Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, Wailea Golf Courses, Wailea Resorts, Wailea Fine Dining

The History of Wailea, Hawaii: From Ancient Times to the Present

  • Maggie Salerno
  • 01/18/23

Wailea is a beautiful coastal resort town located in South Maui, Hawaii. The area has a rich history that spans centuries, and it has been a popular destination for travelers since the early 20th century. In this blog post, we will explore the history of Wailea, from its early days as a fishing village to its transformation into a world-class resort town.

Early History

The earliest known inhabitants of the Wailea area were the ancient Hawaiians who settled there around 1,000 years ago. These early settlers were skilled farmers and fishermen who relied on the fertile land and abundant sea life to sustain their way of life.

The name "Wailea" translates to "water of Lea," a reference to the goddess Lea who was said to have lived in the area. The Hawaiians believed that Wailea was a sacred place, and it was home to several important heiaus (temples) that were used for worship and ceremony.

In the 18th century, Wailea became an important center of trade and commerce for the Hawaiian people. The area was known for its fertile farmland, and it was a major producer of crops like taro, sweet potatoes, and sugarcane. Wailea also had a thriving fishing industry, with fishermen catching a wide variety of fish and other seafood from the waters surrounding the area.

European Contact

In the late 18th century, European explorers began to make contact with the Hawaiian people, and by the early 19th century, American and European traders had established a presence in the islands. These traders introduced new technologies and goods to the Hawaiian people, including firearms, textiles, and metal tools.

The arrival of European traders also brought new diseases to the Hawaiian islands, including smallpox and measles, which decimated the local population. By the mid-19th century, the Hawaiian people had been largely displaced by foreign settlers, and the islands had become a part of the United States.

The Modern Era

In the early 20th century, Wailea began to attract a new wave of visitors, as travelers from around the world discovered the area's natural beauty and perfect climate. Many of these visitors were wealthy Americans and Europeans who built grand homes and estates in the area.

One of the most notable early visitors to Wailea was Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator who made the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927. Lindbergh fell in love with the area and built a home there in the 1930s, which he called "Maui's Heaven."

In the years that followed, Wailea continued to grow and develop as a tourist destination. In the 1960s, a group of investors led by the Alexander & Baldwin company began developing a large resort complex in the area, which included several luxury hotels and golf courses.

The development of Wailea as a resort town had a profound impact on the area's economy and culture. Today, Wailea is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii, attracting millions of visitors each year.


In conclusion, the history of Wailea is a fascinating story of a small fishing village that grew into a world-class resort town. From its early days as a sacred place for the Hawaiian people to its transformation into a center of trade and commerce, Wailea has played an important role in the history of Hawaii.

Today, Wailea is a vibrant and thriving community, with a rich cultural heritage and a bright future ahead. Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the sun, Wailea has something for everyone.

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