Along Maui’s southern shores lies Kihei, an indispensable treasure trove of both adventurous fun and relaxation for Maui vacationers. From the town’s persistently sunny skies and its laid-back beach vibe, the spirit of aloha weaves through the fabric of Kihei’s everyday life.
The town’s main strip stretches down the southern coastline along South Kihei Road. Inviting ocean swells lap against the sandy shoes on one side of the road while vacation rental communities, souvenir shops, and local eateries lie just across the street.
Welcome to Kihei, the unmissable South Maui town on your Maui journey, an island haven and jumping off point for the most memorable Hawaiian experiences.
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Discover Kihei, Maui
The essentials: an overview of the most important things to know about visiting Maui
While English and Hawaiian are both official languages of the state of Hawaii, English is commonly spoken around the island.
Consider learning a few Hawaiian words before your trip, such as ‘aloha’ (commonly used as both a greeting and farewell) and ‘mahalo’ (thank you).
US Dollar (USD)
Most businesses on Maui accept credit cards and debit cards, but some smaller establishments maintain a cash only policy.
Main airport ✈️
Approximately half an hour drive from Kahului Airport (OGG)
Best time to visit 🗓️
Maui is a popular year-round destination. Visit from December through April for the best whale watching.
As with other United States destinations, tipping is customary in Hawaii. In restaurants, 15-20% of the total bill is common. It’s also customary to tip tour guides.
Rental cars are the most common means of transportation around Maui. Public transportation (the bus) is typically slow and doesn’t encompass the entire island. Rideshare services are available at busier parts of the island but may be limited or completely unavailable at the popular remote areas (such as Haleakalā National Park and The Road to Hāna).
Popular activities on Maui
- Sunrise or sunset at Haleakalā National Park. Sunrise viewings require advance reservation, but sunset visits require only park admission. Prepare for a drive — this popular activity is an hour and a half away from Kihei. The easiest way to get to the famed vista point? Sign up for a tour and let someone else take care of the early morning driving — park reservation included. Check out this Haleakala Sunrise Tour.
- The Road to Hāna. Hawaii’s most famous road trip, the draw to The Road to Hana is more about the journey (and stops along the way) rather than the town of Hana itself. Cell service isn’t reliable on this side of the island, so we recommend downloading a GPS-enabled tour such as the Guide Along App (formerly GyPSy Guide).
- Turtle Town. Honu, or Hawaiian sea turtles, drift up and down the South Maui coastline waters. Turtle Town, the spot where flotilla of the Hawaiian creatures frequent, lies just off of Kihei’s shores. For the best chance at turtle viewing, we recommend using a local guide to snorkel, kayak, or paddle board to the ideal spot. This Turtle Town tour even includes photos and videos of your experience.
Must-try foods in Kihei
- Loco moco plate lunch. This classic local dish features a hamburger patty atop a bed of white rice. Smothered in brown gravy and topped with a fried egg, this hearty meal is best after a morning of paddling on the ocean or hiking the nearest trail. We get ours from Nalu’s South Shore Grill. Da Kitchen is another popular spot.
- Poke from Foodland. Locals and tourists alike queue up at the back corner of Kihei’s local supermarket for a generous portion of poke (diced raw fish) and a side of rice.
- Shave ice. Fluffy ice flakes infused with flavored syrup will cool you down on a hot island afternoon. In our opinion, you can’t beat Ululani’s Shave Ice on South Kihei Road.
14 best things to do in Kihei
We highly recommend staying in Kihei (or nearby Wailea) when visiting Maui. Whether you prefer lounging on the sand or exploring the shoreline, the town offers the quintessential Hawaii getaway experience.
Start planning your time in Kihei with these top things to do while in the beach town.
- Learn about whales at the Humpback Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center. 🐋 Learn about the humpback whales that return to the Hawaiian islands every year. At the visitor center, tour the exhibits and interactive displays. During whale season, scan the ocean whale flukes and blowing spouts. While you’re there, stroll along the water to see an ancient Hawaiian cultural site, Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond at Kalepolepo Park.
- Grab some shave ice from Ululani’s. 🍧 This Hawaiian island treat was introduced by Japanese immigrants during the plantation era. Today, shave ice is the perfect dessert for cooling off on a sweltering day.
- Stock up on gifts and souvenirs from Tutu’s Pantry. 🛍️ Need a unique thank you gift for the pet sitter back home? Or a souvenir to remember your time on Maui? Duck into one of the locally owned shops along South Kihei Road to find what you need. For locally made Hawaiian treats, we recommend Tutu’s Pantry for everything from art prints to hot sauces.
- Paddle board and snorkel at Turtle Town. 🐢 You’ll find the best honu (Hawaiian sea turtle) viewing in the water. Head to Turtle Town, not far from Kihei’s shores, for the best chance to see the graceful ocean creatures firsthand. Check out this tour, which includes photos and videos of your experience.
- Spend a beach day at Kamaole Beach Park. ⛱️ Grab a few beach chairs (most vacation rentals keep a few in stock, or you can rent a few from the local snorkel shop) and spend the afternoon relaxing on the sand.
- Birdwatch at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. 🪶 Walk the coastal boardwalk and stop at the visitor center. If you’re lucky, you may spy endangered birds such as ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt) and ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot).
- Grab a local breakfast at Nalu’s South Shore Grill. 🥞 We’ve tried most things on the menu, and we’ve never had a bad meal here. Our favorites? The Bonsai Betty and Big Kahuna Omelet. The Island Pancakes are another crowd pleaser.
- Take a surfing lesson. 🏄🏻♂️ Kihei’s Kalama Park is an ideal spot for learning to ride the waves. The gentle waves in this cove are perfect for beginner surf students. Take a look at this small group 2-hour surfing lesson (max of 6 people).
- Rent wheels for the day — two not four. 🚲 Explore Kihei on a bike. Ride around town to different beaches or head south to La Perouse and back.
- Wander the Shops at Wailea. 💸 Browse the high-end boutiques, from Gucci and Louis Vuitton to more accessible shops such as the ABC Store.
- Take a macrame class at Paper Garden Maui. 🌺 For a unique island activity, check this small shop’s workshop calendar for classes that range from candle making to lei making.
- Hop on a boat to snorkel at Molokini crater. 🤿 From Kihei’s beaches looking south, you’ll spy the crescent-shaped cinder cone and marine preserve located about 3 miles from Maui. To get there, you’ll need a boat. Book a tour or charter a boat to access this popular dive and snorkel spot. This Molokini tour leaves from the Kihei Boat Ramp and also includes a stop at Turtle Town.
- Sip coffee and relax at the South Maui Gardens (hidden gem alert). ☕️ The lush greenery and fragrant blooms provide a serene backdrop for enjoying your morning cup of joe. Resident food trucks make the South Maui Gardens the perfect place for grabbing a bite for lunch or dinner.
- Walk the Wailea Beach Path. Just south of Kihei town lies the Wailea resort district. Explore the rugged shores along the gentle beach path. As you peruse the path, keep a sharp eye on the water for sea turtles and stingrays.