Lahaina, Present Day:
Lahaina, (literally merciless sun) is situated on the leeward side of the west Maui Mountains. These Mountains shelter Lahaina from the prevailing trade winds and the precipitation that is carried with them. Lahaina Averages 13 inches of rain per year! In contrast Puu kukui (5,788 ft. elevation) a mere 4 to 5 miles due east behind the town, has an annual rainfall of 430 inches per year. One of the wettest spots on earth!
Lahaina is the premier town on Maui.
The Lahaina harbor was once quiet and serene, filled
to a large extent with private boats. Now it is a
bustling hub of Tour
Boats and excursions out to experience the Whales,
scuba diving, parasailing, or a relaxing dinner cruise.
Lahaina, the Past:
Before foreigners came to Hawaii, in 1778, Lahaina was a farming town, and a place where the Royal family and High Chiefs would often visit. In 1802, Kamehameha the Great built a European style house in Lahaina. The great King died in 1819, leaving three children of the royal line. After his death, the tabu system that had ruled Hawaiian society for centuries, was ended by his widow, Keopuolani, and their oldest son, Liholiho. A few months later, American missionaries arrived. Rev. Wm. Richards was invited by Keopuolani to settle in lahaina, and become teacher of the Alii (Royalty). He, and Rev. Baldwin established a Hawaiian church and school, both of which still operate today.
also arrived at this time. They filled the "Roads of
Lahaina" (the channel between Maui and Lanai) with
ships in the spring and fall, recruiting supplies and
taking shore leave. Businesses in Lahaina flourished:
chandlery stores, grog shops, and trade with
Hawaiis farmers. So, every spring and fall, for
about 40 years, lahaina became a "licentious and
corrupt town, filled with drunken sailors".
During this time, Lahaina was the Capital of Hawaii, and the residence of the royal family until 1845, when the Capitol was moved to Honolulu. By 1860 the whaling era was dying out. Businesses left for greener pastures, and Lahaina concentrated on the new sugar industry. Lahaina's Court House was built in 1859, and next to it the Banyan tree, which was destined to become the largest in Hawaii, was planted in 1873. Many new faces began to appear as Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos' came to work on the plantations.
For 100 years, Lahaina remained a sleepy plantation town. By 1960, people were becoming concerned about restoring and preserving the old buildings, and looking forward to the day when tourists would come. The lahaina Restoration Foundation was formed, restoration began, and lahaina became a National Historic Site. Today's visitor can still see many of the old buildings from the 1800's, beautifully preserved, and see on Front Street, the look of the plantation town.
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