Front Street: Lahaina, Hawaii


Front Street packs in everything that makes Lahaina, Lahaina: wooden storefronts, second-story balconies, public parks, art galleries, eateries, residential quarters, whale-watching tourists, children scurrying to and from school, elderly couples taking early-morning walks, bicycles and vehicles sharing the road, divine views of the majestic West Maui Mountains, Lahaina Harbor and island of Lanai, and an archeological site dating to the year 700. Major transformations have taken place since the mid-19th Century when Lahaina was a major port of call for whaling ships that resupplied here — and Front Street was lined with raucous taverns filled with sailors on shore leave.

Designated Area

Five blocks between Shaw Street to the southeast and Baker Street to the northwest.

The Pioneer Inn (1901; corner of Front and Hotel Streets) as seen from Banyan Tree Park, home to the largest Banyan tree in the U.S. Five parks border Front Street, adding to the mix of activity along the street. Photo Lahaina Restoration Foundation.

Planning Excellence

In 1997, for example, the street underwent a major $11 million facelift that included widening sidewalks and burying most electric utility lines.

Today the street presents two characters to the world, one steeped in history and the other in tourism. Through the use of locally and federally recognized historic districts, architectural style and design guidelines, ongoing maintenance, and the efforts of citizen and business organizations, Front Street displays its historic character while accommodating a steady stream of tourists arriving throughout the year by cruise ships and airlines.

Lahaina is often referred to as the "jewel in the crown of Maui." Front Street contributes much to the town's favorable reputation, including scenic ocean and mountain views, historic architecture, a vibrant mix of retail shops, restaurants and other businesses, and the largest Banyan tree in the U.S.

Bicycles and vehicles share Front Street, while pedestrians enjoy the human-scale streetscape created by two-story building height restrictions. Photo Lahaina Restoration Foundation.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Historic heritage

  • From south to north, Front Street and building architecture reflects chronological history of area starting with the Moku'ula archaeological site; some buildings along Front Street date back to the 1830s
  • Evidence of some of the earliest human habitation in Hawaii, dating as far back as the year 700 A.D., located at corner of Front and Shaw streets; a significant archaeological site slowly being restored by the nonprofit group, Friends of Moku'ula
  • Reminders of Hawaii's whaling era (1820-1860) including interpretive plaques along street highlighting building sites from period and site of freshwater pump used by sailors to fill kegs as part of layover in port to re-provision whaling ships.
  • Lahaina  recognized as first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1802 by King Kamehameha I;  remained capital until 1845 when King Kamehameha III named Honolulu capital

Planning, revitalization

  • Proposal to restore historic Lahaina published in 1961; first historic district adopted by the County of Maui in 1962; second historic district established 1967; districts ensure protection of historic buildings facades
  • Lahaina added to list of national historic landmarks in 1965; three years later Lahaina architectural style book published to help protect plantation-era vernacular architecture from mid-19th and early 20th centuries
  • Interpretive master plan for Lahaina historic district created in 2000; sign guidelines for historic districts in Lahaina adopted 2001
  • West Maui Community Plan (1996) addresses density and commercial development issues within Lahaina's historic district, including Front Street
  • Implementation of a heritage trail (received  2004 Keep It Hawaii award) and an annual "Fix Up-Clean Up-Educate-Celebrate" program
  • Affordable housing (Front and Kenui Streets; 142 units) completed in 2001 by Front Street Affordable Housing Partners; cost  $15.3 million
  • Jurisdictions and groups helping protect Front Street historic character include Maui County Planning Department, Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Friends of Moku'ula, Hui O Wa'a Kaulua, LahainaTown Action Committee

Design, amenities, events

  • Two-story building height restriction ensures human scale streetscape
  • Wide sidewalks made from eclectic mix of materials reflecting differences as sidewalks were built and rebuilt over time
  • Lahaina's unique character and sense of place "lies not so much in its interesting history [but the] blend of cultural themes and economic influences that have each left a physical remnant of their presence, and it is that mosaic of remnants that gives Lahaina its unique character." (excerpt Design Study for Front Street Improvement Plan)
  • Five parks border Front Street: Malu'uluolele (500 Front St.), Kamehameha Iki (525 Front St.), Banyan Tree (600 block of Front Street), James Campbell Memorial (600 block of Front Street), Library Park (600 block of Front Street)
  • Bike racks and the County of Maui Lahaina Villager Bus Service; time limited on-street parking along Front Street; off-street parking located nearby
  • Special events include monthly Hawaiian Music concert, Progressive Dinner Through Lahaina's Historic Sites, Friday Night is Art Night, Na Kamehameha Pa'u Parade, Fourth of July Fireworks, Chinese Moon Festival, Lahaina Halloween, Banyan Tree Holiday Lighting
  • 2012 marks 50th anniversary of Lahaina Restoration Foundation, lead group responsible for preserving and maintaining the historic integrity of Lahaina and Front Street

Views of Lahaina Harbor and the island of Lanai greet Front Street visitors. Photo Lahaina Restoration Foundation.