Pedal if you want, let the bike do the work if you don’t or get help from the motor when you need it. Whatever you decide, you’ll have a great time cruising through the past on Kimo’s Historic Lahaina Electric Bike Tour.
“Our RadCity electric bikes are comfortable, reliable and easy to handle,” said Phil Kasper, founder and president of Boss Frog’s, which operates the tour. “They come with all sorts of safety features, including puncture-resistant tires. That makes the 4-mile ride fun even for those who might not be in top physical shape or haven’t been on a bike in a while.”
Stops are made at 18 historic sites in Lahaina, which was the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845 and an important re-provisioning port for trading and whaling ships in the mid-1800s. Here are five highlights.
535 Waine‘e St.
Four churches have stood on this site near the corner of Waine‘e and Shaw streets. Waine‘e (“moving water”) Church, the first Christian church on Maui, was built between 1828 and 1832. It could seat up to 3,000 worshippers on two stories.
In 1894, it burned down in a fire, was rebuilt and destroyed by fire again in 1947. It was again rebuilt and again destroyed, this time in 1951 by strong winds. The church that now stands was dedicated in 1953 and renamed Waiola (“water of life”).
Of interest is its cemetery, the final resting place for several alii (royalty), including King Kaumuali‘i, the last king of Kauai, and Queen Keopuolani, King Kamehameha’s highest-ranking wife by bloodline. She was the mother of Liholiho (King Kamehameha II), Kauikeaouli (King Kamehameha III) and Princess Nahi‘ena‘ena, who is also buried there.
U.S. Seaman’s Hospital
1024 Front St.
King Kamehameha III reputedly commissioned this two-story stone building in 1833 officially to serve as a store and inn for visiting sailors and unofficially as a place where he could indulge in activities not condoned by the missionaries, including partaking of “ardent spirits.”
In 1844, he leased it to the United States government, which converted it to a hospital for sick and injured whalers who frequented Lahaina from 1820 to 1860. That was the year petroleum oil began replacing whale oil, leading to the demise of the whaling industry.
Seaman’s Hospital closed two years later, and the building subsequently housed a boarding school, private home and a meeting place for civic groups. It was in sad disrepair when Lahaina Restoration Foundation acquired it in 1974. Taking advantage of favorable tax credits, architect Uwe Schulz, a Lahaina resident, restored the property at his own expense in 1982. It now houses the administrative offices for the Old Lahaina Lu‘au.
Old Lahaina Courthouse
648 Wharf St.
Built with coral blocks from Hale Piula, King Kamehameha III’s unfinished palace, this stately building opened in 1860. At various times between then and the 1960s, it housed a jail, courtroom, post office, police station, customs house and a variety of government offices.
In 1925, the courthouse was restored with a facade in the Greek Revival architectural style seen today. Owned by the state of Hawaii, it is now home to the Lahaina Visitor Center, Lahaina Arts Society galleries and the Lahaina Heritage Museum (see related sidebar), which chronicles the town’s story through historic photos and interactive displays spotlighting the pre-Western contact, monarchy, missionary, whaling, plantation and early tourism (1960s) eras.
Outside is the largest banyan tree in the U.S. Just eight feet tall when it was planted in 1873, it now is more than 60 feet high, shades nearly two-thirds of an acre and has 46 trunks that grew from aerial roots that descended to the ground from the original trunk’s branches.
Wo Hing Museum
858 Front St.
From 1852 to 1898, thousands of Chinese emigrated to Maui to work on sugar plantations. Hoping to maintain ties with their motherland and each other, some of them founded the Wo Hing Society in the early 1900s.
Using private donations, they built a two-story meeting hall on Front Street in 1912. The society still owns the property, but the Lahaina Restoration Foundation restored it in 1982 and manages it today as a museum.
In the front yard is a bronze bust of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the “Father of Modern China.” He visited Maui six times between 1879 and 1910 to prepare for the 1911-1912 revolt that toppled China’s last imperial dynasty and established the Republic of China (Taiwan). The 3,900-acre Upcountry cattle ranch owned by Sun’s older brother, Sun Mei, was the revolution’s headquarters on Maui.
Lahaina Jodo Mission
12 Ala Moana St.
This Buddhist mission was established in a private house in 1912 to serve Japanese immigrants who were working on Maui’s sugar and pineapple plantations. It moved to its present location overlooking the islands of Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe in 1931; the original wooden temple that stood there burned to the ground in 1968.
Coincidentally, that was when the 3,000-pound bronze bell and imposing statue of Buddha were completed in Kyoto and installed at the mission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The largest of its kind outside Japan, the statue was cast in copper and bronze, stands 12 feet tall and weighs about 3.5 tons.
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won several Society of American Travel Writers awards.