My Love Affair with Lahaina

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My Love Affair with Lahaina

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Maui
Feb 20, 2013

lahaina waterfront at sunsetFor a week earlier this month, I would slip out my two-bedroom condo at Aina Nalu and walk down Hale Street,  a quiet alley of a road with plantation-style homes, some refurbished and others not, in the heart of Lahaina. I would walk through Wharf Center and its collection of gift shops that center around a courtyard bar and grill and emerge in front of the famous banyan tree on Front Street, the main drag in this one-time whaling town. 

Here's an interesting tidbit of fact: The predecessor to the  55-foot white obelisk of a lighthouse that serves as navigation for whale watching boats returning to Lahaina Harbor was first built in 1840. It was not only the first modern-day lighthouse built in Hawaii but all of the U.S. West Coast. And it was built in response to the whaling trade.

This is one of the things I love about Lahaina: the depth of the place. You cannot walk down Front Street without running into it. The town has history. It oozes from the break wall running in front of the wooden storefronts. It seeps from the rock and coral Masters’ Reading Room, built in 1834.

We like to say Lahaina used to be the whaling capitol of Hawaii, but the truth is that it still is. This time, though, not for oil but for research. Humpback whale scientists migrate to Hawaii with their research subjects each year in an effort to learn more about behemoth marine mammal. Ironically, some of what we know about humpback whales today comes from whalers themselves--and their meticulous note-taking.

Another thing I love about Lahaina is its pedestrian nature. This is a town that is meant to be walked. Walk to dinner—Lahaina Grill (save room for the triple berry pie), the new Fleetwood’s (try the rooftop for its views—ideal for whale watching) and, although it’s a long jaunt, Aloha Mixed Plate (fresh fish AND garlic furikake fries). Explore the many galleries—Peter Lik and Thomas Barbey are two of my favorites. The enticing scent wafting out of the front doors of Lush drew me in where I discovered my new favorite lotions and potions. I walked every morning to my whale watching boat tour. Took a stroll for an afternoon ice cream cone. Sauntered under the banyan tree. Took a self-guided history tour by reading the many bronze metal plaques around town—known as Ala Hele Mo’olelo O Lahaina, or Lahaina Historic Trail.

I parked my car at Aina Nalu when I arrived, and I didn’t start the engine again until I left. At that, I had to run the wipesr to clear the windshield of monkeypod tree and bird droppings! And I was sad to leave.

What about you? Do you have a love affair with a particular place in Hawaii? Tell me about it.

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