All the Hawaiian Islands are amazing and wonderful in their own way. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to, it would be Maui. It’s not too big or too small, and has a beautiful variety of things to see and do.
The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles (1,883 km2) and is the 17th-largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the State of Hawaii and is the largest of Maui County’s four islands, which include Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, and unpopulated Kahoʻolawe. In 2010, Maui had a population of 144,444, third-highest of the Hawaiian Islands, behind that of Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island.
Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island’s name in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa, the navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. According to it, Hawaiʻiloa named the island after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Māui. The earlier name of Maui was ʻIhikapalaumaewa. The Island of Maui is also called the “Valley Isle” for the large isthmus separating its northwestern and southeastern volcanic masses.
Geology & Topography
Maui’s diverse landscapes are the result of a unique combination of geology, topography, and climate. Each volcanic cone in the chain of the Hawaiian Islands is built of dark, iron-rich/quartz-poor rocks, which poured out of thousands of vents as highly fluid lava over a period of millions of years. Several of the volcanoes were close enough to each other that lava flows on their flanks overlapped one another, merging into a single island. Maui is such a “volcanic doublet,” formed from two shield volcanoes that overlapped one another to form an isthmus between them.
The older, western volcano has been eroded considerably and is cut by numerous drainages, forming the peaks of the West Maui Mountains (in Hawaiian, Mauna Kahalawai). Puʻu Kukui is the highest of the peaks at 5,788 feet (1,764 m). The larger, younger volcano to the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, and measures 5 miles (8.0 km) from seafloor to summit.
The eastern flanks of both volcanoes are cut by deeply incised valleys and steep-sided ravines that run downslope to the rocky, windswept shoreline. The valley-like Isthmus of Maui that separates the two volcanic masses was formed by sandy erosional deposits.
Maui’s last eruption (originating in Haleakalā’s Southwest Rift Zone) occurred around 1790; two of the resulting lava flows are located (1) at Cape Kīnaʻu between ʻĀhihi Bay and La Perouse Bay on the southwest shore of East Maui, and (2) at Makaluapuna Point on Honokahua Bay on the northwest shore of West Maui. Although considered to be dormant by volcanologists, Haleakalā is certainly capable of further eruptions.
Maui is part of a much larger unit, Maui Nui, that includes the islands of Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Molokaʻi, and the now submerged Penguin Bank. During periods of reduced sea level, including as recently as 20,000 years ago, they are joined together as a single island due to the shallowness of the channels between them.
The climate of the Hawaiian Islands is characterized by a two-season year, tropical and uniform temperatures everywhere (except at high elevations), marked geographic differences in rainfall, high relative humidity, extensive cloud formations (except on the driest coasts and at high elevations), and dominant trade-wind flow (especially at elevations below a few thousand feet). Maui itself has a wide range of climatic conditions and weather patterns that are influenced by several different factors in the physical environment:
Half of Maui is situated within 5 miles (8.0 km) of the island’s coastline. This, and the extreme insularity of the Hawaiian Islands account for the strong marine influence on Maui’s climate.
Gross weather patterns are typically determined by elevation and orientation towards the Trade winds (prevailing air flow comes from the northeast).
Maui’s rugged, irregular topography produces marked variations in conditions. Air swept inland on the Trade winds is shunted one way or another by the mountains, valleys, and vast open slopes. This complex three-dimensional flow of air results in striking variations in wind speed, cloud formation, and rainfall.
Maui displays a unique and diverse set of climatic conditions, each of which is specific to a loosely defined sub-region of the island. These sub-regions are defined by major physiographic features (such as mountains and valleys) and by location on the windward or leeward side of the island.
Windward lowlands – Below 2,000 feet (610 m) on north-to-northeast sides of an island. Roughly perpendicular to direction of prevailing trade winds. Moderately rainy; frequent trade wind-induced showers. Skies are often cloudy to partly cloudy. Air temperatures are more uniform (and mild) than those of other regions.
Leeward lowlands – Daytime temperatures are a little higher and nighttime temperatures are lower than in windward locations. Dry weather is prevalent, with the exception of sporadic showers that drift over the mountains to windward and during short-duration storms.
Interior lowlands – Intermediate conditions, often sharing characteristics of other lowland sub-regions. Occasionally experience intense local afternoon showers from well-developed clouds that formed due to local daytime heating.
Leeward side high-altitude mountain slopes with high rainfall – Extensive cloud cover and rainfall all year long. Mild temperatures are prevalent, but humidity is higher than any other sub-region.
Leeward side lower mountain slopes – Rainfall is higher than on the adjacent leeward lowlands, but much less than at similar altitudes on the windward side; however, maximum rainfall usually occurs leeward of the crests of lower mountains. Temperatures are higher than on the rainy slopes of the windward sides of mountains; cloud cover is almost as extensive.
High mountains – Above about 5,000 feet (1,500 m) on Haleakalā, rainfall decreases rapidly with elevation. Relative humidity may be ten percent or less. The lowest temperatures in the state are experienced in this region: air temperatures below freezing are common.
Showers are very common; while some of these are very heavy, the vast majority are light and brief. Even the heaviest rain showers are seldom accompanied by thunder and lightning. Throughout the lowlands in summer an overwhelming dominance of trade winds produces a drier season. At one extreme, the annual rainfall averages 17 inches (430 mm) to 20 inches (510 mm) or less in leeward coastal areas, such as the shoreline from Maalaea Bay to Kaupo, and near the summit of Haleakalā. At the other extreme, the annual average rainfall exceeds 300 inches (7,600 mm) along the lower windward slopes of Haleakalā, particularly along the Hāna Highway. “Big Bog,” a spot on the edge of Haleakala National Park overlooking Hana at about 5,400 feet elevation had an estimated mean annual rainfall of 404.4 inches over the 30-year period of 1978 to 2007. If the islands of the State of Hawaii did not exist, the average annual rainfall on the same patch of water would be about 25 inches (640 mm). Instead, the mountainous topography of Maui and the other islands induce an actual average of about 70 inches (1,800 mm).
In the lowlands rainfall is most likely to occur throughout the year during the night or morning hours, and least likely in mid-afternoon. The most pronounced daily variations in rainfall occur during the summer because most summer rainfall consists of trade winds showers that most often occur at night. Winter rainfall in the lowlands is the result of storm activity, which is as likely to occur in the daytime as at night. Rainfall variability is far greater during the winter, when occasional storms contribute appreciably to rainfall totals. With such wide swings in rainfall, it is inevitable that there are occasional droughts, sometimes causing economic losses. These occur when winter rains fail to produce sufficient significant rainstorms, impacting normally dry areas outside the trade winds that depend on them the most. The winter of 2011-2012 produced extreme drought on the leeward sides of Moloka’i, Maui, and Island of Hawaii.
The blend of warm tropical sunshine, varying humidity, ocean breezes and trade winds, and varying elevations create a variety of microclimates. Although the Island of Maui is small, it can feel quite different in each district resulting in a unique selection of micro-climates that are typical to each of its distinctive locations: Central Maui; leeward South Maui and West Maui; windward North Shore and East Maui; and Upcountry Maui.
Although Maui’s daytime temperatures average between 75 and 90 degrees year round, evening temperatures are about 15 degrees cooler in the more humid windward areas, about 18 degrees cooler in the dryer leeward areas, and cooler yet in higher elevations.
Central Maui consists primarily of Kahului and Wailuku. Kahului is literally the center of the island, and tends to keep steady, high temperatures throughout the year. The micro-climate in Kahului can be at times muggy, but it usually feels relatively dry and is often very breezy. The Wailuku area is set closer to the West Maui Mountain range. Here, more rainfall will be found throughout the year, and higher humidity levels.
Leeward side includes South Maui (Kihei, Wailea and Makena) and West Maui (Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kapalua). These areas are typically drier, with higher daytime temperature (up to 92 degrees), and the least amount of rainfall. (An exception is the high-altitude, unpopulated West Maui summit, which boasts up to 400 inches of rainfall per year on its north and east side.)
Windward side includes the North Shore (Paia and Haiku) and East Maui (Keanae, Hana and Kipahulu). Located in the prevailing, northeast trade winds, these areas have heavier rainfall levels, which increase considerably at higher elevations.
Upcountry Maui (Makawao, Pukalani, and Kula) at the 1,700- to 4,500-foot levels, provides mild heat (70s and low 80s) during the day and cool evenings. The higher the elevation, the cooler the evenings. During Maui’s winter, Upper Kula can be as cold as 40 degrees in the early morning hours, and the Haleakala summit can dip below freezing.
An exception to the normal pattern is the occasional winter “Kona storms” which bring rainfall to the South and West areas accompanied by high southwesterly winds (opposite of the prevailing trade wind direction).
Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maui
Photos: Copyright Dan Rodney https://www.danrodney.com
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