Maui is the second-largest part of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Over time the island has endured battles with nature’s elements, evolved through its socio-cultural fabric, and bears the testament of its histories for its visitors. The architecture of the island is a blend of the old and the new identities that the island harbors. The mythical, Menehune (aboriginal mythological ancestors) are credited for their ingenious construction techniques for designing the “Heiau” (ancient Hawaiian’s place of worship). These structures were built with volcanic basalt stones available locally without the use of mortar. The Heiau, a simple shrine catering to agriculture, warfare, fishing, or Hawaiian ancestors is a traditional architectural expression of the island. Post-1300s magnificent platforms by enormous walls appeared serving as political and religious centers. 

Maui also called the “Valley Isle” is not only a volcanic mass but hosts a variety of natural ecosystems. Mother Nature has truly blessed the island with an abundance of sights. From craters to beaches, mountains to coasts it’s a true treat to the eyes. A variety of experiences that would make an architect’s visit successful to the island are all in and around the quaint cities of this island. 

1. Lahaina Historic trail 

Lahaina is one of the island’s major historical cities. It was the first capital of the kingdom of Hawaii. The port town became a busy whaling port and a plantation settlement subsequently. There are 55acres of land with significant sites of national historic landmarks. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation has worked relentlessly over 3 decades to create this trail, which covers fascinating influences of Hawaiian history from the whaling era, the missionary, and immigrant plantation life as well. There is a cluster of 62 historic sites like the old Lahaina courthouse, the harbor, etc.

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2. Lahaina Visitor center

The Lahaina visitor center captures sights of this exotic city and its history. The center preserves the traditional art, craft, and much more eclectic collection of remnants of the Hawaiian way of life. It is located on the once-bustling harbor which hosted a large part of the whaling activities. The museum catalogs the rich history very humbly and still operates whale watching programs at the harbor.

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3. Master’s Reading Room, Lahaina

Maui due to its proximity to the coast carries a history of whaling activities dominating its harbors. Many such whaling ships brought in seamen to reside at the island. The captains of the ship looked forward to catching up on the world news and log their voyages at sea. Lahaina town officials set up the Masters Reading Room to serve these captains a gentleman’s club decorum, stocked up with news articles and writing materials. Whalers donated artifacts that decorate the walls of the building. This unique building is an interesting page from the life and times of people on the island from decades ago. The 200-year building is a must-visit for someone looking to enjoy stories that bricks and stones have to recite.

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4. US Seaman’s hospital, Lahaina

The building was reduced to rubble by the 1970s and the Lahaina Restoration Foundation teamed up with Architect Uwe Schulz to restore the US seamen’s hospital which served many purposes in its 200 years of life. It is rumored that the King Kamehameha the third developed this building in the 1800s, to drink spirits and make merry. Later, a Mexican cowboy named Joaquin Armas took up residence in this building in exchange for rounding up island cattle for the king. From the 1840s to 1860, the United States used this building to care for injured seamen. Today the building has also been home to a boarding school, civic groups, and families. Evolving typologies have left their mark on this evergreen building.

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5. Lahaina Court and Customs House

It is regarded as a cultural treasure in the old historic town of Lahaina. Opened in 1860, it served as a customs house of the prevailing whaling activities to a courtroom. The building stands on the property of the old fort and was made from material sourced from Kamehameha the third’s palaces after a windstorm. In 1925 influences of Greek revival architecture can be seen in the building. It overlooks the scenic harbor that sits in the bustling heart of the city.

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6. Baldwin Home Museum

The oldest house standing on the island gives rich cultural and historical insights. This sits in the heart of Lahaina, one of the bigger cities on the island. The house gives you a window into the life of missionary owners on the island in the mid-1800s. The original outdoor kitchen is intact from the 19th-century island residents’ time. This house hosted Hawaii’s royal court often and was the eye of the political and social storm on the island.

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7. Haleakala Observatory

Haleakala High Altitude observatory site is Hawaii’s first astronomical research center. It also serves as a military base for the Airforce laboratories. The interest in astronomy traces back to the ancient mythical beliefs and practices of the Menehune. The architecture of the island in recent times has begun to diversify. Infrastructural and systemic changes are being made to provide for the future. This is the new dawn for architecture on the island.

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8. Maui Ocean Center

The largest tropical reef aquarium of the western hemisphere is nestled in the city of Maalaea, in Maui. This is an Oceanography Center that is involved in the restoration of damaged coral reefs and dying underwater ecosystems. Throughout the island, there is a respect to preserve, restore, and nurture the environment. This center is not only to bask in the sights of amazing aquatic beings but also to view the community spirit on the island.

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9. Schaefer International Gallery

Maui like the other Hawaiian Islands hosts a lot of tourists around the year. The art of the island has always played an important role in boosting the tourism of the island. The Schaefer International gallery curates many such exhibitions that boast of the abundance of culture and heritage that the island has to offer. The understanding of the architecture of a place is built on elements of culture and history that one cannot miss when touring this country.

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10. Waiola Church and Cemetery

Waiola means the “water of life”. The church and the cemetery form an important part of Maui’s socio-cultural history. The befallen from the early days of Hawaiian colonization is buried here. Formalized only in the 1800s, the cemetery was the burial ground for many of the early Hawaiian royals. Today the church functions and hosts devotees regularly and has anchored the community and their beliefs.

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11. Kaulanapueo Church

From Maui to Hana is a beautiful road and travelers prefer making the journey by road. About 3 miles into the ride, a quaint church sits nestled in a field. It is one of the many places of worship on the island and is the best example of characteristic island culture. It is located in a vast land next to the rocky beaches that flank you the entire ride to Hana and is a must-visit pit stop for travelers looking for divine inspiration.

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12. Kahanu Garden

It is the national tropical botanical garden of the island nation. Many Heiau are scattered over the sprawling sights of the land. Pi’ilanihale Heiau is 3 acres believed to be the largest ancient temple in the Hawaiian Islands. It is built from basalt blocks and has a large central 14th-century terrace situated on a broad ridge that adds to its majesty. During the 16th century, after high chief Piʻilani from western Maui conquered the beautiful, fertile, well-watered, and heavily populated Hāna region, he unified the whole island.

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13. Lahaina Jodo Mission 

Many Japanese immigrants working in the sugar and pineapple plantations came together in 1912 under the leadership of reverend Gendo Saito. After the fire in 1968, the mission restored the Japanese style Buddhist temple on a beachfront in Lahaina. The temple overlooks the beauty and serenity of neighboring islands and the West Maui Mountains.

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14. Yurt Camping

Maui embodies the great tropical outdoors energy. Enthusiasts of whale watching and surfing throng the beaches of this island which has bountiful to offer. Maui provides the best yurt tents nestled in exotic locations ready to please you. To live in a unique environment and soak in the great outdoors is the absolute essential during one’s time in Maui.

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15. Ulupalakua Ranch

The small island country attracts attention for its numerous vineyards and ranches which provide the visitor a unique living experience and an insight into ranch life. But the government of Hawaii partnered with many willing investors to preserve the exotic lands of Maui, flanked by the beautiful green rolling hills of Ulupalakua. This will serve as a hands-on experience for architects looking to unwind and let their creative juices flow in the silence of the hills and bliss of infinite rolling lands.

The island celebrates its architectural feats, which allowed the isolated evolution of a thriving, organized society. Maui Nui invites you to listen with reverence to these wonders entwined with the past. They prepare us for a better tomorrow.

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Author

Ananya Nayak, a student of architecture, a young writer, an avid reader and a gregarious conversationalist seeks to express her architectural understandings in writing. Architecture for her is a conversation; refreshing with a new guest, comforting with a loved one and unique with a co-passenger. And to write about architecture is to address a letter to multiple post boxes, the arrival of which will ring a different tune for each reader.

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