Maui is the second most visited island in Hawaii with around 2.3 to 2.5 million visitors each year. Tourism greatly affects the character of Maui and it boasts a very wide assortment of resorts, hotels, condos, and private rentals available across the island. Maui is also the second largest landmass in the Hawaiian island chain that consists of eight major islands and 124 islets. The archipelago is made up of numerous volcanic islands in the central Pacific Ocean stretching in a 1,500-mile crescent from Kure Island in the northwest to the Big Island of Hawai'i in the east, encompassing an area of 6,459 square miles. The eight major islands at the eastern end of the chain are, from west to east, Ni'ihau, Kaua'i, Oahu, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawai'i.
Often called, "The Playground of the Wealthy" Maui definitely caters to those looking for more expensive accommodations, but not the crowds of Oahu. But don't fret if top notch accommodations aren't in your plans - Maui caters to all types, including the budget conscious. The island has a reputation of being a playground for all tourists, not just the super rich.
The island of Maui features an abundance of beaches, especially along the west coast. Sun is abundant here too, as the volcanoes in the center of the island block the majority of precipitation from ever reaching the leeward side of the island. While portions of Maui's west coast after often dry and barren, the eastern portions of the island are a lush and green paradise boasting waterfalls in numerous valleys. Many visitors enjoy the Hana Highway (aka The Road to Hana) as is winds its way along the cost to the sleepy town of Hana in the bay.
The Valley Isle
Maui is composed of two major volcanic areas, the older and extinct West Maui Mountains and a very expansive volcano named Haleakala on the eastern side of Maui. In between the two is a valley filled with deposits. The center of the island is where Maui earns its nickname, "The Valley Isle." The isthmus stretching from Haleakala to the West Maui mountains is likely where you'll begin your journey, at the airport. In addition to these three primary areas, the island can be divided into several official sub-areas, and it's a good idea to become familiar with each of them. No area is quite like another on Maui. Read more on the Regions and Areas of Maui.
The Demi-God Maui
Legend has it that centuries ago there was born the demigod named Maui. The heavens were held by his father, the netherworld by his mother. Maui was said to be the smallest of the family, but what he lacked in size he made up for by being the quickest of mind. Maui also was known to be adventurous if not mischievous. Legend states how Maui was not the best when it came to fishing either, something his brothers excelled at and teased him about due to his lack of success.
Maui, in revenge, would sometimes use his wiliness to fill his boat with his brothers' fish. He would pull his boat close enough to his brother's so that when they got a fish he could distract them and use his line to snag their fish. At first, Maui's brothers were in awe of his ability but eventually they caught on and refused to take him fishing. Seeing that her son was very upset, Maui's mom sent him to his father to get a magic fish hook. She said,
'Go to your father. There you will receive the hook called Manaiakalani, the hook fastened to the heavens. When the hook catches land, it will raise the old seas together.'
So Maui went to his father and returned with the hook and asked his brothers to let him join in another fishing expedition. They laughed at him and threw him off the boat - but they returned with no catch. Maui scolded them, saying that if they had allowed him to join in on the fishing, they would have more success. So, figuring they had nothing to lose, the brothers allowed Maui to join them in their canoe for another chance. They paddled far from the aina (land) and threw their hooks into the sea. To their dismay, they only were able to catch sharks. The brothers mocked Maui asking 'Where are the fish you promised, our brother?'
So Maui, confident with his magic hook, rose and threw it into the ocean. He chanted a power prayer and commanded the hook to catch the Great Fish below. The ocean began to move, the waves chopped at the boat, and swells rose up around them. Maui quickly instructed his brothers to paddle with all their might and not look back. For two whole days Maui held the line tight, his brothers all the while paddling as furiously as they could. Suddenly from below the depths of the ocean arose the tops of great mountains in a series of peaks that broke the surface of the ocean. Maui shouted for his brothers to paddle harder and not look back while he pulled against the line and forced the peak's even farther out of the water. But alas, one of his brothers couldn't resist, he had to look. And as he gazed back in awe at the sight before Maui's hook he dropped his paddle, the line began to slacken, and before he could call out to his brothers, the line snapped and the magic hook was lost forever beneath the sea.
Maui shouted at his brothers,
'I had endeavored to raise a great continent but because of your weakness I have only these islands to show for all my efforts.'
And today we find the Hawaiian Islands just as Maui left them those long, long years ago.
Maui's adventures did not stop with the magic hook however. After raising the islands from the sea Maui settled with his mother, Hina, in the town of Hana on Maui. There she worked on her tapa cloth, frustrated at how the cloth never could dry in the short hours of the day.
So, Maui set off on a quest to strike a deal with La, the sun. La had been being lazy, always in a rush to get back to bed. Maui had noticed that La always rose off the rim of Haleakala Crater, so Maui climbed to the top of Mount Haleakala, weaved a rope using some strong ie'ie vines, and as La raced across the sky Maui snared him down from the Kaupo Gap on Haleakala summit.
Maui made a deal with La for him to 'walk' more slowly and steadily across the sky each day, a little faster in the winter, a little slower in the summer. And thus today we can thank Maui for our present length of daylight hours.