Lahaina

First time visitors to Lahaina are entranced by its sleepy small town atmosphere, its picturesque present, historical past and its 24:7 buzz. Lahaina is at once small and local, yet full of life and excitement.  

Once the royal capital of the Hawaiian Island of Maui and before annexation of the islands by the United States, Lahaina is now the largest town on Maui’s west coast and second largest on the island. Signs around the town still clearly make this fact known and such is the popularity of Lahaina today, that though the resident population is only around 10,000, it can swell to 50,000 at the height of the tourist season.  

The name Lahaina means ‘merciless sun’, for indeed it is a town of long hot days and little rainfall, about 21 inches a year, so cool clothes and hats are in order. Traditionally, the warmest month is July with an average 85°F and the coldest is January at 64°F.

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Why visit Lahaina ?


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The name Lahaina means Merciless Sun

Lahaina is at once small and local, yet full of life and excitement

Like many of the towns in Hawaii, Lahaina’s working history is steeped in whaling and the wild stories that go with it. At that time, Lahaina was the centre of the worldwide whaling industry and many whaleboats were constantly anchored in front of the town. Missionaries, who settled in the 1820’s, soon ran into conflict with the whalers as the seamen objected to their ban on native women visiting the ships. On one occasion, as a show of defiance to the ban, the whalers returned to their boats and shelled the town.  

Today, Front Street with its restaurants, shops and bars runs along the beach edge, while sleek pleasure craft have replaced the heavy whaleboats of yesteryear. The town’s nightlife and indeed that of the whole of West Maui is focused squarely on Front Street, which by day it is packed with tourists.  

Banyan Tree Square can hardly be missed, as a massive banyan tree, which was planted in 1873 to commemorate the arrival of the first missionaries 50 years earlier, dominates it. With twelve major tree trunks the banyan now covers a whopping two thirds of an acre.  

This is also the site of the original Lahaina Fort, built in 1831 as a defence against marauders. The remains of walls and cannons are still there. Lahaina was once an ancient Hawaiian fishing village and it was not until early western civilisation that everything changed. Buildings from those early settlers and whaling days are still to be seen in the town. Apart from the surrounding natural beauty of tropical forests, rugged volcanoes and the several beach resorts, a major event worth mentioning is Halloween. This has become something of a speciality in Lahaina, attracting up to 30,000 or more people each year. Streets are closed off while the children’s parade, in costume, takes place. Then adults, also in costume, join in and the whole event becomes one big party lasting well into the night.  

Of course there are numerous individual sights to see and all have stories to go with them. The Lahaina Lighthouse; the Brick Palace, built in 1801, so that King Kamehameha could receive western visitors and the two storey missionary house, built by Reverend Baldwin and inhabited continuously by the family from the 1830s to the 1960s.  

Lahaina, the very name conjures up romance and so it is, in an increasingly commercial world where romance is fast becoming a modern day holy grail.

Photo copyright: ©Hawaii Tourism Athority / Tor Johnson

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