Museums on Maui

Touring museums is a great way to enhance a vacation in the island paradise By: Beatrice Baisa
Visitors take in an exhibit at the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center // © 2011 Bob Bangerter
Visitors take in an exhibit at the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center // © 2011 Bob Bangerter

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While a trip to MauI will delight most travelers, clients may sometimes overlook hidden gems that can enhance their stay on the island. With so many activities to choose from -- such as whale watching, snorkeling and hiking -- a traveler's typical itinerary might not always include museum-hopping. Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau (MVB), thinks it should.

"Maui is home to scores of places where people can learn about the island's history, culture and ocean and land environment," said Vencl. "Visitors can have varied experiences visiting Maui's museums, which range from collections nestled in historic homes to modern galleries."

Travel agents looking to enhance the significance of a client's trip should suggest a few stops at Maui museums. Not only do museums offer a great way to understand the overall story of the island, but they can also provide new perspectives on its history and culture as well as its beaches, wildlife and nature.

One of Maui's many historical attractions is the Baldwin Home in Lahaina. Dating back to 1835 and constructed out of coral and limestone for Rev. Dwight Baldwin and his family, it has since been carefully restored with Hawaiian quilts, photographs, artifacts and furniture representing the period in which it was built. The preservation of the Baldwin Home by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation was based on careful documentation and research in an effort to capture and recreate part of Maui's past.

The Bailey House Museum in Wailuku was built in 1833 on the royal compound of Kahekili, the last ruling chief of Maui, and offers a glimpse into the island's missionary history. It was the home of teacher Edward Bailey and his family until 1888. Now, the house stands as a historical museum that exhibits a significant collection of Hawaiian culture, artifacts, koa-wood furnishing and 19th-century paintings by Bailey.

The Hana Cultural Center and Museum is a great way to immerse oneself further into Maui's past. Located in Hana, on the island's east side, the cultural center houses artifacts such as Hawaiian quilts, a lava stone poi pounder, Polynesian kapa (cloth made from pounded bark) and ancient implements, fishnets and hooks.

Children and adults will find various classes and programs to suit everyone's artistic interest at the nonprofit Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center. Located in Makawao, on the Upcountry estate of Kaluanui, the former home-turned-art-center provides art events, historical house tours, exhibitions, public workshops, classes, lectures and more. While participating in one of Hui Noeau's visiting artist programs, clients can unleash their creative sides and find inspiration from paradise or discover a fun, artistic outlet for an adventure-filled vacation.

For marine-life lovers, the Maui Ocean Center remains one of the most advanced aquarium facilities in the world. Visitors encounter hundreds of maritime animal species, engage in interactive displays and wander through exhibits such as a 750,000-gallon open-ocean display by way of an acrylic tunnel. The Maui Ocean Center is also home to a unique collection of marine life exclusively from the waters around the Hawaiian Islands.

There are many more museum options on Maui, including the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, whose Schaefer International Gallery features exhibits of visual arts from Hawaii and around the world. The Whalers Village Museum teaches visitors about all things humpback, while the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum showcases the history and heritage of Maui's sugar industry and plantation life.

Maui's museums are generally affordable and easy to reach. For clients without a rental car, museum-hopping is made simple with Maui's public bus system, which costs $1 per person upon boarding. The bus provides services in and between various central, southern and western regions of the island as well as to Haiku and Upcountry Maui.

MVB's Vencl remains committed to the philosophy that travel agents who steer their clients toward the museums of Maui will greatly enhance the traveler's overall experience on the island.

"Travel agents should continue to share information about Maui's museums as much as they can," said Vencl. "Oftentimes, the museum they are suggesting is connected to a land or ocean activity that their client is going to do. Visiting the museum makes the activity all the more meaningful."
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