Most Americans associate American history with what happened on the mainland. Schools focus on the Louisiana Purchase, The Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, few students ever learn about Hawaiian history.
Hawaii is America’s 50th state. As such, Hawaiian history is American history. From pre-contact tribes to the present day, this tropical land’s past is absolutely fascinating. And you can learn all about it in Lahaina’s Heritage Museum.
You can find the Lahaina Heritage Museum inside an antique courthouse in the center of Lahaina. The courthouse is a wonder to behold as it sits right in the middle of Banyan Park underneath the protecting arms of an ancient banyan tree. Imported from India, the massive tree is kept up by volunteers, and the tree’s shade makes for the perfect picnic spot.
The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, and admission is free. You can even join a free guided tour on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am, 11:00 am or noon. Simply meet your tour guide on the ocean side of the courthouse on the building's steps.
Each of the tours has its own theme. The 10:00 am tour focuses on ocean voyaging and Hawaii’s ancient societies. The 11:00 am tour shows you the master crafts of ancient Hawaii while giving you a glimpse of their daily lives. And the noon tour focuses on the arrival of westerners, whaling and the plantation era of Hawaii.
You’ll learn about how sea voyagers from Polynesia found Hawaii during a difficult time, and you’ll be able to look at crafts made by pre-contact tribes on Maui. The museum will then teach you about the arrival of westerners and how Hawaii’s natural resources were exploited. You’ll be taken through the whaling and plantation eras of the islands, and you’ll learn how Hawaiian pidgin was formed.
You might also be shocked at the sometimes violent and turbulent history of the islands, and how Americans manipulated the politics of the islands to end the era of the Hawaiian monarchy. And you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of the history of America’s 50th state.