The most visited island in Hawaii?
If you said Oahu, home of Honolulu, you’d be wrong. It’s Maui, the second largest island. But this is a recent phenomenon.
Today Maui is known for two things. Whales and jaws. But not jaws as in sharks, but “jaws” as in the fury of tidal waves crashing along a certain beach on the western coast. This is surfing country and a place the locals call “Jaws” is where it’s at. At certain times of the year, waves swell to monster proportions drawing surfers from around the world.
“Jaws is on fire,” they say, and the surfers come. Hippie surfers. Many live year round in Maui in their cars or vans parked along the beaches. That’s because the cost of real estate is such that a room for a week would eat up an annual income for many. So Maui has become a mecca for surfers and Yuppies and a city called Lahaina is home base.
Iconic shops and restaurants dot the small town, home of some of the largest Banyan trees in the world. Tourists embarking from their ships in the port of Kahulkui hop in buses and Uber cars and head for Lahaina.
The coast of Maui is known for humpback whales, It’s where they hook up. It’s like a singles bar for the big fellas.
Every year about this time, about half of all the humpback whales in the world return to Maui, their original breeding grounds. Thousands of whales frolic off the coast, drawing curious humans to watch the spectacle.
Whales, mammals of course, are fascinating creatures. Their vocabulary is the most extensive of all animals, next to human females, of course. When male humpbacks enter these waters, their underwaters moans and cries can be heard for up to 20 miles. That’s a loud whale, right there. Whales also eat a lot, up to 1,500 pounds of food a day. Don’t get in the way of a hungry whale. Capt. Ahab did and you know what happened to him.
Back before the Yuppie invasion, Maui was a simple whaling and agricultural village. But around 1830, the English discovered that conditions were ideal on Maui for raising sugar cane. Sugar cane requires scads of water and the upper reaches, the rain forests of Maui, delivered the goods. Cane thrived, but raising and harvesting sugar cane was a labor intensive endeavor. The plantation owners let the word out that jobs were to be had and workers came from around the world. From China and Japan, Portugal and the Philippines and as far as Puerto Rico.
These workers were promised jobs, housing and a better world. It was, a little, but the work was excruciating and the pay low.
Workers demanded better conditions, but the margins were thin and sugar was being made cheaper in the other countries. The sugar cane industry is no more. Tourism has now become the number one source of income for all of Hawaii, and especially Maui.
And in our two day stay in Maui, we did our level best to keep it going.