Nickname: The Valley Isle
Landsat satellite image of Maui. The small island to the southwest is Kahoʻolawe.
Small-scale map of the island and location in the state of Hawaii
Location20°48′N 156°18′W / 20.800°N 156.300°W / 20.800; -156.300
Area727.2 sq mi (1,883 km2)
Area rank2nd largest Hawaiian island
Highest elevation10,023 ft (3055 m)[1]
Highest pointHaleakalā
ColorʻĀkala (pink)
Largest settlementKahului
Population164,221 (2021)
Pop. density162/sq mi (62.5/km2)
Maui (center right, with Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, and Kahoʻolawe to its left) as seen from the International Space Station[2]

The island of Maui (/ˈmi/; Hawaiian: [ˈmɐwwi])[3] is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago, its second-largest at 727.2 square miles (1,883 km2). It is the 17th-largest in the United States.[4] Maui is one of Maui County's five islands, along with Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, and Molokini.

In 2020, Maui had a population of 168,307, the third-highest of the Hawaiian Islands, behind Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island. Kahului is the largest census-designated place (CDP) on the island, with a 2020 population of 28,219,[5] and the island's commercial and financial hub.[6] Wailuku is the county seat and is the third-largest CDP as of 2010. Other significant populated areas include Kīhei (including Wailea and Makena in the Kihei Town CDP, the island's second-most-populous), Lāhainā (including Kāʻanapali and Kapalua in the Lāhainā Town CDP), and Upcountry Maui (including Makawao, Pukalani, Kula, and Ulupalakua).

Once part of Maui Nui, Maui is dominated by two volcanic features: Haleakalā in the southeast, and the West Maui Mountains in the northwest. The two volcanos are connected by an isthmus about six miles wide that gives the island its nickname, the Valley Isle.[7]

Maui has a significant tourism industry, with nearly three million visitors in 2022.[8] A 2023 report based on 2017 data concluded that nearly 40% of Maui County's economy was tourism-related.[9] Popular tourist destinations include the resorts in the Kāʻanapali and Wailea areas; Hāna and the Hana Highway; Iao Valley; Haleakalā National Park; and locations for beach sports and activities.


Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island's name in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa, the navigator credited with discovering the Hawaiian Islands. According to it, Hawaiʻiloa named the island after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Māui. Maui's previous name was ʻIhikapalaumaewa.[10] The Island of Maui is also called the "Valley Isle" for the large isthmus connecting its northwestern and southeastern volcanic masses.

Geology and topography

Detailed map of Maui and Kahoʻolawe

Maui's diverse landscapes are the result of its combination of geology, topography, and climate. Each volcanic cone in the chain of the Hawaiian Islands is formed from basalt, a dark, iron-rich/silica-poor rock, which poured out of thousands of vents as fluid lava over millions of years. Several of its volcanoes were close enough to each other that lava flows on their flanks overlapped, merging into a single island. Maui is one such "volcanic doublet," formed from two shield volcanoes that overlapped to form the isthmus.[11]

Looking into the Haleakalā crater

The older, western volcano has eroded considerably and is cut by numerous sharp drainages, forming the peaks of the West Maui Mountains (in Hawaiian, Mauna Kahalawai). Puʻu Kukui is the highest of the peaks at 5,788 ft (1,764 m). The larger, younger volcano to the east, Haleakalā, rises to 10,023 ft (3,055 m) above sea level, and measures 5 mi (8 km) from seafloor to summit.

The eastern flanks of both volcanoes are cut by deeply incised valleys and steep-sided ravines that run downslope to the rocky, windswept shoreline. The isthmus was formed by sandy erosional deposits.

Volcanic rocks protrude on a Maui beach

Maui's last eruption (originating in Haleakalā's Southwest Rift Zone) likely occurred between 1480 and 1600;[12] the resulting lava flows are located at Cape Kīnaʻu between ʻĀhihi Bay and La Perouse Bay on the southwest shore of East Maui. Haleakalā is thought dormant and capable of further eruptions.[13]

Maui is part of a much larger unit, Maui Nui, that includes the islands of Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Molokaʻi, and the now submerged Penguin Bank. During periods of reduced sea level, including as recently as 200,000 years ago,[14] they join as a single island due to the shallowness of the channels between them.


Main article: Climate of Hawaii

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The climate of the Hawaiian Islands is characterized by a two-season year, tropical and uniform temperatures everywhere (except at high elevations), marked geographic differences in rainfall, high relative humidity, extensive cloud formations (except on the leeward coasts and at the highest elevations), and dominant trade wind flow (especially at elevations below a few thousand feet).

Maui has a wide range of climatic conditions and weather patterns that are influenced by factors in the physical environment:

Maui displays a diverse set of climatic conditions, each of which is specific to a sub-region of the island. These sub-regions are defined by major physiographic features (such as mountains and valleys) and by location on the windward or leeward side of the island.

Maui's daytime temperatures average between 75 °F (24 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) year round, while evening temperatures are about 15 °F (8.3 °C) cooler in the more humid windward areas, about 18 °F (10 °C) cooler in the drier leeward areas, and cooler still in higher elevations.

An exception to the normal pattern is the occasional winter Kona storm that brings rainfall to the South and West areas accompanied by high southwesterly winds (opposite of the prevailing trade wind direction).


West coast of Maui, with Haleakalā and Kihei visible in the background

Maui has examples of all microclimates, each typical to specific locations.

Makena Beach, South Maui

These microclimates help to divide the major regions of Maui: Central Maui; leeward South Maui and West Maui; windward North Shore and East Maui; and Upcountry Maui.[15]

Waianapanapa State Park in East Maui, next to Hana
Climate data for Maui
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average sea temperature °F (°C) 76.3


























Kahikinui coastline near Kaupo
Rainbow over the West Maui Mountains after rainfall in Kāʻanapali

Showers are common; while some of these are heavy, the majority are light and brief. Thunder and lightning are rare, even during intense storms. Throughout the lowlands in summer trade winds produce a drier season. Annual rainfall averages 17–20 inches (430–510 mm) in leeward coastal areas, such as the shoreline from Maalaea Bay to Kaupo. At the other extreme, the average exceeds 300 in (7,600 mm) along the lower windward slopes of Haleakalā, particularly along Hāna Highway. Big Bog, a spot on the edge of Haleakalā National Park overlooking Hana at about 5,400 ft (1,600 m) elevation had an estimated mean annual rainfall of 404 in (10,300 mm) over the 30-year period of 1978 to 2007.[20] If the islands of Hawaii did not exist, the average annual rainfall on the same patch of water would be about 25 in (640 mm).[citation needed] Instead, the mountainous topography of Maui and the other islands induce an actual average of about 70 in (1,800 mm).

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: [21]
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

In the lowlands, rainfall is most likely to occur during night or morning hours, and least likely in mid-afternoon. The most pronounced daily variations in rainfall occur during the summer because summer rainfall generally consists of night-time trade wind showers. Winter rainfall in the lowlands is the result of storm activity, which is as likely to occur in the daytime as at night. Rainfall variability is far greater during the winter when occasional storms contribute appreciably to rainfall totals. Such wide swings in rainfall produce occasional droughts, sometimes causing economic losses. These occur when winter rains fail to produce sufficient significant rain, impacting normally dry areas outside the trade winds that depend on them the most. The winter of 2011–2012 produced extreme drought on the leeward sides Maui, and some other islands.

Natural history

Maui is the leading whale-watching center in the Hawaiian Islands for the humpback whales who winter in the sheltered ʻAuʻau Channel among the islands of Maui county. Many whales migrate approximately 3,500 mi (5,600 km) from Alaskan waters each autumn and spend November-April mating and birthing in the warm waters. They are typically sighted in pods: small groups of several adults, or groups of a mother, her calf, and a few suitors. Humpbacks are an endangered species protected by U.S. federal and Hawaiʻi state law. An estimated 21,000-26,000 humpbacks live in North Pacific waters.[22] Although they face many dangers, due to pollution, high-speed commercial vessels, and military sonar testing, their numbers have increased rapidly in recent years, estimated at 7% growth per year.[23]

Maui is home to a large rainforest on the northeastern flanks of Haleakalā, which serves as the drainage basin for that side of the island. Difficult terrain has prevented the exploitation of much of the forest.

Maui is home to many coral reefs. However, many have been damaged by pollution, run-off, and tourism, although sea turtles, dolphins, and Hawaii's celebrated tropical fish, are still common. Leeward Maui once boasted a dry cloud forest, but this was destroyed by human activities over the last three hundred years.[24]


Main article: Endemism in the Hawaiian Islands

A green sea turtle near Maui

The birdlife of Maui lacks the concentration of endemic birdlife found in some other Hawaiian islands. As recently as 200,000 years ago it was part of Maui Nui, thus reducing the odds that birds or other species would be endemic to any single one of these. Although Molokaʻi had several endemic bird species, in modern times the other islands of Maui Nui have little endemic birdlife. During and after the Maui Nui period, Maui hosted a species of moa-nalo (also found on Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, and Kahoʻolawe), a species of harrier (the wood harrier, shared with Molokaʻi), an undescribed sea eagle (Maui only), and three species of ground-dwelling flightless ibis (Apteribis sp.), plus other species. Today, Maui's most notable surviving endemic birds are probably the 'Akohekohe (Palmeria dolei) and the Maui parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys), also known as Kiwikiu, both of which are critically endangered and only found in an alpine forest on the windward slopes of Haleakalā.

Conservation efforts have looked at how to mitigate female parrotbill mortality since that is s a key driving factor driving population decline. The parrotbill has a notable lack of resistance to mosquito-born diseases particularly avian malaria, so only forests above 1500 meters of elevation provide refuge. The habitat was undergoing restoration in east Maui as of 2018.[25] As Maui's population grew, previously undeveloped areas that provided a refuge are decreasing in size. This is a risk for the endangered species. Both flora and fauna habitats need to be protected for the sake of those endangered species. More than 250 species of native flora are federally listed as endangered or threatened.[26] Birds found on other islands as well as Maui include the I'iwi (Drepanis coccinea], 'Apapane (Himatione sanguinea), Hawai'i 'Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens), as Maui 'Alauahio (Paroreomyza montana) well as the Nene (Branta sandvicensis, Hawaii's state bird), Hawaiian coot (Fulica alai), Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni).

In 2024, Haleakala National Park began to employ the incompatible insect technique to reduce the park's mosquito population.[27]

Maui is also home to the Hawaiian hoary bat, Hawaii's only native terrestrial mammal. Marine mammals notably include spinner, bottlenose, and spotted dolphins.[28]

Thousands of humpback whales visit the islands annually.


Main article: History of Maui

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The "needle" of ʻĪao Valley

Polynesians from Tahiti were Maui's original inhabitants. They introduced the kapu system, a strict social order that affected all aspects of life and became the core of Hawaiian culture. Modern Hawaiian history began in the mid-18th century. Kamehameha I, king of the island of Hawaiʻi, invaded Maui in 1790 and fought the inconclusive Battle of Kepaniwai. He returned to Hawaiʻi to battle a rival, subduing Maui a few years later.


On November 26, 1778, explorer James Cook became the first European to see Maui. Cook never set foot on the island, because he was unable to find a suitable landing. The first European to come ashore was French admiral Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, who landed on the shores of what became La Perouse Bay on May 29, 1786. More Europeans followed: traders, whalers, loggers (e.g., of sandalwood) and missionaries. The latter began to arrive from New England in 1823, settling in Lahaina, at that time Hawaii's capitol. They clothed the natives, banned hula, and greatly altered the culture. The missionaries taught reading and writing, devised the Hawaiian alphabet, operated a printing press in Lahaina, and began recording the islands' history, which had been transmitted only orally.[29] The missionaries both altered and preserved the native culture. The religious work altered the culture while the literacy efforts preserved history and language. Missionaries started the first school in Lahaina, Lahainaluna Mission School, which opened in 1831 and still exists.


Japanese laborers on Maui harvesting sugarcane in 1885

At the height of the whaling era (1843–1860), Lahaina was a major center. In one season over 400 ships visited with up to 100 anchored at one time in Lāhainā Roads. Ships tended to stay for weeks rather than days, fostering extended drinking and the rise of prostitution, against which the missionaries battled. Whaling declined steeply at the end of the 19th century as petroleum replaced whale oil.

Along with the rest of Hawaii, Maui was part of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Republic of Hawaii, Hawaiian territory, and the state of Hawaii.

In 1937, Vibora Luviminda trade union conducted the final ethnic strike action in the Hawaiian Islands against four Maui sugarcane plantations, demanding higher wages and the dismissal of five foremen. Manuel Fagel and nine other strike leaders were arrested, and charged with kidnapping a worker. Fagel spent four months in jail while the strike continued. Eventually, Vibora Luviminda made its point and the workers won a 15% increase in wages after 85 days on strike, but no written contract was signed.

World War II

Maui was involved in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a staging center, training base, and rest and relaxation site. At the peak in 1943–1944, more than 100,000 soldiers were based there. The main base of the 4th Marine Division was in Haiku. Beaches were used to practice landings and train in marine demolition and sabotage.

2023 wildfires

In early August 2023, a series of wildfires broke out in the U.S. state of Hawaii, predominantly on the island of Maui. The wind-driven fires prompted evacuations and caused widespread damage, killing at least 101 people and leaving two persons missing in the town of Lahaina on Maui's northwest coast. The proliferation of the wildfires was attributed to dry, gusty conditions created by a strong high-pressure area north of Hawaii and Hurricane Dora to the south.[30]


Kahakuloa Head near the tiny village of Kahakuloa on the north side of west Maui

The island experienced rapid population growth through 2007. Kīhei was one of the most rapidly growing towns in the United States (see chart, below). The island attracted many retirees, with accompanying service providers. Population growth produced strains, including traffic, housing cost/availability, and access to water.

In the 2000s, controversies raged over whether to allow continued real-estate development. Vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods became a flashpoint - many were unpermitted, and were later closed after enforcement escalated. The Hawaii Superferry briefly offered interisland service, before it was banned for not having completed an EIS.[31]

In 2016, Maui residents convinced officials to switch to organic pesticides for highway applications after they learned that label requirements for glyphosate formulations had not been followed.[32]

Water supply

Historical population
State of Hawaii [5]

Later years brought droughts, increasing pressure on the ʻĪao aquifer, with withdrawals rising above 18 million U.S. gallons (68,000 m3) per day. Recent estimates indicate that Maui has a potential supply of potable water around 476 million U.S. gallons (1,800,000 m3) per day, [citation needed] virtually all of which drains into the ocean.

Water for agriculture comes mostly from East Maui streams, routed through a network of tunnels and ditches dug by Chinese laborers in the 19th century. In 2006, the town of Paia successfully petitioned the county against mixing in treated water from wells known to be contaminated with 1,2-dibromoethane and 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane from former pineapple cultivation in the area.[33] Agriculture companies were released from liability for these chemicals.[34] In 2009, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and others successfully argued in court that sugar companies should reduce the amount of water they take from four streams.[35]


Fleming Beach near Kapalua

Tourism's is Maui's major industry. Other large sectors include housing, retail, business services, , health care, and government. Maui has a significant presence in agriculture and information technology.

The unemployment rate reached a low of 1.7% in December 2006, rising to 9% in March 2009[36] before falling back to 4.6% by the end of 2013[37] and to 2.1% in January, 2018.[38]


Maui's primary agriculture products are corn and other seeds, fruits, cattle, and vegetables.[39] Specific products include coffee, macadamia nuts, papaya, flowers and fresh pineapple. Historically, Maui's primary products were sugar and pineapple. Maui Land & Pineapple Company[40] and Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company[41] (HC&S, a subsidiary of Alexander and Baldwin Company) dominated agricultural activity. In 2016, sugar production ended.[42] Haliimaile Pineapple Co. grows pineapple on former Maui Land & Pineapple Co. land.[43]

In November 2014, a Maui County referendum enacted a moratorium on genetically engineered crops.[44] Shortly thereafter Monsanto and other agribusinesses obtained a court injunction suspending the moratorium.[45]

In 1974, Emil Tedeschi of the Napa Valley winegrower family of Calistoga, California, established the first Hawaiian commercial winery, the Tedeschi Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch.

Information technology

Most technology organizations that are located on the island populate the Maui Research & Technology Park[46] which is located in Kihei. This includes the Maui Research and Technology Center[47]. It is a program of the High Technology Development Corporation,[48][49] an agency of the State of Hawaii, whose focus is to facilitate the growth of Hawaii's commercial high-technology sector.[50]


Maui is an important center for advanced astronomical research. The Haleakalā Observatory[51] was Hawaii's first astronomical research and development facility, operating at the Maui Space Surveillance Site (MSSS) electro-optical facility. "At the 10,023-foot summit of the long-dormant volcano Haleakalā, operational satellite tracking facilities are co-located with a research and development facility providing data acquisition and communication support. The high elevation, dry climate, and freedom from light pollution offer virtually year-round observation of satellites, missiles, man-made orbital debris, and astronomical objects."[52]



"Big Beach" in Makena, on Maui Island's southwest shore

Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on Maui, with over 30 beaches and bays to snorkel at around the island. Maui's trade winds tend to come in from the northeast, making the most popular places to snorkel on the south and west shores of Maui. Having many mountains on Maui helps with the trade winds not being able to reach the beaches located on the south and west of the island, making the ocean water very clear.


Maui is a well-known destination for windsurfing. Kanaha Beach Park is a very well-known windsurfing spot and may have stand-up paddle boarders or surfers if there are waves and no wind. Windsurfing has evolved on Maui since the early 1980s when it was recognized as an ideal location to test equipment and publicize the sport.


One of the most popular sports in Hawaii. Ho'okipa Beach Park is one of Maui's most famous surfing and windsurfing spots. Other famous or frequently surfed areas include Slaughterhouse Beach, Honolua Bay, Pe'ahi (Jaws), and Fleming Beach. The north side of Maui absorbs the most swell during the winter season and the south and west in the summertime. Due to island blocking, summer south swells tend to be weak and rare.


One of the newest sports on Maui is kitesurfing, particularly at Kanaha Beach Park.


See also: Tourism in Hawaii

Kaanapali beach in Lahaina

The big tourist spots in Maui include the Hāna Highway, Haleakalā National Park, Iao Valley, and Lahaina.

The Hāna Highway runs along the east coast of Maui, curving around mountains and passing by black sand beaches and waterfalls. Haleakalā National Park is home to Haleakalā, a dormant volcano. Snorkeling can be done at almost any beach along the Maui coast. Surfing and windsurfing are also popular in Maui.

The main tourist areas are West Maui (Kāʻanapali, Lahaina, Nāpili-Honokōwai, Kahana, Napili, Kapalua) and South Maui (Kīhei, Wailea-Mākena). The main port of call for cruise ships is located in Kahului. There are also smaller ports located at Lahaina Harbor (located in Lahaina) and Maʻalaea Harbor (located between Lahaina and Kihei). Lahaina was one of the main attractions on the island with, until the 2023 fires, an entire street of shops and restaurants that led to a pier. Known locally as Lahainatown, it has a long and diverse history from its Hawaiian population beginnings to the arrival of travelers and settlers and its use as a significant whaling port.[53]

Maui County welcomed 2,207,826 tourists in 2004 rising to 2,639,929 in 2007 with total tourist expenditures north of US$3.5 billion for the Island of Maui alone. While the island of Oʻahu is most popular with Japanese tourists, the Island of Maui appeals to visitors mainly from the U.S. mainland and Canada: in 2005, there were 2,003,492 domestic arrivals on the island, compared to 260,184 international arrivals.

While winning many travel industry awards as Best Island In The World[54] in recent years concerns have been raised by locals and environmentalists about the overdevelopment of Maui. Visitors are being urged to be conscious of reducing their environmental footprint[55] while exploring the island. Several activist groups, including Save Makena,[56] have gone as far as taking the government to court to protect the rights of local citizens.[57]

Throughout 2008 Maui suffered a major loss in tourism compounded by the spring bankruptcies of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines. The pullout in May of the second of three Norwegian Cruise Line ships also hurt. Pacific Business News reported a $166 million loss in revenue for Maui tourism businesses.[58]

Sunrise at Haleakalā
Sunrise at Haleakalā


Main article: Maui County, Hawaii § Transportation

The Maui Bus is a county-funded program that provides transportation around the island for nominal fares.[59]


For airports on Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi, see Maui County § Airports.

Three airports provide air service to Maui:


There are two hospitals on the island of Maui. The first, Maui Memorial Medical Center, is the only acute care hospital in Maui County. It is centrally located in the town of Wailuku approximately 4 miles from Kahului Airport. The second, Kula Hospital, is a critical access hospital located on the southern half of the island in the rural town of Kula. Kula Hospital, along with Lanai Community Hospital (which is located in Maui County but on the neighboring island of Lānaʻi), are affiliates of Maui Memorial Medical Center. All three hospitals are open 24/7 for emergency access. Although not technically a hospital or emergency room, Hana Health Clinic (or Hana Medical Center), located in the remote town of Hana on the southeastern side of the island, works in cooperation with American Medical Response and Maui Memorial Medical Center to stabilize and transport patients with emergent medical conditions. It too is open 24/7 for urgent care and emergency access.[60][61][62]

International relations

Maui is twinned with:

Notable people

See also


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