Kihei lies in the rain shadow of Haleakala and receives less than 13 inches of precipitation annually. Very dry and hot, the area was originally called Kama’ole which means barren in Hawaiian. Today, the undeveloped land above Kihei is used for cattle ranching and is covered in imported African grasses and keawe (mesquite).
One of the most consistently sunny places in Maui, many resorts have grown up in conjunction with modern irrigation systems that have allowed for the creation of golf courses, green lawns, and beautiful landscaping. With such beautiful weather, Kihei is a great place to spend time on Maui.
Kalama Park is located at 1910 South Kihei Road. Home to “the cove” surf spot, beach volleyball courts, a roller-skating rink, a skatepark, basketball and tennis courts, two baseball fields, picnic pavilions, and a playground designed for younger kids, Kalama Park always has something going on.
Every evening people gather for pick-up games of volleyball, basketball, and soccer. The roller-skating rink is a favorite among local kids and offers inexpensive skate rentals and free public skating Wednesday night from six to eight PM , and Saturday nights from six to nine PM (at the time of this publication). There are bathrooms, changing rooms, and outdoor showers, and across the street are plenty of good shopping and dining locales.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
Located at 726 South Kihei Road, the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is a great place to learn more about the giant marine mammals who call Maui home every winter. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the sanctuary has an educational center with exhibits and scientists on staff to answer questions. The building is also located near several native Hawaiian fish ponds, important cultural sites for the Hawaiian people. Call (800) 831-4888.
Beaches for Kids
Kama’ole I, or Kam One for short, has lifeguards, outdoor showers, and rest rooms close at hand. The beach is fairly long with a gentle slope, and the water is usually calm. An ABC store across the street is a great place to run to if you forgot a towel, sunscreen, or need to grab a snack for the little ones. Parking can be a bit difficult if you arrive after 9 a.m., but there is an overflow dirt lot across the street.
Hokulani Golf Villas
Located just minutes from the best in South Maui dining and attractions, Hokulani Golf Villas are the newest addition to Kihei luxury living. Whether you start your morning with a round of golf on the stunning Elleair Golf Course or host a sunset happy hour on your lanai, Hokulani has thought of everything to ensure you get the most out of your stay in paradise.
For more information or to schedule a tour of the properties, please contact Dano Sayles at (808) 870-4899 or visit Hokulani Golf Villas.
History of Kihei
Due to the desert conditions of the area, Kihei was not an easy place for native Hawaiians to settle. The lack of water made agriculture nearly impossible, and the local population never grew to the size found on many other wetter parts of Maui. The native people who were able to make a home in Kihei did so by relying heavily on fishing, the evidence of which can be seen in the old fish ponds in North Kihei. According to Hawaiian history, residents of Kihei traded their fish for agricultural products with people from other parts of the island.
The lack of water allowed the native people of Kihei to remain relatively closed off from the influence of the American missionaries who arrived on Maui in the late 1800’s. Through the 1930’s Hawaiians lived much as they always had, fishing and doing their best to live off the dry land. It wasn’t until 1950 that the government began trying to market and sell beach lots in the Kihei area, and even then there were very few buyers.
In the 1960s water was piped down to Kihei from Central and West Maui and real estate finally took off. Through the 1970’s and 1980’s condos, hotels, and resorts sprang up continually and completely changed the face of Kihei. The growth during this time period is largely responsible for the Kihei you see today.
2511 S Kihei Road, (808) 879-1111
Delicious sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and breakfast items, all under $10. Don’t miss the pudding!
Five Palms Restaurant
2960 South Kihei Road in the Mana Kai Resort, (808) 879-2607
Located on the bottom floor of the Mana Kai Resort on Keawakapu Beach, the Five Palms Restaurant boasts fantastic views of Kaho’olawe and Lana’i. Shaded outdoor seating protected from the trade winds, and a very reasonably priced breakfast menu makes a perfect tropical dining locale. Breakfast is served from 8 AM to 2:30 PM.
2439 South Kihei Road, (808) 891-1368
A local favorite, Café O’Lei is located upstairs in the Rainbow Mall. With a full sushi bar and a brick oven, the restaurant offers up some of the best steak and seafood dishes found on Maui. Vegetarians will appreciate the delicious sage and mushrooms linguine entrée. Island themed martinis and an excellent wine list round out the experience. Dinner is available from five to nine PM. Call ahead for reservations.
Inexpensive Kihei Activities
Best Place to Learn to Surf
Kalama Park along South Kihei Road is home of a surf spot locals simply call “the cove.” Shallow water, gentle waves, and lots of room make this a great place to try your hand at surfing. Companies rent surf and stand-up paddle boards and are conveniently located across the street. They also give lessons which are highly recommended if you are a first time surfer.
Best Early Morning Beach Walk
Keawakapu Beach is the best walking beach in Kihei. About 3/4 of a mile in length, it resides between the Mana Kai Resort and the Ulua Beach Park. Gentle waves and lava outcroppings combined with palm trees and gorgeous multi-million dollar homes make this beach an excellent retreat. During the winter months many whales spend time just off shore. Be sure to arrive before nine am. The trade winds and the crowds kick up around 10 in the morning.
Best Sunset Watching Spot
Kama’ole III Beach Park is an excellent place to watch the sun set at the end of the day. Lana’i and the West Maui Mountains create a gorgeous back drop, and the wide open grassy area provides an excellent place to spread out a picnic blanket and have a glass of wine.
Best Group or Date Activity
Island Art Party, located in North Kihei’s Azeka Shopping Center, offers a fun, laid-back and unique evening of painting, socializing and drinking on Maui. Bring a group of friends or go for date night and enjoy specialized painting instruction as you recreate your very own Maui souvenir.
Best Place to Play Beach Volleyball
Kalama Park on South Kihei Road has two beach volleyball courts. The courts are usually empty during the day, but pick up games are a regular evening occurrence. Locals are very friendly if you are looking to join a game. The park also has water fountains and rest rooms.
Best Free Tennis Courts
Waipuilani Park in North Kihei has excellent free tennis courts. Although the courts look like they belong to nearby hotels, they are a part of the park and are available to anyone. From South Kihei Road, turn toward the ocean on to West Waipuilani Road. Parking is on your right about a quarter of a mile down the road. The courts are located in the middle of the grassy area, right in front of the hotel pool.
Looking to rent or buy in Kihei? Good idea. Prices are at an all time low right now, and Kihei (especially south Kihei) is in high-demand. Our favorite condominium complex is Keonekai Villages in south Maui. It’s right in front of Kamaole Beach Park III.