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Kahului Basics


Photo: Shutterstock, Eric Baker

Most travelers hit the ground running from the Kahului Airport to the resorts in Hana, Wailea and Lahaina, but if you slow down and take the time to explore, you will find that the city is a worthwhile stop for a taste of local Maui life. The border between Kahului and the neighboring Wailuku is rather undefined, and together these commercial centers make up the beating heart of the island, where all business and industry takes place. Wailuku is the county seat, and features a collection of low-key restaurants and bars. Kahului is the home to much of the resident island population, industry and big box stores, but this is where locals live, eat and do business–so great mom and pop shops with local cuisine and reasonable prices are abundant. 

Maui is a culturally diverse island, which is apparent in the array of dining options and attractions. During the mid-19th century, the central region was home to the island's sugar cane plantations, which drew immigrants from around the world to work in the fields. Today visitors can learn about how the sugar industry transformed the economic and cultural makeup of the island at the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum just outside of Kahului. To go back further in Maui's history, take a hike through the Iao Valley State Park, where King Kamehameha defeated the Maui army in 1790 on his quest to unite the Hawaiian islands. Be sure to snap a few photos of one of Maui's most recognizable landmarks, the famous Iao Needle, a 1,200 foot vegetation-covered stone outcropping. 

Become familiar with the island through traditional meals and sign up for the Tour Da Food, where you will experience the island from a unique perspective and try staples of the Hawaiian diet, such as the infamous plate lunch (two scoops of white rice, an Asian flavored protein and macaroni salad). Considering Kahului’s location, fresh seafood is bountiful and often crusted in macadamia nuts or steamed in ti leaves. The Asian population certainly influences the island's cuisine, with Japanese, Chinese and Korean flavors on almost all menus–including plenty of fresh sushi, noodle dishes and kimchi. 

Kahului is also a base for adventure sports, whether you plan to see the island via helicopter or racing down the side of Haleakala Crater on two wheels, tours and tour companies are often based near this central hub. Kanaha beach, just east of downtown near the airport, has some of the best conditions on the island for windsurfing and kiteboarding and a few local schools offer lessons for all skill levels.

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