If there were one word to describe Kihei that word would definitely be “beaches.”
There are no fewer than ten different beaches to choose from when visiting Kihei, a town where the sun nearly always shines on Maui’s southern coast.
Maui’s Hot Spot
Given the wealth of beaches and sunshine, it’s little surprise that Kihei is one of Maui’s top visitor hot spots. It’s also a literal Maui hot spot, as the island’s warmest temperatures are almost always recorded in Kihei. The average high temperature in the middle of winter is a balmy 81°, and by summer that figure can regularly top 90° with zero chance of rain. Then again, with snorkeling, diving, boogie boarding, surfing, and paddling just minutes away, escaping the constant Kihei heat is as easy as hitting the beach.
So what’s the downside to Kihei’s climate if it’s always warm and sunny? Afternoons are relentlessly windy — particularly in summer.
The weather aside, Kihei is also Maui’s hottest town for drinking, dancing, and nightlife. Much of the action is at Kihei Kalama Village, though because you can often get lost in the maze of bars, restaurants, and dance halls, locals have dubbed it “The Bermuda Triangle” — or to many, simply “The Triangle.”
Maui’s largest brewing facility is also located in Kihei, and by visiting Maui Brewing Company you can tour behind the scenes of Hawaii’s largest local craft brewery and sample dozens of different beers in their small but popular tasting room.
Kihei’s Place in WII History
All of this growth has taken place in only the past 40 years, and Kihei as late as the 1950s was little more than a barren string of beaches lining the coast. The area was so remote, in fact, that in World War II the military practiced amphibious assault on the beaches.
Going back even further in time, Kihei was once called “Kama‘ole” in the days of Ancient Hawaii — a word that loosely translated as “barren,” because it was lifeless and dry. It wasn’t until water was pumped from East Maui that Kihei started its growth spurt, though the one place in Kihei where Hawaiians built homes was around Ko‘ie‘ie Fishpond.
Located in North Kihei by Kalepolepo Beach Park, Ko‘ie‘ie Fishpond was first built in the middle of the 1500s. Legend says it was built by menehune — the mythical “little people” of Hawaii — and that they built the fishpond in only one night, where it still stands to this day. Regardless of how it came to be, the pond was used to raise ‘anae, or mullet, as well as ‘awa, or milk fish, and the same area in the 1800s was a popular trading post with whalers and merchants selling wood, potatoes and produce.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center
Today the area around Kalepolepo is home to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, where in addition to learning about the winter visitors that breach and splash offshore, you can find exhibits on island marine life from dolphins to Monk seals and turtles. As an added bonus, the fishpond creates a gentle lagoon for wading, and if you visit before the wind picks up, it’s the perfect place for families with children to spend a few hours enjoying what Kihei is ultimately known for — the beach.