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So many visitors travel to Maui to lie on the white-sand beach
of Kaanapali and stroll along its oceanfront resorts, shops and
restaurants, it’s hard to imagine that nearly half a millennium ago
native Hawaiian fishing villages of thatched-roof homes dotted the
shoreline, and rich agriculture fields extended upwards to the
forestlands of the West Maui Mountains. Back in the 1500s, the
area, then called Kekaa, functioned as the capital of Maui.
Warriors once waged bloody battles across a stream where golfers
now count their strokes on the lush greens. The Kaanapali History
and Legends Tour aims to bring that to mind for visitors and
Organized by the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association, guides
representing the resorts enliven the history of a Hawaiian
civilization once ruled by kings and queens, defended by warriors,
and sustained by fishermen, farmers and gatherers living in harmony
with their environment.
Through the retelling of legends and local histories, the tour
focuses on ancient history as well as the plantation and missionary
eras and early tourism development. The free, 90-minute tour begins
aboard a trolley, making four stops, and continues on foot to six
sites, primarily along the Kaanapali oceanfront beach path.
Clients can also take a self-guided tour with a brochure and map
to stop at 10 informational monuments.
The tour begins at the former site of the Kaanapali Airstrip and
Terminal at Airport Beach. The guides ask the group to imagine the
year 1968, when tourists posted their business cards alongside
photos of themselves taken by bartender High School Harry at the
former Windsock Lounge.
At the border of the Kaanapali Golf Course a giant boulder
resembling the shape of a reclining figure represents the legend of
Moemoe, whose listless spirit was given eternal rest after having
been turned into stone by the demigod Maui.
In more recent history, the remains of the Kekaa pier can still
be seen. The pier served as the docking point for processed sugar
transported by railroad from the sugar cane fields and sugar mill.
Cut trees for lumber were also cured in the ocean water.
Around that era, from the late 1800s to early 1900s, a horse
racetrack dominated the oceanfront at the location now occupied by
the upscale Whalers Village shopping center. The races served as a
gathering point for the plantation owners, supervisors and
laborers; the royalty and local people; and even the missionaries
bet on the outcomes.
At a site overlooking an outrigger canoe, the tour guides
Krislyn Lavey of Oahu and Kekoa Mowat of Molokai, both employees of
the Hyatt Regency Maui sang a canoe chant in Hawaiian used by the
warriors. The Hawaiians used canoes for transportation, fishing and
warfare. It was easier for them to travel over water to Maui’s
neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai than to trek over land to
the far side of the island.
Perhaps the most jarring dislocation of time was when the group
crouched through the bushes lining a parking lot while pretending
to be warriors entering the famed battleground of Koko O Na Moku.
In 1738, the two sons of former chief Kekaulike waged a civil war
for future control of Maui. The war ended in the four-day
“bloodshed of the islands” battle, in which thousands of warriors
perished from stone slings and javelin spears. Their blood flowed
down a stream and colored the ocean red for several days. Nowadays,
fountains trickle along the green golfing fairways.
The participants were eager to know about this place they had
come to for the purpose of relaxing; many had visited Maui a number
of years previously.
As one tourist said: “I came here on an island tour 30 years
ago. I was young. I didn’t really learn anything.”
This provided the impetus for the Kaanapali Beach Resort
Association and its executive director Shelley Kekuna to delve into
the predevelopment history of the region and share it with visitors
and residents. The newly inaugurated tour is promoted at
Kaanapali’s resorts and is open to the community.
The Kaanapali History and Legends Tour enriches anyone’s
understanding and experience of Hawaiian culture beyond its
resorts, beaches and leisure.
Trail & History and Legends Tour
Kaanapali Beach Resort Association
A 90-minute guided tour by trolley bus and walking.
Maximum: 21 people
Tuesdays and Fridays starting at 8:45 a.m. Free.
Optional self-guided walking tour with brochure and map to 10