Maui has a near infinite amount of history and culture to offer visitors. On a historical level, it was once the “Whaling Capital of the Pacific” as well as an epicenter of sugar cane production. Culturally, it carries deep traditions and provides numerous opportunities to explore sacred Native Hawaiian sites.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Map with all places mentioned in our guide
- Historic Places and Palaces
- Cultural Experiences
- Archaeological Sites
- State Parks
Below, we present highlights of notable archeological and religious sites, as well as museums other cultural and historical points of interest on Maui.
Use the map below to orient and find all historic and cultural sights and attractions mentioned on this page:
If you want to add this map to your Google Maps account for easy access, click the ‘star’ icon next to the map name. You can then view it on your cell phone or computer by heading to your Google Maps account, click the menu and add it to ‘Your Places’.
Cultural and historical experiences on the other Hawaiian islands
If you want to know more about discovering the rich historical heritage on the other Hawaiian islands we recommend our following guides:
- History and Culture on Oʻahu
- History and Cultural Activities on Kauaʻi (+ Map)
- History and Culture on the Big Island
If you’re interested in Maui’s history as it relates to both Hawaiian history and its modern day composition, these museums will help you bring it all into context:
- Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum
- Bailey House Museum
- Baldwin Home Museum
- Hāna Cultural Museum
- Makawao History Museum
- Maui Arts and Cultural Center
- Lāhainā Heritage Museum
- Wo Hing Museum
Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum
The rise of the sugar cane industry in Hawaiʻi in the 19th century is what brought workers here from all over the world, forming the basis of the melting pot of cultures we see represented in Hawaiʻi today. To learn about the beginnings of sugar cane and realize its impacts, check out the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in Puʻunene. Maui had the last remaining sugar mill in the islands, which closed at the end of 2016.
Recommended visit: The museum is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (last admission at 1 p.m.). Reservations are required, so make them online. One to two hours should be sufficient to explore the museum.
Hale Hōʻikeʻike (Bailey House Museum)
Interested specifically in Hawaiian history? Hale Hōʻikeʻike houses more than 2,000 artifacts, 8,000 historic photos, and a full archive of historical documents, including maps and manuscripts. The museum will track Hawaiian history as well as the influence of the missionaries, who, arguably, shaped Hawaiʻi more than any other outside voice.
Recommended visit: Spend an hour or two exploring this museum in Wailuku before or after a visit to nearby ʻIao Valley. The museum’s gift shop, which supports the museum, sells locally made crafts and books.
Baldwin Home Museum
And just who were those missionaries who changed Hawaiʻi, and how did they live? The answers are displayed at the Baldwin Home Museum, which served as the center of a “missionary compound” back in the 1830s.
Recommended visit: Located in Lāhainā, it’s easy to combine a visit to the Baldwin Home with other activities. Just an hour is needed to explore it fully.
Hāna Cultural Center & Museum
So many people go on the Road to Hāna, yet so many people fail to connect with Hāna itself, the waterfalls and jungles stealing the show. We recommend setting aside some time to learn more about this unique community and the strong cultural ties that make it what it is today at the Hāna Cultural Museum. Humble but authentic, it houses artifacts and other exhibits, but also a 1-hour movie about Hāna (see below for the first 20 minutes).
Recommended visit: It’s not a very big museum, so penciling a visit into your Road to Hāna itinerary will provide you some perspective without taking up a lot of time.
Makawao History Museum
Interested in the Hawaiian cowboy, aka, the paniolo? The upcountry town of Makawao has a museum that sheds light on the customs and lifestyles of its residents, many of which were heavily involved in the paniolo lifestyle (one past exhibit was on the history of branding irons on Maui, for example). It also expounds upon the history of upcountry Maui as a whole.
Recommended visit: Pop in for a short visit when/if you pass through the town of Makawao, perhaps on your way to or from Haleakalā’s summit.
Lāhainā Heritage Museum
Many of you will visit Lāhainā on your visit to Maui, and you’ll see what a hub for visitors and local life it has become. It is just the latest iteration in a long string of eras for Lāhainā, which also played important roles as a hub for the Hawaiian monarchy (Lāhainā was once the capital of Hawaiʻi, from 1820 to 1845) and also as the epicenter of the whaling industry in the 19th century. Take a walk back in time and check out the different eras at the Lāhainā Heritage Museum.
Recommended visit: There’s a lot to digest at the museum, so show up on Wednesday at 10 a.m. for the guided tour (tours are self-guided otherwise).
Wo Hing Museum
This specialized museum focuses on the influx of Chinese people and culture to Hawaiʻi. Many came to work in construction or in one of the various industries that took root in Hawaiʻi, including whaling and sugar cane. They formed their own community in Lāhainā and built a “society hall” for gatherings. Today, that same building houses the museum which tells their story.
Recommended visit: Chances are, you’ll only end up here if you have a very specific academic or historical interest. In that case, plan for an hour or two.
Looking for remnants of the Hawaiian monarchy? There are a couple places to visit on Maui.
Adjacent to the infamous multi-block banyan tree in downtown Lāhainā is the former location of Brick Palace, built for King Kamehameha in 1798 as the first royal palace of the freshly-uniting Hawaiian Islands (Kamehameha had recently conquered both Maui and Oʻahu, and had his sights set on Kauaʻi).
Recommended visit: This is a quick stop, as all that remains is the outline of the foundation. But, a plaque provides some history, and it’s fun to imagine the past rulers checking out this very same view.
ʻIao Valley is a lush, green wilderness area, home to a unique rock formation, the ʻIao Needle, that shoots straight up more than 1,000 feet. But it’s also a very significant historical site. One of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history took place there, fought between the armies of Maui and the Big Island in 1790.
Recommended visit: A visit to ʻIao Valley takes little arm twisting. Head that way for a walk and be on the lookout for information signs that retell some of the history.
These are also good places to experience Hawaiian culture:
Hui Noʻeau Visual Arts Center
Want to get involved in Maui’s art and culture community? Perhaps even get hands-on with a class? Check out the Hui Noʻeau Visual Arts Center, which includes a fine art exhibition, classes, and events.
Recommended visit: Check out the impressive selection of locally-oriented art classes for families, first timers, and experienced artists.
Lāhainā Historical Walking Tour
In addition to the Brick Palace, Lāhainā has many, many historical locations that, together, really give you a sense of what this area once was for Native Hawaiians and its monarchy. This self-guided tour is completely walkable, with many of the sites in close proximity (you could visit a lot of them in an hour or two). The links above and below provide descriptions of each site, so you can read about them before, during, or after going (preferably before).
Recommended visit: Grab a map and check out a few of these historic locations as you pass by them naturally. Or, pick out two or three to visit one morning with intent.
Join a Luau
While the overall cultural significance of the modern-day lūʻau may be taken with a grain of salt these days, most are well-intentioned, culturally sensitive, fun, and engaging, with traditional singing, dancing, and Polynesian performances like fire-knife dancing that will entertain people of all ages, a great night out for families, couples, and friends!
For example, the Old Lāhainā Lūʻau has consistently been regarded as the most authentic on Maui for its attention to detail and quality of its music and dancing, but there are many more!
See also our complete guide to Luau shows on Maui with video reviews and specific recommendations for the best shows for families, food, setting, sunsets.
Looking for the remains of the past? You can find them here on Maui:
Kahanu Garden + Piʻilanihale Heiau
Kahanu Garden along the “Road to Hāna” is a special place in Hawaiian culture, home to the Piʻilanihale Heiau, an incredible lava-rock temple that’s considered to be the largest in Polynesia. The significance of this historic place is worth a visit alone, and it has the added bonus of a beautiful botanical gardens as well.
Recommended visit: Located just before you get to Hāna, it is an easy stop to make on the Road to Hāna. Spend an hour wandering the grounds and take in this huge, historic heiau.
Markings left behind by ancient Hawaiians – about a 100 of them – can be seen at Olowalu in West Maui via a short, quarter mile hiking trail. Great for families with small children who have never seen petroglyphs.
Recommended visit: Make the short walk and enjoy! After, return to Olowalu Beach across the street for a dip and picnic.
Puʻu Kekaʻa (Black Rock)
Black Rock on Kaʻanapali Beach is a major cultural center that, for many, hides in plain sight. A prominent rock outcropping in front of the Sheraton Maui Resort, it was thought to be a portal to the spirit world in ancient Hawaiʻi, though most who visit the area are not aware of its significance.
Recommended visit: You can still get a glimpse of its importance today. Each evening, the Sheraton pays homage to this legend with a nightly show and cliff dive at sunset. Arrive an hour or two early and for some family-friendly snorkeling at the base of the rocks before watching the sunset and performance.
Maui has eight state parks, a mix of monuments, recreation areas, and waysides that preserve and protect areas of historical and cultural significance. Some areas, like ʻIao Valley, are already mentioned in this article. Spanning from Hāna (Waiʻānapanapa State Park) to the upcountry of Haleakalā (Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area), there are many diverse areas to explore via state parks on Maui.
Learn more about Maui State Parks.