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It's great to stay in the southern, quaint, quiet, laid back part of Lahaina, which is between Shaw Street and where Front Street intersects with Honoapiilani Hwy.
January is a good month to visit - not too many tourists - and there are whales offshore. The hotels north of Lahaina - Ka'anapali to Kapalua - could be anywhere in the world, so what's the point? If you go to Lahaina and you want to have a taste for a Hawaiian lifestyle, stay away from the big hotels.
One of the things that can be enjoyed in a bed and breakfast or in one of the many private places that rent out rooms are all the outdoor living spaces (lanai) - even an outdoor shower, right under a big palm tree.