Why San Franciscans Visit Maui In Droves
Stunning beaches, a melting pot of cultures, and a bounty of marine life… wait— are we talking about San Francisco or Maui?
The majority of visitors to Maui are from the West Coast. And out of those West Coasters, a good chunk are from San Francisco. After all, Hawaiian Airlines alone averages nine flights a day between OGG and the Bay Area, making it extra tempting and extra easy to hop on a quick 5-hour flight to the islands.
But aside from Maui being kind of close to the city by the bay (Mexico is closer, just saying), what is with San Franciscans’ infatuation with the Valley Isle?
Well, the two locales have more in common than you might think.
Like San Francisco, Maui experienced a wave of Asian immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of Maui’s plantation-era immigrants arrived from Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines. Recruited by plantation owners, the immigrants came to work in Maui’s sugarcane fields, bringing with them the traditions, languages, and fares of their birth country.
While dim sum might be few and far between on Maui, countless mom-and-pop eateries on the island were born from Asian influence. San Franciscans who routinely wander into Chinatown for a bite to eat will rejoice over Maui’s local cuisine. Noodles and rice are staples in the islands, and dishes like chow fun, chow mein, saimin, fried rice, and spam musubi proliferate. (And if you’re visiting from San Francisco and keen to get your hands on some good local grub, check out Tin Roof, Kaleis Lunch Box, Havens, or Sam Sato’s)
San Francisco hasn’t been immune to the poke craze that has swept across the mainland in recent years. Today, there are a dozen poke shops within San Francisco’s city limits. And although the mainland’s interpretation of the traditional Hawaiian dish has been a little, er, cringe at times, some Bay Area establishments are doing Hawaiian cuisine justice. Pa’ina Lounge and Restaurant in Japantown features some classic island-style dishes: think kalbi ribs with rice and mac salad, loco moco, spam musubi, and even halo halo, a popular Filipino dessert.
Asian and island influences aside, both San Francisco and Maui are havens for seafood lovers. On Maui, clam chowder and cioppino are traded for fresh fish tacos, garlic shrimp, and, if you’re brave, opihi (limpets).
The Issues & The People
Maui and San Francisco share plenty of issues: a rising homeless population, unreasonable rent prices, and a perpetual exodus of native and longtime residents.
What’s more, both San Francisco and Maui are major tourist destinations that welcome millions of visitors each year. And interestingly enough, residents in both locations have voiced frustrations about overcrowding on their twistiest, most famous streets— Lombard Street and the Road to Hana.
While social and political issues obviously aren’t driving San Franciscans to Maui, it might make them a little more likely to say, “Hey, I get it.”
There’s also a chance that residents in both areas are more likely to look on the bright side of things— Maui and San Francisco consistently rank among the happiest populations in the United States.
There’s no need to elaborate on this point. San Francisco and Maui are notorious for their bank-draining prices. But according to World Population Review, the average annual income of a San Franciscan hovers around $160,000. That’s enough for a tasteful trip or two to Maui each year.
The weather in San Francisco and Maui could not be more different. I mean, the summer months in the Bay Area are some of the foggiest— what’s up with that, Karl?! Temperatures in this Bay Area city average about 60 degrees all year long. Meanwhile, when it hits 60 on Maui, residents start busting out their snow jackets. While Maui can get some decent rain, temperatures hover between the mid-70s to low 80s year-round. It’s not surprising so many San Franciscans long for a tropical getaway.
Believe it or not, San Francisco is home to a die-hard surf community. And both Maui and SF boast some of the best big wave breaks on the planet: Peahi (Jaws) and Mavericks (which is technically in Half Moon Bay, but it’s just a hop, skip, and jump from the city).
Unlike Maui, the water temperatures in San Francisco hover in the mid-50s. Peeling a 5/4 wetsuit on and off every day can get pretty old, so it makes sense that more and more SF surfers are showing up in Maui’s waters for a tropical respite.