Best Western Pioneer InnLahaina, Maui, Hawaii
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A no-frills, historic inn, located at the heart of a bustling old whaling town
Built in 1901, in the charming town of Lahaina, this 34-room harborside inn is not a typical Best Western. Up until the mid-'90s it was simply the Pioneer Inn, and it still retains its colonial, plantation-style charm. Calling back to the history of Lahaina -- once known as the whaling capital of the Pacific -- fascinating memorabilia decorates the hotel, like rusted harpoons and varnished turtle shells. Adventure author Jack London and political revolutionary Sun Yat-sen (known as the father of Republican China) both stayed at the inn in the early 20th century. The Pioneer was also the setting for the Hollywood thriller "The Devil at 4 O'Clock" starring Spencer Tracy. So while the inn lacks a usable pool, business center, fitness center, and beach, it at least has a tangible sense of place; something you won't find in the newer, larger mega-resorts like the Hyatt Regency.
But the property does have some notable disadvantages -- namely, no room has an ocean view. Due to foundational problems, the hotel management had to close the original, oceanfront building and the only guest rooms available are inside a newer structure that was built to match the original in 1965. Maybe one day they'll finally finish renovating the suite where Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy stoked the flames of their not-so-secret love affair, but given the current economic conditions, that day seems to be a long way off.
In general, the Best Western is a cheap, clean, no-frills hotel for travelers who care more about what they can do outside of the hotel than in it -- especially since Lahaina Harbor is directly across the street, and all the major ocean-activity booking shops are within a five-minute walk from the hotel. There are other budget options like the Maui Hill and the Maui Coast, but these condo-hotels are in Kihei, which is a pretty boring place compared to Lahaina. And while the Plantation Inn offers a little more personalized attention, it's also, most often, much more expensive.
Friendly staff, but bare-bones service -- no porters; no room service
Like most small, budget chain hotels, the staff members play multiple roles. While you're waiting to check in, the receptionist might be helping a guest store their bags. There are no porters, so you'll have to lug your own bags up a flight of stairs to the 2nd floor, where all 34 guest rooms are located (there are no elevators). And it might take a while to track down the one maintenance person at the hotel -- he may be fixing a lightbulb when you need him. And though the hotel does provide the basics -- like some extra toothpaste -- you'll have to make the short walk down to the front desk to pick anything up.
- Daily housekeeping
- 24-hour front desk (excusing short absences)
- Faxing ($1 per fax) and photocopying (25 cents per copy) is available at the front desk.
- Free shuttle to popular Kaanapali Beach
Maui's only downtown scene -- a historic whaling town populated with affordable bars and restaurants, art galleries, tourist shops and the island's best entertainment (but no beaches)
Pioneer Inn is in the heart of Lahaina, the most fascinating area of Maui. Once a bustling whaling port and formerly the seat of power of Maui's kings Kahekili and Kamehameha, this seaside town is now home to Maui's best shopping, dining and nightlife. Chain restaurants like Bubba Gump and Hard Rock Café coexist with local establishments like scrimshaw sellers and shave-ice shops, and art gallery exhibits pay tribute to Lahaina's past as the whaling capital of the Pacific.
Front Street is the heart of Lahaina, and this half-mile-long stretch is packed with everything a tourist could need, from activity desks to souvenir shops and fresh island cuisine, all mixed in with well-preserved, 18th century structures -- in fact, the entire town is a national historic landmark. With its historical attractions, quaint storefronts and excellent restaurants and shows, Lahaina is a must-see for every Maui visitor.
- Across from Lahaina Harbor, the takeoff point for interisland ferries and trips for diving, snorkeling, and sunset sailing around Maui
- Beside the majestic Banyan Tree Park, a single, century-old tree with gnarled branches and twisted roots that cover almost one acre. Under its massive canopy, tourists sit on the boughs and local artists sell their wares.
- No designated parking lot; guests will have to find free parking on the nearby streets -- but parking is limited.
- Five-minute drive from Kaanapali
- 35-minute drive from the Kahului airport
- Historic attractions like the 19th-centry Courthouse (free) and the well-preserved, 18th-centry Baldwin House ($3 admission)
- Regarded by many as the best show in Maui, Warren & Annabelle's is a magic show-cum-comedy act that begins with a "ghost" piano performance over dinner. On Front Street; for guests 21 and older.
- Considered the most authentic luau in Maui, the intimate Old Lahaina Luau takes place nightly on a beach near the Lahaina Cannery Mall. (Reserve tickets well in advance.)
The nearest beaches are five to 10 minutes away.
Lahaina isn't about beaches. It's a former whaling village fronted by a large harbor. Some surf schools run lessons out of the harbor, but the nearest swimmable beaches are five to 10 minutes away.
- In general, the water around Lahaina is good for surfing, but the beaches are narrow and hard to reach from the roads.
- Long, resort-studded Kaanapali beach is the most developed beach nearby; it's about 15 minutes drive north of Lahaina.
- Launiupoko Beach Park has the most swimmable, and busiest, beach along the highway south of Lahaina.
A little musty and scantily furnished, these rooms are nothing fancy, but at least they've got character. Not just another cookie-cutter, budget-hotel-style box, all rooms have high ceilings, white window shutters, and a brass lantern hanging over the doorway. Even the tropical bedspreads, which would normally make a room look dated, somehow add to the rooms' quaintness; you get the sense that someone fascinating once laid his head here after a brutal day at sea.
- Standard rooms are small -- about 300 square feet, whereas most other Maui hotel rooms average about 450 square feet.
- Deluxe rooms offer more space, and have a separate sink and an extra Murphy bed that pulls down from the wall.
- Clean, passably comfortable bed
- Bathrooms were recently renovated, and the tiles are still gleaming and mildew-free; generic-brand toiletries provided.
- All rooms have a balcony that overlooks either Lahaina Harbor or the massive canopy of Banyan Tree Park.
- Coffeemaker and free Kona Coffee packets
- Old tube TV with a respectable 66 basic cable channels (no HBO or pay-per-view movies)
- Basic clock-radio (no iPod hook-up)
- Noisy air-conditioning unit
- Free Wi-Fi; but I could never find a stable connection, and the 1-866 number the hotel provided for service was unreachable.
Budget lodging means no special kids' features
While the Best Western Pioneer Inn isn't a bad choice for families, there isn't much for children to do at the hotel. But for this price, you can't expect a kids' club or kids' activities on-site.
- Standard rooms come with a queen-size bed or two twin beds, and you can also squeeze in a rollaway bed ($10 a night) or a crib (free); no adjoining rooms.
- Deluxe rooms offer twice the space, and include both a king-size bed and a Murphy bed that pulls down from the wall.
- No kids' menus, but the Pioneer Grill has kid-friendly options like turkey burgers ($10.50)
- No direct beach access
One bar and restaurant serving affordable and hearty Hawaiian staples and American bar food
Pioneer Inn Grill & Bar is a reasonably priced, open-air restaurant attached to the hotel lobby that's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.). Hotel guests get 15-percent-off coupons for dining at the hotel restaurant, but it's not a tourist trap. In fact, it's a popular watering hole for locals, notably those who've just come in from a day of fishing. The food is a combination of Hawaiian appetizers ("pupus") like calamari, and hearty American bar food like buffalo wings ($10.95) and steak ($22.95). Hotel guests fill up the tables during mealtime, but the odd hours of the day (including happy hour) bring in the locals. Click here for the full menu.
For other dining options, you need only walk outside the hotel. Lahaina has the most diverse dining options on the island.
A century-old, whaling-era bar still popular with the locals
Whaler's Saloon is the name of the bar attached to the Pioneer Inn restaurant, and it claims to be "a haven for whalers and world travelers since 1901." Rusted harpoons, paintings of sailboats, and a figurehead on a wooden pillar paint a vivid atmosphere -- buccaneering drunks lost in a sea of grog. Like any respectable maritime drinking establishment, the saloon starts serving libations at 9 a.m., but the merriment ends by 10 p.m. Locals drop by for happy hour between 3 and 6 p.m., when beers are just two doubloons apiece (that's dollars for you landlubbers).
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Things You Should Know About Best Western Pioneer Inn
Address658 Wharf St, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761-1266, United States
Also Known As
- Best Western Lahaina
- Best Western Pioneer Hotel
- Lahaina Best Western
- Standard Room