Over time, countless people from diverse cultures have shaped the history of Hawaii. This interesting store is shared by a wide range of accessible Maui museums, including ancient archaeological sites and old churches, as well as the Whalers Village Museum and missionaries' homes.
Lahaina museums are a good place to start for those seriously interested in discovering Maui's heritage. This community was the capital of the Hawaiian islands during the years of the monarchy, between 1795 and 1843. Lahaina later became the center of the sometimes off-color whaling industry, often to the chagrin of the missionaries, and the town later fell out of favor before it became a tourism hot spot in recent years. Lahaina is the home of one of the most iconic Hawaiian traditions—nightly luaus. Once the sun goes down, the history of the South Pacific is told through hula dancing, hearty dining, and music at the Old Lahaina Luau.
The Whalers Village Museum provides a glimpse of the years between 1825 and 1860, when Lahaina was the center of this maritime industry. Visitors can see a re-created whaling ship forecastle, where sailors endured voyages that lasted up to five years, a large-scale model of a whaling ship, and a prized collection of scrimshaw, which are objects the whalers typically carved from baleen or whale ivory. Audio tours, available in several languages, also detail the story of the whaling industry.
Throughout the year, the Whalers Village Museum hosts a variety of special events, including daily hula lessons, evening performances of dance, drumming, and music, whale watching in the fall, and the Maui Onion Festival, held annually in May.
Together, the Lahaina museums and historic sites compose a tapestry of tradition and culture. The list includes such highlights as the Pioneer Inn, the old courthouse, and the Wo Hing Temple. The Hale Pai, which means the house of printing, was instrumental in the transition of Hawaiian from a solely spoken language to a written one. The temple, built in 1912, was a Tong House, which aided Chinese immigrants. Today, it's an intricately restored museum. Next door, the onetime cookhouse shows movies of Hawaii made a century ago by Thomas Edison.
One of the community's oldest buildings is now one of the Lahaina museums. The Baldwin Home Museum shares the legacy and memorabilia of one of Maui's medical missionaries, Dwight Baldwin. Visitors can see items owned by the reverend and his family, including a grand piano, a four-poster bed made of koa wood, and fragile china, among other historic objects.
In Wailuku, the Bailey House Museum is another option for Maui museums. The Maui Historical Society now operates the home of this missionary family as a museum. The house itself is something special, complete with thick sandalwood beams and stone walls. Visitors also can stroll through the grounds, to admire the tropical garden, outrigger canoe, and seminary building. Just a few minutes away, Kepaniwai Park shares Maui's cultural heritage through a variety of historic homes, a taro root patch, and gardens, all in a charming setting.
Two more Maui museums look at the history of Maui through different lenses. Near Kahului, travelers can explore the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, whose exhibits detail this once-thriving industry. The Hana Cultural Center also showcases the community's history through an array of artifacts. Stone tools, quilts, photographs, hand-carved crafts, and games illustrate how the people of Hana have lived over the years.