Here Today… Gone to Maui: Staying There is Almost as Fun!

Almost as much fun as the ride over (that would be biting sarcasm, if you didn’t read the story about the ride from Molokai to Maui).

So we didn’t need the “resort” experience (or price). Just a simple place to stay in Lahaina to sleep-off what was an “adventurous” (Pony’s words) boat ride, that was within walking distance of the place where the luau was (and I sleep-off the “open bar” from THAT as well). A Motel 6 would have worked…

There are, by the way, no Motel 6’s in Hawaii, let alone Lahaina. Even the cheap hotels wanted close to $100/night – and judging by the comments on-line for those places, you might want to bring your own security detail…

The Historic Best Western Pioneer Inn, Lahaina
The Historic Best Western Pioneer Inn

I poked my “rewards program” provider and found (besides comments about the budget-priced hotels) that the minimum-acceptable rating (for me – 75% is a “passing” grade for certification as an Emergency Medical Technician, so I was good with the program’s green smiley face at 80%) was the “historic” Best Western Pioneer Inn in pretty much the center of Lahaina – at $200/night or points (when you use points, the price is always “retail” – as it turned-out, the “rewards program” booked through Priceline, apparently, and Priceline wanted less for the room than that – but we’re talking someone ELSE’S money here, so it REALLY doesn’t matter) – so this worked even better for me.

Points even paid for a shuttle to fetch us to the airport. A good plan – Lahaina is a long walk to the airport and for SOME reason, the local bus company apparently runs all over Maui – EXCEPT to the airport. Although that might really BE a matter of there just not being enough ridership since a fair chunk of folks rent cars, I’m thinking it would be bad for taxi and paid shuttle services if tight wads like us could just ride the public transit, like most places. And no hotel – even the ones that charge $600/night, will fetch from/ferry to the airport. And they say there’s no Mafia…

The room was, well, a room. Kinda had a “frontier” kind of feel to it, except with hot water and a flush toilet. Our room was at the back of the hotel on Front Street (you can’t MAKE this stuff up, folks), the main tourist drag (and historic original main drag) in Lahaina. Sorta even had the feel of what it was like in the hotel in the “plantation days,” with shops below – sit out on your balcony and watch the hustle and bustle of the street below…

Some rooms  – probably half – overlook the courtyard of the hotel, where the tables in the area below have signs warning “raining mangoes” from a tree whose lowest branch is a good 30-feet off the ground. I think they intentionally leave one of those mangoes that has “rained” down, smashing into the table or pavement out in the seating area as an example – and warning – as to what might happen when one of those smacks into your skull – probably would sting, but a ripe mango pretty much disintegrates on impact… into a sticky, gooey, dripping mess that would run all over you. I’m not sure if this might BE one of those times when long-hair is NOT your friend – pretty sure you wouldn’t want this mess down your shirt… or pants…

Some rooms overlook the Banyan Tree Park (on a street called – no kidding – Hotel Street, but that’s NOT where the entrance is), an area in front of the old Lahaina Courthouse (formerly the site of the old Lahaina Fort, back in a time when Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii for a bit), where someone planted a banyan tree 140-some years ago and it hasn’t stopped growing, covering most of the park, said to be two-thirds of an acre. It sends out “aerial roots” from under its branches and when/where they touch the ground and dig it, that’s where a NEW tree starts growing (and so on and so on and…). The St. Augustine’s Grass of trees, except that you can “control” where the NEXT tree is going to be by supporting the “runner” branches until it gets to a place where you want it. And if it starts heading putting down in places or going in directions you DON’T want it to go… wellll… that’s what a chain saw is for. (I have no idea what they did before the invention of the chain saw 🙂 )

Parks are a natural draw for people without a lot to do. Hawaii has a large homeless population (someone once told me his reason for coming to LA was because if you’re going to be homeless somewhere, at least the weather is nice – and I’m telling you Hawaii is nicer still, although obviously you can’t get there by Greyhound bus)(but obviously the weather would be a draw to someone spending their last $500 before homelessness). Like a lot of public parks, there are lots of interesting characters, some of whom are mad – quite loudly – at people/things only THEY can see…

There ARE rooms at the FRONT of the hotel (which is – no fooling this time either – on Wharf Street), facing the harbor (“wharf” sounds so… I dunno… “drunken sailorish,” I guess) and providing the hotel’s “fabulous harbor view” (because “fabulous wharf view” probably only works in San Francisco, and THEN only AFTER “Fisherman’s Wharf” became trendy)… we didn’t see anyone sitting on the balcony, nor could you access this area from where accessed the rest of the hotel (and our room) from, nor is the area documented on the little floor plan map they use to show you where your room is… although near the front desk is a flight of stairs whose entrance is blocked by a satin rope that has a sign: “Private.” No place for a sergeant, even a once-was one (plus while the desk clerks were all smiles and what-not, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a Gatling gun under the desk).

But maybe it’s the stairwell to the haunted part of the hotel – well-away from the paying guests of this fine old establishment… where, late at night when the moon is full, the tide high and the surf is crashing in a most unholy manner on the shore, the wails of the tortured souls who died mysterious deaths before paying their bills are doomed to walk the hallways forever more…

Or the two “suites” their Website mentions in addition to the 34-rooms that, for some reason, you can’t book on-line.  Maybe if you have to BOOK on-line instead of having your personal assistant call the hotel directly, you probably can’t afford to stay in the “suite” anyway. (If I read things correctly, this actually IS the “original” hotel.  Looking up at the backside from the courtyard, it kinda LOOKED like THAT side hadn’t been remodeled since the place was originally built – although I am sure the suites are the finest they have to offer. I guess – remember, that was a “no-go” zone.)

Meanwhile – back at the Front (Street)(if you’re keeping track, the other street bordering  the hotel is Papelekane Street – I couldn’t find what meaning, if any, this Hawaiian name has in English, but as it was where the fire escape, the only other way out of the hotel other than jumping off a balcony, I suspect it means “cheese it – the cops – out THIS way”)… the balcony was divided-up into little patio-ettes for each room. And you had a commanding view of Front Street.  Unfortunately, there is CONSIDERABLY more traffic on Front Street than there is in the ENTIRE island of Molokai – and everyone seems to like to drive noisy car with a amplified deep-bass subwoofer that can be registered by seismometers. Or that “sport-tuned” muffler. Or the motorcycle that pretty much has a “muffler” in name-only (a popular option in rental Harley’s in Maui).

There’s a vendor on the street corner (the one closest to our room – what luck!) who will take pictures of you with a wide-variety of exotic tropical birds (Pony could tell you what was what in that crowd – my bird-skill-set ends with parrots).  Pony assures me they are NATURALLY noisy and “conversational” – I noticed they were a lot LESS “conversational” when “working” (I imagine is it bad for business to have birds be “conversational” into a customer’s ear).  He had the decency to pack-up before 10pm – which was just as well as most of the tourist gift shops below our room close by 9:30pm.

Then there is the bar… oh, the bar.  Live music in the one closest to us (which, fortunately for US was the OTHER end of the building from us).  I think it was quiet by 11pm.

The wood-slat door for the patio allows for fresh air (such as it is) to waft off the patio-ette into our room and provide for modesty – and with a deadbolt, for security as well.  On our SECOND night, this proved to be an EXCELLENT conduit for SOUND from the neighbors chatting the night away – on the neighboring patio-ette.  Younger people. Drinking (you DON’T get quieter as you get drunker – don’t ask me HOW I know this, but remember I’ve driven an ambulance to more than one bar fight). Insomniacs. An air-conditioner in the room, which I suspect was there for Mainlander wusses to suck the admittedly-oppressive humidity from the room, made for an effective “white-noise” generator…

…which wasn’t very effective at blocking the sounds of the leaf blower at the Baldwin Home Museum kitty-corner across the street. At 5:30. AM.  Now I “get it” that it would be like 8:30-to-11:30am to a Mainlander and seeing as “everybody” was up (and a surprising number walking about, despite the fact really no place in Lahaina is OPEN at that hour, save for the Starbucks at 5am – Hawaii Time)(equal to 11am for all you East Coast caffeine addicts – I suggest stocking-up the night before – or pray your room has a coffee maker and grounds you can get by with), there’s probably no harm in running your leaf blower…

Like I said, STAYING there is half the fun as well.

Now the bedding was nice and comfortable, the room a bit Spartan (but adequate) in furnishings.  Clean. Good condition, but like I said, looked as if it might have in the 1900s (our part was, in fact, built in the 1960s to match the original hotel – originally this site had been the location of the “company” movie house and a gas station). And if you brought your own refreshments, it IS kinda fun to sit on the patio-ette, sip (or guzzle) whatever you brought, and imagine how this might have looked 100 years ago (a zoning requirement makes everything fit a “turn-of-the-century” – 1900-century, that is – theme as much as possible on our part of Front Street)(there’s a walking tour of “old” Lahaina and placards mark the original “old Lahaina” buildings with details about earlier businesses at that location)…

…just pretend the revving of motorcycles and the rumble of “sport-tuned exhaust” is the sound of truck traffic of 100 years ago. And the drunken reverie at the place across the street – well avast, mateys – this once was – and still IS – a mighty sailing town… and sailors are ALWAYS out carousing and carrying-on in the finest sea-faring traditions! So just pretend the fleet is in and Popeye is lifting a few pints with Bluto across the way!