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Thanks to its superb beaches, ravishing tropical scenery, wide range of activities, and magnificent hotels, the island of Maui can justly claim to be the world’s most glamorous vacation destination. The slogan Maui No Ka ‘Oi – "Maui is the Best" – may gloss over the fact that it’s both the second largest and the second youngest of the Hawaiian chain, and ranks a distant second to Oahu in terms of annual visitors, but for island inhabitants and devotees alike the "Valley Isle" has a cachet its neighbors could never match.
All the Hawaiian islands are the summits of a chain of submarine volcanoes, poking from the Pacific more than two thousand miles off the west coast of America. Each has continued to grow for as long as it remained poised above a stationary "hot spot" in the earth’s crust; since Maui in its turn drifted to the northwest and lost its steady supply of fresh lava, it has begun to erode back beneath the ocean.
Maui is what’s known as a "volcanic doublet", consisting of two originally separate but now overlapping volcanoes. The older of the two, known to geologists as Mauna Kahalawai, has eroded to become a serrated ridge that’s usually referred to as the West Maui Mountains; it’s now dwarfed by the younger Haleakala to the southeast. Although Haleakala is not technically extinct, but only dormant, and may erupt again at some point in the future, the hot spot now lies beneath the southern shores of the Big Island. As a result, Haleakala is not what it was: around 400,000 years ago, it stood several thousand feet taller, and dominated the landmass of Maui Nui, which also took in what are now the distinct islands of Kahoolawe, Molokai and Lanai. The channels between the four neighbors are the shallowest, and the calmest, in the state of Hawaii.
Thanks to massive immigration, the population of modern Hawaii is among the most ethnically diverse in the world. Only perhaps 2 percent of Maui’s 120,000 inhabitants are pure Hawaiians, while another 20 percent claim at least some Hawaiian blood. The rest of the population includes the 26 percent who identify themselves as Caucasian, 16 percent Japanese, and 15 percent Filipino, though as over half of all marriages are classified as inter-racial such statistics are increasingly meaningless. Almost everyone speaks English, and as a rule the Hawaiian language is only encountered in the few words – such as aloha or "love", the all-purpose island greeting – that have passed into general local usage.
For each of its permanent citizens, Maui welcomes around twenty tourists per year – the annual total is around 2.35 million, each of whom stays on average for 6.7 days and spends at a rate of $171 per day. The island attracts a younger, more dynamic crowd than Waikiki, principally because it offers Hawaii’s most exhilarating range of vacation activities, including windsurfing, diving, sailing, snorkeling, cycling, hiking and horse-riding.
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Greg Ward is an established travel writer and expert on the islands of Hawaii. He has worked for Rough Guides since 1985. He is the author of The Rough Guide to Barcelona (with Steve Tallantyre), The Rough Guide to Brittany and Normandy, and The Rough Guide to Southwest USA. Visit him online at gregward.info.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
AROUND THE ISLAND
Because the tradewinds throughout Hawaii blow consistently from the northeast, each island is much wetter on its north and east – windward – coasts, which are characterized by steep sea cliffs, inaccessible stream-cut valleys, and dense tropical vegetation, and has a drier and less fertile aspect on the west and south – leeward – sides. Maui is somewhat exceptional, in that each of its two distinct volcanoes has its own wet and dry sides. Nonethless, like its neighbors, Maui has concentrated almost all of its tourist development on its sunbaked leeward shorelines, with its major resorts either lying north of historic Lahaina in West Maui, like Ka ‘anapali and Kapalua, or along the southwestern flanks of Haleakala in what’s known as South Maui, like Kihei, Wailua and Makena. These resorts offer safe sandy beaches, ideal conditions for watersports, and all the amenities the modern holiday-maker could ask for. However, there’s plenty to explore elsewhere on the island should you become tired of endlessly meandering between beach and brunch. To get a sense of Maui’s history, the best place to start is strolling the streets of old Lahaina, once the capital of Hawaii and the rendezvous for the wild-living Pacific whaling fleet. The central isthmus or "neck" of the island, between the volcanoes, holds Kahului, the main commercial center, and the faded but somehow appealing town of Wailuku, standing guard over the once-sacred ‘Iao Valley.
To the east, Upcountry Maui, on the lower slopes of Haleakala, is an unexpected idyll, its cool green meadows and flower farms offering a pastoral escape from the bustle below. Higher up, beyond the clouds, you can look out across the many-hued volcanic wasteland of the vast Haleakala Crater, or dwindle into cosmic insignificance by hiking down into it.
Tortuous, demanding roads wind right around the windward coasts of both halves of the island. The better known of the two, the road to Hana in the east, does not quite merit its legendary status, but its countless waterfalls and ravines make for a wonderful day-trip, culminating at lush ‘Ohe‘o Gulch. West Maui’s equivalent, Kahekili Highway, enables visitors to explore the remote Waihe‘e Valley, and offers a glimpse of how Maui must have looked before the tourists arrived.
CLIMATE AND WHEN TO GO
Although Maui’s high season for tourism is mid-December to March, when typical room rates rise by perhaps $25 per night, its climate remains pretty constant year-round.
Throughout the year, sea-level thermometers rarely drop below the low seventies Fahrenheit (around 22°C) in the daytime, or climb beyond the low eighties (around 28°C); at night the temperature seldom falls below the low sixties. The only reason to bring warm clothing is if you plan to drive up to the summit of Haleakala; at dawn, the most popular time to visit, temperatures regularly drop below freezing point. In principle the rainiest months are from December to February, but where you are on the island makes far more difference than what time of year it is, and the main leeward tourist areas seldom receive more than the occasional light shower even then. The highest peak, in the West Maui Mountains – a place you almost certainly will never glimpse, let alone visit – is deluged by over 400 inches of rain per year, but all the coastal resorts, including Ka‘anapali, barely five miles away, get less than twenty inches.
The only seasonal variation of any great significance for tourists is the state of the ocean. Along protected stretches of the shoreline, you can expect to be able to swim all year round in beautiful seas where the water temperature varies from 75°F to 82°F (24–28°C). Between October and April, however, high surf can render unsheltered beaches dangerous in the extreme, and some beaches even lose their sand altogether. Conditions on specific beaches are indicated throughout this book; see also the "Sea Sports and Safety" section on p.44.
Other factors that might influence the timing of your visit include the annual sojourn of migratory humpback whales in the offshore waters, between late November and late March; the peak season for the flowering trees along the Hana Highway, in June; the blossoming of the extraordinary silversword plants of Haleakala in July and August; and the island’s various annual festivals, as detailed on p.41.
Despite the much-publicized onslaught of Hurricane Iniki on Kauai in September 1992, hurricanes are very rare in Hawaii. Similarly, tsunamis (often erroneously called tidal waves) hit perhaps once every fifty years, generally as a result of earthquakes or landslides caused by volcanic eruptions. Civil defense procedures adopted in such events are posted widely throughout the island.
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Book Description Rough Guides, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111858288525
Book Description Rough Guides, 2002. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1858288525