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Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island's name in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. According to that legend, Hawaiʻiloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Māui. The earlier name of Maui was ʻIhikapalaumaewa. The Island of Maui is also called the "Valley Isle" for the large isthmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the numerous large valleys carved into both mountains.
Maui is a leading whale-watching center in the Hawaiian Islands due to Humpback whales wintering in the sheltered ʻAuʻau Channel between the islands of Maui county. The whales migrate approximately 3,500 miles (5,600 km) from Alaskan waters each autumn and spend the winter months mating and birthing in the warm waters off Maui, with most leaving by the end of April. The whales are typically sighted in pods: small groups of several adults, or groups of a mother, her calf, and a few suitors. Humpbacks are an endangered species protected by U.S. federal and Hawaiʻi state law. There are estimated to be about 10,000 humpbacks in the North Pacific. Although Maui's Humpback face many dangers, due to pollution, high speed commercial vessels, and military sonar testing, their numbers have increased rapidly in recent years, estimated at 7% growth per year. Maui is home to a large rainforest on the northeastern flanks of Haleakalā, which serves as the drainage basin for the rest of the island. The extremely difficult terrain has prevented exploitation of much of the forest. Agricultural and coastal industrial land use has had an adverse effect on much of Maui's coastal regions. Many of Maui's extraordinary coral reefs have been damaged by pollution, runoff, and tourism, although finding sea turtles, dolphins, and Hawai'i's celebrated tropical fish, is still common. Leeward Maui used to boast a vibrant dry 'cloud forest' as well but this was destroyed by human activities over the last three hundred years.
The big tourist spots in Maui include the Hāna Highway, Haleakalā National Park, and Lahaina.The Hāna Highway runs along the east coast of Maui, curving around many mountains and passing by black sand beaches and waterfalls. Haleakalā National Park is home to Haleakalā, a dormant volcano. Lahaina is one of the main attractions on the island with an entire street of shops and restaurants which lead to a wharf where many set out for a sunset cruise or whale watching journey. Snorkeling can be done at almost any beach along the Maui coast. Surfing and windsurfing are also popular on Maui.The main tourist areas are West Maui (Kāʻanapali, Lahaina, Nāpili-Honokōwai, Kahana, Napili, Kapalua) and South Maui (Kīhei, Wailea-Mākena). The main port of call for cruise ships is located in Kahului. A smaller port can be found in Maʻalaea Harbor located between Lahaina and Kihei.
Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on Maui. There are over 30 beaches and bays to snorkel at around the island.
Maui is a well known destination for windsurfing. Kanaha Beach Park is a very well-known windsurfing spot and may have stand-up paddle boarders or surfers if there are waves and no wind. Windsurfing has evolved on Maui since the early 1980s when it was recognized as an ideal location to test equipment and publicize the sport.
One of the most popular sports in Hawaii. Ho'okipa is one of Maui's most famous surfing and windsurfing spots. Other famous or frequently surfed areas include Slaughterhouse Beach, Honolua Bay, Pe'ahi (Jaws), and Fleming Beach.
Kiteboarding and kitesurfing
One of the newest sports on Maui is Kiteboarding/Surfing. Kanaha Beach Park is where beginner, intermediate and advanced Kiters gather. It is known as Kite Beach. Kiters share the water with Windsurfers who have dominated the area since the early 1980s. Since 2008 there has been an explosion in the number of Kiters mostly due to advances in equipment and safety.