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A Little About Lahaina

Lahaina, a historic whaling city on the island of Maui, is a well known tourist destination located on the western coast. In terms of population, Lahaina is by far the most populous community in Western Maui, with a total of approximately ten thousand permanent residents. However, because of its popularity among tourists from Asia and the United States mainland, there can be a temporary population of nearly four times that figure. Lahaina covers a total area of about seven square miles, which is mostly coastal land within a short distance of the ocean. The area which is now considered Lahaina was originally inhabited by Polynesian explorers who migrated from the Marquesas and Tahitian Islands centuries ago. After they established a coherent political system, the Lahaina area served as the capital of Maui following secession to Hawaii Island. Additionally, Lahaina was the capital of the entire Kingdom of Hawaii for two and a half decades during the reign of King Kamehameha III. Lahaina became important to the European and American settlers who arrived starting in the late eighteenth century, and established the modern community starting along Front Street. The most persistent tangible elements of Maui’s early modern history are a commemorative banyan tree planted back in 1873, and reconstructed Lahaina Fort.

During that same period of time, Lahaina became critical to the Hawaiian whaling industry. Over the course of the next several years, a cultural conflict developed between the Christian missionaries who originally dominated the region and the rough-cut whalers who gradually trickled into the town. This conflict caused the repeated shelling of Lahiana from offshore whaling vessels, but eventually fizzled after the collapse of the whale trade. After the disintegration of the whaling trade, the influence of whaling culture persisted in Lahaina, even to the modern day. Lahaina is most notably home to the Whaler’s Village Museum, located a few miles north of the city center. The Whaler’s Village Museum boasts an impressive variety of dining options in addition to a considerable number of shops and boutiques. Lahaina offers a number of stores and restaurants aside from those in the Whaler’s Village, and an even larger number of options are available in a number of neighboring resort communities. The Lahaina Jodo Mission boasts the largest Buddha statue west of Japan, and the city is also home to a commemorative banyan tree planted in 1873.

Lahaina is also a great spot for art enthusiasts, and offers literally dozens of art galleries along the rustic streets of downtown. The entire city of Lahaina is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, partially because famous author Herman Melville set sail as a whaler from the old port of Lahiana. Some of the most notable historic sites in Lahaina’s historic district include the Pioneer Inn, old Lahaina Prison, and the U.S. Seamen’s Hospital. Lahaina is a statewide destination for whale watching, as well as for surfing and swimming. A number of resorts near Maui offer seaside luaus or traditional Hawaiian cookouts, and the Maui Theatre presents the award winning “Ulalena” stage show. Residents of Lahaina homes and condominiums can enjoy both a striking view of the mountains behind the town and beautiful views of an ocean panorama. One especially notable tourist attraction in Lahaina is the Sugar Cane Train, which regularly runs between Lahaina and the town of Puukolii. Lahaina is just a short drive from some of the best beaches in the state of Hawaii. Many of these beaches are located along the West Maui coast near the resort communities of Kapalua and Kaanapali, and are repeatedly ranked among the top in the world by various experts on the subject

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