The Sugar Cane Train
by Heidi Pool

Maui is the home to the only steam-powered commercial railroad in the entire state of Hawaii.

Toot! Toot! Yes, that’s really a train you just heard! Maui is home to the only steampowered commercial railroad in the entire state of Hawai‘i. The “Sugar Cane Train” periodically makes its presence known on Maui’s west side, from Lahaina to Ka‘anapali, with its cheery whistle.

The brightly-colored steam engine and open-air coaches chug along a six-mile, narrow-gauge track at a leisurely pace, transporting passengers through old sugar cane fields and past the Ka‘anapali Resort and golf courses. Singing conductors “talk story” about the railroad and sights along the way, and play local-style music. The by Heidi Pool Photo Courtesy of “Maui is the home to the only steam-powered commercial railroad in the entire state of Hawai‘i.” ABOARD!

The Sugar Cane Train highlight of the journey is crossing the 325-foot curved wooden Hahakea Trestle, where magnificent views and photo opportunities are plentiful. The Sugar Cane Train began operating in 1969, and utilizes two replicas of actual steam locomotives from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The plucky little train has carried more than 10 million passengers since inception, making it one of the largest tourist railroads by volume in the United States.

Trains played a large part in the history of Maui’s west side, as they were used by the Pioneer Sugar Mill between 1882 and 1952 to transport sugar from the fields to the mill. The sugar cane industry ushered in a new era on Maui. Plantation owners brought immigrants from Japan, China, Korea, The Philippines, Portugal, and Puerto Rico to work in their fields, which permanently altered the ethnic makeup of the island’s population. In 1952, Pioneer Mill began using large trucks instead of trains, since they were more maneuverable and cost effective. Lahaina’s sugar industry itself came to an end in 1999, when Pioneer Mill closed its doors for good. You can still see their old smokestack towering over Lahaina town.

For more information about the Sugar Cane Train call 808-661-0080, go to or pick up a copy of BEST Guidebook.

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