Cornforth Images


The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawai’ian Islands and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the state of Hawai’i and is the largest island in Maui County. Three other islands, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe, also belong to Maui County. Polynesians, from Tahiti and the Marquesas, were the original peoples to populate Maui.

Maui’s wide variety of landscapes have resulted from a unique combination of geology, topography, and climate. Each volcanic cone in the chain of the Hawaiian Islands is built of dark, iron-rich/quartz-poor rocks, that poured out of thousands of vents as highly fluid lava, over a period of millions of years. Several of the volcanoes were close enough to each other that lava flows on their flanks overlapped one another, causing several volcanoes to merge into a single island. Maui is such a “volcanic doublet”, formed from two shield volcanoes that overlapped one another to form an isthmus between them.

The older, western volcano has been eroded considerably and is cut by numerous drainages, forming the peaks of the West Maui Mountains. The larger, younger volcano to the east is called Haleakala and makes up Haleakala National Park. It rises to more than 10,000 ft (3,050 m) above sea level, but measures 5 miles (8 km) from seafloor to summit. The eastern flanks of both volcanoes are cut by deeply incised valleys and steep-sided ravines that run downslope to the rocky, windswept shoreline. The valley-like Isthmus of Maui that separates the two volcanic masses was formed by recent lava flows and erosion of material from the steep slopes of the volcanoes. This prominent topographic feature is the reason why Maui is known as “The Valley Isle”.

The best locations not to be missed for photography on Maui include the beaches south of Makena, Iao Valley State Park, and the Dragon’s Teeth north of Lahaina. The exotic Hana Coast is accessible after a relatively short drive from the western parts of the island. The scenic road has hundreds of twists and turns through the cliffs and waterfalls that make up the rugged eastern part of the island. Photographers visiting Hana should not miss Waianapanapa State Park or Kaihalulu (Red Sand) beach.