Endless fields of sugar cane blowing in the tradewinds are one of my favorite sites on Maui, although the industry is neither a sustainable practice or good for the environment (or the Maui air that we breathe in every day.) Regardless, cane growing — and burning — is an important part of Maui’s past and continues to be part of its present.
The sugar cane industry has left itself deeply imprinted on the canvas of Maui’s history, as is seen in the island’s many plantation towns (like my favorite, Paia!!) Although not as significant in modern Maui as it has been in the past, the sugar cane industry still exists in Hawaii and the historic plantation town of Pu’unene is home to the largest working sugar factory in the state. Located right next to the busy factory is the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, which features a fascinating collection of information and artifacts telling of the history of the sugar industry in Maui.
The 1,800 square foot museum examines the establishment and growth of the industry on the island, as well as the significant influence that it had on the development of Maui’s water resource and the rich, multi-cultural diversity that it brought to Hawaii’s population. The museum also displays day-to-day life in a historic sugar plantation town, and explores the inner workings of a sugar mill with both its six inside exhibits and its outdoor display of large plantation equipment.
The museum is home to a Geography Room, Water Room, Human Resources Room, Plantation Room, Field Work Room, and Mill Room. The collection of plantation equipment on display outdoors includes a trench digger, an outdoor Portuguese oven from the 1920s, a “bull gear,” a cane hauler, vintage Caterpillar tractors, and a cane grab.
A gift shop features a range of Hawaiian-inspired books, music, and DVD’s, as well as specialty sugars, coffee, and other souvenirs.
Visit the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum
Cost: $7 adults, $5 seniors, $2 children (6-12)
Hours: Daily, 9:30am – 4pm
Address: 2957 Hansen Rd, Puunene, HI 96732
Directions: From Lahaina/Kaanapali, turn right onto Honoapiilani Hwy/HI 30 (toward Kihei/Kahului). Turn right onto N. Kihei Rd, and follow it for 3.5 miles. Turn left onto Mokulele Hwy/HI-31/HI-311. Turn right onto Hansen Rd. The museum will be on the left.
Footnote: Baldwin is still a big name on Maui, and the clan — descendants of the original Baldwins — owns a huge portion of land and industry here…some say they control the island (there’s a lot of bad blood and sketchy politics, but that’s another story…) My (very) small “claim to fame” is that I’ve cleaned two of the Baldwin estates on Maui…definitely a glimpse into another world.