You may have noticed that several places in Maui have multiple names. But which to use? The Hawaiian name, old-time Western names, and newer made-up names are all commonly presented to visitors as fact. While it is much easier for Westerners to pronounce and remember a more familiar or more spectacular name, some place names commonly used in tourist literature are simply made up, and not the true names of these places.
Some of these names are blatant attempts at marketing or selling tourists something while others are new-age interpretations attempting to put a spectacular name on something special. Some of these names have stuck unbelievably well in recent years, and regardless of intention, by using them I believe it unintentionally reinforces a division between an open and embracing host culture, and the visitors and newcomers they have so openly welcomed.
Most Hawaiian names are also considered important – even sacred. Names were carefully chosen by Hawaiian Kupuna who understood these areas intimately. Names are also considered to hold mana by Native Hawaiians and for many local people it is considered disrespectful to call these places by their more colorful guidebook-inspired names.
Often visitors are attracted to the more familiar-sounding name because unfamiliar Hawaiian spellings can appear daunting to tackle – but, in reality pronouncing Hawaiian words is a fairly simple task since the language is phonetic and follows a few simple key rules. In about fifteen minutes you can understand how to say virtually any Hawaiian word correctly – and locals will be impressed and genuinely appreciate the effort. [see guide]
Throughout MauiGuidebook.com we share the Hawaiian names of most places, and will let you know what the common name is for a place. We will then refer to the place throughout the article by the generally and commonly accepted proper name of the overall resident community, not tourist literature. In the places that have new made-up names that are considered disrespectful, we’ll tell you that too.
By choosing to call places by their proper name you are making a conscious choice to show respect to people who strongly value respect, tradition and their history. That is something that will be noticed, and is guaranteed to add a dimension to your visit you wouldn’t otherwise have had.