Visiting Maui's Transformed Haiku Mill

Visiting Maui's Transformed Haiku Mill

Tropical gardens, Hawaiian history and European romance intermingle at Haiku Mill on Maui By: Marty Wentzel
<p>Tropical flowers add an exotic touch to Haiku Mill. // © 2017 Chris J. Evans</p><p>Feature image (above): The old mill’s grounds are enveloped by...

Tropical flowers add an exotic touch to Haiku Mill. // © 2017 Chris J. Evans

Feature image (above): The old mill’s grounds are enveloped by the  lush landscape. // © 2017 Chris J. Evans

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In the mid-1800s, Haiku Mill was Maui’s leading producer of sugar. Located on the northeast side of the island, it turned heads with its handsome basalt stonework and earned attention as Hawaii’s first sugar mill to use a steam engine to grind cane.

Within 20 years, however, Haiku Mill fell victim to progress, when a new viaduct redirected water to plantations in central Maui. The mill closed in 1879 and remained abandoned for more than a century.

Today, clients can visit this 2-acre gem, which has been creatively transformed. A state and national historic landmark, it reflects the vision of its owner, Sylvia Hamilton Kerr. Thanks to Kerr’s international upbringing and passion for hospitality, the attraction imparts an old-world aura mixed with its island roots. 

During a one-hour guided tour, clients learn how in 1989, Kerr and a partner began restoring the mill, which was overrun with invasive plants. They turned its crumbling shell into a stately, vine-draped structure with stone floors, cast-iron columns and a waterfall. Around the grounds, they added fruit trees, including mango, banana, papaya and lilikoi, which are now thriving. They planted groves of tropical flowers — such as plumeria, night jasmine and mock orange — that coexist with the ruins and relics. 

Tour guests also see the renovated Cane House, which was once a dwelling for plantation workers. Inside, as in other areas of the property, Kerr’s cosmopolitan flair is apparent: an Italian mirror here, a French chandelier there. Meanwhile, remnants of former sugar mill equipment have been incorporated into the landscape design like parts of nature. The end result is a love letter to the past that remains vital in the present.

Guided tours cost $18 per person, with a 33 percent agent commission.

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