A small town with a big heart; and many housing options.
Homes in Lahaina range from modest to uber-luxurious. Home styles transition from territorial Hawaii in historic Lahaina to contemporary plantation style, to modern suburbia with a newer California vibe in homes and townhomes, to various styles in luxury homes. Condos/co-ops also feature several styles. A bustling and friendly community, historic ambiance, memorable events, and fun-filled ocean activities are a part of life here.
On the west side of Maui, Lahaina today is centered around a thriving tourism industry. Tourists are drawn to this small coastal town by whale migration, its fabled royal and whaling past, and its sunny, balmy oceanfront setting. Lahaina's Front Street is lined with distinctive shops, art galleries, and restaurants, reflecting the town's singular history and culture. Over 50 acres in town mark historical sights.
However, the lack of inventory is driving prices up. The median home price is now over one million dollars. At present, new construction involves only small affordable-housing projects and luxury housing built on purchased lots.
Lahaina is a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and condos. Two- and three bedroom homes make up 60% of the residences in the local Lahaina area. More than 50% of Lahaina’s occupied housing is rental.
Single-family homes continue up the slopes behind town, but newer subdivisions are located closer to the shoreline. Luxury enclaves are on the slopes, along the coastline, and in the resorts to the north. Condos tend to be close to the coastline and continue north to Kā'anapali and the resort areas.
Older single-family homes reflect mid-twentieth century plantation-style houses. Several have been enlarged and updated. Newer subdivisions north of the historic district range from ranch, bungalow, and updated plantation style to the latest contemporary open interior-exterior floor plans. Luxury homes are designed with spacious open areas, engaging the surrounding natural elements and the stunning mountain and ocean views West Maui provides.
Homes can be purchased as fee simple (FS) or leasehold (LH) in Hawai'i. A buyer owns the house and the land in a fee simple purchase. With a leasehold purchase, the buyer owns the house but not the land.
However, in West Maui, most leasehold properties are condos; the buyer does not own the condo but is leasing it. The leasehold contract usually lists predetermined periods that the lease payment can be renegotiated. When the lease ends, typically after 40-50 years, a new lease may be created, the lease not renewed, or the option to buy the condo offered.
Lahaina's resident population is just over 13,000, but as tourism returns to pre-Covid normal, the tourist population can swell to over 40,000 in West Maui. Many of the activities and events draw tourists but still entail community involvement, showcasing the history and culture of this lively little town. Lahaina has been a lively place since the days of the many whaling seamen looking for "refreshment and activity" after months at sea. By the mid-nineteenth century, hundreds of whaling ships would make port in Lahaina, the whaling capital of the Pacific. Today, the whaling industry is long gone, and whales are protected but still drawing crowds on land and on the water.
In winter, whales migrate from Alaska to the warm waters of the Maui breeding grounds. Thus, whale watching has made Lahaina world-renowned and is the premiere event of Lahaina's year. Whale watching from first sightings in October through final departures to Alaska in April draws both resident and visitor alike. It is estimated that more than 10,000 whales journey past Lahaina.
Mention whale watching and Lahaina quickly comes to mind, but Ho'olaule'a! (Celebration!) describes the community best. Art exhibitions, crafts fairs, hula festivals, pau parades, and oceanfront luaus abound. An annual Front Street Halloween Party, with over 20,000 participants in costume, adds to Lahaina's reputation as a bustling, vibrant place.
Lahaina is home to several ethnic groups, the largest being Asians at more than one third of the resident population. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders constitute almost ten percent of the residents.
Currently, other than government workers and schoolteachers, many full-time residents work in the tourism industry directly or indirectly. Also, as a result of the Covid 19 effect, a growing number of permanent and new residents are now working from home via the Internet.
Maui has year-round warm temperatures between 75°F (24°C) and 82°F (28°C). A winter month may average 3 days of rain. December is generally the wettest month in Lahaina, and June is the driest.3
As a densely populated transient area, property crime in Lahaina is 24% above the national figure.4 High-quality security systems and being personally watchful in crowds are smart preventative decisions.
However, the Maui Bus Public Transit System travels in and around Lahaina and has routes throughout the island. A shuttle operates between Lahaina and Kā'anapali, and taxi services are available also.
Just to the north of the historic district, a newer commercial area has a local Foodland and Long's Drugs and Mainland stores such as Safeway, Ace Hardware, and Walgreens. Costco is a 45-minute drive to Kahului. Local businesses and services also occupy offices in this commercial area.
Lahaina has two elementary public schools (PK-5) and Catholic and Baptist private elementary schools (PK-8). There is one public middle school (grades 6-8). Lahaina has one public and one Baptist high school. Maui Preparatory Academy (private, pre kindergarten–12) is in Kapalua. There are several private pre-kindergarten schools, including Montessori and Head Start.
Great Schools rates King Kamehameha Iii Elementary School the best of the four Lahaina public schools, with a 9 out of 10 score based on Great Schools criteria.5
The medical services in Lahaina are somewhat limited. Kaiser Permanente has a clinic in Lahaina, and Urgent Care West Maui is in Kā'anapali.
Maui Memorial Medical Center, Wailuku, is the only acute care hospital on the island. It is about 20-25 miles (35-40 minutes by vehicle) from Lahaina. The hospital is affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
According to seven hospital evaluation providers, Maui Memorial has mostly average or below-average ratings. US News cites heart failure, stroke, COPD, and pneumonia as its high-performance areas.6
Though a "small town," Lahaina is an epicurean wonderland! Many of the galleries and shops in Lahaina are considered world-class, and that theme continues in the restaurants as well.
Top of the list for fine dining includes the Lahaina Grill. The dining experience, the lovely "bistro setting," and the delectable new American cuisine had me leaving the Lahaina Grill feeling like royalty! Two of the many awards and recognitions it has received are Honolulu Magazine's Best Maui Restaurant and Trip Advisor's Top 10 U.S. Fine Dining Restaurants in 2021. Lahaina Grill opens at 5:00 pm, but reservations are recommended.
For a delicious full-blown Lahaina lunch or dinner experience, Kimo's is another favorite of mine. Entering on Front Street, the restaurant opens onto an oceanside deck with dining tables and large adjustable umbrellas. Kimo's fresh Hawaiian fish is so 'Ono! (Delicious!) In the evening, there is local entertainment, mood-inducing torchlights, and dreamy sunset views of the islands of Lana'i and Moloka’i.
A small town with a big heart; and many housing options.
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