Maui, Hawaii — the land of golden sunsets, volcanic mountains and tropical weather. Who wouldn’t want to visit in winter? We went to Maui for a family event and had extra time to enjoy the beaches, nature and even fit in some collecting time.

On our first day, we woke up early and drove 10,000 feet up winding roads of a volcano to see the world famous Haleakalā National Park sunrise, took another narrow twisty road to see black sand beaches and waterfalls, hiked rainforest trails, saw local plants and birds, and then decided it was time to look for antiques.

Internet searching wasn’t helpful, so we set out to explore the historic town of Lahaina. The town is full of tourist shops, but the buildings were built in the 1800s. We stopped by several historic structures, including the Wo Hing Museum, built in 1912 as a social hall for ex-pat Chinese who had come to Maui in the late 1800s to work in the sugar plantations and mills. The social hall supported the efforts of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary known as the “Father of Modern China.” It contains articles, photographs and relics as well as the many of its original cooking utensils. Unexpectedly it also has early films of Hawaii made by Thomas Edison between 1898 and 1906 including images of Edison himself in Hawaii. Exploring further turned up lots of nice reproduction vintage T-shirts and postcards, but we were looking for the real thing. We got close with one store that had a collection of illuminated beer signs from the 1960s along the walls — but not for sale.

Although tempted by all the souvenirs, we found a vintage store down a small side street that had authentic vintage Hawaiian shirts. We learned a lot about collecting vintage ones in the process. There are books on the subject but the most complete is “The Aloha Shirt, Spirit of the Islands” by Dale Hope with Greg Tozian.

Hawaiian shirt trivia:

  • Hawaiian shirts were made by the Japanese field workers who came to work in Hawaii. They sold for 25 cents each. After World War II, shirt sales expanded and were also sold to tourists.
  • The original shirts had hand-carved buttons made from coconuts.
  • Crazy shirts were made since 1964 and natural materials for dyes were used starting in the 1990s.
  • Aloha shirts made in the 1960s were all made in Honolulu.
  • Most of the vintage shirts were made of rayon but a few were cotton. The rayon shirts are thinner.
  • Prices are based on rarity and popularity and range from $135 to $400.
  • Check the label and BE CAREFUL. A lot of online shirts for sale are fakes.

And if you get to Hawaii, don’t forget the delicious local coffee, macadamia nuts and sweet bread!