Banyan Tree Park
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Take A Guided Walking Tour Of Lahaina
While the Lahaina Visitors Center at the Old Lahaina Courthouse has maps you can use for a self-guided walking tour, visitors who want to dig a bit deeper can take a guided walking tour of Lahaina. Run by Maui Nei walking tours, this two-hour tour focuses largely on how Lahaina was the ancient capital of Hawaii. The tour does make a stop at the Baldwin House museum—which is the oldest structure in the town of Lahaina—but much of the tour is spent discussing the area of Mokuʽula. If you can't seem to find Mokuʽula on your map, don't worry, you aren't doing anything wrong. Mokuʽula was the ancient name for an island which no longer exists. This island was in the middle of a pond named Loko O Mokuhinia, and it was home to members of Hawaiian royalty and the highest ranking of chiefs. The problem, however, was that Mokuʽula was abandoned, and the fresh water pond was filled with dirt. Today the area is an overgrown baseball field, and you would never know that this underwhelming spot was once the domain of royalty. The good news, however, is that archeologists have determined that Mokuʽula still exists—it's simply buried beneath tons of dirt and is in need of excavation. Through the work of a group named Friends of Mokuʽula, and revenue garnered from walking tours, the hope is that the island will one day exist as it did during the days of royalty.
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People-Watching Beneath the Banyan Tree
Most visitors to Lahaina come to Banyan Tree Park to ogle at the tree itself. After all, it's pretty impressive that a single tree can occupy three quarters of an acre. Planted in 1873 by Sheriff William Owen Smith, the banyan has grown to become the largest in Hawaii and one of the largest in the nation. For locals, the best part about Banyan Tree Park isn't the tree itself, but rather the colorful collection of characters you'll find hanging out under it. If you take the time to relax on a park bench and watch the various passersby, you'll see a human mosaic of visitors and locals which defines the town of Lahaina. You'll see crusty fishermen walking from the harbor en route to the nearest grog shop. You'll see camera-toting tourists making futile attempts to fit the entire tree into a single frame. You'll see eccentric homeless people reading the bible, local artisans selling their crafts, or perhaps an old timer with a cup of coffee just watching the world go by. Most weekends feature happening craft fairs that highlight dozens of local artists, and every night, just before sunset, an army of myna birds sitting high in the tree tops consume the park in bird song. While the tree, with its sprawling boughs, is what gives the park its fame, it's the people you'll find beneath it that give the park its soul.
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