Meaning “waters of the conch,” Waikapu is located in central Maui within the Na Wai Eha (The Four Waters) ahupuaʻa, a type of ancient land division in the Hawaiian Islands, along with the surrounding streams in Wailuku, Waiehu, and Waiheʻe.
See Waikapu Map
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Legend of Waikapu
Hawaiian legend tells the story of a lava tube deep within the valley walls, stretching from one end of the island to the other.
Inside this lava tube was a pu, or conch shell, that when sounded correctly, could be heard from miles away. It was said to be so fascinating that a prophet from Kauaʻi came in search of this shell.
Puapualenalena, a resident dog in the area who lived near a cliff that faced the lava tube, found the shell first, however, and whisking it away to safety, silenced it forever. The key, however, was that it was kept on Maui.
In ancient times, taro fields and a few modest hales lined what is today the town of Waikapu. Some reminders of this time are still intact, including the Waikapu Stream and bridge, a Japanese cemetery, ancient rock walls, and ʻauwai, or ditch.
In the late 1800s, James Louzada bought land and property in Waikapu, and with the help of his brother-in-law, Henry Cornwell, built Cornwell Sugar Mill. Within 8 months, the mill had produced 400,000 pounds of sugar, roughly valued at around $25,000.
The area soon became a bustling location for sugarcane production and commerce, home to the area’s plantation workers, who lived in modest camps and homes. Waikapu Plantation even drilled the first artesian wells on neighbor islands.
In the late 1800s, the plantation was sold to Wailuku Sugar Co., essentially making Waikapu a smaller subset of historic Wailuku Town.
Today, Waikapu is made up largely of a small residential population as well as a few local businesses.
The Maui Tropical Plantation is the major draw, a beautifully landscaped area with daily tram tours of the plantation grounds and locally-grown produce, as well as two ziplines, two restaurants, a concert venue, a duck pond, and plenty of events to attract both visitors and residents.
Check out The Mill House Restaurant for Cafe O’Leis dining with a view.
Future of Waikapu
The Waikapu Country Town Project has just been approved, which will include the construction of retail stores, restaurants, an elementary school, 1,500 residences, and a 6-mile bike trail.
The Maui Tropical Plantation will become the village center, and the 1,600-acre project is set to be built during two 5-year phases.