Lahaina: Maui’s Crown Jewel

Lahaina is a favorite spot of visitors to Maui, where history, art and culture thrive. Browse galleries, feast on Hawaii Regional Cuisine or take a boat tour to spot the humpback whales that frequent the waters just off the coast.

Lahaina is a small town full of big history, as it served as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early 19th century and was especially popular during the whaling boom of the mid-1800s. As one of the most popular destinations in Maui – 83% of visitors to the island each year visit Lahaina – this town has a lot to offer besides an interesting and preserved past. A stroll along Front Street is a must, with plenty of shopping, dining and attractions all within steps of the sparkling sea for which Hawaii is famous. The waters around Lahaina offer a variety of activities for visitors, especially for those who come for whale watching.



When Lahaina was booming as a whaling town, up to 400 ships would anchor and spill 1,500 sailors into the town. One of those sailors, Herman Melville, wrote about a particularly popular whale in his epic Moby Dick. Today, approximately 55 acres of Old Lahaina have been set aside as historic districts so visitors can still get a feel for the town’s past.

92288972Visitors can discover many of these historic sites on the self-guided Ala Moolelo O Lahaina (Lahaina Historic Trail). Pick up an informational guide at the Lahaina Visitor Center in the historic Old Lahaina Courthouse or check out the online version. Along the trail, some of the sites will offer tidbits of audio information and anecdotes. The shorter version of the tour focusing on the Banyan Tree Park and Lahaina Harbour area lasts about 30 minutes, with an option for another hour of sightseeing that covers even more ground including several historic buildings, parks, churches and cemeteries.

Don’t miss taking photos in front of the Banyan Tree, spotting the healing Hauola Stone at low tide, a walk through the Waiola churchyard where many early Hawaiian chiefs are buried alongside seamen and commoners, and a stop at Hale Paahao, the town’s old prison.

For a deeper look at Lahaina’s whaling history, the Whaler’s Village Museum is a small attraction packed with information and artifacts from the 1800s, and is well worth the $3 admission. Learn about the lives of the sailors, the dangerous conditions in which they lived and worked, and about the 45-ton whales they hunted. From the 40-foot long sperm whale skeleton at the entrance of the museum to fascinating videos about whales that can be found in the area, the museum is a great introduction to Lahaina’s past. Self-guided audio tours are available.

Be sure to see the world-famous collection of scrimshaw, an art form practiced by seafarers. This unique art was created by using sharp knives to engrave pictures on the teeth or bones of sperm whale, then rubbing ink over the etchings to bring out the designs. During the season (November through May) be sure to visit the viewing deck at the museum to spot the humpback whales that frequent the area.

Lahaina Harbor & Whale Watching

Regardless of what time of year you’re visiting, there’s always something worth doing or seeing from the Lahaina Harbor. Some of the best sport fishing, sailing, diving, snorkeling and whale watching in the world can be found right here. Whether you want to learn how to surf, take a relaxing sunset cruise or experience the ocean life up close by diving or snorkeling, you can do it all from here. Choose an outrigger paddling experience or a submarine tour for a truly unique adventure.

176814560When it comes to whale watching, there’s no better place. November through May, approximately 4,000 to 5,000 giant humpback whales migrate from Alaska nearly 3,000 miles away for the winter. Their time spent in Hawaii’s tropical waters involves plenty of mating, birthing and nursing, as well as males competing for female attention. With all of that activity, you’re sure to spot one, or several, whales on an excursion from Lahaina.

The waters surrounding the islands of Maui County are officially a marine sanctuary, which helps ensure that they can thrive in a safe environment. Certain watercraft such as jet skis are prohibited during whale season, and all ocean vessels are required to stay at least 100 yards away from the whales, but visitors and locals alike can attest that this doesn’t hinder the experience as the whales can often be seen from shore and will even come investigate the boats.

Tour companies are abundant and several popular and highly rated ones offer a variety of tours and excursions. Check out Ultimate Whale Watch, Sail Trilogy, Gemini Charters or Scotch Mist Sailing Charters, or book one of the many eco-tours offered by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

Shopping & Entertainment

Dozens of art galleries dot Front Street and the surrounding blocks of Lahaina, featuring both acclaimed local and internationally known artists. The Old Jail Gallery displays the works of over 185 artists who are members of the Lahaina Arts Society.

Each Friday night, galleries along Front Street open their doors and come to life for Art Night from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., where you can often chat with the artists while browsing their work and listening to local musicians perform. In addition to visual arts, the area’s unique shops also sell locally handcrafted ceramics, woodwork and jewelry.

For a theatrical performance that can’t be missed, go to Ulalena at the Maui Theatre, a world-renowned production that tells the story of Hawaii’s people by integrating ancient Hawaiian history with state-of-the-art theater technology and stunning music, chant, dance and acrobatics.


Many visitors to Maui want to be sure to experience a luau. The Old Lahaina Luau has been entertaining visitors to Maui since the mid-1980s and today the show sells out to a 440 capacity crowd seven nights a week. In addition to showcasing traditional Hawaiian dance, music and food, the Old Lahaina Luau focuses on the Hawaiian values of aloha, hookipa (hospitality) and pookela (excellence).

78025747You’ll be greeted with a sweet-smelling lei and welcome cocktail, and early arrivers will be able to enjoy local craft demonstrations, learn the hula and watch the roasted pig be unearthed from the traditional underground oven. As the sun sets on the picture-perfect scene of palm trees, white sand and boats moored in the ocean, guests are served a traditional luau feast with options ranging from fresh fish and grilled steak to a wide variety of buffet-style options like roasted pork, pohole salad and traditional dishes featuring stir-fried vegetables and rice. While performers in colorful traditional dress take the grassy stage, servers go above and beyond to ensure the need of every guest is met.

From start to finish, the Old Lahaina Luau experience is a sensory thrill, with sights, sounds, tastes and smells that are unlike any others. With an emphasis on authenticity and cultural sensitivity, guests are also sure to take away an education about Hawaii’s traditions and culture.


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