10 Museums on Maui to Satisfy Your Thirst for Historical Knowledge

By Kyle Ellison

Wo Hing Museum, Lahaina, Maui. Photo: Jasperdo.

Unless you’re a collector of exceptionally rare coins, chances are you didn’t know that Hawaiʻi once had its own currency.

It was called the dala, and was the official currency of the Hawaiian Kingdom for over 50 years.

Hale Pai, Lahaina

Hale Pai, a Maui museum in Lahaina, Maui. Photo: uncle bagel.

You can see some examples of the early currency on a visit to Hale Pa‘i — a Maui museum that’s just minutes away from the shops and restaurants of Front Street.

It isn’t just Hale Pa‘i, however, that’s conveniently located in Lahaina. All the museums on Maui are within minutes of Maui’s top attractions, so it’s easy for visitors to learn about the island while en route to other activities.

Lahaina Heritage Museum, Lahaina

Lahaina Heritage Museum in the Old Lahaina Courthouse, Lahaina, Maui. Photo: Jasperdo.

The Lahaina Heritage Museum, for example, is located inside the Old Lahaina Courthouse across from Lahaina Harbor. Here you’ll find photos and memorabilia dating back to Lahaina’s whaling days, as well as the Hawaiian flag that was lowered on the day the US annexed Hawaii in 1898.

Plantation Museum, Lahaina

The Wharf Cinema Center. Photo: Jasperdo.

Stroll beneath the banyan tree and across to the Wharf Cinema Center, and you’ll find the small Plantation Museum where photos and artifacts illustrate life on a 19th century sugar plantation.

Wo Hing Museum, Lahaina

Wo Ching Museum, Lahaina, Maui. Photo: J Curnow.

Head north on Front Street past bustling restaurants and galleries of high end art, and you’ll soon encounter the Wo Hing Museum that details how hard-working immigrants from China help sculpt the island economy.

Whalers Village, Kaanapali

Whaler’s Village, Kaanapali, Maui. Photo: Peter Volpe.

If you’re interested in whales (and the whalers who chased them), Whalers Village in Kā‘anapali has exceptionally informative displays on the lives of 19th century whalers, and is set to re-open in 2017 after a lengthy renovation.

Hawaiian Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, Kihei

Several whales play off the coast from the Hawaiian Island Humpback National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, Kihei, Maui.  Photo: Coast Guard News.

To learn about the actual whales themselves, there’s no better spot than the Hawaiian Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, which is located in Kīhei with a sweeping view looking out at Ma‘alaea Bay.

Bailey House Museum, Wailuku

Bailey House Museum, Wailuku, Maui. Photo: Alvin Smith.

If it’s ancient Hawaiian history you’re after, the Bailey House Museum has artifacts dating to before European arrival, as well as rooms full of period pieces from 19th century missionaries. Located on the road to ‘Iao Valley, the museum even has a surfboard in the yard that belonged to Duke Kahanamoku.

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, Kahului

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, Puunene, Maui. Photo: Eric and Mary Ellen.

Though many of the best museums on Maui take a look at the 19th century, some museums, like the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, look at an industry that operated all the way up through 2016. Though Maui’s fields of green sugar are gone, the memory of both its mills and its workers lives on at this Pu‘unene museum, which is five minutes away from Kahului airport and en route to Wailea resorts.

Makawao History Museum, Makawao

Makawao Cowboy. Photo: Doug Kaye.

It wasn’t just whalers and plantation workers that helped shaped Maui’s past, but also the paniolo, or ranchers, who ride across Maui’s green pastures. To hear their stories and learn the history of roping and riding in Maui, visit the Makawao History Museum in a town where hitching posts still line the streets and horse trailers rattle down the road.

Hana Cultural Center and Museum, Hana

Portraits of Hana residents from the mid 1900s at the Hana Cultural Center. Photo: Tess Heder.

Finally, after navigating the hundreds of weaving turns on the legendary Road to Hana, visit the Hana Cultural Center and Museum to fortify your knowledge of this fishing town at the end of the world famous drive. Here you’ll learn of the devastating tsunami that left much of the town in ruins, and read the tales of ranchers and kings who helped shape the story of Maui’s most peaceful and laidback town by the sea.

To explore more cool things to do in Hawaii and to book your activities, please visit www.hawaii.com/things-to-do

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