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Star Struck on Maui

Article by Shannon Wianecki

Celebrities of all stripes daily come and go on Maui: movie stars, rock musicians, writers, kings, queens, celebrity chefs, dancers, crooners, most valuable players—even legendary sumo wrestlers. Some take one look at Maui's sparkling shoreline and decide to stay. Oprah, Willie Nelson, Tiger Woods, Sammy Hagar, and Alice Cooper are just a few luminaries who've made Maui their home. Many more live here part-time or visit regularly.

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They stay because:

a) Maui is among the most beautiful destinations in the world (and only 5 1/2 hours from Hollywood), b) they can afford to, and c) we leave them alone.

Mauians tend to be nonchalant when it comes to famous folk. After all, our island is named after a demi-god. What earthly fame could rival the majesty of Maui himself, his mother Hina, the moon goddess, or Pele, the volcano goddess whose passion created these islands? People might be interesting eye candy, but the natural landscape and phenomena native to this remote Pacific archipelago dwarf any notion of human greatness.

Indeed, the landscape creates its own heroes: consider Laird Hamilton, known around the world for his daring drops onto waves 40 feet tall and more, or Bethany Hamilton (no relation), the young Kauai surfer who lost her arm to a shark bite, yet continues to compete in pro contests. And of course, there's Waikiki's ambassador, the late Duke Kahanamoku, who surfed into fame on a 114-pound, 16-foot tall board carved of native koa wood. As if that alone weren't impressive enough, this Olympic medalist swimmer and surfing champion rescued multiple drowning sailors on more than one occasion.

Maui's shores were star-spangled from the time of its earliest inhabitants. Princess Keopuolani, considered the most sacred Hawaiian royal, was born in Waihee. Talk about possessing star power! The ancient Hawaiian kapu system dictated that any commoner to cross Keopuolani's shadow could be sentenced to death! This must have been too great a burden for the princess to bear; together with Queen Kaahumanu, she helped overthrow the kapu system. Her grave, still considered sacred to Hawaiians, can be viewed at Waiola Church in Lahaina. The church itself is famous, immortalized in James Michener's novel, Hawaii, for surviving numerous natural disasters.

  read more: Mark Twain, Willie Nelson & His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama >>