A Decade on Maui

On MNKO’s 10th anniversary, we look back at how our island has changed.


By Jill Engledow | Photography by Jason Moore / Ron Dahlquist  / Tom McKinlay | Illustration by Guy Junker

how Maui has changedMore people, more traffic, more choices, more things to do. Some gains—and some losses. It has been a busy 10 years since the first issue of Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine rolled off the press in the summer of 1996.

In honor of that anniversary, we decided to look back at the past decade. We know we haven’t thought of everything, but these are some of the milestones that occurred as this magazine grew from zero subscribers to over 18,000.

Just the facts ma’am.

Do things seem a bit more crowded lately? They are. We used the most recent figures from the Hawai‘i Business Research Library’s Maui County Data Book to show just a few ways in which the county has grown.

Resident population 1996: 120,689
2005 estimate: 140,050

De facto population 1996: 154,407
2005 estimate: 181,850

Real estate resales (single-family) 1996: 445
Average price: $367,247
2004: 1,221
Average price: $730,264

Real estate resales (condominium) 1996: $572
Average price: $243,362
2004: 1,993
Average price: $438,255

Vehicles registered 1996: 119,961
2005: 156,880

Sitting in traffic jams giving you a backache? Help is at hand: In 1997, Maui County had only 481 massage therapists; by 2005, there were 1,080. Got a toothache? Sorry—in 1997, there were 70 dentists, but by 2005, the dentist population had grown only to 75.

New influences

With nearly 20,000 new residents in the past 10 years, and almost 37,000 more cars, Maui in 2006 is a bustling place, with more traffic lights, new subdivisions dotting the landscape, and big-box stores taking the place of mom-and-pop emporiums. Tourism continues to grow, and the high-tech industry creates new jobs in fields unheard-of not long ago. Giant cruise ships are a common sight in Kahului Harbor, with Norwegian Cruise Lines already bringing three ships there each week. Old-timers fret that the island is losing its community spirit as newcomers fill gated communities, many with no concept of Island history and customs.

Affluence reigns . . .

In 1998, The Robb Report listed Kapalua Resort as No. 5 among the Top Ten Most Affluent Communities in the United States.

Shop ‘til you drop.

The first issue of Maui No Ka ‘Oi featured a story about the new Costco, and other nationally known outlets followed, including a collection of retail brand names in Maui Marketplace (1997), Home Depot in 2000, and Wal-Mart soon after. Malls popped up all over the place, with Pi‘ilani Village in Kihei, the glossy Shops at Wailea, and the Ma‘alaea Harbor Village all opening in 2000.

The big-box stores offer bargains and variety, but some say they create an impersonal atmosphere of consumerism. Others say the big stores have become “the new meeting place,” where friends talk story.

Are the mom-and-pop stores really the victim of Mainland-style super shopping? More often, the old stores closed because a new generation chose an upwardly mobile lifestyle, which means that the American dream of immigrant-to-storekeeper-to-professional is working just fine on Maui. And while we lost Noda’s, Ikeda’s, Ooka’s, and Ah Fook’s (to fire in 2005), many of the oldies remain—Takamiya Market, Hasegawa, Nagata, Hanzawa, Morihara, and the Pukalani Superette, to name a few.

Some losses . . .

In 1999, a bad year for agriculture, Pioneer Mill shut down, ending 139 years of sugar growing on West Maui and leaving the island with only one sugar plantation, HC&S (which closed its Pa‘ia Mill in 2000). Haleakala Dairy sold its cows and shipped 1,750 of them off to O‘ahu in 1999. And Wailuku Agribusiness closed its macadamia nut orchard, ending 138 years of agricultural production for the company formerly known as Wailuku Sugar. Family management of Maui Land & Pineapple Company ended after AOL founder Steve Case purchased a significant chunk of stock in 1999.

The Hula Bowl moved to Maui in 1998—then headed back to O‘ahu in 2006. The ‘Ulupalakua Thing outgrew itself after 13 successful years, and shut down in 2005, having accomplished its goal of promoting local agriculture. The Carthaginian, rusting away at its Lahaina berth, was hauled out to sea and turned into a sunken reef.


Some gains . . .

While the traditional Hawai‘i crops of sugar and pineapple wilted, diversified agricultural bloomed, including agri-tourist favorites like the Surfing Dairy Goat Farm and the Ali‘i Gardens lavender farm. The Nissan Xterra World Cup championship first enlisted hardy competitors for a grueling triathlon in 1996. The Maui Ocean Center, with a 750,000-gallon “ocean tunnel,” opened in 1998. Kite surfing took flight during the mid-90s in perfect conditions off Maui’s northern coast. New schools opened to serve a burgeoning population: Kamali‘i Elementary in Kihei (1996), Kamehameha Schools in Pukalani (1996), Maui Preparatory Academy on West Maui (2005). Maui Community College began building much-needed new dorms, scheduled to open in Fall 2006.

Are we loving  Maui to death?

Places once described as primitive and isolated, where local families went to camp or fish, today are overrun by visitors, many of whom do not understand or appreciate the sensitivity of the spot or even its danger to the unwary. Blue Pool, Venus Pool, and Twin Falls filled with swimmers after their locations were revealed by tell-all guidebooks. In 2001, a daily count found as many as 805 visitors and 339 vehicles entering the Keone‘o‘io area, many hoping to swim with the dolphins that just want to snooze after a hard night of hunting.

Earth-friendly action

Pacific Biodiesel, born in 1996, developed a process to turn discarded cooking oil into clean-burning fuel, resulting in one of the first commercially viable biodiesel plants in the United States. The County of Maui set up recycling stations in various communities. Maui Electric Company and the State encouraged installation of solar water heaters with interest-free loans. Kaheawa Wind Farms began installing 20 giant wind generators in 2005, Maui’s first commercial-scale wind-power project.

New traditions

Maui has become accustomed to being known as the world’s best island, as readers of Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure choose it year after year. Writers and editors congregate in Wailea each September for the Maui Writers’ Conference. Barry and Stella Rivers created a weekly film event and an annual festival that pleases movie buffs from Kahului to Hollywood. Big surf makes the Pa‘ia traffic jam worse as spectators rush to Pe‘ahi to watch elite surfers catch the giant waves at Jaws. The International Festival of Canoes started in 1998 and grew into a signature event for Lahaina each May, while Halloween continues to draw thousands for an impromptu costume parade down Front Street. Part-time Maui resident Willie Nelson pulls in the fans and the funds every year for the Montessori Music Festival, benefiting the Upcountry private school. The island’s social leaders gather each August for Maui Calls, the fancy annual fund-raiser for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Keali‘i Reichel fills the MACC for Valentine’s Day, and the Brothers Cazimero draw crowds on May Day. Ulalena is a must-see show for locals and visitors alike.

Still going . . .

The venerable Aloha Festivals still celebrate the Hawaiian culture, as does Na Mele o Maui’s annual song and art competition for school children and Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel’s Hula o Na Keiki. Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center (which pulled itself together first to renovate its plantation mansion headquarters and then to buy it in record-breaking time) glistens with its annual Christmas House holiday craft sale. Gourmets celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Kapalua Wine and Food Festival this year. Artists still vie to be included in Art Maui’s juried exhibition. Runners test their stamina in the Maui Marathon, the Hana Relays, and the Run to the Sun. And the oldest of them all, the Maui County Fair, founded in 1916, continues to draw Mauians by the thousands for a parade, rides, orchid show, and the best-of-island agriculture and homemaking displays.

Hot topics

Not even this lovely island can escape controversy. We fought to save Palauea Beach from development; to stop cane burning or to preserve sugar growing (depending upon your persuasion); and to ban or encourage a longer runway, a Super Ferry, a 14-story solar telescope atop Haleakala, and genetically modified organisms growing in Kihei cornfields. We debated development—how much, what kind, where—and watched as former agricultural land was carved into mini estates with prices far out of reach for the average local family. We joined in efforts to preserve the thinning aquifer, return streams to their natural waterways, and prevent domestic use of pesticide-tainted wells. And we worked to fight alien species that threatened to destroy the native environment.

Landmark moments

The County of Maui turned 100 in 2005, and Koreans (2003) and Filipinos (2006) celebrated their centennials in the Islands. Lahaina’s famous Banyan Tree turned 130 (2003) and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center turned 10 (2004). Lahainaluna, the oldest high school west of the Rockies, celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2006. Established in 2000, the Maui Coastal Land Trust acquired its first land in 2002, 41 acres at Maka‘alae Point outside Hana town.

Hawaiian Renaissance

Hawai‘i’s native culture continued its rebirth, evolving through increased use of the Hawaiian language (including the use of proper diacritical markings on street signs) and a golden age of Hawaiian music in which Maui performers played a starring role. For the first time ever, Hawaiian music merited its own Grammy award in 2005 (and the winner of the 2006 award was recorded “live in concert from Maui”). On Maui and Moloka‘i, ancient fish ponds were rebuilt. And on Kaho‘olawe, federal funds paid to clean up the mess decades of military target practice left on an island precious to the people of Hawai‘i. In 2003, the Navy transferred control of Kaho‘olawe access to the State of Hawai‘i.

Stepping down

Don Reeser retired as superintendent of Haleakala National Park in 2005, after 17 years there and 40 years with the park service in a career spent breaking new ground to protect the ‘aina.

Miss Sue Loudon stepped off stage in 2005 after 40 years of inspiring young thespians through the Baldwin High School dramatic arts program.

Maverick politician Wayne Nishiki, an independent sort who enjoyed needling developers, retired from the County Council in 2005 when county law decreed that, after 22 years, he’d served his share of council terms.

Maui Mayor Linda Lingle, the first woman, the first Jewish person, and the youngest person to hold that job, left office in 1999—and in 2002 ran successfully for state governor, a position where she set similar records.

We still miss them.

Among the many well-loved Mauians who have passed on in the last 10 years:

  • Tom Morrow (1996), County Council member killed in a plane crash on Moloka‘i along with several Democratic Party workers.
  • Soichi Sakamoto (1997) created the Three Year Swim Club that transformed ragtag plantation youngsters into national champions—and would have gotten them to the Olympics, if World War II hadn’t intervened.
  • Douglas Sodetani (1997), former Maui Realty Company president and a highly involved community leader.
  • Earl I. Tanaka (1997), a World War II veteran who worked at The Maui News for more than 40 years before retiring as managing editor.
  • Roy Yonahara (1997) spearheaded the Okinawan Cultural Center in Paukukalo, was a Baldwin High teacher for many years and served on the founding board of the MACC.
  • Kawika Ka‘alakea (1998), Hawaiian kahu (pastor) and herbal medicine practitioner.
    Hannibal Tavares (1998), community patriarch and the longest-serving mayor of Maui, holding the post from 1979 to 1991.
  • David Warren (1998), Maui artist and actor.
  • Mamoru Yamasaki (1999), a “straight arrow” state representative who worked hard for the needs of families and children.
  • Bill Azeka (2000) unofficial “mayor” of Kihei, whose little grocery anchored a community and provided help when times were hard.
  • Velma Santos (2000), teacher, state representative, county director of human concerns, and longtime County Council member.
  • Shigeto “Shigesh” Wakida (2001) taught tennis to thousands of West Side kids over 40 years, mainly as a volunteer instructor at tennis courts in Lahaina now named for him.
  • Congresswoman Patsy Mink (2002) authored the Title IX legislation that removed barriers for women and girls in school athletics, and changed the paradigm of what women could do.
  • Patrick Kawano (2002) of Moloka‘i served on the council for 15 1/2 years and was chairman for three terms.
  • Manduke Baldwin (2002), Haleakala Ranch president, cowboy, and sportsman, and his wife, equestrian Haku Baldwin (2003), founder of the Maui Animal Aloha Center.
  • Ginny (2002) and Arthur McCoy (2006), whose good deeds in support of the arts and the community were legion.
  • Fusayo Koike (2003), radio voice of Maui’s Japanese community, and a de facto ambassador.
  • Jennie Napua Hanaiali‘i Woodd (2003), grandmother of Eric and Amy Gilliom and once a famous hula dancer and Hawaiian performer on the Mainland.
  • Goro Hokama (2004) of Lana‘i served on the Maui County Council for 41 years, 16 of those years as Council chairman.
  • Mike Lyons (2004), banker and community leader, practically defined philanthropy on Maui; an I Love Maui award from the Maui Arts & Cultural Center pays tribute to him.
  • Tadashi Sato (2005) was arguably the most significant Hawai‘i artist of his generation to achieve national acclaim.
  • Solomon K. Ho‘opi‘i (2006), who with his brother, Richard, won a 1997 Na Hoku Hanohano award for their Hawaiian falsetto singing as the Ho‘opi‘i Brothers.

Remember when . . . ?

Going for a shave ice at Suda Store meant bouncing along a rutted road through parched, kiawe-dotted hillsides (but you could see the beach all the way along South Kihei Road?) . . . sipping a Paradise Fruit smoothie at the beach, watching the T-Shirt Factory’s plane trail its banner . . . camping just about anywhere without a permit? Cruising over the Pali to Lahaina before they chicken-wired the cliffs . . . sugar cane in West Maui . . . the biplane on the ceiling of the Blue Max—where you could count on great rock-n-roll . . . riding the first escalator on West Maui to the third floor of The Wharf for coffee and a stroll through the book stacks at The Upstart Crow . . . listening to live jazz at Blackie’s on Sunday, or packing the Royal Lahaina Tennis Garden for a concert . . . Captain Kenny pushing his mobile art gallery/shopping cart down Front Street? Watching a crater sunrise almost all alone . . . horses hitched outside a Makawao tack shop . . . not once getting stuck behind a bicycle tour on Baldwin Avenue? Going to the County Fair at the Old Fair Grounds in Kahului (and seeing Liz Janes as “dressy Tessie Tura” (or was it “Miss Mazeppa”?) in Maui Community Theater’s production of Gypsy in the old Territorial Building) . . . Charthouse mud pie . . . free parking at Kahului Airport, where a banyan tree grew in the middle of the terminal, and you could ride a glass elevator one flight up to the airport lounge . . . watching the uncles and tutus play checkers under the monkey pod trees at Kahului Shopping Center . . . the soda fountain at Toda Drugs . . . when the only movie theater screened Home Alone for a month . . . MNKO’s publisher was a waitress at Apple Annie’s? Walking past the Kress Store in Wailuku and smelling the colored popcorn popping . . . getting exactly the cut you wanted from the butcher counter at Mike’s Market . . . craning your neck to look at Maui’s first skyscraper, the Wailuku Hotel (where Maui Medical Group now resides) . . . knowing it was Friday because all the office ladies were wearing mu‘u mu‘u . . . reading The Maui Sun . . . redeeming your Gold Bond Stamps . . . peeking into Hamburger Mary’s? Driving your truck onto Kanaha Beach to collect seaweed for the garden . . . seeing smoke and steam rise from Pa‘ia Sugar Mill (and the yellow crop-duster plane executing aerial acrobatics) . . . getting to Hana took forever because of potholes and unpaved road, not caravans of cars . . . and Linda Lingle was a reporter for The Molokai Free Press?


  1. Can’t stop progress. Shame. I came to Maui for a few weeks vacation in 1976. Sorry to say I went home in late 1977. Wish I had stayed. I worked at Apple Annie’s in Kahului, then the Happy Valley Inn in Wailuku . Fond memories of Makena, slaughterhouse past Lahaina, black sand in Hana, and yes, we were always alone at whatever falls along the Hana Road. Still think of friends from there. Miles, Ethel, Sherry and Kenui. Maui “no ka oi”
    Kevin Baldwin


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

61 − 60 =