In the days when Hawaii was an independent kingdom, Lahaina became its capital between 1802 and 1843. King Kamehameha III preferred the slower pace of the west coast of Maui to Honolulu and made it the home of Hawaiian royalty. Later in the 19th century, Lahaina became the center of the global whaling industry and a busy port, with prominent sailing ships anchored at its harbors. So it’s rich in historical landmarks, including the Old Fort, Front Street, the ruins of the Brick Palace, the Lahaina Lighthouse, and a 150-year-old banyan tree planted on the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Hawaii.
Lahaina is warm and sunny year-round, with very little rain, so there’s no stopping for water-based activities. Centrally located in West Maui, it offers plenty of restaurants and shopping within walking distance. It’s also considered the best place to watch North Pacific humpback whales during their winter migration from December to April. Though it’s usually quiet and peaceful, Lahaina’s population can swell to 40,000 during the busy tourist season. It’s one of the most desirable destinations in Hawaii.
Lahaina is the central hub for Maui’s west coast, so it can get busy and pretty crowded. Downtown Lahaina is bustling with shops and restaurants, while Southern Lahaina has quieter beaches. It’s a small town, but with plenty of activities year-round.
Front Street is lined with restaurants and storefronts. Lahaina Fish Co serves locally sourced seafood and handcrafted cocktails over two levels of open-air dining. The corner location provides 180-degree views of the ocean. Famous for its Hula pie desserts, Kimo’s Maui is a long-standing eatery and bar specializing in seafood and prime rib. They also host live music almost every night. Star Noodle, a popular Asian restaurant, makes their ramen and udon noodles in-house daily. They also serve sashimi, tempura, steamed buns, and a variety of other dishes. For Italian, Sale Pepe serves pizza, homemade pasta, and small plates.
If you are craving French cuisine, Gerard’s Restaurant in the historic Plantation Inn serves locally-sourced dishes and has outdoor and indoor seating. Frida’s Beach House has traditional dishes and tequila cocktails for Mexican fare. Captain Jack’s Island Grill is a lively pirate-themed hangout with island-inspired pub food and tropical cocktails. Paia Fishmarket Front Street Restaurant serves fish, burgers, and snacks in a laid-back, casual setting. Popular with surfers, Sunrise Café serves hearty breakfast and lunch dishes.
Those who love craft beers frequent Waikiki Brewing Company serves comfort food in an industrial-style setting with ocean views. For date night, Pacific’O on the Beach serves local seafood and organic produce with amazing views of sunsets over the ocean. An island landmark, Lahaina Grill specializes in seafood, steak, and Hawaiian specialties and was voted “Maui’s Best Restaurant” 28 years running. Even though packed with tourists during high season, Old Lahaina Luau and Feast at Lele are highly rated for their traditional Hawaiian fare.
There are also several art galleries along Front Street. West Maui Shopping Center, The Marketplace at Lahaina, and Old Lahaina Center have retail stores, markets, jewelry shops, and boutique storefronts. Lahaina Cannery Mall is an indoor mall with air-conditioning, so it’s the place to window-shop on hotter days. For groceries, Maui Prime Fine Foods is the local go-to for gourmet food and organic produce.
Whale watching during the winter months is popular with locals and tourists alike. Lahaina Harbor has several tour companies and is home to luxury yachts and sailboats owned by residents. You can also charter boats for sports fishing. Ferries to Molokai and Lanai run daily year-round. There’s incredible hiking in the jungles and seeing the waterfalls of Maui. During Halloween, Lahaina hosts a large block-style party known as the Mardi Gras of the Pacific.
Hawaii Department of Education serves Lahaina.
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