Story and photos by Lehia Apana
Locals know some of the best exploring on Maui happens in our own backyard. Case in point: Wailuku. Located in the Central Valley at the foot of West Maui’s mountain, the town was named county seat for Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i and Kaho‘olawe in 1905, but its history is far older. You’ll need a ride to reach some of these sites; others are a cakewalk through town.
8 a.m. Hiking with a view doesn’t get much better than the 2.5-mile (round trip) Waihe‘e Ridge Trail. The catch: You’ll have to work for it. This out-and-back trail is steep, climbing more than 1,500 feet before rewarding you with a panorama of miles of emerald vegetation. Smart hikers go early to take advantage of cooler temperatures. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. HawaiiTrails.org
11:30 a.m. While you may never know the secret recipe behind Sam Sato’s dry mein noodles, you can enjoy a heaping bowl. This tiny mom-and-pop restaurant has been a Maui institution since 1933, which explains the perpetually long lines. Jot your name on the yellow pad outside the door and relax with the crowd of hungry locals and savvy visitors. 1750 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku; 244-7214
1-2 p.m. During World War II, some 33,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry joined the U.S. Armed Forces, serving their country courageously, even as that country questioned their loyalty and interned their families. Composed almost entirely of nisei (second-generation) soldiers, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most highly decorated unit of its size in U.S. history. The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center honors these soldiers with scheduled events like One Puka-Puka: The Purple Heart Battalion, an exhibit running through August 26, 2017. It celebrates the 100th Infantry Battalion, which preceded the 442 and earned the appellation “Purple Heart Battalion” for the courage of its men. The facility is basic and off the beaten path, but the stories shared within its walls are nothing short of astonishing. Noon-4 p.m. weekdays. 665 Kahului Beach Road, Kahului; 244-6862; nvmc.org
2:15-5:15 p.m. Wailuku’s downtown is in the midst of a resurgence, with distinctive eateries and one-of-a-kind shops. Don’t miss Native Intelligence, a cultural resource center disguised as a store that offers handcrafted items by local artisans and practitioners. Grab hip, Maui-branded gear at nearby Maui Thing, or get lost in the fabulously funky art of David Sandell at Sandell Maui. Need a break? Perk up at Wailuku Coffee Company . . . or find a good book in the cool confines of Wailuku Public Library, built in 1929 and designed by acclaimed architect C.W. Dickey.
History hounds are in for a treat at the storied Hale Ho‘ike‘ike at Bailey House, a five-minute walk from Wailuku’s center. Missionary Edward Bailey is the building’s namesake; it houses many of his landscape paintings of nineteenth-century Maui. It also boasts the largest and best collection of Hawaiian artifacts on the island. The museum hosts an active lineup of workshops and events, and the gift shop is an excellent source of locally made treasures. 2375A Main St.; MauiMuseum.org
5:30 p.m. Voted Best Southeast Asian restaurant at Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi Magazine’s 2017 ‘Aipono Awards, A Saigon Cafe is a Maui institution and a kind of gathering place for Wailuku locals. Point to just about anything on the menu — it’s all swoon-worthy here. 1792 Main St.; ASaigonCafe.com
TIP: Visit Wailuku on the first Friday of the month, and enjoy a town party filled with music, art, children’s activities and more. 6-9 p.m. Info at MauiFridays.com.