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Lahaina's historic Pioneer Inn brims with legend

Jackie Burrell, The Mercury News on

Published in Travel News

The historic Pioneer Inn adjacent to the Lahaina harbor was built in 1901, back when there were no lodgings on the island at all -- and 400 whaling ships regularly anchored offshore. This is a place rich in lore, where a horse once got thrown out of the saloon for misbehavior -- it's unclear whether it was the horse or the rider who was misbehaving, but they were both indoors. And Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy filmed "The Devil at 4 O'clock" here -- legend has it that between takes, Tracy carried on a steamy affair with Katharine Hepburn upstairs.

Today, this two-story wooden structure, with a pleasant courtyard and saloon, is owned by Best Western, so all that historic charm is now coupled with comfortable, clean beds and Keurig coffeemakers in every room. The hotel is no grand resort -- it's a modest, 3-star hotel -- but it's a fun spot for history buffs, it's gentle on the wallet and if you're trying to catch the 9:15 a.m. ferry to Lanai, it couldn't be more convenient. You're next to the harbor.

Plus you can pose for selfies with the life-size, big-nosed wooden sea captain who stands guard out front. The wood, wire and plaster captain is the work of Maui artist Reems Mitchell, whose clever sculptures can also be spotted at other locations, including the Ulupalakua Ranch Grill.

Rooms: The hotel's 34 rooms are on the second floor, reached via stairway. They're small, but nicely appointed with vintage furniture, balconies and air conditioning, which is not a given when you're talking about historic hotels.

Zzzz's: Our queen-size bed was comfortable and the air conditioner kept the tropical heat at bay.

Splashes: There's a small pool for guest use. Bathrooms have showers in the bathtubs. The hotel provides soap. Best bring your own shampoo and other toiletries.

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Extras: The hotel's Whalers Saloon recalls days long past, and guests receive a 15 percent discount on meals (but not booze) at the grill. Parking is available across the street.

Details: Rooms start at $182. Find the hotel and grill at 658 Wharf St., Lahaina;

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