Before Lahaina became a thriving missionary and whaling village, it was the home of Hawaiian kings and queens. Today, this town on Maui Island hums with tourist activity. The main drag, Front Street, is lined with restaurants, art galleries and little shopping malls geared toward visitors.
But the town still manages to retain some charm, particularly along the harbor and around the square, which is dominated by the state's largest banyan tree—it was planted in 1873 and covers 0.5 acres/0.25 hectares. Some of the town's traditional atmosphere can be attributed to the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, whose preservation efforts have helped maintain many historic buildings.
Take a peek at the museum in the renovated Wo Hing Society Temple on Front Street. Another building on the grounds screens some of the earliest films of the islands, shot by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s. The Buddhist Hongwanjii Temple and Lahaina Jodo Mission are nearby. The Jodo Mission has a shrine, cemetery and a huge Amitabha Buddha.
While in Lahaina, you'll probably notice the Pioneer Sugar Mill's smokestack. The mill itself has been demolished, but it is evidence of the sugar industry that was an important economic force in the area for 140 years. On the hill above Lahaina is the Lahainaluna school. Established by missionaries in 1831, it was formerly a seminary and now serves as a high school. There are good views of the town and the ocean from the school's parking lot.
Lahaina is a center for water excursions. Whale-watching cruises are available December-April, when the humpbacks return to their wintering waters off of Maui to give birth. Other boats offer cruises along the coast, and small submarines take passengers underwater to view coral reefs and lava formations.
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