A national historic landmark, the waterfront town of Lahaina has a rich history involving Hawaiian monarchs, missionaries and whalers. Lahaina served as the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom from 1820-1845 and in the middle 1800s, whalers came by the thousands to winter in the little seaport, anchoring their ships offshore.
Lahaina’s colorful history and idyllic location overlooking neighboring Lana‘i—combined with an abundance of modernday establishments offering shopping, dining and nightlife—have made Lahaina a favorite vacation spot for decades.
The August 8, 2023 wildfire that quickly razed the town had a profound impact on Lahaina’s families, businesses, historic landmarks, churches, schools and homes. Lives, jobs and treasures were tragically lost.
While Lahaina remains closed to the public until further notice out of respect to the town’s residents, West Maui accommodations have been reopening and visitation to open areas are welcomed. During this time, visitors are urged to be mindful and respectful of our island home and heed posted signage regarding the “burn zone” as cleanup continues.
Signs of recovery are underway, with West Maui retailers and restaurants reopening, including Hilo Hattie, Crazy Shirts and ABC Stores. Sprawling a full block on Front Street, the 150-yearold Lahaina Banyan Tree is showing regrowth, with reports of 60 percent of the tree showing green leaves. Some schools have reopened and Lahaianaluna High School celebrated its football homecoming on campus above Lahaina Town.
Many island businesses are showing aloha to those impacted by the wildfires in Lahaina and Upcountry Maui through donations and fundraisers. Crazy Shirts, which lost two of its Lahaina locations in the blaze, immediately supported American Red Cross efforts with a $10,000 donation and over 4,000 pieces of clothing.
Maui Quilt Shop in Wailuku organized an Aloha Quilt Donation Drive that collected 5,500 quilts. Shop employees and a team of volunteers led the “comfort” effort, which also gathered blankets and pillows. The bedding came from individuals and craft guilds from across Hawai‘i, all 50 U.S. states and Canada. “The drive was very successful and the recipients were grateful because the quilts were all handmade with care,” says shop owner Marilyn Sameshima. “When people don’t have anything, getting a quilt is something special—it made wherever they were staying feel like home.” Looking ahead, many challenges face Lahaina as community and government leaders meet to facilitate continued recovery efforts and plan the much anticipated steps of rebuilding.
Marilyn Sameshima of Maui Quilt Shop folds one of the many handmade quilts received during the Aloha Quilt Donation Drive to benefit island residents displaced during the August wildfires.
Photo: Maui Quilt Shop
In addition, the Hawai‘i apparel company created a limited-edition “Maui Forever Strong” design with 20 percent of shirt sales donated to the Red Cross. Now available is The Maui Collection, a selection of Crazy Shirt designs from their archives that “encompass the very essence of The Valley Isle.”
Visitors wishing to help Maui in its recovery efforts can donate to the following:
• Maui Strong Fund
Established by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation
• Maui United Way
• Kako‘o Maui Fund
Established by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement www.hawaiiancouncil.org/helpmaui/kakoomauifund/
For progress updates: www.HawaiiTourismAuthority.org/Maui-recovery/
Pre-Lahaina fire photos: by Creative Juice LLC
Maria Lanakila Church unscathed by Lahaina Fire (photo: Adobe Stock)
Lahaina, prior to the wildfires (photo: Creative Juice LLC)