Located on the southwest shores of Maui, Kīhei is a main residential hub on the island’s leeward side. Whereas other areas located along the west coast, like Kaʻanapali, Wailea, and Lāhainā, cater mainly to tourists, Kīhei has managed to maintain its atmosphere as a local community.
Surrounded by natural offerings and loaded with beach parks, Kīhei is a great, centrally-located homebase for the visitor who wants to enjoy the charm and conveniences of a Hawaiian beach town without the fanfare of the bigger resort areas.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Humpback Whale Sanctuary
- Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
- Kihei Kalama Village
- Luau shows
- Maui Brewing Co.
- Maui Ocean Center
- Mermaid Lessons
- Resort Life
- Surf Lessons
From ocean sports to local beach hangouts, there are many activities to enjoy in Kīhei. Come along as we explore the best things to do in Kīhei.
If you’re on the hunt for local beaches, Kīhei is a great place to post up. Starting north of town at Maalaea Beach, you have a string of white-sand beach parks to explore going south, including Kalepolepo Beach Park, Kīhei Beach Reserve/Waipuilani Park, Kamaʻole Beach Park I, II, and III, and Keawakapu Beach.
Why Go: This stretch of white sand showcases the beautiful coastline of Kīhei, and for beach bums, it’s hard to find a place on the island that offers better access to so many locally-oriented beach parks.
Read more: about beaches around Kihei in our list of best Maui beaches.
The Maui Nui Golf Club in Kīhei is known for its beautiful volcano and ocean views from its holes, as well as its comparatively affordable prices. While several of the high-end golf courses down south in Wailea might cost you $200 (or more) a round, tee times at Maui Nui can be had for less than $100, with nine holes costing less than $50 on some weekdays.
Why Go: Playing golf in Hawaiʻi really needs no introduction thanks to its combination of well-appointed courses and dramatic views. Maui Nui offers an affordable opportunity in a mostly-residential area.
Read more: about all 14 golf courses on Maui here.
Humpback Whale Sanctuary
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was designated by the U.S. Congress in 1992, with the goal to protect the more than 10,000 humpback whales that migrate to Hawaiʻi each winter. Kīheiʻs location on the west coast along the Auʻau Channel gives it a front row seat to most of the whale activity that takes place in and around Maui.
Why Go: If you’re visiting from November through April, you’ll have the opportunity to view whale activity from the shores of Kīhei or up close on a whale watching tour. You can read up on the whales to get a better understanding of what theyʻre up to in Hawaii (breeding). Be sure to look into other activities within the sanctuary, such as kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Read more: about whale watching cruises on Maui on our website.
Speaking of kayaking, Kīhei is a wonderful home base for ocean activities. Those with experience can rent a kayak from a local outfitter and simply shove off from a beach park; those looking for a guided experience can jump on a naturalist-guided tour from companies such as Hawaiian Paddle Sports to learn more about the marine biology and cultural history of Maui’s coastal waters.
Why Go: There’s nothing like getting out on the water. From a kayak, one is treated to glorious views looking back on the island, including the 10,000-foot Haleakalā Volcano. From green sea turtles to humpback whales, there is endless sea life to spot from a kayak, and it is a great activity for the whole family.
Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
The Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is located just north of Kīhei town. It’s a 700-acre protected wildlife area, established in 1992. To this day, it remains the largest (and one of the few) remaining low wetland ecosystems in all of Hawaiʻi.
Why Go: This peaceful area is home to a variety of wildlife, but it was originally created in order to protect two endangered endemic birds, the Hawaiian stilt and the Hawaiian Coot. Take a stroll on the Keālia Coastal Boardwalk to the Keālia Pond in the early morning or late afternoon to see the birds and take in the ocean/volcano views.
Kīhei Kalama Village
The Kīhei Kalama Village is an open-aired shopping pavilion located across from Kalama Park. It consists of a variety of concessionaires including kiosks, boutique shops, and restaurants.
Why Go: Got a list of souvenirs or gifts to buy? You can find everything from small trinkets to aloha wear (and more) at this laid-back village. If you need to dip out of the sun for a bit, swing through for some casual shopping and a shave ice, or grab a bite at Pāʻia Fish Market.
Though there are no lūʻuas in Kīhei proper, there are several close by, including the Lūʻau at the Grand Wailea, Te Au Moana at the Wailea Beach Resort, and the Huakaʻi Lūʻau at Maalaea Harbor.
Why Go: Lūʻaus are a fun, family-friendly event that give audiences a small sampling of Polynesian dance and culture. Most serve traditional Hawaiian fare, like kalua pork and poi, and offer scenic settings, often with ocean views. While the modern-day lūʻau is not authentically Hawaiian, it is a fun night out in the islands.
Read more: about Luau shows on Maui on our website.
Maui Brewing Co.
These days, Maui Brewing has grown far beyond a local craft brewery. Its beers and reputation have not only spread across the islands, but also on the mainland and internationally, with distribution as far as Florida, Japan, and Canada. In the islands, Maui Brewing now has two taprooms/restaurants on Oʻahu (Waikīkī and Kailua) and two on Maui (Kīhei and Lāhainā). In 2017, they were honored as the #1 small business in America.
Why Go: Want to see where it all started? The Kīhei location is the birthplace of the brand, where it all started back in 2005, and also the main brewery. Go for a beer and/or a meal, and be sure to take the brewery tour to learn more about its history and brewing style. Our personal go-tos are the Big Swell IPA and the Pineapple Mana Wheat (we like this one as a breakfast beer/mimosa replacement).
Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center is located just north of Kīhei in Maalaea Harbor. It is considered the “Aquarium of Hawaiʻi” and offers a range of biological and cultural programming as it pertains to Hawaiʻi’s marine ecosystems.
Why Go: The Ocean Center is a place for people of all ages who want to learn more about the underwater world in Hawaiʻi. If you plan to do a bit of snorkeling or diving in the islands, a visit could enhance your understanding and appreciation of your time in the water, as well as help you identify coral and sea life.
Read more: The Maui Ocean Center is one of our favorite things to do on Maui!
Believe it or not, a common question we are asked is whether Hawaiʻi has any “mermaid experiences.” In the past, the answer was no – but now, the possibility for living out your underwater dreams has been realized thanks to the passion of Hawaiʻi Mermaid Adventures in Kīhei.
Why Go: Yes, it is just like it sounds. You are donned with a large mermaid flipper and are taught how to swim around and dive under/through the water. This is not a snorkeling experience; picture taking is the main purpose here, with photos both under the water and on the beach in the surf. You can also buy a mermaid tail to take home with you.
Kīhei isn’t known for full-service resorts in the same way as Kaʻanapali or Wailea, but it is possible to life the “resort life” nonetheless. Most of the town’s properties are located on or nearby the beach, making it easy for beach bums to find their place in the sand.
Why Go: Kīhei specializes in 3-star beachside hotels and condos. Many lack restaurants and entertainment; however, they do offer immediate access to the shoreline, water-facing balconies, a low-key vibe, and sometimes, as in the case of the Sugar Beach Resort, an ocean-view swimming pool. Prices are comparatively more reasonable in Kīhei, with starting rates of less than $300 a night in many cases.
Read more about: the best places to stay on Maui.
If you like to snorkel, Kīhei makes for a great home base, with quick and easy access to a variety of sites in and out of town. Snorkeling can be done at all three Kamaʻole Beach Parks, as well as Keawakapu Beach. Just down the road are Ulua Beach, Five Graves, Oneuli Beach, and more.
Why Go: Snorkeling is one of the most active and exploratory activities to try in Hawaiʻi. For more on snorkeling in Maui, have a look at our recommendations for the Best Snorkeling on Maui.
Surf + SUP Lessons
One of Kīheiʻs best attributes is its close relationship to the water, with so many great beach parks and ocean access points. As the hub for many of Mauiʻs adventure tour operators, there are a variety of experiences you can have right there on the southwest coast.
Why Go: Surfing and stand up paddle board are two of the most popular water activities amongst locals in Hawaiʻi, so why not give it a go? Lessons are offered from a variety of companies, such as Hawaiian Paddle Sports, Maui Surfer Girls, and Maui Stand Up Paddle Boarding.