After you’ve enjoyed a day on the Road to Hana, and a very early morning atop Haleakala, you might think you’ve done everything that Maui has to offer. If you want to just plant yourself by the pool or the beach for the rest of your trip, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you are looking for something else to do, you should consider taking at least a half day to check out the town of Wailuku, Maui’s county seat. With a sprawling industrial area, a unique downtown, and plenty of historical spots, Wailuku really does have something for everybody. If you’ve got time to explore after a Hana Sky-Trek, or even after an early check-out before a later flight, here are the top five places in Wailuku you may want to check out!
- Bailey House Museum
This unassuming yet charming little structure houses one of Maui’s best collections of local history.
Right off Main Street is a charming historic home known as the Bailey House. Housing a collection of pre-contact Hawaiian artifacts, 19th century landscape paintings, and so much more. Previously inhabited by missionaries and sugar-growers Edward and Caroline Bailey, parts of the home have been preserved in their original 19th-century style. Visiting the bedrooms on the second floor– complete with beautiful antique Hawaiian quilts– is definitely a highlight of visiting the museum. The huge collection of ancient Hawaiian artifacts is also fascinating, along with the collection of Hawaiian land snails. If you’re looking to get a little Hawaiian history while visiting Maui, the Bailey House Museum probably offers one of the most broad collections of art, exhibits, and information on the island. Outside the house, you can peruse endemic Hawaiian plants, and even see a surfboard owned by Duke Kahanamoku. Finally, a charming gift shop offers books, art, and Maui-made crafts,perfect to remember your visit to this serene and fascinating museum.
- Iao Valley
A trip to Maui wouldn’t be complete without a visit to peaceful Iao Valley.
Iao Valley is just one of those places where you get that unmistakable “Maui” feeling. Cool and dewy, this rainforest area has a “mystical” air about it, and is definitely a nice contrast from the sunny, busy resort towns. Sure, you’ll be in the company of other visitors and some locals, but once you get farther into one of its hiking trails, you’ll definitely get a sense of peaceful seclusion. While you’re there, be sure to hike the stairs to the top of Iao Needle, and get a bird’s-eye view of the lush valley. On a personal note, my now-husband and I hiked through Iao Valley on our first date, so of course, this is one of my favorite places in the world!
- Market Street
Beautifully restored inside and out, Iao Theater is one of the highlights of a stroll down Market Street.
Market Street (and a few blocks of its intersecting roads, Main and Vineyard) make up one of the most eclectic shopping and dining areas on Maui– apart from maybe Paia. This area has an off-kilter, hipster vibe that is definitely right at home in the quickly-growing town of Wailuku. While you’re strolling the sidewalks, check out the quirky coffee shop, the vintage record store, and the local clothing company. Plenty of other unique storefronts line the block, so you’ll definitely find something that speaks to you. Check out the pawn shops and antique stores too– you’ll find some unique Hawaiiana perfect for gifts and souvenirs.
- Wailuku First Fridays
I could have grouped this with #3, since it’s the same area, but First Friday totally transforms Market Street and the surrounding area into a completely different experience. The road is closed to vehicle traffic, so it’s just one big block party that kicks off at 6:00 PM on the first Friday of each month. Each month is slightly different, but look out for live music, art exhibits, magicians, fashion shows, and more. There’s plenty of food, too– different organizations and companies set up food booths selling something for every taste, and most of the area restaurants keep their doors open late for First Friday specials. You’ll find plenty of unique treasures, as local vendors sell Maui-made art, clothing, jewelry and more. There’s even a beer and wine garden, where you’ll see plenty of old friends exchanging hugs and warm greetings everywhere you look. First Friday is where Wailuku comes together, and if you have a chance to experience it, don’t miss it!
- Maui Arts And Cultural CenterThe Maui Arts and Cultural Center is a beautiful venue for music, dance, comedy, and theater.
Skirting the divide between Wailuku and Kahului is the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (or, “the MACC”), a truly world-class venue for everything from intimate performances by local artists to sold-out rock concerts featuring the likes of James Taylor, Elton John, and many other top names in the music industry. There’s something on its varied calendar almost every day, so this is something to look into before your trip. You might get a chance to catch your favorite band, singer, or even stand-up comic while you’re vacationing on Maui! Virtually every show is catered, and it’s wonderful to sit out under the stars in their charming pavilion to dine, sip, and mingle before a concert. Even if you can’t make it to the MACC for an evening show (seats for top artists sell incredibly fast), check out afternoon film showings, chamber music concerts, and their year-round art gallery located on the grounds. Whether you want a taste of local Hawaiian culture, or enjoy performances from around the world, there’s something at the MACC you’ll love!