Growing up in one of the world’s best islands brings about a number of stories and experiences. From the top places in Maui to the local experiences and traditions that make Maui what it truly is, some lucky ones get to experience the whole gamut of this island.
Calling Maui your home also changes your perception of people and nature in ways little else can. So what is it like growing up here? What do people in Maui actually feel like when calling it their home?
We asked 3 Maui natives Leilani, Malia, and Kai, about their experience of growing up in Maui, the top places they visited, what they learned, the traditions they were part of and more.
Here are their responses, slightly edited to fit the Ali’i Resorts blog style. Enjoy.
What are the top places you visited in Maui as a kid? What places excited you the most and why?
As I was growing up in Maui, I often visit the Iao Valley State Park. We loved swimming in the freshwater pools from the Iao Stream and walking along the botanical garden pathways.
I also loved spending time with family at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, a beautiful collection of memorial gardens that celebrate different cultures in Hawaii’s history. Iao is a special place to be with Ohana. I will always remember playing the ukulele and eating BBQ chicken while spending time in the tropical beauty of this sacred valley.
I also loved visiting Maui’s Mother Reef, Oluwalu because it’s the perfect place for snorkeling, surfing, and family camping. We’d surf, paddle, and swim in the ocean as long as we could or until we were so hungry it was time to bring it in and relax on the beach.
Those evenings left a true mark on me. I loved watching the colorful inspiring sunsets. It would fill my heart with hopes and dreams and I would then know, well this is Maui!
I would then drift off to sleep on the beach only to wake up to a magical sky loaded with stars – layers upon layers of stars from horizon to horizon.
As a kid, being close to Maui’s land and ocean taught me to respect these islands and our planet for future generations. It also taught me about the value-centered philosophy of “Aloha” which means love, friendship, and responsibility.
For me, Keawakapu Beach holds an important place in my heart for a couple of reasons. First, I was fortunate enough to have my grandparents’ home on the beachfront. That means my dad’s childhood home has been filled with some of my best memories.
Source: Maui Guidebook
The best part was that a beachfront home got me closer to Mother Nature – restoring my spiritual balance in ways nothing else could.
Another place I loved was the enigmatic Haleakala Crater. I’d hike up to watch the sunrise there and nothing could be as beautiful. Those 15 minutes of witnessing the sun shining up to grace Hawaii were the most magical seconds of my childhood.
I’d have my family and friends hike and camp with me in the cabins and feel completely connected to nature in all of Maui’s remoteness.
I believe that when you live in Maui, your sense of nature – and earth as a whole – changes. You start appreciating the little things – whether it’s the cathartic trade winds or the greenery that engulfs the island. They become a part of you – especially when you are growing up on the island.
As a kid and even to this day the Maui Ocean Center is one of my favorite places to visit. There’s so much to see and do for all ages.
Source: Maui Ocean Center
I also fondly remember the Kula Botanical Gardens. It’s so peaceful and beautiful up there and fun to explore.
What were some of the cultural traditions you remember as a kid – the ones you enjoyed the most?
I am reminded of so many amazing traditions I got to be part of in Maui. One I distinctly remember was paddling the outrigger canoe with friends and Ohana. It was super fun to paddle to catch waves on big surf days and I’d always look forward to it.
Another fun cultural tradition was our Upcountry trips to Lavender Farms nestled right below the slopes of Haleakala (House of the Sun).
I loved exploring all over this huge 13.5-acre farm with an ever-changing canvas of plants and flowers. These trips were also educational – learned about the farm and all of the wonderful local products made from the lavender.
Last but not least, there was the much awaited Kula Country Farms pumpkin patch. Every fall and especially during October Halloween celebrations, we’d go out to pick the perfect pumpkin for carving. We’d play, eat great food, have fun, and enjoy the epic ocean views from the farm.
I distinctly remember a cultural tradition we all used to follow (and enjoy) in Maui: Making ti leaf and plumeria leis to celebrate occasions big and small.
Leis have a big significance in Hawaiian culture as a whole. We’d make them to give to loved ones at graduations, for birthdays, and to mark any special event.
The cultural experiences I remember most would be attending a luau for a birthday or other family celebrations – not necessarily the touristy ones.
Also, I always loved May Day and the events and celebrations associated with that day. Our school would have performances and play days – and that was an amazing time for all of us as kids.
How’s the experience of working in Maui?
The major industry on Maui is tourism. For example, the luxury stays – such as the ones offered by Ali’i Resorts – help you experience a whole new level of living in Maui.
Working in the tourism sector in Maui is amazing because you get to host thousands of travelers from across the globe and introduce them to your home.
Working on Maui has its positives and negatives. Retail is easy and always available, but working in hospitality is where I thrive and I think at some point in life here, everyone will deal with the visitor industry in some form.
Where are some places in Maui you’d go to learn something new?
I’d visit the Maui Research and Technology Park. It’s always sparked my curiosity and I’d look forward to learning something new every now and then. Learning about how the worldand also our universe works as a whole would always make for a great trip.
To learn something new I would look to attend one of the cultural festivals that happen throughout the year. The Bon Dances, for example, helped to gain a better knowledge of the people who make up the islands. This helped develop a strong sense of community as well.
Maui is one of the world’s best islands. How does it feel calling it your home?
In Maui, you are connected to the aina, the land. You experience the local vibe of Ohana – a family and community that empowers, educates, and inspires you every day. You are also connected to the ocean.
It’s only in Maui where you can experience a true paradise: the best of cuisines, breathtaking views, and an Ohana that stays by your side.
Calling Maui my home is a feeling of absolute pride.
I’ve always felt really special to have had this experience and to call Maui home. Some people save for years and years to be able to spend one week here and I have it all in my backyard.
Of course, there is a price to paradise, but I am forever grateful to my grandparents and parents for making the sacrifices they did and I choose to do the same to call Maui my one true home.
I’ve always appreciated the fact that I’m from Maui. As a child, I was always aware of the beauty surrounding me and the perfect weather all year. To look around and see the green mountains and the blue ocean has always been peaceful and majestic.
Lastly, what are the 3 words that describe growing up in Maui for you?
Leilani: Aloha, Aina (Land), Moana Kai (Ocean)
Malia: Beauty, Nature, Diversity
Kai: Blessed, Sheltered, Family
At Ali’i Resorts, we pride ourselves with everything Maui. From luxury stays to local experiences, we always strive to offer Maui crafted hospitality. Ali’i Resorts is made in Maui, for Maui, by Maui, for everyone who visits Maui.
This summer, spend time in Maui and experience it like a local. Ditch the hotel and book your stay with an oceanfront vacation rental that has it all. Get the best rated by booking directly with Ali’i Resorts.