The former capital of Hawaii was once the heart of the global whaling trade. Today, it’s a popular beach city and starting point for whale-watching tours.
You can still get a sense for the old Lahaina by taking a walk down Front Street, the town’s main artery. This street is lined with well-preserved timber-framed homes that date back to the early 19th century. Today, these houses are restaurants, art galleries, T-shirt stores and trinket shops.
Lahaina sits between the Au'au Channel and the peaks of the West Maui Mountains on Maui’s northwest coast. After King Kamehameha conquered Maui at the turn of the 19th century, he made Lahaina the seat of royal power. It remained in ascendancy until 1845, when the Hawaiian capital was moved to Honolulu.
During its the peak of the whaling industry, from 1825 to 1860, hundreds of ships were berthed in Lahaina’s harbor each year while their sailors took shore leave in town. One such sailor was Herman Melville, author of the classic American novel Moby Dick.
Whales are no longer hunted from Lahaina, but you can still get up-close to them. Set sail on a whale-watching tour from the town’s harbor. The tours last between two and five hours and the best time to see the mammals is between December and May.
While you are visiting Lahaina, grab the opportunity to sit under the shade of the colossal banyan tree in Front Street. It’s of the largest banyan trees in the world.
At night Lahaina, many of Front Street’s stores and galleries stay open late. Book a seat at the Maui Theater for the Ulalena Show, a performance running most nights of the week that tells the story of Hawaii’s people through a combination of song, dance, and acrobatics.
Lahaina is a good base from which to explore the rest of Maui. The island is approximately 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) at its longest length and 23 miles (37 kilometers) at its longest width. Journey through the 'Iao Valley State Park for a close-up view of the 'Iao Needle. This colossal lava formation is one of Maui’s most recognizable landmarks. Swim in the freshwater pools at Kīpahulu and enjoy spectacular views from the mountain peaks of the Haleakalā National Park. For some gentle relaxation play a round of golf or laze on the sandy beaches at the luxury resort of Kapalua.