From Sugar, Pineapple to Coconuts. Plantations Built the Modern Hawaii
Hotel Pick-up or Our Kihei Base-Yard
This 3 Plantation stop tour is a one of a kind in Maui. You get to see the height and fall of the plantations in this historic journey into the past and witness the resurrection of the Hawaiian Culture. Starting with a tour of the majestic Iao valley and the sprawling cliffs that it contains and concluding with the vast Sugar fields of the failed sugar cane industry. Enjoy the enriching life of the Hawaiian Plantation Owners of the past.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PLANTATION CAMPS ON MAUI
For more than a century, the greater portion of the islands’ population, by far, derived its economic sustenance from the sugar economy. Almost everyone worked for the sugar companies or in some way depended on the sugar economy and the old ideas of the sugar plantation. On Maui the sugar mills and plantations provided company stores, company hospitals and clinics, company transportation and, most importantly, company housing for their employees. Few owned their own homes and fewer still thought they ever would.
From the earliest days of Hawaii’s sugar era, roughly in the mid-1850s, foreign workers began coming to the Hawaiian Islands in great numbers as contract laborers. The early malihini (newcomers) primarily came here to work in the cane fields and mills. They arrived in waves from around the globe as the growers scoured the world for cheap and willing workers for their fields.
In the early days these disparate strangers – Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Portuguese and Puerto Ricans – were mostly housed, rent-free, in plantation camps spread around the island in close proximity to one of the nearly 20 mills and growing plantations which dotted the landscape from Hana to Wailuku, and Ulupalakua to Lahaina.
The self-sufficient camps were generally divided by ethnicity and helped to perpetuate the cultural traditions of each group. It is interesting that the old people who arrived in Hawaii during this time and those who grew up in the camps during their heyday continued using words in their native languages and maintained attitudes and beliefs that were no longer common in the modern-day evolved cultures from which they originated. It was as if the camps encapsulated the cultures and the people were stuck in an earlier time.
Before World War II, when Maui had fewer than 36,000 residents, Maui plantation towns like Puunene and Paia each had more than 10,000 residents housed in surrounding camps. Just those two plantation towns accounted for about two-fifths of the island’s population.
The sugar plantations included HC&S (Hawaii Commercial and Sugar), Maui Agricultural, Wailuku Sugar, Pioneer Mill in Lahaina, Kaeleku in Hana and Olowalu Sugar. Besides the two biggest camps, thousands lived in the more than 70 camps around the island.
The names of these camps were colorful, tinged with the activities and the peoples that populated them. Some were numbered. (The highest numbered camp was Camp 13 in Puunene.) The area that oldtimers used to call Camp One, located at the far end of Spreckelsville Beach, is named for an old plantation camp razed to make way for the airport, and is literally at the end of the Kahului Airport’s main runway. In Puunene, Camp Three became known as McGerrow Camp, named for a prominent resident of the time. One oldtimer remembers, “There was a lot of cockfighting at McGuerrow Camp, and at Camp Five, mostly involving Japanese and, later, Filipinos.” He also remembers, “Camp Four was next to the Puunene Hospital, at a time when most Maui children not born at home were born in Puunene.”
Some names were taken from the Hawaiian name for a place. East Maui sugar plantation camps were named Lower Paia, Hamakuapoko A and Hamakuapoko B, Maliko, Kailua, Keahua, Kamole, Haiku, Kailiilii, Kaupakalua, Kuau. There was a polo field near Pulehu and Paholei villages, near Haliimaile, in the days when Maui had the top polo team in Hawaii, the old-timers say. A lot of Puerto Ricans lived in Kaheka Village, also near Haliimaile Village, which was a pineapple plantation camp. In West Maui, names included Umehame, Olowalu, Honolua, Kuhua, Kilauea, Keawe, and Keka’a. Kihei Camp One and Kihei Camp Three combined both area name and number.
Many others had more descriptive names. Some like Pump Camp (formally named Wainee Village in Lahaina), Hydro Electric Camp (near the old Maunaolu College in Makawao), and Mill Village in Paia were straightforward descriptions of the location of the camp near various sugar operations. Most villages had a stable, but there was only one camp that was called Stable Village. Train tracks were nine abreast going into the Paia Sugar Mill, at Depot Village, with “sidings” for cane haul cars. Says one former resident, “The train ran right behind the theater at Mill Village, often drowning out the sound track at the most inopportune time.” Airport Village was built after World War II.
Others pinpointed other aspects of village life. There was a Store Camp, a School Camp and a Hospital Camp in Puunene and Beach Camp in Pukolii. Lower Camp and Middle Camp were part of the array in Central Maui as well.
Many of the camps indicated the ethnicity of the people living there. Spanish Camp housed Puerto Ricans and Portuguese, Hawaiian Camp was home to native Hawaiians, and Nashiwa Camp in Paia was for Japanese. There was a bakery back then at Nashiwa Village and it seems that camp was named for the bakery that became the one inter-island travelers went to purchase gifts for aunty and grandma.
A lot of Portuguese lived at Cod Fish Camp in Puunene and in Kahului at the area called Raw Fish Camp, fronting Kahului Harbor. Alabama Camp dated back to about 1901, when black laborers were brought in from Alabama and Louisiana. There was a Russian Camp in Spreckelsville, Sam Sung Camp and Ah Fong Camp in Central Maui, as well as a Bean Mill Camp and a Filipino Camp in West Maui. Skill Village was home to many of the Paia Mill technicians.
The camps were a way of life. In many ways they represented an improved lifestyle for the employees who had come from impoverished backgrounds from some of the poorest countries in the world to find a better life for themselves and their families. While primitive in many ways, the camps were not slums. They provided a level of comfort and convenience previously unknown to most of the immigrants because the plantation owners valued the workers and needed their efforts to grow, harvest and mill their sugar cane and pineapples.
Children used to swim naked in a reservoir near Nashiwa, Green, and Orpheum villages, and there was a Boy Scout Camp at Camp Churchill, and Plantation doctors lived at Walker Hill in Pu’unene.
The mingling of the camp residents during their workdays and for everyday transactions expanded the possibility for an intermingling of cultures as well. There was a Korean church next to Japanese Camp in Sprecklesville. A Catholic cemetery was right in the middle of Young Hee Village. Honeymooners Camp was for newly- weds, of course. Foods, dances, cultural practices, the words from diverse languages and babies mixed together until a new culture was born — one that’s now called “local.”
Eventually, the camps were torn down and converted to agricultural use as plantations struggled to get the maximum return from their acreage. Dairy Camp was one of the first to go, and became a part of the 1st Increment of Dream City.
Road to Hana
It was an epic road trip. We got a camper van. We drove on the road to Hana with no issues, camped in the rain, camped in the wind, by the beach, under streetlights and in the middle of nowhere. We loved exploring the road to Hana at a much slower pace. This was an incredible experience. Thanks, Aloha!
Sea Escape Maui Boat Rental
“Yeah, perfect day, we saw two big humpback whales, thousands of fishes, turtles, the cliffs and much more! We were able to see 150 meters down in the sea. All in all, it was an awesome experience, without any ripple out there. It could not be any better!”
We went to the south east side. Then we went to Molokini. We saw a 5-feet white shark. Water clarity was amazing. Then we just cruised around. We also caught a couple of fishes. It was a great experience all around! Thanks!”
“Well! We took the kids to Molokini, we did Snorkeling, and we were lucky to see some whales. The boat was wonderful to drive, this is our third time with your service, and we will try to be back.”
Sea Escape Maui Boat Rental – Captain Steve!
Hey, this is caption Steve here. Just got back from the trip to Molokini. We saw whales, jumping, spinning, playing, and it is a great time!
Caroline and Sabastian
“Well what can I say about the trip of a lifetime? We got engaged. We spent a magical time at a National Park. Aloha Outdoors was totally cool and showed me everything. We spent less for a home and car than anyone could manage with a hotel and rental car.”
Joel and Tanya
“Being able to rent the camper van for a full 10 days made our Maui experience so much more!! In fact I have sent dozens of people your way already, so expect a few more people from Juneau Alaska! Thank you sooo very much it was the best way to travel! Oh, and keep the extra food and drinks!”
Sally, Sarah, and Suzan
“We rented a camper for my fiancé’s birthday and had a such a great and memorable experience! What a beautiful and unique way to see the island. Our friends rented a second van a we toured the island as a group. It was an opportunity of a lifetime on a minimal budget. Thanks Aloha Outdoors.”
“What a great time on the water, the boat was fantastic and ran flawlessly. They gave us great instructions and recommendations on where to go. We went to Molokini crater and did some snorkeling, fun time and beautiful fish galore. Then on the way to turtle town the Humpback whales put on a show of a lifetime. I just love the whales and dolphins. How incredible to see them breach so close. Nothing better than having your own boat and the freedom to go where you want and when you want. 5 Hours was just the perfect amount of time.”
“Just got done with the boat rental from a few hours ago. In a word, AWESOME! We started at 6am so we beat the crowds for snorkeling at Molokini, then just cruised around looking for whales. We saw at least 10, with a few of them fairly close. I will recommend this to anyone coming to Maui. The staff was great at setting us up and made it a breeze. The boat was very nice and we only had to spend $31 on gas, although we didn’t go as far as most people might. If you’re thinking about doing it, do it!”
We live here and we’re looking for a way to get on the water without buying our own boat. They gave us an awesome orientation, launched the boat, and off we went. So many whales! Went over to Molokini, then over to Wailea to cruise the coast. Found a mooring, went swimming & ate lunch. Coming back, they were right there to take our lines, and take over from there. So nice to just show up, take off, and then leave the clean up to them! Looking forward to doing it again! Highly recommend this avenue to all!”