We met our guide at the harbor area of Lahaina, where we walked past the relaxing melodies of traditional Hawaiian welcome music performed by a group of Lahaina Senior Citizens to gather under the balconies of the Pioneer Inn. This would also be where Jim and I would be called back like a siren song for yummy tropical drinks and lunch later. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, we would follow our local tour guide into the history and almost lost culture of Hawaii’s original people.
We began our walk at one of the spiritual locations where Hawaiian culture began 1700 years ago and were joined by a Hawaiian gentleman in what I think was a Kihei, a cloak worn over one shoulder. We listened to his ancient chant at the sacred Hauola birthing stone (at Lahaina Harbor), considered a place of healing and creation because it was a location where fresh and salt water mixed.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the stone was used as a royal birthing stone because it was believed that giving birth on the stone would extend the life and health of the child. When a chieftess was ready to give birth, her attendants would help her onto the stone chair and assist and witness the birth.
In later centuries, the chair was used for its healing powers and ailing Hawaiians would lay back in the chair and let the waters which had healing powers wash over them.
While he worked tirelessly as a missionary, opening the Seaman’s Chapel, promoted literacy in both English and Hawaiian, taught temperance because alcoholism was destroying Hawiian society, performed as the unofficial postmaster and contributed to the education of Hawiians in Lahaina in many other ways, he is best known for his great work as a self-educated physician during the terrible epidemics that swept Maui and the Hawaiian Islands. These epidemics were brought to Hawaii on ships from America, particularly those bound from the west where the gold-rush was on. Hawaiians had no immunity to the diseases brought to the islands by passengers and crew members.
Baldwin’s biology coursework while attending college provided a basis for his work as a doctor focusing on public health issues, and discovered through experience what techniques could be applied in the remote tropical environment. By trial and error, he developed vaccines which saved thousands of lives on Maui.
Later, in 1859, Dartmouth College granted him an honorary doctoral degree in medicine in thanks for his dedicated work.
The original house was built from 1834 – 1835 by its original owner, the Reverend Ephraim Spaulding, and was built from coral, stone and timber the additions and second story were added by Dwight Baldwin and its interior is furnished as it looked when the Baldwins lived there.
Interestingly, right next door is the old stone “Reading Room” where Pacific Whaler Masters and Captains would come to catch up by reading the news from the rest of the world. I have to admit, I couldn’t help picturing these disciplined men sitting by lamp light reading while the wild raucous life of the typical whaling seaman echoed in the streets nearby.
I have to admit, the walk through the streets of old Lahaina was pretty warm, but it was very interesting to see the part of town where the original plantation workers would have made their homes. The neighborhood was dotted with Buddist temples built by the original Asian immigrants who worked the plantations. Our last stop on this neighborhood tour was an impromptu stop at a local artisan’s home to view a work in progress.
· King Kaumualii, the last king of Kauai.
· The sacred Queen Keopuolani, the highest royalty by virtue of bloodlines in all Hawaii, born in Wailuku in 1780; she was the first Hawaiian baptized as a Protestant.
· High Chief Hoapili, a general and King Kamehameha the Great's closest friend; Hoapili married two of Kamehameha's queens, Keopuolani and Kalakua.
· High Chiefess Liliha, granddaughter of King Kahekili; Liliha visited England and King George IV with her husband, Boki, Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu. In 1830 Liliha started a rebellion with 1,000 soldiers on Oahu while she was governor there. Her father, Hoapili, forced her to give up her office and return to Maui.
For lying here in the heart of the old royal capital of Lahaina is one of Hawaii’s most sacred historical sites. This is where a royal residence built on a tiny island, was surrounded by a sacred pond, though we had to imagine what it would have looked like.
It was here that King Kamehameha III had his secluded, moated Palace Moku’ula which was surrounded by a pond. The Moku‘ula, or Sacred Island, was a symbolic “piko”, or umbilicus, in Hawaiian tradition. Lahaina is roughly in the center of the island chain. Entrance to the residential complex would have been along a narrow causeway and was strictly “kapu”, forbidden to all except the king’s chosen guests. The supernatural guardian spirit of the lake was the powerful lizard goddess Kihawahine.
Very little of this cultural history remains to be seen today, except for stones from the sacred island which mark the sacred location of ancient royal burials. The work begun by Dr. Paul Christiaan Klieger and the Bishop Museum when they found the archeological evidence of the site almost a century ago, continues today and restoring this amazing cultural find will take years and many donations. If you would like to read more about this project, click on the links below.
Friends of Moku' ula
While you are at Courthouse Square, be sure to check out the Old Courthouse built in 1859 (the second story houses a history and cultural museum) and the ruins of the original Old Lahaina Fort built in 1851 which protected the port from the riotous sailors of the North Pacific Whaling fleet.
Fortunately, since we were almost fainting from thirst, we were able to convince my mom to delay our planned additional tourist activities and instead head upstairs with us to Captain Jack's open air bar for a cold refreshing Mai Tai. This fortified us for further shopping and sightseeing
George Freeland, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, tracked a criminal to Lahaina and then fell in love with the town so he built the hotel in 1901. The Pioneer Inn remained the only hotel in all of west Maui until the 1950s. The hotel and restaurant is decorated with antiques and architecture from the turn of the century. You can stay at this restored hotel (it’s a Best Western), but we remained downstairs in the historic restaurant/bar and enjoyed hamburgers under the watchful eye of the resident parrot before boarding a tender back to the ship.