Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Maui: Maunalei Arboretum

It is surprising after visiting Maui a couple dozen times over the years and living there for more than a year that I would be unfamiliar with the Maunalei Arboretum which sits uphill from Kapalua — but, in fact, that is the case. It was established by D. T. Fleming, the plantation manager of Honolua Ranch, which preceded the Kapalua Resort in pretty much the same location.

Interestingly, when Kapalua closed the Village Golf Course (you'll recall they planned to build an exclusive, members-only course on the same site), they were faced with the question of what to do with the building that contained the pro shop and restaurant. Because they also were demolishing the Kapalua Bay Hotel and the adjoining shops, an opportunity presented itself to move the Logo shop (where you can buy just about anything with a Kapalua Logo imprinted, embossed, etched or embroidered) to that now unneeded building.

There was still same left-over space after the Logo shop moved in — into which they placed an activities center. In addition to the luaus, boat rides, etc., they are offering a free (yes, I said "free" — yes, on Maui, something is free) shuttle to the trail head and back. So off I went, camera in hand.

And I was blown away — both figuratively and literally. Figuratively because it is a very wild place with a huge amount and variety of flora. Literally because the winds were strong — I would estimate 35 MPH with gusts up to 50 MPH.

Today, people are bit more sensitive to the dangers of introducing invasive species to the fragile ecosystem of Hawai`i — the most isolated islands in the world. However, in the early 1900s, D. T. Fleming was importing plants from around the world to be planted in the arboretum — presumably to see what would grow and possibly exploit on the plantation. Many of these same plants are found all over the islands — removing them would be impossible.

So, now we can just relax and enjoy what we see — knowing that it is not what ancient Hawai`i really looked like — but a tropical paradise nonetheless.

Ferns, ferns, ferns everywhere. This land is on the leeward side of the West Maui Mountains — that plus the uphill location provides lots of rain to nourish water-loving plants like ferns.


These plants are commonly called Christmas Berry bushes (or trees). They may look like berries but they are actually the fruit of the Indian Pepper plant. If you pick one of these "berries", then crush it, you will see the black peppercorn inside. Crush that and you will smell the characteristic aroma of freshly ground pepper.

The bush at the left is coffee. The berries — or more correctly, the cherries contain a pit which is the coffee bean that we are all familiar with. As most of you know, coffee is now a big crop on all the Hawaiian islands, particularly the Big Island of Hawai`i (remember "Kona Coffee"?).

The bush to the right shows the thimbleberry. A quick Google search shows that these are native to North America. They are edible. And they certainly are photogenic.

I have no knowledge of either of these two plants — but isn't that part of the joy exploring new places? It is for me.

These are banyan trees. Those of you who have visited Maui know the huge banyan tree in the center of Lahaina. There is even one loop of the trail here at the arboretum that is full of banyan trees. Unfortunately, I was running late and didn't want to miss the last bus back — so I must save that for next time.

And how curious the bumps under the bark of the tree at right? Do you suppose this is some type of cancerous growth? I'm no expert so I hope someone will enlighten me.

And don't you love the moss that grows on old wood? I do.

I saw lots of guava (pictured here) and even some passion fruit. When they ripen and fall off the trees they add their fragrance to the smell of the forest. I love it.

To the right is one of the largest types of trees in the arboretum. Unfortunately, I have forgotten its name and failed to write it down. Very majestic.

There are certain spots along the trail that provide magnificent views of the coast line. Today I had to hold on because of the wind — a wind which you cannot see because it cannot be photographed — but as I mentioned above, it was certainly there.

And as I wound back down the trail, I found a Moa plant with its tiny yellow berries. Hundreds of berries — quite a sight to the naked eye — for which a camera cannot do justice.

Well, I assure you that I will take this hike again. Not knowing much about the arboretum in advance, I discovered that I did not plan enough time for it — a mistake that I will remedy on the next trip.

In fact, something that appeals to me is the Mahana Trail that takes you from the highest point in the arboretum back downhill along a path eventually leading back to the original starting point at the activities center. Take drinking water and some snacks — but this is a must-do on my list. I hope you'll give it a shot too — or at least the shorter trail, returning on the shuttle bus.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc.