A Note About This Post
We finished writing this post the day the fires in Maui destroyed Lahaina Town. After some time had passed, we decided to publish it as a memorial. The devastation the community has endured is heartbreaking and it’s hard to believe that we’ll never be able to return to the Front Street that we knew and loved. Here’s a look at what that was like in our words and through our eyes.
Lahaina, located on the west side of Maui, is a charming town that offers an abundance of activities and attractions for visitors. Front Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, is a vibrant hub of activity with numerous shops, galleries, restaurants, and historic landmarks.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Front Street is the perfect place to explore and indulge in the best of Lahaina’s offerings. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of ten fun things to do on Front Street that will help you make the most of your visit to Lahaina.
From shopping for unique souvenirs to enjoying a mouthwatering meal with a view, there’s something for everyone on Front Street. So, get ready to discover the best of Lahaina’s charm and attractions with these ten fun things to do on Front Street!
Explore the Shops
Bustling and vibrant, Front Street is a shopper’s paradise. The street is lined with an array of boutique shops and local staples (think ABC and Whalers General) and even boasts an outlet mall at the north end of the street (which is a great free spot to park)!
Visitors can browse through stores offering traditional Hawaiian crafts, handmade jewelry, thoughtful souvenirs, clothing, food items, and this list goes on! Exploring the shops on Front Street is an excellent way to be able to take in all of the historical charm the street has to offer, along with stunning ocean views.
See the Biggest Banyan Tree in Maui
Front Street is not only a shopper’s paradise but is also home to the largest Banyan Tree in the US. Planted in 1873, the Banyan Tree stands at an impressive 60 feet tall, with 16 major trunks (aside from the main trunk!), and a sprawling canopy that covers around .66 acres!
This impressive tree is located in the aptly named Banyan Tree Park (sometimes called Lahaina Courthouse Square) toward the street’s south end, next to the Lahaina Harbour. The vast canopy offers a great reprieve from the Maui sun.
Multiple benches dot the park so you can relax and admire the tree’s intricate network of branches and areal roots. You can also stroll the almost 2-acre park and check out other points of interest, like remnants of the Old Lahaina Fort and the Old Lahaina Courthouse.
View the Art Galleries
Front Street is a haven for art lovers, with a plethora of galleries showcasing local and international artists. You could easily spend an afternoon (or more!) traversing the street, strolling through the various galleries, and admiring the eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional art.
The galleries offer a range of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and other art pieces, each with its unique flair and charm imparted by the artist. Many of the galleries also host exhibitions and workshops, allowing visitors to interact with artists and learn more about their craft. It isn’t uncommon to see an artist sitting in front of a gallery working on a canvas on any given day!
The art galleries on Front Street offer a vibrant and dynamic glimpse into the local art scene, providing visitors with a memorable experience and potentially a beautiful souvenir of your trip to Front Street!
Visit a Museum
Front Street is not only home to an array of shops and galleries but also several museums that offer a glimpse into Lahaina’s rich history and culture. Visitors can explore the Wo Hing Museum to learn about Chinese immigrants who came to Maui and helped build sugar cane irrigation systems or delve into the exhibits offered at the Old Lahaina Courthouse, originally constructed in 1860 during Hawaii’s Monarchy period.
The Lahaina Heritage Museum showcases the town’s history, from early Hawaiians to the missionary period to its growth as a whaling town and finally to the multi-faceted, historically rich destination that it is today.
It’s definitely possible to take in more than one of these experiences in just a day. Many of the museums are relatively small but house terrific exhibits and artifacts. Visiting the museums on Front Street (or even just one museum!) provides a fascinating and educational experience that adds depth and context to your visit to Lahaina and Maui itself.
Take a Boat Tour at Lahaina Harbor
Lahaina Harbor is a hub for boating and water activities in Maui, and taking a boat tour is an excellent way to get a different vantage point of Lahaina and the natural majesty of Maui and the ocean. A wide variety of boat tours are offered from the harbor, including snorkeling and scuba diving excursions, sunset dinner cruises, and whale-watching tours during the winter months.
Tours depart from Lahaina Harbor, offering stunning views of the island’s coastline and the Pacific Ocean. The boat captains and crew know the area’s history, geology, and marine life and provide informative commentary throughout your excursion.
Be prepared to spend anywhere from a couple of hours to 4 to 5 hours on your outing, depending on your type of tour. The type of tour will also determine your departure time; normally fairly early for snorkeling or scuba diving and later in the afternoon or early evening for sunset cruises. Boat tours are quite popular so we would strongly recommend booking a tour in advance if you can.
Attend a Luau
Attending a luau is an immersive experience of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and traditions. Your evening will feature scrumptious traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian cuisine, live music, beautiful dancing, free-flowing drinks, and interactive cultural activities.
The two luaus that call Front Street home are Old Lahaina Luau, which prides itself on being the most authentic Hawaiian luau, and Feast at Lele, which celebrates Polynesia’s many different islands, people, and cultures. Both luaus offer a spectacular setting, with stunning sunset views of the Pacific Ocean and the neighboring islands.
Attending a luau is the perfect opportunity to witness the beauty and majesty of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture firsthand while enjoying delicious food, lively music, and a warm sense of community. If you would like to read more about different luaus across Maui and find out which is our favorite, check out our post on the best luaus in Maui.
Take Lahaina’s Historic Walking Tour
Lahaina’s historic walking tour is a popular activity that takes you on a journey through the town’s rich history and cultural heritage over a span of more than 500 years. The self-guided walking tour allows you to explore at your own pace and soak up Lahaina’s unique character and charm.
The tour covers multiple landmarks, including the Lahaina Banyan Court Park, the Baldwin Home Museum, the Old Lahaina Prison, and many more. Plan to set aside anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours for this walking tour, depending on how many stops you want to make and how long you want to spend at each location.
This is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Lahaina’s history and learn about the town’s evolution from ancient times to the Hawaiian royal capital, from a bustling whaling village to the vibrant tourist destination it is today. You can download the Lahaina Historic Walking Tour App to get a bit more information about the trail or download the brochure PDF to your phone.
Grab an Oceanfront Meal
Front Street is a foodie’s delight, offering a plethora of restaurants to choose from to fit any taste and budget. Many of Front Street’s restaurants are oceanfront, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai.
By dining at one of the oceanfront restaurants, you have all the makings for a truly romantic date night or a fun, relaxed family dinner. Indulge in fresh seafood, fantastic steaks, mouth-watering burgers, or tons of other options all while sipping on signature cocktails (or mocktails!) as you watch the sun seemingly sink into the ocean, setting the sky aglow with gorgeous colors.
The ambiance, scenery, and relaxed, laid-back atmosphere of Front Street’s oceanfront restaurants can’t be beat! Some of our favorites include (but aren’t limited to) Kimo’s Maui, Lahaina Fish Co., Waikiki Brewing Company Lahaina, Pacific’o on the Beach, Captain Jack’s Island Grill, and Mala Ocean Tavern. Having an oceanfront dinner on Front Street is an unforgettable experience combining fantastic food and stunning natural beauty.
Treat Yourself to Dessert
Front Street offers a wide range of drool-worthy dessert options to indulge in after a day of exploring or just as an afternoon pick-me-up! There is something for everyone, from traditional Hawaiian shave ice to decadent gelato to Dole Whips (a personal favorite!) and more.
Many of the restaurants and cafes on Front Street offer mouth-watering dessert menus that showcase the island’s unique flavors and ingredients. You can enjoy fresh fruit sorbets, tropical cheesecakes, or indulge in more classic desserts like apple pie and chocolate lava cake.
Looking to grab some sweets to take back to your hotel/condo or perhaps to bring home as souvenirs? Front Street is home to a Honolulu Cookie Company location, which offers delicious individually wrapped shortbread cookies. You can also find a multitude of locally made sweets and candies at many convenience stores along the street.
Enjoy Live Music and Nightlife
Front Street is by far the most lively destination for live music and nightlife on the west side. It’s home to several bars and restaurants that offer live music and after-hours libations. You can enjoy various music performances, from Hawaiian and reggae to contemporary jazz and rock.
Many of the bars offer happy hour specials, providing an opportunity to socialize and meet new people. The street comes alive at night, with a bustling atmosphere that captures the island’s energy and spirit.
Some of our favorites are Down the Hatch, The Dirty Monkey, and Fleetwood’s on Front St. Taking in live music and the nightlife on Front Street is a fun and exciting way to experience the island’s culture and community.
Places to Stay Near Front Street
There are plenty of options for accommodation in the area, from luxurious resorts to cozy vacation rentals. You can choose to stay right on the water, with stunning ocean views, or in the midst of the charming Lahaina town. Whatever your preference, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay near Front Street that will make your Maui vacation unforgettable.
- Lahaina Inn – This historic boutique hotel is located right on Front Street and offers elegant rooms and suites with period decor and modern amenities.
- The Plantation Inn – A charming bed and breakfast with tropical gardens and a pool, just a short walk from Front Street.
- Lahaina Shores Beach Resort – An oceanfront resort with spacious suites and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
- Puunoa Beach Estates – Luxurious beachfront condos with private lanais, perfect for families or groups.
- Aina Nalu Lahaina by Outrigger – A beautifully landscaped resort with pools, BBQ areas, and spacious condos with full kitchens.
- Best Western Pioneer Inn – A historic hotel located on the harbor, with a pool, restaurant, and comfortable rooms.
- Lahaina Ocean’s Edge – A beachfront condo resort with modern amenities and stunning ocean views.
Front Street in Lahaina FAQs
Is Front Street in Lahaina Worth Visiting?
Of course! That’s why we wrote a whole article about things to do on Front Street! It’s a bustling hub of activity with quaint historic charm, boutique shops, fabulous restaurants, and art galleries. The street offers stunning ocean views and a vibrant nightlife scene, making it a popular destination for anyone visiting Maui, especially on the west side.
Front Street also has several historical landmarks, such as the Baldwin Home Museum and the Wo Hing Temple Museum, making it an educational point of interest as well.
Where is the Best Parking?
Front Street can get very busy, and parking can be a challenge, especially in the late afternoon when the hottest part of the day is past, and people are starting to make their way out to dinner. A few parking options are:
- The Lahaina Center parking lot (also where the Outlets of Maui are located) is a great option at the north end of the street for free parking for up to 3 hours.
- There is another free lot on the corner of Front Street and Prison Street, across the street from the banyan tree.
- The 505 Front Street parking lot has metered parking for up to 4 hours on the south end of the street.
- There is street parking is available, but it can be very hard to snag one of these spots.
Regardless of where you decide to park, always be sure to check signage for any restrictions.
What is the Best Time to Visit?
Honestly, any time is a great time to visit Front Street. On a day-to-day basis, the best times to visit would be either in the morning or the later afternoon to avoid the mid-day heat and sun. If you do find yourself exploring mid-day, be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated.
On a seasonal basis, the best time to visit Front Street is during the fall and winter months, from September to December. The weather is cooler and less humid, making it more comfortable for exploring the street. Also, the tourist crowds can be a bit smaller during this time, allowing you to enjoy the shops, restaurants, and attractions more freely.
How Much Time Does it Take to Explore?
The amount of time it takes to explore Front Street varies depending on what you want to do. If you just want to take a stroll down the street and browse a few shops, an hour or two may be enough. However, if you plan to do a self-guided walking tour, shop, dine at a restaurant, and have a nightcap, you may need a full day or more to explore all that Front Street offers.
How Late Do Shops and Restaurants Stay Open?
The hours of operation for shops and restaurants vary, but most shops are open from 10 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m., and restaurants usually close between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Some restaurants and bars do stay open later, as mentioned above in the live music and nightlife section. It’s always best to check with individual businesses for their specific hours of operation, either with a quick Google search or by giving the business a call.
History of Front Street in Lahaina
Lahaina, known in ancient times as Lele, meaning “relentless sun,” started as just a small fishing village. Lahaina has undergone many changes since its sleepy beginnings. In 1802, during his unification of the Hawaiian islands, King Kamehameha I designated Lahaina as his royal residence, and under his sons Prince Liholiho (Kamehameha II), and Prince Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III), Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i from 1820 to 1845.
In 1819, the first whaling ships began making port in Lahaina, and by the mid-1850s, that number had risen to more than 400 a year, making port in Lahaina. With the influx of sailors, many immigrants came to Lahaina to open shops, inns, taverns, and brothels on bustling Front Street.
Around the same time as the first whaling ships began to arrive in Lahaina, so did the first Christian Missionaries. The missionaries, along with the Hawaiian Royal family, helped to shape the appearance of Front Street, even as we see it today. Some of the buildings on Front Street, such as The Baldwin House and Masters Reading Room, were built by these early missionaries.
During the mid-late 19th century, the whaling industry began to decline, and Lahaina became a quiet plantation town as the sugar and pineapple industries started to dominate the economy. Many Chinese immigrants came to Maui during this time to work on the sugar plantations. Some of the workers decided to settle in Lahaina when their labor contracts were finished, and they formed the Wo Hing Society. A two-story temple was built on Front Street, the Wo Hing Society Hall, which has been restored and is home to the Wo Hing Museum today.
In the early 20th century, Front Street’s role as a commercial hub declined as the sugar industry shifted to other areas of Hawai’i. However, the street remained an important center for tourism, with visitors flocking to the area for its natural beauty and cultural significance.
Today, Front Street is a bustling and vibrant tourist destination with a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks and architecture. Despite the changes over the years, Front Street has retained much of its historic charm, giving you a sense of what life was like in Lahaina all those years ago.
Meet the Authors
Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!
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