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Maui History

Maui history is perhaps the most fascinating of all the Hawaiian Islands. Before Maui was a tropical hot spot, it was a tribal kingdom. Kahekili, the warrior chief of Maui, figures highly in Maui history. A formidable conqueror, he was inked from head to toe on one side of his body with dense and heavy tattoos. In his 60-year reign he took control of Oahu and later took Kauai, as well (he did, however, steer clear of the Big Island, not because it didn’t have riches to offer his kingdom, but because he feared the powerful Kamehameha warriors). He was right to fear them, ultimately it was King Kamehameha the Great who defeated him in 1790 in a great battle at Iao Valley. King Kamehameha pulled off the feat with a combination of trained warriors, war canoes and western firearms. Once Kamehameha’s unification of the islands was completed, the focus of the ruling chiefs and kingdom shifted to Lahaina for the growth of commerce and trade with the western world. Throughout Maui's history, the small seaside town grew from a small village to a bustling whaling town filled with sailors, saloons, shops and merchants. Missionaries were also arriving in the islands on quests to spread Christianity, and these worlds all merged on the white sandy shores of West Maui. Opportunities for commerce grew to include whaling, sugar cane and sandalwood. Today, Honolulu is the capital and center of commerce of the islands. Maui still has interests in agriculture, but the primary focus for the island, if not the entire state, has shifted to tourism.