By Lehia Apana & Heidi Pool
Wailuku | Makawao | Kīhei | Lāhainā | Paʻia | Hāna
Cradled at the base of West Maui’s mountain, overlooking the Central Valley, Wailuku is a charismatic town packed with Hawaiian history and local flavor. From landmark battles between ancient chiefs to serving as the current seat of Maui County government, what happens here has long influenced the rest of the island. The area is in the midst of resurgence, and today you’ll find a host of unique eateries, one-of-a-kind shops, and a popular monthly block party.
Our resident advisors:
- Alvin Makimoto, owner of Uptown Chevron Food Mart & Car Wash
- Hoku Pavao Jones, performer and office administrator at Maui Academy of Performing Arts
What’s the best thing about growing up in Wailuku?
AM: I remember walking everywhere during my hanabata [small-kid] days in Wailuku. It was fun cruising around town and visiting all the mom-and-pop stores like Ito Market and Omura’s Deli, which are no longer around. I got into bowling, so in high school we used to hang out at [Maui Bowling Center], which is still there.
Where do you take out-of-town guests?
HPJ: I always take them to ‘Iao Valley. In fact, I make sure I go to ‘Iao at least once a week. That place is so rejuvenating. No matter what’s happening in my life, I can jump in the water there and feel good again.
Favorite place to eat?
AM: I grew up eating at Tasty Crust, which has been serving local-style comfort food since the fifties. These days I like 808 on Main for their sandwiches and salads.
HPJ: I’m a Sam Sato’s girl. I don’t know what it is about their dry mein noodles — they’re so simple, yet so good. I also love the loco mocos [hamburger patty, egg, and rice smothered in gravy] at Bamboo Grille. They have different versions with things like chicken katsu or roast pork instead of the usual hamburger patty.
What’s there to do here at night?
AM: Most nights, Wailuku essentially shuts down after work hours. Our monthly First Friday block party is great because it gives people a reason to stick around and socialize after dark. [Uptown Chevron] has a food booth every First Friday, so I’m always there. It’s so cool because you see a mixture of new people and familiar faces you haven’t seen in a long time.
What’s an iconic shop?
HPJ: My obsession with shoes began when I worked at If the Shoe Fits during high school. We local women don’t usually wear shoes, but we love our slippers. And if we want to get fancy, we’ll wear slippers with a bit of a heel. Teri, the owner, understands what local women want and really caters to that clientele.
They also recommended:
Starting your morning at Wailuku Coffee Company . . . browsing the collection of authentic Hawaiian crafts, artwork and adornments at Native Intelligence . . . shopping for statement Polynesian-inspired clothing at Ha Wahine . . . or casual clothing with a local twist at Maui Thing . . . testing your endurance and savoring the views along the Waiheʻe Ridge Trail . . . spending time with your little ones, dancing, crafting and keiki yoga at Monkeypod Art Studio . . . catching a locally produced concert or play at the Historic ‘Iao Theater. — LA
I used to live out near the East end of Pi’ihana Road for 8 years. Many times on Sunday mornings I would drive up to Iao Valley at 6:45am, just when the ranger was opening the gate to the Needle. When I would arrive at the top, I was the only one there and I would go hike up to the high observation point at the top of the steps. The air was so fresh and clean with a little moisture from the mist. I always felt a spiritual presence that would give me chicken skin. The silence from the lack of people made it all the more special, almost like I was transported into another dimension of space and time. One time I took my brother up to the bridge right in front of the gate at midnight on a full moon. We were silently looking down at the water below when all of a sudden a shadow came across the lone street light that’s there. As we looked up and looked back at the water, an apparition appeared on the rock below. I swear he looked like an ancient Hawaiian dressed in feathers and he was glowing white. We looked at him for maybe 4 or 5 seconds and ran like lightning to my jeep and tore off out of there. We couldn’t talk for at least 5 minutes, finally looking at one another and yelling out, “What the f*** was that…?!!!” I’ll never forget Maui, I love her with all my heart and soul. With aloha…