Maui, southeast of Kahului.
Information & History
A sugar pioneer, Claus Spreckels,
bought up land in the arid desert of Puunene from the
Hawaiians who sold him the "cursed" lands at a very cheap
price. The Hawaiians were sure they had gotten the better
part of the deal because they believed that the lands were
haunted by the souls of the dead who were unsuccessful at
making the leap at Black Rock in Kaanapali from this world
to the next. Instead, these poor souls were condemned to
"hell" in the arid wasteland of Puunene.
Spreckels was a gambler. He was gambling that these "cursed"
lands could be very productive, if he could get water rights
up in the rainy hills and bring that water to Puunene, just
as Alexander and Baldwin had done. But first he needed that
water. Thus began a series of late-night poker games with
the then-King Kalakaua. Spreckels's gamble paid off: Not
only did he beat the king at poker (some say "cheated"), but
he built the elaborate 30-mile Haiku Ditch system, which
transported 50 million gallons of water a day from rainy
Haiku to dry Puunene.
The town is nearly gone. This once thriving
sugar-plantation town with hundreds of homes, a school, a
shopping area, and a community center, today Puunene is
little more than the sugar mill, a post office, and a
museum. The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., owners of the
land and the mill, has slowly phased out the rental
plantation housing to open up more land to plant sugar.
Central Maui Museums & Landmarks
Central Maui Beaches
Central Maui Hiking & Camping
Central Maui Snorkeling & Scuba
Central Maui Watersports