Chapter 11 – Haiku

    On the northern shore of Maui lies the unincorporated community of Haiku. This quaint area covers a significant part of the northern shore from the ocean to the mountains further inland. While Haiku is centrally located on Maui from a geographic standpoint, it is east of many of the urban areas. It is the perfect setting for those who enjoy a more rural feel but who want the convenience of “civilization” in Paia located just about 10 minutes away.  As an unincorporated community, Haiku has a census designation as Haiku-Pawelea which is an area of just under 16 miles and a population of 8,100 as of the 2010 Census.

    Haiku tends to get a bit more rain than other parts of the island and this has had a significant impact on the history and economy of the area. During the 19th century, Haiku, as much of Maui eventually would, became a major hub for sugar production. Sugar plantations were quickly growing business on Maui in the mid-1800s. It was at this time that two sons of missionaries, Samuel Alexander and Henry Baldwin, started cultivating a small 12 acres of sugar in Haiku. By the following year they had added more than 5,000 acres of sugar growing throughout Haiku and into central Maui. They soon owned Hawaii’s largest sugar company but would discover that the large amounts of rain in Haiku were not present in the central plains of the island. This predicament devastated their crops until they fashioned an elaborate irrigation system that brought rain water from Haiku into Wailuku and the central plains of Maui. Their ingenuity assured the success of their crop and, in doing so, assured Maui’s continued relevance to the Hawaiian economy even after the capital, and the commerce associated with it, moved from Lahaina to Honolulu earlier in the century.

    Around the same time, a sugar pioneer named Claus Spreckels built the Haiku Ditch system which spanned some 30 miles and brought 50 million gallons of water each day from Haiku into the dry desert areas of Maui. The importance of sugar production to Maui and to Haiku in particular can still be seen today in the historic plantation homes found throughout the area.

    However, the Haiku community truly began to flourish around the start of the 20th century due to another key agricultural product in Hawaii—pineapple. In 1903 the Haiku Fruit and Packing Company was established and a local cannery opened in 1904 firmly establishing pineapple industry on Maui and in Haiku. Very soon this quiet community was home to a diverse population of people who came to work in pineapples fields and production.

    These days the modern day visitor to Haiku will immediately be struck by the lush green foliage, tropical flowers and stunning scenery throughout this region thanks to the ample rain. Now the overall vibe of “downtown” of Haiku is peaceful and laid-back with just a few stores and a post office. Yet there is some evidence of light industry there as well thanks to Haiku’s agricultural history and role of economic importance to Maui.

    In modern times tourism is the major industry on Maui, but Haiku is far removed from the “hustle and bustle” of the tourist centers concentrated farther west– and its residents like it that way! It is the perfect spot to for those whose particular brand of Hawaiian paradise involves relaxation and peace and quiet. The historic Road to Hana (aka Hana Highway) runs directly through the Haiku area and is generally considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. Haiku serves as the last point of civilization for travelers before reaching Hana just about 40 miles east.

    The only downside to residing in Haiku is that one needs to travel to a neighboring city to have a significant number of shopping and dining options. Fortunately, the closest options aren’t far at all. Paia is only about seven miles away while Kahului, the largest city on Maui, is only 13 miles from the Haiku community. This is also reflected in the average travel time for commuter living in Haiku which is about 25 minutes.

    Although a bit of travel is required for shopping and commuting, there is no shortage of great beaches and recreational opportunities without leaving Haiku. Ho’okipa Beach is one of the most popular surfing destinations on Maui and has also been called the windsurfing capital of the world hosting multiple world-class competitions each year. During the winter the water at Ho’okipa Beach is at its roughest attracting professional surfers as well as wind and kite surfers, while summer months bring calm waters perfect for sunbathing and swimming. There is no shortage of opportunities to get outdoors for non-surfers with ample hiking trails, golf courses and many other area parks including the famed Haleakala National Park just a short drive away in Maui’s upcountry.

    With all that Haiku has to offer it is not surprising that the area has been a huge draw for people looking for the true Aloha spirit with a small town feel. This area is often considered a bit of a “melting pot” when it comes to the residents who have found their way here. In Haiku you can find everyone from native Hawaiian islanders to people of Asian descent whose ancestors came to work in sugar or pineapple production. More recently, water sport enthusiasts from the mainland and beyond have been drawn by the local beaches and surfing opportunities to make Haiku home. Perhaps it is for this reason that the average age of Haiku’s residents is 40 years old– about 15 younger than the state average in Hawaii.

    The real estate market in Haiku is a testament to this diversity offering everything from multi-million dollar oceanfront homes to quaint cabins nestled inland at the foot of the mountains. Since Haiku is a rural area the lots tend to be larger than elsewhere on the island. While it is no secret that real estate on Maui is more expensive than on the mainland, Haiku has a lower cost of living than much of Hawaii making buying a home a bit more affordable there.

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