The Story of Kapalua: How Dr. Dwight Baldwin Changed Hawaii
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Have you been to the Kapalua resort area? Over the years, this area has gone through many changes. But originally, it was known as the agricultural district of Honokahua, where Hawaiian villages once thrived.
In the years following the unification of the Hawaiian islands, the land was gifted by royal decree to Dr. Dwight Baldwin, for his 17-year service as one of the only doctors on Maui. This is the same Dr. Baldwin of the historic Baldwin Home, that is now a museum in Lahaina. Dr. Baldwin, with the help of a horticulturalist named DT Fleming, planted a variety of tropical crops, and the many Norfolk pines that we see throughout Kapalua today. He later used the land as a ranch for a time, until his son started a pineapple plantation.
As pineapple faded away, Baldwin’s descendants had a vision of creating the massive Pu‘u kukui preserve which is on the mountainside next to Kapalua. In 1992, they donated some 9,000 acres for preservation, and it is the home to plants found nowhere else on the planet. Along with these preservation efforts, plans for a resort area were made.
Today Kapalua - or “divided borders” - is filled with clusters of vacation villas, and the luxurious Ritz Carlton resort and spa. Several years ago, this resort made plans to build an $80 million beachfront hotel here, but during the excavation, an ancient burial ground was discovered with over 900 bodies buried right next to the prime beachfront property. This was the largest ancient burial site ever discovered in Hawaii. The Ritz Carlton had all the necessary permits to continue, but instead, they halted construction and listened to the pleas of the community. Eventually, the hotel was repositioned away from the beach and the human remains were re-buried. Today, the Honokahua preservation site is one of the most important historical sites in the state.
We highly recommend taking a short drive through Kapalua, to explore Makaluapuna Point, nicknamed the Dragon’s Tooth Trail, to see the unique lava formations - and beautiful views of the bay. It is a short hike, but parking can be hard to find.
Want to visit Kapalua?
Check out our West Maui Coastline Tour!