If you want an unhurried and uncommercialized vacation on the island of Maui, make sure you leave room on your schedule for the county seat of Maui County — Wailuku. The sleepy little town of fifteen-thousand lies west of Kahului, at the mouth of scenic Iao Valley. To look at its quiet streets and boutique storefronts today, you’d never know that a hundred years ago Wailuku was the spearhead of tourism for the entire island of Maui — the town was chock-a-block with hotels and gaudy gift shops, and has the distinction of being one of the first cities in Hawaii to report a traffic jam.
But today the town is so lowkey that there is not a single hotel left in the area. Still, it is worth the effort to visit Wailuku for the wonderful and ancient indigenous religious houses open to visitors — Haleki’i, and Pihanakalani Heiau. Both sites are now included inside the Haleki’i Pihana Heiau State Park on the banks of the Wailuku River. These so-called ‘temples’ were originally the homes of important chieftains seven centuries ago; after their deaths the buildings were enlarged to hold as many as three hundred people to witness sacrificial offerings to the local rainforest gods.
Kahului Field is the nearest airport to Wailuku.