In 1840 King Kamehameha III commissioned the Lahaina Lighthouse, Hawaii’s first lighthouse, as a navigational aid for whaling ships that came to Lahaina for provisions and refitting. The whalers preferred Lahaina over Honolulu which had higher port charges and costs for supplies.
The lighthouse was built because many ships had wrecked in the Lahaina area, particularly when trying to come in to port at night. The lighthouse was constructed on the waterfront area known as Keawaiki (“The small passage”) referring to the narrow gap in the reef where ships could get through to the protected harbor.
After 1866 the light for the lighthouse was provided using kerosene oil rather than whale oil. The lighthouse was refurbished in 1905 and then in 1916 it was taken over by the United States Coast Guard. The lighthouse’s wooden tower was replaced in 1939 with the current 39-foot concrete, pyramidal tower.
For many years the 19th century replica brig Carthaginian was anchored next to the lighthouse until its dilapidated condition led to its intentional sinking in 2005 to create an artificial underwater habitat for fish. In 2009 the Old Lahaina Lighthouse converted to solar power.
A plaque was placed at the lighthouse tower by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation providing a brief history of the “oldest Pacific lighthouse.”