What To Do In Lahaina, Hawaii: A Complete Travel Guide - Hawaii Star (2024)

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Nestled along Maui’s sun-drenched western shore, the historic whaling town of Lahaina oozes tropical island charm. If you only have a short time, here’s the quick answer: Stroll Front Street to shop and dine, learn about Hawaii’s whaling past at museums, book a snorkel sail along the coast, watch the sunset at a beachfront luau, or hike trails for gorgeous valley views.

In this comprehensive travel guide to Lahaina, you’ll discover the best attractions, activities, restaurants, and hidden gems to fill your Maui itinerary. Read on for our local experts’ advice on how to make the most of your Lahaina visit.

Take a Historical Walking Tour of Front Street

No visit to Lahaina is complete without a stroll along scenic Front Street to soak up the history and culture of this former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Several informative walking tours are available to highlight the most significant landmarks along this palm tree-lined thoroughfare in the heart of downtown.

Lahaina Historic Trail

The Lahaina Historic Trail allows you to explore Front Street at your own pace with the aid of brochures and signage detailing the significance of 27 different sites. Standouts include the brick Old Lahaina Courthouse, the ancient Hawaiian temple site of Hale Paahao, and the iconic Indian banyan tree planted as a small sapling in 1873 that now shades over an acre of the street with its sprawling canopy.

Galleries and Local Shops

In addition to historical sites, Front Street boasts over 50 art galleries, souvenir stores, and boutiques selling locally made crafts, jewelry, artwork, clothing, and more. Spend some time ducking into the various shops to find that perfect memento of your Lahaina vacation.

A few standouts are Lahaina Glassblowing Studio, showcasing impressive blown-glass sculptures, the Studio 505 artist collective offering paintings and ceramics from over 100 Hawaii artists, and Maui Batik selling unique batik-print apparel and accessories.

Dining and Nightlife

Cap off an evening stroll down Front Street by grabbing a table at one of the 30+ excellent restaurants spanning cuisines like Hawaiian, Pacific Rim fusion, Italian, Mexican, and more. Local favorites on Front Street include Lahaina Grill for upscale dining, Kimonos for fresh sushi, and Fleetwood’s for unforgettable views.

Many restaurants also offer live Hawaiian music nightly. And for a truly immersive cultural experience, make reservations for the Old Lahaina Luau held nightly on a lovely beachfront location just outside of town, including ceremonial dances passed down through generations.

Visit Museums Dedicated to 19th Century Hawaii

Lahaina has several small museums that provide a window into 19th century Hawaiian history and culture. Three of the best ones to visit are the Lahaina Heritage Museum, Wo Hing Museum, and Baldwin Home Museum.

Lahaina Heritage Museum

The Lahaina Heritage Museum is housed in the old Lahaina Courthouse building and offers rotating exhibits on various aspects of Lahaina’s past. Some of the topics covered in previous exhibits include the sugarcane industry, the missionary influence, and the history of the historic Lahaina harbor.

The museum also has a few rotating art exhibits featuring works by local Lahaina artists.

Some highlights of the Lahaina Heritage Museum include:

  • Scale model of a 19th century sugarcane plantation
  • Samples of different varieties of sugarcane
  • Displays on Hawaiian sports and games from the 1800s
  • Exhibits on the early missionaries in Lahaina

The Lahaina Heritage Museum is open daily from 9am-5pm and admission is free. It’s located just off Front Street in downtown Lahaina.

Wo Hing Museum

For a glimpse into Lahaina’s Chinese history, visit the Wo Hing Museum. This small museum is located in the Wo Hing Society Hall, which was built in 1912 as a meeting hall for Lahaina’s Chinese immigrant community.

The museum contains artifacts, photos, and displays that illustrate the story of Chinese contract laborers who came to Hawaii in the 1800s to work on the sugarcane plantations.

Highlights of the Wo Hing Museum include:

  • Vintage photos of early Chinese immigrants in Hawaii
  • Chinese artifacts like mahjong tiles, abacuses, and incense burners
  • Replica of a Chinese general store from the plantation era
  • Exhibits on Chinese culture and traditions

The Wo Hing Museum is open 10am-4pm daily except Sundays and Wednesdays. Admission is $2.

Baldwin Home Museum

For a look at how Lahaina’s elite plantation owners lived, visit the Baldwin Home Museum. This museum is set in the 1834 home of Dr. Dwight Baldwin, one of Lahaina’s first missionaries, and his wife Charlotte. The home remains largely as it was during the Baldwins’ residence in the 19th century.

Highlights of the Baldwin Home include:

  • Period furnishings belonging to the Baldwins
  • Charlotte Baldwin’s fragile silk Holoku (formal Hawaiian gown)
  • Display cases with missionary artifacts and objects from 19th century daily life
  • Lush gardens surrounding the house

The Baldwin Home offers guided tours daily from 10am-4pm. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. It’s located just behind the Lahaina Public Library.

By visiting these three museums, you can get an excellent overview of how the missionary, plantation, and Asian immigrant influences shaped Lahaina’s history and culture in the 1800s.

Book Excursions for Snorkeling, Whale Watching and More

Snorkel Sails

One of the most popular activities in Lahaina is booking a snorkel sail. These catamaran tours take you out onto the calm, clear waters off West Maui to snorkel over coral reefs with schools of colorful fish.

Some of the top snorkeling spots you might visit include Puamana Beach Park, Olowalu Beach, and Honolua Bay Marine Life Conservation District. Depending on the tour, you may stop at 1-3 different snorkel spots, with time to swim and snorkel at each one.

Many snorkel cruises also provide breakfast or lunch buffets on board.

Some of the best snorkel sail companies in Lahaina include Trilogy Excursions, Pacific Whale Foundation, and Gemini Sailing Charters. Tours generally range from 2.5 to 5 hours, with prices starting around $50/adult and $25/child.

When choosing your ideal snorkel cruise, look for boats with amenities like fresh water showers, snack bars, and shaded lounge areas. For a unique perspective, you could also try a submarine snorkel tour from Atlantis Submarine which takes you below the surface by submarine then allows you to exit and snorkel the vibrant reef.

Lahaina Luaus

One of the quintessential Hawaii experiences is attending an authentic Polynesian luau. Fortunately, Lahaina offers several excellent luau options perfect for couples, families, and groups. Some of the most popular Lahaina luaus include the Feast at Lele, Royal Lahaina Luau, and Old Lahaina Luau.

These Hawaiian luaus provide a full evening of island hospitality, typically including co*cktails, a Hawaiian buffet dinner, hula dancing and other Polynesian entertainment, aloha photo opportunities, demonstrations of Hawaiian arts and crafts like lei making and coconut husking, as well as breathtaking sunset views over the ocean.

Prices for Lahaina luaus start around $100/person. Reserving your luau seats in advance is highly recommended since these shows often sell out, especially in the busy summer and holiday seasons.

Hiking and Adventure Tours

Along with water activities, adventurous travelers can also book a variety of exciting land excursions across West Maui. For hikers, guided tours are available along beautiful trails and waterfalls of Iao Valley State Park as well as at Haleakala National Park, where you can experience sunrise or sunset overlooking the volcanic crater.

Some top adventure outfitters on the island include Ride My Ride Maui for ATV, UTV, and van tours; Kapalua Ziplines for ziplining above waterfalls and rainforests; and Pacific Aviators for helicopter tours offering bird’s eye views of West Maui’s stunning sea cliffs and valleys.

With your choice of driving, walking, or even flying over the landscape, an off-the-beaten-path excursion makes for an exciting day during your Lahaina vacation.

Relax at Local Beaches and Parks

Kaanapali Beach

Stretching over 3 miles along the stunning northwest coast of Maui, Kaanapali Beach is renowned as one of the best beaches in Lahaina for relaxation. Its golden sand and tranquil waters offer perfect conditions for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing.

Several luxury resorts line the beach, but there is still plenty of space for visitors to stake out an area. Lifeguards are on duty, and families appreciate the gentle waves in swimming areas as well as play areas for kids.

Snorkelers and scuba divers can explore an underwater paradise at Black Rock, which marks the northern endpoint of Kaanapali Beach. With beachfront restaurants, bars, and spas nearby, you’ll never want to leave this island oasis!

Baby Beach

Nestled on the southern end of Lahaina town, Baby Beach is a charming and protected cove that attracts swimmers, snorkelers, and families with small children. The shallow, calm waters and soft ocean floor with very little wave action create safe conditions for kids to play and swim.

Visitors relax under shady trees or set up beach chairs and umbrellas along the narrow shoreline. There are no major resorts or public facilities, adding to the beach’s peaceful atmosphere. However, the small size means Baby Beach can get crowded.

Still, it remains one of the top places for sunbathing, building sandcastles, and enjoying Lahaina’s beautiful tropical setting with less tourist crowds.

Wahikuli Wayside Park

For stellar views at sunset, Wahikuli Wayside Park is considered one of the best scenic spots in West Maui. The park overlooks the island coastline as well as the shoreline of neighboring Molokai and Lanai islands across the Auau Channel.

Visitors watch surfers ride waves at the Lahaina Breakwall and marvel at colorful outrigger canoes gliding through turquoise waters. Shaded picnic tables offer places for romantic sunset dinners or afternoon family gatherings. Food trucks often park nearby for hungry sightseers.

With its exceptional panoramas, Wahikuli Wayside Park should be on every Lahaina visitor’s radar when looking to relax and soak in the area’s famous tropical beauty.

Places to Stay in Lahaina for Every Budget

Resorts in Kaanapali

Kaanapali is home to some of Maui’s most luxurious beachfront resorts, perfect for travelers looking to indulge in high-end amenities and stunning ocean views. Top picks like The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, and Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa offer multiple swimming pools, fine dining restaurants, luxe spas, and lavishly appointed guestrooms.

Nightly rates range from $400-800 per night. These resort complexes have extensive grounds right on picturesque Kaanapali Beach, often with nightly entertainment and Hawaiian cultural activities. Families can enjoy kids clubs, water slides, and pool areas at many Kaanapali resorts.

Hotels in Historic Lahaina

The lively, historic whaling town of Lahaina offers a great selection of mid-range hotels, many with a Victorian-era vibe to match the area’s heritage. Hotels like Pioneer Inn, Lahaina Shores Beach Resort, and Lahaina Inn all have prime locations right on bustling Front Street.

These 2-3 star hotels have nightly rates ranging from $200-300 for standard rooms, some with partial or full ocean views from private balconies. Manyguests are happy staying in the heart of Lahaina’s action at one of these comfortable, convenient hotels.

The area also has affordable choice hotels like Best Western and economy hostel lodging for budget travelers.

Vacation Rentals and B&Bs

Travelers who want more space, privacy, and amenities for the dollar can consider staying outside the main hotel areas in a Lahaina vacation rental. There are hundreds of condos, apartments, cottages, and private villas available to rent by the week or month, most for under $200 per night.

Lahaina also has dozens of quaint bed and breakfast inns, often in quiet residential areas. B&Bs like The Old Lahaina House and Nalu Kai Lodge offer fewer than 10 rooms and have nightly rates around $150-250 including breakfast. These rentals and B&Bs let visitors experience Lahaina like a local.

Conclusion

With its charming historic streets, excellent museums, stunning beaches, and abundance of tours and activities, Lahaina truly encapsulates the tropical island paradise you envision for your Hawaiian vacation.

Use our Lahaina travel guide to map out what you want to see, do, and eat in this Maui seaside village. Between lazy beach days, jaw-dropping excursions, and lively nightlife, you’ll find it impossible to leave Lahaina without the Hawaiian spirit melded to your soul.

What To Do In Lahaina, Hawaii: A Complete Travel Guide - Hawaii Star (2024)

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