The broad green plain between the magnificently sculpted Kahalawai (West Maui Mountains) and the massive slopes of Haleakalā gave Maui its nickname, "The Valley Isle."
The Hawaiians called the isthmus Kulaokamaʻomaʻo, "The Land of Mirages."
Two of Maui's principal cities, Kahului and Wailuku, lie three miles from each other but are eons apart in ambiance.
Maui's county seat, Wailuku, is the older of the sister cities - sleepy, picturesque and full of local charm.
In ancient times it was guarded by two temples that still afford spectacular views of the city and surrounding countryside. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places, as are many buildings in the center of town.
Wailuku is also the birthplace of some of Maui's most famous citizens.
The Bailey House Museum, an 1833 missionary home, has a wonderful collection of landscape paintings done by Edward Bailey from 1866 through 1896.
In a setting of gracious gardens and fine missionary architecture, the museum offers cultural and arts programs to complement its Hawaiian and missionary artifacts. Its Hawaii-themed gift shop brims with items of authenticity and discriminating taste.
Wailuku is also the gateway to the ʻĪao Valley, one of Hawaii's most sacred and most beautiful places.
In the center of the valley is a pillar of stone rising 1,200 feet into the air. Commonly called "The Needle," this pillar towers over the valley below.
As you drive from the valley back to Wailuku, be sure to stop at Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens which features buildings and gardens representing the cultures of Hawaii's many immigrant groups.
Hawaii Nature Center:
The Hawaii Nature Center offers free trail maps and conducts educational hikes a'nd hands-on activities that teach visitors about the valley's flora and fauna.
The center's Interactive Nature Museum (INM) and Rainforest Walk are designed to interpret and experience Hawai's rich natural history, outdoors and in a museum setting. Entertaining and educational, these activities highlight the beauty and natural resources that make of Maui a paradise.
Maui Tropical Plantation:
At Maui Tropical Plantation, near Wailuku, visitors are introduced to Maui's commercial crops, including pineapple, sugarcane, macadamia nuts, guava, and banana. There are tram rides, evening barbecues, a nursery and a gift shop of products.
Neighboring Kahului, much younger and unencumbered by history, was built in the 1950s by the plantation company Alexander and Baldwin. It was hailed as a "Dream City" to provide affordable housing for plantation workers. Kahului's tidy streets fan out on the plain. With subdivisions and shopping malls, it has become Maui's major population center and boasts the island's only deep-water port for shipping, as well as Maui's principal airport.
As the jets descend to a landing, passengers are greeted with their first vision of Maui. They see clouds billowing on dramatic mountain tops and fields of green sugarcane stretching to the distant hills.
The scene is repeated from new and breathtaking angles as they leave the terminal. The airport is conveniently located to both the West Maui and South Maui resort areas.
Kahului is the principal shopping area of Maui. You'll find a large mall, the Queen Kaʻahumanu Center plus the island's only Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
You'll also find numerous other stores in which to purchase supplies before heading to the resort area.
On Saturdays a huge swap meet is held offering local baked goods, ethnic foods, local fruits and vegetables, Hawaiiana souvenirs, resale goods and household items.
Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum:
Located next to Hawaii's largest operating sugar mill, the museum exhibits the history and heritage of the sugar industry and the multi-ethnic plantation life it engendered.
The museum's collection includes artifacts, photographs and documents (1860s - 1960s) reflecting the sugar industry, plantation life and ethnicities in Hawaii, especially Maui in the former sugar plantation mill superintendent's house (c. 1900.)