It may take its name from one of Hawaii’s bitterest and bloodiest battles, but today this charming town is all about peace and tranquility.
Wailuku is Maui County’s capital town, a place where fierce battles were fought, Hawaiian kings went to rest, a sugar industry was born and missionaries worked. Its eclectic history is only part of the appeal. Today, it charms with its old churches, wooden storefronts, antique stores and quaint cafés.
The town is situated at the foot of the West Maui Mountains and bordered by Iao Valley’s lush green forests and tropical plants. This was the setting for one of Hawaii’s most savage battles, the origin of the town’s name. In 1790, the invading King Kamehameha defeated Maui warriors in his attempt to unite Hawaii. So many men died, it was said that several miles of the 'Iao River ran red with their blood. Wailuku translates as “waters of destruction.”
The area changed when the missionaries arrived in the early 1800s, bringing with them Christianity and Western culture. Further upheaval came with the growth of the sugar industry. This boom attracted immigrants from Europe and Asia, many of whom settled in the area.
Glimpse Wailuku’s history with a visit to Kaahumanu Church, the oldest on the island. This large bluestone structure is the fourth place of worship for the Wailuku congregation on this plot of land; the first was a shed, the current structure was built in 1876.
Explore the Bailey House Museum, the former home of missionary teacher Edward Bailey and his family. The 19th-century building’s displays include Hawaiian and missionary artifacts, paintings and furniture.
One of the most popular parts of Wailuku is Market Street, with its assortment of retail shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafés. It’s here that the town’s peaceful atmosphere is pleasantly disrupted on the first Friday of every month: The area is closed off to traffic for 2.5 hours and plays host to a lively street party, which features singing, dancing, magicians and street vendors.
Located on central Maui, Wailuku is 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Kahului Airport.