Reed Travel Features
KAHULUI -- Most of Maui's
2 million-plus annual visitors fly into Kahului Airport, at the
east end of a seven-mile urban and commercial strip.
Those who have not driven out of the airport in a few years are
in for a surprise: A construction boom is under way, most notably
in shopping facilities.
At the west end, Wailuku, the historical county town and older
commercial center, has been getting a face-lift over the last
decade under a Main Street program.
Expanded shopping gives visitors more reason to stop before
driving on to the south and west Maui resorts.
Since half of the visitors stay in resort condominiums and 96%
rent a car, this could be the place to stock up.
Outside the airport, at Dairy Road and Hana Highway, the 20-acre
Maui Marketplace is under construction.
Such big retailers as Eagle Hardware, the Sports Authority and
Borders Books will move in from mid-February through mid-April.
PriceCostco and Kmart opened outside the airport three years
Two years ago, nearby Kaahumanu Center expanded with a $60
million second level. Almost doubling in size, to 572,000 square
feet, the shopping facility now has more than 100 stores and
restaurants, including a six-screen movie theater and a 500-seat
Many outlets aim primarily at tourists.
A year ago, Japan Travel Bureau, one of Japan's largest
wholesalers, opened a visitor-briefing facility at Kaahumanu
Center, the first such facility on a neighbor island.
Japanese arriving on morning interisland flights shop at the
center before going to hotels in the afternoon.
Wailuku-Kahului is on the north coast of a central plain that
connects its two mountain masses -- the West Maui Mountains and
Visitors must return to the area to start touring some of Maui's
top scenic sightseeing routes:
* Isolated Hana, 52 miles east of the airport, along the famous
winding, narrow highway with its rugged rain forest scenery.
* Haleakala National Park, more than 10,000 feet above sea
level, 37 miles from the airport.
* Iao Valley State Park, with its Iao Needle rising 1,200 feet
from the valley floor at the beginning of the West Maui Mountains,
a few miles west of Wailuku.
Despite its pivotal position, the urban area takes a backseat,
as visitors usually are on the way to somewhere else.
Few Iao Needle visitors stop to explore old Wailuku; clients
staying in west Maui have the historical sites of the old whaling
capital of Lahaina at their doorstep.
They must pass Wailuku's most notable historical attraction, the
Bailey House, a missionary museum dating to 1833, on the edge of
Around the corner, on South High Street, are many of the town's
older buildings, including Queen Kaahumanu Church, built in
The Wailuku Main Street Association, at 68 Market St., has a
free 40-page walking-tour booklet available.
The booklet, called Rediscover Wailuku Town, identifies 23
Copies are available at the office or by calling the association
at (808) 244-3888.
The Wailuku Main Street Association spearheaded the
revitalization of Wailuku over the last decade. The group regards
the Iao Valley Theater, which it saved from the wrecking ball 10
years ago, as its signature project.
Last March, Wailuku's old movie house, built in 1927, reopened
after Maui County spent $2.6 million on its restoration. It now is
used by community theater groups.
Overlooking Kahului Bay is the Maui Arts and Cultural
The $30 million facility, opened in May 1994, features a
1,200-seat theater for shows and concerts, a 4,100-square-foot art
gallery, a community hall and an outdoor amphitheater with a
capacity for 4,000 people.
For further information, including the latest schedule of
events, call the center at (808) 242-2787.