If you're in the mood for history, culture or just some urban flair, you can plan a half day in Lahaina, an interesting historic town at the foot of the West Maui Mountains. In the days of whaling, all hell broke loose here. Even today, Lahaina is a bustling city with about 11,700 inhabitants. However, the hustle and bustle in the streets and along the harbour is no longer caused by drunken sailors but by tourists. Economically and administratively, Kahului and Wailuku are more important, but Lahaina is culturally the most important city in Maui and an American National Historic Landmark.
Many visit the city for that. Many tourists also shop on the famous Front Street. Cruise ships dock here and many tours (to Lanai, Molokai or whale watching) also start from Lahaina.
Good to know
Lahaina was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Since 1846, it is Honolulu.
Hermann Melville spent a few months in Lahaina in 1843. What he experienced here was incorporated into his novel "Moby Dick".
Not all houses here are from the pioneer era, they just look like they are from the 19th century. New buildings are obliged to have an old-looking "mask".
In Lahaina, it is often hot and dry. However, it rains frequently in the West Maui Mountains, which are not far away. That is why there are often magnificent rainbows above the city.
Banyan Court Park
The name of this park comes from the fact that the largest banyan tree in Hawaii is located here. At first, it may look like you're in a small forest. But no: everything that grows here over an area of almost 3,000 square meters is a single tree.
Banyan is a species of fig that spreads to other trees until its aerial roots reach the earth, the banyan grows stronger and its host tree cannot survive under the load. Its proportions here in Lahaina are mighty.
There is always something going on around and under the Banyan Tree. Markets and cultural events take place here and people relax in its soothing shade from the "merciless sun" (that's what Lahaina means).
Towards the harbour is the Old Lahaina Court House located. The courthouse was built in 1859. Conveniently, at that time the building housed not only the court but also a jail. Today it houses a visitor centre, the Lahaina Heritage Museum and two galleries of the Lahaina Arts Society.
Directly behind the Banyan Tree is the harbour. The Pioneer Inn on Wharf Street is the oldest hotel on the island.
Highlights on Front Street
Cafés, bars, stores, galleries - along Front Street, visitors bustle about. They are looking for postcards or paintings, jewelry, a delicious lunch or simply a bottle of water.
At the corner of Front Street and Dickons Street in the middle of a lush green park stands the Baldwin House. Dwight Baldwin lived in this house which was built in 1834. He was a well-known natural scientist and Protestant missionary. It is interesting to visit (the entrance fee is only 3 $) this building because it also offers insight into the history of missionary work in Hawaii.
Among galleries and clothing stores, another building stands out: at 858 Front Street is the Wo Hing Temple, a temple built by Chinese in 1912 that is now a museum of Chinese culture and history in Hawaii. By the way, the ticket to Baldwin House is also valid here. At the end of Front Street is a Japanese Buddhist temple.
These and other cultural and historical sights are summarized in the so-called Lahaina Historical Trail. More than 60 sites can be visited and explored on your own. The tour takes about an hour. The city guide is available at the visitor centre in the Courthouse at the Banyan tree.
Directions and parking
Lahaina is located on Highway 30, a very well developed road. From Kahului it is less than 25 miles to Lahaina. You should plan about 45 minutes by car. Public buses (the Lahaina Islander) also drive this route.
Highway 3000 is a bypass road. It leads around Lahaina to merge back into Highway 30 north of the town. Despite the bypass, however, there can be heavy car traffic in Lahaina at rush hour, as many explore Frontstreet with their rental cars.
Free (and much sought-after) parking is available, for example, at the corner of Front Street and Prison Street. At the shopping centre "Outlets of Maui" there are more, however costly, parking spaces.
If you want to combine the trip to Lahaina with a day at the beach, you can do that at Ka'anapali Beach or Baby Beach.
But Lahaina can also be combined well with a day trip on and around Highway 30. Along the spectacular coastline, there are beautiful bays, great viewpoints and great short hikes, for example to the famous Nakalele Blowhole.