5 Things to Do in Lahaina Town
The West Shore of Maui can be very popular with tourists. Since we like a more authentic experience, we opted to only spend a day in Lahaina after Humpback Whale watching instead of staying in the area. Don’t get us wrong, some visitors love the resorts, shopping, and hustle and bustle of the West Shore. We prefer to slow it down more when we are on Maui. Either way, we still recommend spending a day in Lahaina. Here’s our top 5 picks on 5 things to do in Lahaina Town.
Visit Lahaina’s Free Sites
Our favorite thing about Lahaina are the things to see there. Located right on Lahaina’s Front Street you will find the incredible Lahaina Banyan Tree. The Banyan Tree is a must see with it covering over 2/3 of an acre with a dozen main trunks. The Banyan Tree was originally brought to Maui from India and planted in 1873, 140 years ago, by the town sheriff to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first missionaries to Hawaii. At the time, it stood 8 ft. tall. Today, it has grown to 60 ft and has become one of the largest Indian Banyan Trees in the world.
On July 11, 1851, an act was passed by the Hawaiian Legislature and approved by King Kamehameha III to build a new jail for Lahaina. The prison, Hale Paahao (meaning stuck in stones), was completed in 1852 by convicted labors out of black coral bricks and can still be found today on Prison Street. During its heyday it housed rowdy sailors who failed to return to their ships at sundown. You can tour the prison, M-Sat from 10am to 4pm. But be warned; singing, whistling, and laughter are prohibited! Prisoners who violate these rules may by flogged, have their food reduced and their heads shaved.
The coral bricks used to build the prison came from the old fort along Lahaina’s waterfront that was built in one month’s time to protect the town from whalers. The fort was constructed from coral blocks with walls approximately 15-20 feet high topped with 47 cannons. Due to damage and neglect, Lahaina Fort was demolished in 1854. In 1964, the State Parks Department rebuilt part of the old fort walls that can still be visited today.
Take a walk through the neighborhoods. You will see some beautiful tropical architecture, as well as landscaping. There are all kinds of places from little beach houses to funky, crazy front yards using resources from around the island. It’s a refreshing way to see some history of Maui you may not normally see.
Behind the Hard Rock Café, you will find Hale Kahiko, a traditional Hawaiian village. The three thatched roof houses, offer an insightful glimpse into Hawaiian life before missionaries and their Western developments swept through the land. The thatched buildings are authentically constructed of Ohia wood posts, native Pili grass thatch and coconut fiber lashings. Each of the hale, (building) had its own particular purpose. One was used as a workshop for women to make tapa (bark cloth), another was for family sleeping quarters, and the last for a kane (man) only eating house. The grounds around the hales were planted in beautiful native plants that Hawaiians used on a regular basis for their food and medicinal purposes. On the premises you will also find tikis, a longboat, woven baskets and gourd containers. The village is open to the public, 7 days a week, until sundown.
Eat Local Grindz
Some people would tell you to eat at Star Noodle, Honu, or Mala while in Lahaina, but not us. We are Hawaiian plate lunch kind of people and we like to eat local grindz. We recommend jumping in your car and driving to the other side of Lahaina to Aloha Mixed Plate.
Aloha Mixed Plate is a casual multi-award-winning, outdoor restaurant right along the ocean on Lahaina’s famous Front Street. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They even have a nice little happy hour. All of their food is delicious, as well as their drinks. We always get a plate of their coconut shrimp to share and wash them down with Sassy Wahines and Lava Flows. Then we finish it off with a large plate of kaluha pork, lomi lomi salmon, lau lau, Hawaiian style mac salad, poi, rice and haupia (Hawaiian coconut pudding). Be sure to not have to rush off anywhere because you will need some time to just sit back and chill for a bit after a meal like that.
Hawaiian Shave Ice
Now let’s get something straight. It’s SHAVE ice. Not SHAVED ice. To ask for shaved ice is saying it wrong. We don’t want you to look like a silly tourist and say it wrong. Remember there is no D at the end of shave.
There is more than one place to get shave ice in Lahaina, but the only place we recommend is Ululani’s. Their ice shave is so fine, cones massive and they have more flavors than any place we have ever been to. Li Hing Mui (salted plum) is my all-time favorite. They even put a little Li Hing Mui powder on top for a little extra kick. Drew usually goes for a coconut or Tiger’s Blood flavored cone. No matter what flavor you get, you will love it. If you don’t have enough flavoring, let them know and they will add some more free of charge. Make sure to stop into one of Ululani’s two Lahaina locations and to visit them, again in Kahului and Kihei.
I’ll admit it; I’m not a big shopper. In fact, in many ways I loathe it. However, I love shopping at Hilo Hattie and the ABC stores. Both which happen to be in Lahaina and both great places to get souvenirs to take home to others, as well as for yourself. They are the perfect places to pick up plumeria hair clips, lauhala baskets, Hawaiian candies and other food, clothing and pretty much anything else you could want Hawaiian.
Another fun place to stop while shopping is the Honolulu Cookie Company . Their cookies are the amazing Hawaiian shortbread and they are all kinds of buttery goodness. All the cookies are available to sample and we have tried every single one of them. Our favorites are the original macadamia nut, pineapple, white-chocolate-dipped Kona coffee, and chocolate-dipped macadamia nut. Don’t miss out on this cute little store and their Hawaiian shortbread cookies.
Attend a Luau
As your day winds down, why not finish up your day in Lahaina by attending a luau? Old Lahaina Luau is the most authentic luau in the Hawaiian Islands. They take great pride in presenting an authentic Hawaiian Luau and providing an evening of award winning traditional Hawaiian music, hula and demonstrations. Guests are treated to a genuine reflection of Hawaii’s rich history while enjoying the sunset over the ocean. Not to mention a bountiful buffet of regional cuisine with enough variety to satisfy everyone’s palates.
Reservations at Old Lahaina Luau are based on first come first serve. With this in mind, make your reservation for Old Lahaina Luau, as soon as possible. The sooner you make it, the closer you will be to the stage. The shows fill up quickly and usually sell out.
Have you been to Lahaina?
All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2013.