About This Place
Lāhainā is the largest census-designated place (CDP) in West Maui, Maui County, Hawaii, United States, and the gateway to the famous Kaanapali and Kapalua beach resorts north of the community. As of the 2000 Census, the CDP had a resident population of 9,118. Lahaina encompasses the coast along Hawaii Route 30 from a tunnel at the south end, through Olawalu up the CDP of Napili-Honokowai is to the north. During the heavy tourist seasons, the population can swell to nearly 40,000 people. Until permanently moving to Honolulu, Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. In the 19th century, Lahaina was the center of the global whaling industry with many sailing ships anchored in at its waterfront; today a score of pleasure craft make their home there.
In antiquity Lahaina was the royal capital of Maui Loa, 5th Moi of Maui, after he ceded the royal seat of Hana to King of Hawaii Island. In Lahaina, the focus of activity is along Front Street, which dates back to the 1820s. It is lined with stores and restaurants, and is often packed with tourists. Banyan Tree Square features an exceptionally large banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) planted April 24, 1873 by William Owen Smith to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries. It is also the site of the reconstructed ruins of Lahaina Fort, originally built in 1832.
The name Lā hainā means "cruel sun" in the Hawaiian language, describing the sunny dry climate. Lahaina averages only 13 inches (330 mm) of rain per year, much of which occurs from December through February.