There is more than one banyan tree in Maui—in fact there are several, many
of which are large and quite old. But it is the tree in Banyan Tree Park Lahaina
that is the largest and most famous, and it should not be missed on a Maui vacation.
A banyan is a type of fig or ficus tree. This banyan tree in Maui is from India,
where it is a sacred plant in many Hindu cultures. It grows when birds eat the
fruit, leaving seeds on the branches that germinate and send roots down to the
ground. These eventually anchor and create numerous new trunks. Sometimes the
seeds take root in host trees and will eventually kill the host. These are known
as strangler figs. A banyan can grow to enormous size, as the one in Banyan
Tree Park has. This is the species used by Robinson Crusoe for his tree house,
and it is the tree whose roots snake through the temples of Angkor
Wat in Cambodia. Banyan Tree Park Lahaina is
located on vibrant Front Street in Courthouse Square, within walking distance
of the Wo Hing Temple
and other downtown attractions, and is one of the stops on the walking tours
of the historic town.
Banyan Tree Park
This banyan tree in Maui was brought from India in 1873 when it was just a fledging plant only eight feet high. It was planted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Lahaina’s first Christian mission, the Wiaola Church, which was built by missionaries from Boston, Massachusetts. This was a period in the island’s history, and in the history of all the Hawaiian islands, that marked a crucial turning point in native Hawaiian culture. The tree now covers an area of more than 200 square feet, rises up to seven stories high, and has more than a dozen major trunks in addition to its huge core. It provides shade for nearly an acre of land.
Lahaina Banyan Tree Park
Today, Banyan Tree Park protects the largest such tree in the United States.
It is surrounded by park benches and is the center of numerous Lahaina
events, such as crafts demonstrations and cultural fairs and festivals, including
the ritual lighting of the tree in December. This is a great place to people-watch
and strike up an acquaintance with the locals. Someone might offer you a fascinating
bit of history or a tip on a new destination to add to your Maui itinerary.
Visitors are asked not to climb in or hang from the branches at Banyan Tree Park Lahaina even if you see local children doing so. Just sitting on a bench and marveling at its huge size is a reward in itself. The Banyan Tree Park is cared for by local residents, who erect posts to help stabilize the more precarious branches. The square and park that protect this banyan tree in Maui comprise a busy waiting room for those killing time before their whale watching and fishing trips depart from the Lahaina Harbor. This is an excellent time and place to sample some of the best dining on the island at the many food stalls and vendors.