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Exploring: Island Tours > Maui > West Side
West Maui is dominated by the historic town of Lahaina, once the scene of debauchery among whalers and willing young Hawaiian women, now less licentious but still a great party town. The old buildings along its famed Front Street now house a range of good restaurants and bars and stores of all kinds, from the ubiquitous T-shirt shops to boutiques and galleries offering the finest in jewelry, arts, and crafts.
You can shop till you drop in Lahaina, or you can go for a more educational experience, taking in the many historic spots that reveal the town's colorful past. Beyond Lahaina town are the beautiful beaches of Ka'anapali and Kapalua. Although most of them are fronted by hotels, some among the most opulent in the islands, the beaches themselves are accessible to everyone. Many feel the hotels themselves are great attractions, with waterfalls and pools galore, outrageous tropical landscaping, and collections of some of the world's finest art on display in the public areas.
Here are some highlights of a stroll through Lahaina and a tour of the rest of West Maui:
The Banyan Tree: This huge tree, the largest in the state, came from India in 1873 and has been a Lahaina landmark for more than a century. It's a great place to escape the mid-day heat, (the word lahaina means merciless sun) or to come at dusk for a screechy serenade by mynah birds who crowd into its branches. It's next to the Pioneer Inn, a historic hotel that still offers rooms and a happening bar.
The Courthouse: Located next to the banyan tree, what was once a courthouse and prison now houses two art galleries.
The small boat harbor is a fun place to walk around and is the launching spot for any number of ocean adventures.
The Brig Carthaginian II: This square-rigger is an authentic replica of an 18th century vessel and serves as a museum of whaling. Exhibits, videos, and artifacts tell the story of the whaling life.
The Baldwin Home: This 1835 rock, coral, and plaster structure housed Dr. Dwight Baldwin, his wife Charlotte, and eight children until 1871. The home has been restored to create an experience of what life was like for the family and for the many patients, visitors, and boarders who frequented the place.
Hawai'i Experience Domed Theater gives you and the kids a break from the history lesson. Here you can watch a 60-foot wide 180-degree screen featuring the film, Hawai'i: Island of the Gods. Beware if you have a queasy stomach; sickness bags are provided, however.
Wo Hing Temple gives a glimpse of life for the Chinese who immigrated to Hawai'i in the early 1900s. There are artifacts and old movies of Hawai'i shot by Thomas Edison in 1898 and 1903.
Lahaina Jodo Mission is the site of a huge bronze Buddha, the largest outside of Asia. The buildings are not open to the public, but the grounds are a serene place to wander after the activity of Lahaina town.
When you drive north out of Lahaina, you are headed in to Resort World, but there are a few stops (other than the gorgeous hotels) you might hit along the way:
The Sugar Cane Train (actually the Lahaina - Ka'anapali & Pacific Railroad) takes you on a 12-mile jaunt through the cane fields with a historical orientation by the conductor.
The Whale Center of the Pacific located in the Whalers Village Shopping Center tells the story of whaling from the whale's point of view.
Ka'anapali Beach is the center of action with sunbathers, windsurfers, boaters, parasailers all enjoying the water and eyeing each other.
Past Kapalua are some of Maui's best beaches, great for swimming, snorkeling, bodysurfing, and surfing when the conditions are right. Check out lovely Napili Bay -- great for kids, Kapalua Beach with excellent snorkeling, D. T. Fleming Beach Park, and Honolua Bay.
Kahakuloa is a small fishing village at the end of the road, but you can go farther if the road is passable, around the rugged coast to Wailuku. It will take you at least a couple of hours, and you must be very cautious as the road is rough and narrow. The views are spectacular however - surf pounding the cliffs and steep-sided valleys.
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