The People of Maui

The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is home to 143,574 people in 2008. This population is divided among different races, the highest of which are Whites, followed by Asians, mixed races, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, other races, Blacks, and American Indians or Alaskan Natives.

Looking into Maui’s rich history, this rich racial diversity is a result of people who visited the islands as early as the 18th century. Captain James Cook was the one who discovered the island in 1778, but he didn't set foot on Maui. Instead, the first European to set foot on the island was Jean Francois de Galaup de La Perouse on May 29, 1786. He was followed by an American trader, Simon Metcalf, who came to Maui in 1790.

Christianity was also a big factor in this racial diversity. Christian missionaries who went to the island made a huge impact on the people’s lives. Aside from converting them to Christianity, they also established schools and churches.

As more and more people flock to the island, trade increased significantly. The whaling and sugar cane industries were growing, and so more laborers were needed at that time. To fill in the need for a workforce, migrant workers started arriving in Maui. The first to arrive in 1852 were Chinese laborers. They were followed by Japanese laborers in 1868, Koreans in 1903, and Filipinos in 1909. During those times, conditions on the plantations and the system made it very difficult for the migrant workers to get out of debt. This caused some of the contract workers to return to their homelands, while others chose to stay in Maui and started building their lives. These immigrants are the ones who forever changed the food, customs, language, and population of this Hawaiian island.

Today, when you ask a person from Maui about his or her ancestry, that person will proudly give you a list, which may include Hawaiian, Korean, Filipino, Irish, Chinese, German, and Portuguese. The children in Maui show a happy mix of different cultures, which makes a perfect blend of the East and West.


This racial diversity has also affected the lifestyles of the people in Maui. Some love resort-living so much that they chose to live in places with a golf course or resort. Others prefer living under palm trees amidst the lush greenery of the island. Some have built their humble homes along the ocean. You can even find luxurious homes like those in Beverly Hills in unexpected places. Still, many Islanders prefer life in small towns where rural charm is evidently alive and where families have known each other for generations. You may still find native Hawaiian settlements in Kahakuloa and Keanae, where people live simply by fishing and raising taro, unmindful of the changing world.

Some Islanders have fallen in love with the old plantation lifestyle. These people stay in homes with beautiful big gardens filled will Hawaiian plants and flowers. Others have chosen to stay in new suburbs, such as those in Kahului, where houses have bright new kitchens with a 2-car garage.

What was once a farming and ranching community, Upcountry or North Shore Maui, has become a beautiful place that attracts artists and writers to its cool climate and majestic beauty of the mountains. In Maui, you will still find cowboys riding horses across the volcanic meadows. These people still use native Hawaiian words for their commands while herding animals.

Racial diversity has been a contributing factor to different lifestyles of the people in Maui. Fortunately, racial diversity has not caused division among the Islanders. It even enriched Maui’s culture, making it more and more unique from that of other places.

What’s even more amazing is that everybody respects each other’s culture by happily celebrating different holidays in Maui. Regardless of their race, Islanders wear leis on Lei Day. They also celebrate the Fourth of July. They even wear kimonos during the Japanese Obon Season. Nobody is treated differently because of his or her race. In spite of their differences, the people in Maui are united as one. Everybody greets each other with a warm smile and an “aloha.” This friendly and warm acceptance is not only accorded to Islanders; even tourists are given this same treatment. This makes the people of Maui very accommodating, hospitable, and warm--a great formula to entice tourists to visit the island year after year.

The Aloha spirit

Every tourist who has been on the island has experienced what is now known as the "Aloha" spirit. Aside from its majestic landscapes and breathtaking ocean views, the Aloha spirit is one of the tourist attractions in Maui and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands as well. Characterized as friendly acceptance, warmth, charm, and sincerity, the Aloha spirit is a way of life for Islanders. It was even passed as a law, which can be found in the Hawaii Revised Statutes section 5 to 7.5. It is stated here that the Aloha Spirit “was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.”

Looking deeper into the law, the Aloha spirit is considered a customary way of life, something that every Hawaiian must live by and must pass from one generation to the other. The Aloha spirit originated from a speech made by Kupuna Pilahi Paki at the Governor’s Conference in Honolulu in year 2000. Born in Maui in 1910, Kupuna Pilahi Paki was a well known spiritual leader and rights activist in the Hawaiian community. In her speech, Kupuna Pilahi Paki shared the meaning of aloha to the attendees. According to their respected elder, every letter in the word aloha means something.

A stands for Akahai, which means careful offering, unpretentious kindness, gentleness, modesty, and tenderness.

L stands for Lokahi, which means to obtain oneness, agreement, unity, and harmony.

O stands for Olu’olu, which means agreeable, pleasant, and gracious.

H stands for Ha’aha’a, which means humility or modesty.

A stands for Ahonui, which means patience, endurance, and perseverance.

All these words sum up what the Aloha spirit really means. Kupuna Pilahi Paki further told the attendees that “in the next millennium, the world will turn to Hawaii in its search for world peace because Hawaii has the key…and that key is ALOHA.” Indeed, Kupuna Pilahi Paki’s speech further established the greatness of the Aloha spirit.

The Aloha Spirit Law states that the term aloha “is more than a word of greeting or farewell or salutation. It means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. It is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. It means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”

In Maui and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, people not only accept each other. They go as far as embracing each other’s culture and adopting this into their way of life. The Aloha spirit obviously unites them. Saying "aloha" to one another is not a mere greeting of acceptance, but it goes as far as acknowledging and embracing a person’s unique sanctity.

Tourism on the island

When you are in Maui, you will definitely be mesmerized by the beauty of this Hawaiian island. Wherever you go, you will see that Maui has been blessed with many breathtaking views. Be it in the north, south, east, or west of the island, you will marvel at the majestic mountains, lush tropical rainforests, and picturesque oceans. But the magic and charm of Maui is not merely about these breathtaking views.

Maui has more to offer than its natural beauty. Once you experience Maui, you will be more captivated by its rich history and culture, diverse people, and most especially, by the people’s way of life and the Aloha spirit. As more people visit Maui, more experience the Aloha spirit. You will experience this as you take a dip in the crystal clear blue waters of the beaches, as you stroll along the sandy beaches, and as you take in the place’s rich history. You will experience this spirit in every warm smile, in every accommodating gesture, and in every welcoming greeting. Each and every Hawaiian will make you experience that. Once you experience the Aloha Spirit, you will surely imbibe it and make it a part of your life. All these add to the beauty, magic, and charm of Maui. It is what makes Maui one of the best places to visit.

It is said that every year, around 2.5 million tourists set foot on Maui. Some of them left with the hope that someday they will be back, while other people have fallen in love with the Island and its people that they have chosen to make Maui their homes. In anytime of the year, Maui doesn't run out of fun-loving people who enjoy water sports, such as surfing, kayaking, and parasailing, and outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, and cycling.