Ka ua leina hua o Kaʻanapali
The rain of Kaʻanapali that leaps and produces fruit
ʻOlelo Noʻeau – Pukui
The song Moloka‘i Nui A Hina, primarily about Molokaʻi starts ‘Ua nani nā hono a Pi‘ilani’ ‘How beautiful are the bays of Pi‘ilani,’ referencing the view across the channel at northwest Maui, the district the ancients called Kaʻānapali.
In the 1500s, Chief Piʻilani (“stairway to heaven”) unified West Maui and ruled in peace and prosperity. His territory included the six West Maui bays, a place he frequented.
There are six hono bays: from South to North, Honokōwai (bay drawing fresh water), Honokeana (cave bay), Honokahua (sites bay,) Honolua (two bays), Honokōhau (bay drawing dew) and Hononana (animated bay).
This area was extensively terraced for wet taro (loʻi) in early historic and later times. Honokahua Valley has been described as having loʻi lands. Sweet potatoes were reportedly grown between the Honokōhau and Kahakuloa Ahupuaʻa.
In this area, between that ahupuaʻa of Honokōwai and Honokeana, was Kahana (cutting or turning point,) another ahupuaʻa of the moku (district) of Kāʻanapali.
Settlement patterns in the region followed patterns elsewhere, permanent habitation around the coastal and near shore lands, as well as the inland valley land. The forested and ridge-top lands were used for gathering forest products, and for forest plantings of various utilitarian Hawaiian plants.
Ancient Hawaiian villages on Maui were generally placed at the mouths of the larger gulches or at least within sight of the sea. Both pre-contact and historic features have been identified in the coastal and nearshore lands region. It can be inferred that the coastal lands were settled since the pre-contact period and extensively used during the historic period. (Cultural Surveys)
Handy notes, “ … the flat coastal plain all the way from Kihei and Māʻalaea to Honokahua, in old Hawaiian times, must have supported many fishing settlements and isolated fishermen’s houses, where sweet potatoes were grown in the sandy soil or red lepo (soil) near the shore.”
“For fishing, this coast is the most favorable on Maui, and, although a considerable amount of taro was grown, I think it is reasonable to suppose that the large fishing population, which presumably inhabited this leeward coast, ate more sweet potatoes than taro with their fish.”
“…the Kahana settlement pattern in AD 1848 consisted of houselots, and at least one small fishpond, extending several miles inland along the banks of Kahana Stream. No houselots were claimed beyond a few hundred feet inland. This pattern also appears to hold for at least the next three ahupuaʻa to the north of Kahana – Mailepai, ʻAlaeloa and Honokeana.” (Engledow)
When chief Kekaulike died, his younger son Kamehamehanui (uncle to Kamehameha I) was named heir to rule Maui. In 1738, Kauhi‘aimokuakama (Kauhi,) his older brother, began to wage war to win the title of ruling chief.
Battles were fought across West Maui. Kamehamehanui engaged the forces of his uncle from Hawai‘i to fight with him, whose troops numbered over 8,000, and Kauhi brought troops of warriors from O‘ahu. (Fornander)
The war ended with the battle Koko O Nā Moku (“Bloodshed of the Islands.”) Over several days, the blood of fallen warriors from both sides flowed from a stream into the shorebreak and caused the ocean to turn red. (Kamehamehanui won.) (Kāʻanapali Historical Trail)
Several socio-economic factors influenced the later evolution of West Maui. Kahana was right in the middle of these changes and played a role in the transformation.
For a couple of decades after 1812 West Maui was an important shipping point for the sandalwood trade. It became a well-known point of call for trading and exploring vessels, whose captains found the open roadstead a safe and convenient anchorage.
In 1819, the first American whaling ships reached the islands, and by 1822 there were 34-whalers making Hawaiʻi a base of refreshment. From that time the number increased rapidly. Although Honolulu was originally the port most favored by the whalers, West Maui often surpassed it in the number of recorded visits, particularly from about 1840 to 1855.
Another factor to affect the change, growth and social structure of West Maui was the arrival of the first missionaries in the Islands during 1820. The first missionaries to be established at Lāhainā, the Rev. CS Stewart and the Rev. William Richards, arrived in 1823. They came at the request of Queen Mother Keōpūolani, who moved to live in Lāhainā that year.
It was not until 1823 that several members of the Lāhainā Mission Station began to process sugar for their own use. The first commercially-viable sugar plantation, Ladd and Co., was started at Kōloa on Kaua‘i in 1835. It was to change the face of Hawai‘i forever, launching an entire economy, lifestyle and practice of mono-cropping that lasted for well over a century. By the 1840s, efforts were underway in West Maui to develop a means for making sugar a productive commodity.
James Campbell, who arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1850 ‐ having served as a carpenter on a whaling ship and then operated a carpentry business in Lāhainā ‐ started a sugar plantation there in 1860. The small mill, together with cane from Campbell’s fields, manufactured sugar on shares for small cane growers in the vicinity. His operation became Pioneer Mill.
Historically Maui’s second largest industry, pineapple cultivation, had also played a large role in forming Maui’s modern day landscape. The pineapple industry began on Maui in 1890 with Dwight D Baldwin’s Haiku Fruit and Packing Company on the northeast side of the island.
West Maui’s roots in the historic pineapple industry began in 1912, when of Honolua Ranch manager, David Fleming began growing pineapple there; almost overnight the pineapple industry boomed. The ranch was soon renamed Baldwin Packers; at one time they were the largest producer of private label pineapple and pineapple juice in the nation; it later became Maui Land and Pineapple.
As sugar and pineapple declined, tourism took its place ‐ and far surpassed it. Like many other societies, Hawaii underwent a profound transformation from an agrarian to a service economy. Resorts in Kāʻanapali (1962) and Kapalua (1978) popped up. In 1987, Hawaiian Airlines built the Kapalua Airport (situated within the Kahana ahupuaʻa.)
The visitor destinations of Lāhainā-Kāʻanapali-Kapalua continue to lead the neighbor islands in room occupancy and they lead the state in average daily room (ADR) rates and revenue per available room (ADR x occupancy rate.)
Kahana (situated in the middle of the West Maui resort community) has its share of commercial, condo, timeshare, hotel and other resort improvements along its shore.
West Maui is a full‐fledged tourist resort second only to Waikīkī. Tourism is the activity most responsible for Hawaiʻi’s current economic growth and standard of living.