A good many of visitors to Maui are attracted to the Kihei area because of it’s central location, sunny weather, beautiful beaches, large number of restaurants, and bargain priced accommodations. It feels more like a “town” than a lot of Maui’s resort areas even though it primarily caters to tourists and there is no end of things to do.
The first decision most visitors to Maui make is between staying on the south side or the west side (read more about that on this post), but once they decide on the south side, budget travelers flock to Kihei.
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Here’s everything you need to know about Kihei, from where to stay, where to eat, and what to do:
Where to Stay in Kihei
Accommodations in Kihei are almost all condos. Here are some specific complexes broken down by location (north to south) and promixity to the beach, amenities, etc.North Kihei: North Kihei can be windier and it’s a bit further from the majority of restaurants and shopping in Kihei, but the beaches are less crowded.
Central Kihei: The most populated part of Kihei, this is where the bulk of the condos, restaurants, and shops are. Kalama Beach, and Kamaole (Kam) I, II, and III are in this stretch.
The three complexes below are situated on the water in between Kam I and Kam II (two of the most popular beaches in Kihei) and all have nice grounds and pools.
The three condos below are located in the same area, but across the street from the beach. All three have nice grounds and nice pools, but Kamaole Sands has the biggest grounds.
South Kihei: The south side of Kihei where it starts to run into Wailea is one of the best places to stay if you’re looking for uncrowded, beautiful beaches.
Kihei Caffe: This is my favorite spot for breakfast on the beach. It’s a total dive but the food is GREAT and you can’t beat the location. Go early or be prepared to wait in line. The pancakes are amazing and you can get them with a variety of toppings. This place wins for best breakfast on the beach.
WowWow Lemonade: I cannot rave enough about this place! Locally made, fresh to order lemonade in a mason jar??? Yes please. But I think the real star here are the acai bowls. This is the best smoothie bowl I’ve had anywhere in Hawaii. They’re made fresh (not frozen!) so they’re very accommodating to both allergies and tastes.
Eskimo Candy: This local spot serves up good seafood plate lunches and heartier fare for dinner. You can also get it to go and eat across the street at the beach.
Coconut’s: Coconut’s usually wins all of the “best fish tacos in Maui” award. They’re super yummy and very unique. The restaurant is very low key. You order at the counter and seating is community style. My favorite part about Coconut’s is that Wow Wow Lemonade is right next-door. Grab a handmade lemonade (made with local ingredients) before you head into Coconut’s. This place wins for best fish tacos in Kihei.
Sansei Seafood and Sushi: Sansei seafood is the go to place for sushi in Kihei (there’s also a location in Kapalua). It has a laid back vibe and it’s right across from Kalama beach park. This place wins for best sushi in Kihei.
Ululani’s: You can’t come to Hawaii without getting some famous local style shaved ice. Get it with ice cream on the bottom (trust me). Ululani’s is a local favorite and they’ve got multiple locations so it’s always super convenient.
Nalu’s Ocean Grill: Somewhat of a trendy spot, this place serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everything is counter service and moves quickly (even with a long line), but the fare is a bit higher end than local “dive” spots. It’s located in the back of a strip mall, so no view but they’ve created a pretty lush atmosphere all the same.
Kihei Station Food Trucks: Located in a parking lot behind the Azeka Shopping Center, this one stop spot is the perfect place if everyone is having trouble agreeing on what they want to eat.
Horhito’s Taqueria: My personal favorite fish tacos on the island can be found at this food truck across the street from Kalama Beach Park (next to the 77 gas station).
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Things to Do in Kihei
Beaches: Kihei has some of the prettiest beaches on Maui. Kamaole I, II, III are all popular beaches (some with more parking than others), and my favorite things is to start either at Kam I or Kam III and walk from beach to beach. Each beach is connected with a little path (you don’t need to use the sidewalk up by the road). Keawakapu Beach is also not to be missed. It sits right on the border between Kihei and Wailea and it’s one of the island’s few truly long stretches of sand. There’s a parking lot at the northwest end of the beach.
Maui Ocean Center: Located just up the road from north Kihei in Ma’alaea, the Maui Ocean Center is a great spot if you have young kids, or you’re looking for a good rainy day activity.
Snorkeling: The rocks around the Kamaole Beaches in South Maui offer decent snorkeling, especially the north side of Kam I (Charley Young beach).
Snorkel Tours from Kihei Boat Ramp: Redline Rafting offers Molokini snorkel tours out of the boat ramp in Kihei. If you’re looking to go on a small boat, this is a good spot as it’s fairly close to the crater.
Ma’alaea Harbor: All of the big tour operators offer Molokini snorkel tours and whale watching trips (in season) from Ma’alaea, just north of Kihei. Try PacWhale Eco Adventures.
Read this post about Wailea for more nearby restaurants and things to do.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Kihei
Pros: Kihei is a sizable beach town with plenty of places to eat and things to do (this is the hub of south Maui activities) and it’s not very expensive. The beaches are beautiful, and the weather is almost always sunny. There are quite a few grocery stores as it’s more of a town than a resort area. There are a TON of condos so it’s the easiest place to find budget accommodations on the island. Kihei is also a good central location to explore the island from. It’s much closer to sites like Haleakala, the road to Hana, the north shore, and the upcountry than the west side.
Cons: If all of that sounds great to you…you can bet it sounds good to other people as well. So Kihei can get pretty crowded. Crowded beaches, crowded sidewalks, crowded restaurants, crowded streets. Also, since Kihei is not a resort area, but more of a town, there’s no central planning or organization like you see in a lot of more manicured areas. Basically, Kihei is one big strip mall. Literally, from one of Kihei to the other (10 miles!) it’s one endless strip mall/shopping center after another. There are good things about this (the large number of restaurants, shops, etc.), but it also creates a certain vibe. Another drawback would be that a number of the condo complexes are a bit outdated so if you find a super steal, it’s probably for a reason.
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