Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and covers about 730 square miles. Maui consists of two separate volcanoes with a combining isthmus between the two.
The Mauna Kahālāwai (West Maui Mountain) is probably the older of the two; Haleakala (East Maui) was last active about 1790, whereas activity on West Maui is wholly pre-historic.
“…West Maui has many sharp peaks and ridges, which are divided by deep valleys, and which in descending towards the sea open out and form sloping plains on the north and south sides of considerable extent.” (Wilkes, US Exploring Expedition of 1840-1841)
West Maui has played an important role in the history of Maui and the neighboring islands of Moloka‘i, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, with West Maui serving as the Royal Center, selected for its abundance of resources and recreation opportunities, with good surfing and canoe-landing sites being favored.
Probably there is no portion of our Valley Isle, around which gathers so much historic value as West Maui. It was the former capital and favorite residence of kings and chiefs.
After serving for centuries as home to ruling chiefs, West Maui was selected by Kamehameha III and his chiefs to be the seat of government; here the first Hawaiian constitution was drafted and the first legislature was convened.
On its eastern side, from the highest peak of Pu‘u Kukui to the shoreline of Kahului Bay, the ahupua‘a (land division) of Wailuku was a favorite place of Ali‘i and a ruling center of Maui.
‘Īao Valley is part of the ahupua‘a. For centuries, high chiefs and navigators from across the archipelago were buried in secret, difficult-to-access sites in the valley’s steep walls.
The Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve (Pu‘u Kukui Preserve) was established in 1988 to protect watershed forests and associated native plants and animals.
A subsidiary of Maui Land & Pineapple, Inc. (ML&P) owns the property and began management programs in August 1988, under a management agreement with The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.
The Pu‘u Kukui Preserve stretches from about 480 feet elevation at Honokōhau Stream to the Pu‘u Kukui summit – the highest point on Mauna Kahālāwai (West Maui) at 5,788 feet elevation. It lies between the Kahakuloa and Honokowai sections of the state’s West Maui Natural Area Reserve.
These three areas, together with the 1,264 acre Kapunakea Preserve (managed by The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i), form 13,000 acres of contiguous forests that are protected by the programs of state and private natural area managers.
The Pu‘u Kukui Preserve encompasses a very large area, much of which is remote and extremely rugged. Access to the Preserve is restricted by ML&P.
This policy is intended to minimize trampling of fragile soils and rare plants, prevent the spread of weeds by hikers, and protect public safety.
At over 8,600-acres, the Pu`u Kukui Preserve is the largest privately-owned nature preserve in the state.
The rain forests, shrub lands and bogs of the Pu‘u Kukui Preserve serve as a significant water source for West Maui residents and industries.
It is the summit of Mauna Kahālāwai and the West Maui mountainside that form a backdrop to Kapalua Resort, Kā‘anapali Resort and broader West Maui community. It is home to plant and animal species that exist nowhere else in Hawai‘i, let alone the rest of the world.
It’s also one of the wettest spots on earth (average yearly rainfall at the rain gage since 1928 is about 364 inches;) Pu‘u Kukui is a natural watershed on most of the West Maui community rely for water.
Conservation measures expanded in 1998, when the property was included in the West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership.
The West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership, like other Hawai‘i Watershed partnerships is a voluntary alliances of public and private landowners committed to the common value of protecting large areas of forested watersheds for water recharge and conservation values.
This partnership coordinates conservation efforts of the private and public landholding entities of Mauna Kahalawai (West Maui mountains), allowing for management of natural systems regardless of property boundaries.
The preserve is home to at least 36 species of rare plants, three native forest birds, and at least seven species of rare native tree snails. It stretches from the 480 foot elevation at Honokōhau Stream to the 5,788 foot elevation at the Pu‘u Kukui Summit.
The rain forest and the shrub lands of the area serve as a significant water source for both West Maui residents and industries alike.