Holiday in Hawaii #3
The little town of Lahaina on Maui’s west coast might be visited by two million tourists every year but it doesn’t have a touristy feel. The stores along Front Street, named one of the Top Ten Greatest Streets by the American Planning Association, have retained their quaint facades dating back to the 1820s. Instead of souvenir shops, the street is lined with galleries full of beautiful artworks and crafts by local artists, photographers and jewelers. There are also several historic sites which confirm Lahaina’s designation as a Registered National Historic Landmark.
A walk through Lahaina’s historic area begins at the Pioneer Inn, built in 1901 in plantation style. The inn sits on the waterfront overlooking the harbour; where the whaling fleet once docked, there are now fishing boats and tourist cruisers.
Over the road is a huge Banyan tree – the largest in Hawaii, planted in 1823. With its clumps of aerial roots and enormous spreading canopy the tree takes up a whole block and, at any time of the day, it provides shady respite from the sun. Craft markets selling everything from paintings to perfumes often take place under its leafy branches.
In front of the the Banyan tree is the Old Lahaina Courthouse, built in 1859. The building has served many purposes in the past, including customs house, post office and government offices. Today the Visitor Centre and Arts Society Gallery are downstairs while above is the Lahaina Heritage Museum. The exhibit “Always Lahaina” gives a fascinating introduction to the history of Maui and its people.
Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1848 and next door to the Courthouse are the reconstructed ruins of the fort. Originally built in 1832 to protect the town and royal homes, the fort was demolished in 1850 and the coral stones re-used to build a prison. This replica was built on the location of one corner of the fort in 1960 as part of a film set. Three cannon, salvaged from a Russian warship in 1816, belonged to a longer line of artillery protecting the beachfront.
There are more small museums on Front Street. Upstairs in the Wharf Cinema Centre is the Plantation Museum. The small room is filled with photographs, artifacts and personal recollections about the sugar cane and pineapple plantations which once dominated the landscape of West Maui.
Further along Front Street are the Baldwin House, built in as a home for missionary families in 1834, and Wo Hing Museum, dedicated to the Chinese population of Lahaina. In the garden is the Cookhouse Theatre. Where members of the Wo Hing Society once prepared meals in the community kitchen, old black and white films now play. Made by Thomas Edison between 1898 and 1906, the films depict Hawaiian life at the turn of the century.
Finish your exploration of Front Street with a visit to Ono Gelato – indulgent helpings of chocolate, macadamia and coconut ice cream are best enjoyed on the deck at the back of the cafe, overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. It’s the touristy thing to do.