Discover Lahaina's Best

By Lois Bisquera - Photos courtesy of John Motelewski, John Pierre’s Studio

Experience the charm and rich history of old Lahaina Town by strolling along Front Street. Once the whaling capital of the world and the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Lahaina is now Maui's favorite commercial district, though it still has the look and feel of the old days.

Lahaina is more than just a long series of shops, however. This town exemplifies the living history of Hawaii, by preserving the past and by embracing the future. A national historic area, Lahaina features a harmonious blend of tourism and agriculture, the two primary industries of Hawaii.

Lahaina Harbor once provided a safe haven for numerous whaling and freight vessels. Now it is home to just one such vessel, the Carthaginian, the only authentically restored brig in the world. This brig features a whale exhibit, including audio and visual displays and an original whale boat, and is open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Also at Lahaina Harbor is the Fort on the Canal, the old Courthouse and the Banyan Tree.

The Fort was built in 1831 out of coral blocks that were hewn by hand. Once covering an area of about one acre, with 20 foot walls, now all that remains is a small section of the southwest corner.

The Courthouse, built in 1859, years after the Fort had been destroyed, functioned as a custom house, a post office, a collector's office, an office for the Governor, a police office and a courtroom. The Courthouse is presently home to the Lahaina Arts Society and the Lahaina Visitor Center, operated by the Lahaina Town Action Committee, a non-profit organization that sponsors cultural and promotional events in Lahaina.

The Banyan Tree, the oldest in the state of Hawaii, came from India in 1873. At the time, it was only eight feet tall. Now the tree stands about 50 feet in height, spans approximately 200 feet in length, and shades nearly twothirds of an acre.

The Baldwin Home is the oldest surviving building in Lahaina. It was built in 1834 with coral, stone and wood. The home of Rev. Dwight Baldwin was not only a center for missionary activity, but a medical office as well. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation, which is responsible for preserving the historic sites of Lahaina, maintains the home as a museum.


The Prison, located on the corner of Wainee and Prison streets, was built in 1851 out of the coral blocks from the Fort. Most of the prisoners were either deserters or drunks. The prison grounds are currently used for town meetings and other functions.

The Wainee Cemetery was Hawaii's first Christian graveyard. Established in 1823, this cemetery is the burial site of many Hawaiian royalty, including King Kaumualii, the last king of Kauai; Hoapili, Kamehameha's best friend; Kekauonohi, queen of Kamehameha II; Princess Nahienaena, the sister of Kamehameha II and III; and Liliha, a granddaughter of King Kahekili, who is reputed to be the father of Kamehameha. This site is very sacred to the Hawaiians.

The Maria Lanakila Church, located on the corner of Wainee and Dickenson streets, is a replica of a Catholic church built on the site in 1858. Maui's first Catholic church, a much smaller structure, was established here in 1856.

The Wo Hing Temple, the fraternal hall of the local Wo Hing Society, which is a chapter of the centuries-old Chee Kung Tong, was originally built in 1912 and served a the social center for the Chinese who had migrated to work in the sugar cane fields. Restored in 1983, the Wo Hing Temple is now a museum that showcases the history of the Chinese in Lahaina. Movies taken by Thomas Edison when he visited Hawaii in 1898 and 1903 are also shown.

The Jodo Mission, near Mala Wharf, boasts the largest Buddha outside of Japan and, for that reason, is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Lahaina. The grounds of the church are used for the annual Obon celebration and community functions.

On the grounds of the oldest school west of the Rockies, Lahainaluna High School, the Hale Pai, or printing house, was founded in 1831 by Protestant missionaries. Restored in 1982, visitors are welcome every day except Sundays.

These are just a few of the exciting points of interest you will find in old Lahaina Town. Discover for yourself the many wonders, old and new, fun and adventurous, that will acquaint you with Maui's unforgettable charm.