The rich History of Ma’alaea harbor includes a few firsts; the first westerner, sea Captain George Vancouver (namesake of the City of Vancouver), who landed his ship at Ma‘alaea Bay about 1793 to bring the first cattle to Maui, and Maui’s first airport was built at Ma’alaea in 1927. Regular air service began in November 1929 for amphibious planes. Runways were completed in 1930 and by 1936 the location and condition of the runway at Ma’alaea had become inadequate for the lager planes which were introduced by Inter-Island Airlines then was closed in 1938. Much later in the 1960’s and 70’s Ma’alaea Bay was a commercial port with a Tuna fishing fleet based out of its harbor but now hosts a marina where many cruise and pleasure boats dock. Among those vessels are whale watching boats during the winter, as humpback whales breed in this warm Hawaiian bay as well as boats that offer snorkeling trips to Molokini Atoll and those that offer Sport Fishing.
In 1967, Jerry & Eileen Macdonald opened Buzz’s Wharf Restaurant above the Ma’alaea Boat Club, where it still stands and is one of the oldest restaurants on the island. In 1993, the Macdonald’s retired and the next generation took over keeping the family tradition of great food with their signature dish the “Markea Sweet Prawns Tahitian” being the most popular. On May 8th, 2010, Jerry Macdonald passed away.
Buzz’s Wharf has been around to witness the change in the harbor for the last 43 years. They have incorporated fish memorabilia, such as modern sport fishing lures made by a local Maui fisherman into their décor complementing the large trophy fish in the dining room. This year, Buzz’s Wharf will be sponsoring the Lahainaluna High School Boating Club led by Captain Jeremy Delosreyes, who was kind enough to help with the Winter Cover of Menu Magazine. His Club has helped young students learn about the ocean and the skills of fishing.
From your table, you will witness the activity of a busy harbor and maybe catch leaping Humpback Whale calves (in winter months) or some surfers enjoying a nice south swell (in summer months) on the famous “Freight Train” Wave. And of course, don’t forget the breathtaking views of the slopes of Haleakala and Ma’alaea Bay.
Sadly, the recorded History of Ma‘alaea begins in warfare. Back in 1776, Kalani‘opu‘u-a-Kaiamamao or, as his friends called him, King Kalani‘opu‘u a Hawaiian monarch was having some inter island disputes with the valley isle. So, the King embarked his military and landed them without resistance in Ma’alaea Harbor, at that time a small fishing village. Plunder marked this Ali’i’s arrival all the way to Wailuku, and the people fled to the mountain ravines for shelter. There are still artifacts present in Ma’alaea Harbor today. An ancient Birthing Stone from long ago is located in front of the Restaurant and it is said that a child born on the spiritual Birthing Stone would gain instant royalty status.
There are a lot of things to do in Historic Ma’alaea. You can begin with a morning snorkeling or whale-watching cruise followed by an afternoon visit to the aquarium. Then end the day with an evening sunset walk on Ma’alaea Beaches and then have dinner (5:00 pm to 9:00 pm) at Buzz’s Wharf Restaurant, and reservation are recommended for dinner. Call them today at (808) 244-5426 and tell them I sent you. Buzz’s Wharf is also open for Lunch from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and is now offering catering services for all occasions. Visit www.buzzswharf.com for information on special events or holiday menus.