Remembering Lahaina, Maui: historic sites, art galleries, shopping, dining and waterfront views (updated 2023)
Lahaina, Maui has always been that amazing oceanfront town that everyone loved visiting, walking around iconic Front Street and dropping by some interesting galleries and shops and then have a fabulous meal in any of the fun and delicious dining spots around town. Not too many places in Hawaii combine both the historic and cultural architecture and matched with many cool and exciting venues that made this a fun place to explore and hang out.
We share some of the most important cultural sites along with the different and exciting spots around town that made Lahaina one of the favorite places in Maui to just relax and spend an afternoon or day exploring.
Although we mourn for the complete destruction of Lahaina town, we want to remember some of the most important aspects of what made Lahaina a special place to visit and also live in. Hopefully a new Lahaina town will emerge and rebuild some of the iconic structures, lifestyle and truly Hawaiian heritage that was very important for Maui to preserve along with important cultural sites and practices to keep perpetuating.
Lahaina Before and after video images below
It isn’t typical to find so many treasures that were so well preserved here in Lahaina town. Being the previous capital of the Hawaiian Islands and the whaling capital of the world, Lahaina’s historic district was always put to use and well maintained or repurposed for other structures. The royals living in the capital city allowed the early Missionaries to set up churches and educational buildings and convert the local people during this early timeframe of development in Lahaina.
Many of the buildings of the past were well maintained and repurposed or eventually made into historic sites and museums like the Baldwin House, Old Prison, the Pioneer Inn and the many storefronts along Front Street.
A walk along the Bayfront
You’ll find most of the historic sites around Lahaina were centered around the Bayfront area and easily walkable. Here are some of the most important sites that we have visited around the waterfront area.
The Old Banyan Tree
The Banyan Tree of Lahaina is a remarkable landmark located in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. It is a colossal banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) that was planted in 1873 and has since grown to cover an entire city block. Its sprawling canopy provides ample shade and creates a stunning natural spectacle. The tree’s unique aerial root system and extensive branches give it a visually captivating appearance. The Banyan Tree of Lahaina is not only a natural wonder but also a popular gathering spot, attracting visitors and locals alike, and serving as a symbol of the town’s rich history and natural beauty.
Of all the landmarks of Lahaina, the Banyan Tree is the one hopeful landmark that may eventually come back to life with the attention of local arborists that are trying to induce it to come back stronger and still be that iconic symbol of the city.
A view of the Old Banyan tree from above
Lahaina Harbor is a picturesque and historic waterfront area located in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. A fantastic spot to enjoy the water views along with some views back to Front Street and some of the historic sites along the waterfront area. It serves as a hub for maritime activities, offering a scenic backdrop of blue waters and surrounding mountains. The harbor is known for its bustling atmosphere, hosting various boating and water-based excursions, including fishing charters, whale-watching tours, and snorkeling trips. It also features a charming promenade lined with shops, restaurants, and galleries, making it a popular destination for both maritime enthusiasts and tourists looking to explore the coastal beauty and culture of Lahaina.
More harbor views
The courthouse shell still remains standing and once housed the Old Courthouse, the Lahaina Visitors Center and an artist coop on one side of the building. Upstairs, the courthouse was converted into a museum with the large main room set up for hearings along with artifacts, images and other collections that were preserved showcasing daily life and Hawaiian cultural tributes. There was a wonderful balcony area with views to the harbor area that made this a nice spot to enjoy the views and happenings around the waterfront area.
Interior views of the courthouse
The main courthouse interior
Check out the visitors center
Hopefully, the courthouse will be rebuilt to its original state and the various rooms to showcase different aspects of tourism and education about the town and region.
Lighthouse at the Harbor
The inaugural lighthouse in Hawaii, commissioned by Kamehameha III in 1840, marked a significant milestone. Its purpose was to guide approaching whaling vessels, with the initial structure being a wooden tower standing at a mere 9 feet during its initial two decades. However, in 1866, it underwent expansion, soaring to a height of 26 feet. Notably, the light’s illumination relied on locally sourced whale oil from that era. Subsequently, a reconstruction effort took place in 1905, culminating in its dedication by the US Coast Guard in 1916.
Remnants of the Historic Fort
The construction of the fortress was a response to a cannonball attack launched by sailors in the bay upon Lahaina. These sailors were protesting against newly imposed restrictions by missionaries, notably one that forbade native women from swimming out to offer their greetings to sailors on their ships. The completion of the fort took place two years later, specifically in 1832, and it was constructed using coral blocks sourced from the harbor. Its towering walls reached a height of 20 feet, encompassing an entire acre of land. Described as “striking” by some accounts of that era, the fort also served as a penitentiary until the year 1850. At that point, its blocks were transported to the new prison location at Hale Paahao on Prison Street.
Just a corner remnant remains of the old fort remain closeby to the Old Courthouse.
The Baldwin House
I remember visiting the Baldwin House in Lahaina fondly and talking with the local docents to get more insight to this historic building on Maui, Hawaii. I found out that the building was constructed in 1834 by Reverend Dwight Baldwin, a missionary, and physician who came from New England and had a significant role in spreading Christianity and education throughout the island.
The house is a fine example of early Western architecture in Hawaii and offers insights into the missionary and local lifestyle of the time. It’s now a museum, showcasing period artifacts and exhibits that provide a glimpse into the island’s history, culture, and the Baldwin family’s contributions. The Baldwin House stands as a significant landmark, preserving the legacy of Lahaina’s past for visitors and locals to appreciate.
Personal belonging of Missionary families
Missionary collections at the Baldwin House
Masters Reading Room at Lahaina
The Masters Reading room was constructed in 1852 using coral blocks and limestone mortar. It served a variety of purposes originally as a staging spot for royalty traveling around the island and storing their valuables and eventually becoming an officers club and reading room for officers in the mid-19th century and is located adjacent to the Baldwin House on Front Street.
This preserved historical site was recently used as a gift shop to support maintenance of the Baldwin House and gardens.
The Pioneer Inn was built in 1901, making it one of the oldest hotels in Hawaii. It was constructed to accommodate travelers and plantation workers during the sugarcane and pineapple boom of the early 20th century. Lahaina was a bustling port town and a center of commerce and trade during this time.
The inn played a significant role in Lahaina’s history as a hub for travelers, sailors, and workers. It provided a place for lodgings, dining, and socializing, becoming a focal point of the community. The inn’s proximity to Lahaina Harbor made it a convenient choice for seafarers, and its location on Front Street put it in the heart of the town’s activities.
Throughout the years, the Pioneer Inn has witnessed the changing landscape of Lahaina, from its plantation era to its evolution as a tourist destination. The inn’s historical significance and its connection to Lahaina’s past have made it a popular destination for visitors and housing along with a variety of shops to attract visitors to the area.
The Chinese Temple
Located on Front Street, the Chinese Temple is better known as Wo HIng Temple and was built in 1912 but the local Chinese community for religious activities, social gatherings and celebrations.
The colorfully pained temple features traditional Chinese architectural elements, including ornate decorations, intricate woodwork, and a vibrant color palette. It consists of a main hall, courtyard, and several smaller buildings. The temple was dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, and was an important place of worship for Lahaina’s Chinese residents.
Today, the Chinese Temple stands as a preserved historical monument, offering visitors insights into the Chinese immigrant experience in Hawaii and the cultural exchange that occurred in Lahaina during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time I visited, the old Mango tree in the front was loaded with ripe mangoes and making it a perfect spot to take pictures and frame the temple grounds.
Old Lahaina Prison
During the mid-1800s, Lahaina was a bustling port town and a hub of activity in Hawaii. The prison located on Prison Street, played a crucial role in maintaining law and order within the community. Offenders would be confined within its walls, and it served as a place of punishment and rehabilitation. With an open courtyard plan, you could visit the grounds and hear some fantastic audio experiences describing the activities and prison lifestyle.
The wooden Lahaina Prison was a significant part of the town’s historical landscape, reflecting the societal norms and justice system of that era. It also stands as a reminder of the challenges and realities faced by both the Hawaiian population and the foreign settlers during that period.
The small and unassuming Lahaina Library on Front Street is a prominent branch of the Hawaii State Public Library System located in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. This library offered a wide range of resources and services to the community and visitors. It had that easy and simple look and feel of an early Hawaiian Library that served many locals and even visitors to the area. The library’s location on Front Street made it easily accessible and a central hub for learning, reading, and community activities. With its role in promoting literacy and providing a space for knowledge-seeking and educational vibrancy of Lahaina.
Front Street was always a bustling street along the waterfront area of historic Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. Running to the shoreline, the street and venues offered stunning views of the ocean and neighboring islands along with vivid street life mixed in. Lined with a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, galleries, and historic sites, Front Streetwas a hub of activity for both residents and tourists. Its charming atmosphere, diverse offerings, and picturesque setting make it a popular destination for shopping, dining, and strolling. Front Street’s historical significance, coupled with its lively energy, captures the essence of Lahaina’s coastal charm and cultural heritage.
The many old wooden structures were repurposed into the many shops, restaurants, galleries and other venues that made Lahaina a fun place to explore and hang out late into the night.
Checking out the many art galleries of Lahaina
Maria Lanakila Catholic Church still standing
The beautiful Maria Lanakila Catholic Church at Lahaina (Our Lady of Victory) is still standing and untouched by the devastating. fires. Opened in 1846 the modern stone structure was finished in 1873 and then it was further improved in 1918. Many were astonished by the church still standing and many deemed this as a beacon of hope despite the total destruction and a symbol to the people of Lahaina of perserverance.
Other Iconic spots of Lahaina
Here are a few more popular and favorite spots of Old Lahaina town in remembrance
Old Lahaina Luau
Soft serve ice cream on Front Street
Lahaina Historic Trail
Artifacts and remmants at the Old Lahaina Prison
Check out these other posts of Lahaina and surrounding region
Hopefully we covered most of the sacred and special places that made Lahaina town such an important place and cultural center to Maui. Please do share any other special places below that we have missed and can include into this small tribute to the city’s history and remembrance.
We hope at this stage of recovery and rebuilding Lahaina, all parties get involved and plan the development and cultural significance of this special place.
Conclusion to Remembering Lahaina, Maui
Lahaina, Maui held a very special place in the minds and hearts of both locals in Maui and visitors to the island. Although the town was totally demolished to ashes from the recent wildfires to the area, we hope that a future Lahaina will come back in due time and pay tribute to the historical and cultural significance along with the many other special attributes and attractions that will draw people back to this special place in Maui.