Maui is my favorite island. When I move back to Hawaii, it will likely be to Maui because it has the best of everything. The scenery is breathtaking. The air quality is great. Contrast that with Big Island and Oahu – Waikiki area, where the air is sometimes worse than mainland cities. The beaches are awesome, and frequently empty. The population of Maui is just a fraction of Oahu. The size of the island is just big enough, almost bordering on too small, but I got used to it and was happy enough living in paradise.
What about Lahaina? What is this famous Maui town like?
Well, it’s hardly like a town at all. Lahaina is like an area… more so than a town. A town is usually defined by buildings… large buildings, at least larger than in the surrounding area. There are few buildings in Lahaina, and nothing really of note that stands out as one defining landmark of Lahaina – unless it’s the street – Front Street.
Front street in Lahaina Town has a row of restaurants, Haagen Dazs ice cream, pizza places, beer joints, and clothing and souvenir shops. It’s a lovely atmosphere at night when the heat of the day evaporates away. A number of restaurants over by Bubba Gump are on the ocean and you cannot beat the atmosphere sitting on a torch lighted deck with the ocean rolling slowly in underneath you.
Lahaina has a couple small places to stay… and a large hotel or two. There are rental condominiums on the ocean, but the beaches in Lahaina are generally not all that great – there are better places to get a room on the island. However, there are some cheap places with mountain or ocean views that aren’t that bad. Lahaina Shores is one such hotel where you can get $99 rooms facing the West Maui Mountains occasionally. Lahaina Beach sand is rough, the ocean is full of coral. Not ideal for kids. Not ideal for waders, surfers or bodyboarders.
One thing Lahaina does have is the “Old Lahaina Luau” which I attended on a number of occasions. I never met a Hawaiian luau I didn’t like though, so I’m not a great judge of ‘which one is best?“. I like them all. The Kalua pig is always my favorite – salty, tender pork that can make my mouth water even now after I’ve already had lunch.
To sum it up – Lahaina is a very quiet place that is basically for shopping and eating. It’s a slow area where old folks gravitate. It’s easy to walk or ride a bicycle around the area, it is flat and the streets are paved.
Would I live in Lahaina when move back to Maui?
No, definitely not. It’s more a place just to stop by, not a place to live. West Maui out by Ka’anapali, or Kahana is better in my opinion – the proximity to the better beaches and great restaurants being of paramount importance. Paia would be the other option – and it has the distinction of being the ultimate laid back ‘town’ on Maui.
So go to Lahaina – for sure, walk around and buy things, eat, look at the art exhibits and smell the salty air… and then head out to wherever you’re going to spend the bulk of your vacation on the island.
[Old Lahaina Luau photo credit – Mr Tavis at Flickr.com, by attribution license.]