American missionaries. They advised the royals, translated the Bible into the local language, introduced Western medicine and cultural practices, and fought to change island customs they felt were sinful.

One of the most important Maui facts—in 1898, Maui became part of the United States. This followed the rule of Queen Liliuokalani, who took over when the monarchy was dissembled. In 1894, the history of Maui reports the island became a republic and operated as a republic between two different administrations until it was annexed officially to the U.S. in 1898 becoming an official territory of America.

Perhaps one of the most sententious moments in the history of Maui and Hawaii was in 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Oahu, which contributed to the United States' involvement in World War II. Eighteen years later, in 1959, Hawaii officially became the 50th state of America.

It wasn't until the mid-1960s that Maui became a popular tourist destination. Waikiki ruled the tourist circuit, welcoming more than 15,000 visitors annually and more than 1 million toward the end of the 1970s. In the 1960s, the very first luxury resort was built in Kaanapali and drew many tourists, and the resort town of Wailea was established about ten years later. By the 1980s, tourist numbers grew to more than 2 million annual visitors, the most in the history of Maui. By the end of the twentieth century, Maui's successful industry in agriculture has been mostly replaced by tourism, and the island remains the second-most visited in the chain of Hawaiian islands.

Compare Travel Sites and Save!

Ho'omana Spa Maui

Ho'omana Spa

Ho'omana Spa carries on the old tradition of Hawaiian healing in the modern s...

Kihei Maui Icon-360-sm


The little community of Kihei Hawaii has experienced its ups and downs over ...

Kula Hawaii


Kula Hawaii is a relatively quaint and rustic area on the island of Maui. Cen...

Latest Topics

Orchid Enthusiast travel

What is the best island, area, town for an orchid tourist? Looking for native orchid tours, orch...

Free WiFi in Waikiki

There's now free WiFi available throughout Waikiki. It comes as a partnership from the City ...

More Forum Posts »