Lahaina Tourist Attractions
Lahaina, meaning merciless sun, has long been a royal center of Maui. The famed warrior-king Kahekili ruled from here until Kamehameha used canon to defeat him in the early 19th century.
Kamehameha I also made Lahaina his capital which it remained until the 1840s when Kamehameha III moved his government to Honolulu.Whaling ships from America and around the world started arriving about 1819, using Lahaina as an R&R facility. The hunt for Sperm whale was carried out near Alaska, with the sailors often spending up to three winters in Lahaina until their ship had captured enough whales to justify the voyage. The local humpback whales were not hunted much, because unlike the sperm whales which float when killed, humpbacks sink and were thus impossible to process.Needless to say Lahaina became a debauched town. Missionaries invited by Queen Keopuolani arrived in 1823, a few years after the first whalers, and set about trying to clean up its morals. A curfew, a fort, a jail and religious persuasion were all employed.Resentment by the whalers even caused one ship to lob a few cannonballs at missionary homesteads.Today, remaining historic buildings have been restored and the frontier-like look of the town has been preserved to give the feel of the early tropical outpost which Lahaina once was. Many of these buildings have become up-scale galleries selling a variety of arts and crafts the quality of which is rarely seen except in major urban centers.Lahaina and the neighboring beach resort of Ka'anapali to the north offer a choice of dozens of resort hotels, a remarkable development considering that until the late 1950s Lahaina's only hotel was the 1901 Pioneer Inn.Lahaina has no natural harbor and even today larger ships anchor offshore in the straits between Maui and Lanai. Other islands of Molokai to the north and Kahoolawe to the south further shelter this strait.
This Banyan tree, which originates from India, measured only 8ft/2.5m in height when planted in 1873 by Maui's then sheriff to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the building of the island's first mission house. Since then, the majestic tree has grown into Maui's biggest banyan tree - it now has a dozen trunks, is 60ft/20m high, spans more than 200ft/60m and throws shadows over a third of Court Square, in which it stands.
A bad storm in 1858 destroyed more than 20 houses in Lahaina, including Hale Piula (the courthouse) which King Kamehameha III had built and also used as a palace. A year later a new courthouse was built using stones from the old one and for a year it served as the center of justice for Maui County. Today it accommodates the Lahaina Art Society Gallery and the police station.It was here in 1898 that the Hawaiian flag was lowered and the American flag raised to mark the annexation of Hawaii by the United States.
Here only the ruins of Hawaii's first stone-built house can be seen, which Kamehameha had built in 1802 to receive the captains of ships sailing into the port. The house would have covered an area of 39ft/12m by 191/2ft/6m with two rooms on each floor. It stood for 70 years and was used later as a warehouse. Unfortunately, a drawing of the house has not survived.
Rocks play an important part in Hawaiian mythology. It is not easy to imagine that the rocks projecting from the sea emit powers. The Hauola Rock, which resembles a chair, had the power to heal persons who sat on it and allowed the sea to wash over their body. As well as holy rocks the kahunas (priests) used herbs, diets and massage to restore health to their patients. The Hauola Rock was also used as a birthing chair with the umbilical cords of new-born babies being buried beneath it.
Hawaii Experience Domed Theatre (Closed)
THIS ATTRACTION IS CLOSED.This film, portraying Hawaii's development, history and present-day life, is shown on a 59ft/18m domed screen and can now be seen in Lahiana. The audience can catch a glimpse of tropical gardens and lava-spewing volcanoes, watch whales, see (and hear) roaring waterfalls and experience a bird's-eye view of the mighty cliffs along the coast. The title of the film is "Hawaii, Islands of the Gods".
Lahaina-Kaanapal and Pacific Railroad - Sugar Cane Train
Lahaina-Kaanapali and Pacific Railroad, the commonly-named "Sugar Cane Train" is an authentic replica of the old train which carried sugar cane along the approximately 4 miles/6km stretch between Kanaapali and Lahaina at the turn of the century. Today, tourists are transported along this route by steam locomotive on a return journey of about 50 minutes, which takes them through sugar cane fields while the driver entertains them with old songs and stories about the history of sugar plantations.
This Buddhist mission is built on the site of an old village in front of a majestic coconut grove. It is one of Lahaina's best-known and visited attractions because of the enormous statue of Buddha - one of the largest outside Japan - which sits in the mission's small garden. The statue was erected in 1968 in memory of the first Japanese sugar plantation workers, who came to Hawaii in 1868. The pagoda which accompanies it is Lahaina's largest Buddhist temple.
Pioneer Inn, built by a Canadian in 1901, was for a long time the only place to stay on Maui and is today the oldest hotel in Hawaii (along with the Moana Hotel in Waikiki which was built in the same year). It is today part of the Best Western chain. In the Whaler's Saloon the whaling times are brought to life through the decor - a variety of objects, old photographs and whaling equipment. Near the hotel entrance is a favorite meeting place and it is always lively.
Lahainaluna High School
The one seminary ever founded in Lahainaluna (lahainaluna means "above Lahaina") by missionaries for the education of priests is now the only high school in the west of Maui. After it was founded in 1831 teaching was carried out for 40 years in Hawaiian, after which English was adopted and greater emphasis was placed on maintaining Hawaiian traditions. Part of the school houses borders and has taken girls since 1980. The campus, where a row of modern houses now stands, is worth visiting.
Hale Pa'i Printing Press House at Lahainaluna School
Hale Pa'i (the house of printing) is located on the Lahainaluna Campus in West Maui. A Ramage Press was shipped to this location in 1834, the first school west of the Rocky Mountains. The school was founded in 1831 and still remains part of Lahaina's public high school.The building has been restored and houses a replica of the printing press, the whereabouts of the original press is unkown.
Master's Reading Room
The current home of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation was originally built as a reading room for ships' captains, who often spent a long time in Lahaina's port. Most captains and officers had their families on board ship with them and they could withdraw to the shady house and rest. The ground floor was used by the mission and contained a small chapel. The reading room was on the first floor.
Waiola Church and Waiola Cemetery (Waine'e)
This church, mentioned several times by James Michener in his novel "Hawaii", has experienced mixed fortunes. The original construction was built between 1828 and 1832 and was the island's first stone church, with room for 300 worshippers. A storm in 1858 damaged it badly, tearing the roof off and causing the bell tower to collapse. It was rebuilt but was burnt down in 1894 by a crowd who considered this an appropriate way of protesting against the abolition of the Hawaiian monarchy. After it had been rebuilt for a second time another fire destroyed the nave in 1947. Rebuilt yet again, the church was then badly damaged by a whirlwind. The present, not particularly impressive, church was erected in 1953.The neighboring graveyard dates from 1823 and was Hawaii's first Christian cemetery. The graves of countless important people from the beginnings of the Hawaiian monarchy can be found here, including King Kauanualii of Kauai (1780-1824); Queen Keopuolani, one of the wives of Kamehameha I (1778-1823); Governor Hoapili of Maui (1776-1840), who married one after the other of the two widows of Kamehameha, Keopuolani and Kaahumanu; Miriam Auhea Kekauluohi, one of the five wives of Kamehameha I, later the wife of Kamehameha II and mother of the later King Lunalilo (1794-1845); Princess Nahienaena, daughter of Kamehameha I and sister of Kings Kamehameha II and III (1815-36).
Baldwin Home Museum
On Hahaina's main square, this coral, stone and timber building is the oldest in town. It is named for the Reverend Dwight Baldwin, a Harvard-trained doctor and missionary, who moved his family into the house in 1838. The house itself was built in 1832.Over the next 30 years he played a prominent role not only as a community and social leader, but also in saving the population of several islands during the 1853 smallpox epidemic.The museum displays original furniture, photographs, and other artifacts. The guided tour explains the history of the house, its furnishings and the island in general. One interesting artifact is the mosquito netting over the beds since while the island was originally free of mosquitoes, a whaling ship introduced malaria when it dumped its fresh water including mosquito larva before filling up with new water in Lahaina.
Wo Hing Temple Museum
The Chinese were one of the early nationalities brought to Hawaii to as workers. Those living in Lahaina formed a Tong for mutual support, worship and community life and in the 1912 built this building plus a cookhouse to prepare community meals.One of the notable members of this Tong was Sun Yat Sen who later went on to lead the first Chinese revolution. The Lahaina tong supported the revolution financially.The Lahaina Foundation has restored the building and added a number of fine examples of Chinese art and furniture. Downstairs is a public area while a shrine which used to be for men only is on the second floor. The cookhouse remains in its rustic state and contains many of the original utensils which were found in the attic.Some of the first films shot by Thomas Edison show historic scenes of Honolulu and are shown in the cookhouse.
Lahaina's prison, Hale Pa'ahao, has the quaint Hawaiian name which translates "stuck-in-irons-house". Thick coral walls and a cell block are open to visitors. The walls were built by convicts in the 1850s. Inmates served time for drunkenness, desertion, dangerous horse riding and working on the Sabbath.
Brig Carthaginian II (Closed)
This two-masted museum ship, Brig Carthaginian II, onced graced the main waterfront park of Lahaina. It was sunk in 2005 to create an artificial reef.
Lahaina Whaling Museum (closed)
This attraction has ceased to exist. There is another whaling museum in the Whalers Village shopping center north of Lahaina.
More Lahaina Pictures
Map of Lahaina Attractions