While Kihei may enjoy a reputation for being a carefree and relaxed beach town, there are plenty of things to do while you’re there. Overwhelmed with where to start? We created this list of top things to do in Kihei to help you get the most out of your time while on this part of the island. When we visit Maui, we usually stay in Kihei — so we’ve explored practically every nook and cranny of the South Maui town.
Whether you’re staying in Kihei or planning a day trip, this section of Maui offers plenty to see and do. Known for its perpetually sunny weather and long stretches of sand, the area draws travelers looking for a rejuvenating vacation filled with outdoor activities and unparalleled experiences. From snorkeling and paddle boarding to birdwatching and exploring hidden gardens, Kihei offers something for all ages and activity levels.
In this post:
- Get lost in the South Maui Gardens
- Get down at Kihei’s Fourth Friday Town Party
- Catch a snorkeling tour to Molokini and Turtle Town
- Duck into the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center
- Cool down with shave ice from Ululani’s
- Sign up for a lei-making class at Paper Garden
- Step onto a surfboard
- Watch for whales
- Stroll the Wailea beach path
- Tuck into a sunset picnic at Keawakapu Beach (or any beach in Kihei, really)
- Birdwatch at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
- Splurge on an ocean view breakfast buffet
- Paddle around Makena Landing Park
- Scope out sea turtles at Five Graves
- Stretch out on the sand at Big Beach
- Catch a glimpse of wild goats at the La Perouse Bay lava fields
- Savor warm malasadas from Sugar Beach Bake Shop
1. Get lost in the South Maui Gardens
Tucked away near Kihei’s residential neighborhood lies the South Maui Gardens, one of Maui’s hidden gems. This working nursery offers visitors an escape into a lush, tropical paradise. Wander the gravel paths among orchids and native plants under the shade of palm trees. Meet and snap a few photos with George, the resident tortoise. Then grab lunch at one of the food trucks (don’t miss Kitoko!).
South Maui Gardens | 35 Auhana Road
2. Get down at Kihei’s Fourth Friday Town Party
Laid-back Kihei isn’t known for having a vibrant nightlife, but the last Friday of the month tells a different story. Every Friday night, one Maui town hosts a town party filled with fun, food, craft booths, and live music. Kihei’s Friday Town Party lands on the fourth week of the month, at the Azeka Shopping Center. An activity suitable for all ages, the event is a great place to sample food from local vendors, shop local businesses, and enjoy free entertainment.
Maui Friday Town Party at Kihei | Azeka Shopping Center, 1279-1280 S Kihei Road
3. Catch a snorkeling tour to Molokini and Turtle Town
Three miles off the coast of Maui lies Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater that draws scuba divers and snorkelers from around the world. It’s best known for its clear waters and abundant marine life. (John once spotted the elusive and rarely-sighted whale shark while on a snorkeling tour at Molokini.) While your chances of a whale shark sighting may be slim, you’re nearly guaranteed an experience with colorful fish and coral formations.
Most tour guides also stop at Maui’s famous Turtle Town, a popular snorkeling spot where Hawaiian green sea turtles congregate. Snorkelers have a chance to swim among the federally protected creatures in their natural habitat — at a safe distance to avoid disturbing them, of course.
4. Duck into the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center
An estimated 12,000 humpback whales visit the waters of Hawaii from November through April for the purpose of breeding and calving their young. The whale sanctuary plays a role in the protection and study of these magnificent creatures (as well as their habitat) through documentation, monitoring, and education.
Learn about the whales marine environment around the Hawaiian island from Kihei’s beachfront marine sanctuary visitor center through its exhibits, displays, and activities.
Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center | 726 S Kihei Road
5. Cool down with shave ice from Ululani’s
At Ululani’s, finely shaved ice infuses with specialty syrup and transforms into a delectable island treat. Stop at the local chain’s shave ice spot on South Kihei Road and pull up a picnic bench to enjoy the sweet dessert. Don’t forget to stop into the neighboring Sugar Beach Bake Shop for a peek at their pastries.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice | 61 South Kihei Rd
Find out what other food you shouldn’t miss while on Maui: Local Dishes You Need to Try While On Maui
6. Sign up for a lei-making class at Paper Garden
If you’re looking for a unique vacation activity with an educational bent, check out Paper Garden’s workshop calendar. The gift and stationery shop not only stocks fun and whimsical inventory — we love their sassy Hawaii-themed vinyl stickers and adorable stuffed Jellycat toys — Paper Garden frequently hosts regular workshops that include lei making, watercolor painting, fabric printing, and more. Find them in Kihei’s Wailea district, at the Wailea Village Shopping Center (next door to Akamai Coffee).
Paper Garden | 116 Wailea Ike Drive #2202
Learn more about lei making at Paper Garden: Lei Poʻo (Flower Crown) Class at Paper Garden Maui
7. Step onto a surfboard
While the sport originated in Polynesia, surfing was arguably introduced to the masses by the people of Hawaii. In Kihei, sign up for a surf lesson at one of the surf schools along South Kihei Road. Beginner wave riders should head to “The Cove,” or Cove Beach Park at the southern tip of Kalama Park.
8. Watch for whales
If you’re visiting Maui during the months of November through April, keep a constant eye on the ocean. You’re likely to spot a fluke or spout, as these are the months that humpback whales take up residence in the waters around the Hawaiian islands. If you’re particularly lucky, you may even catch the majestic whales breaching out of the water.
For a better chance at seeing whales, sign up for a whale watching tour. Kai Kanani, our favorite tour provider, offers whale watching tours that depart from Maluaka Beach, just south of Kihei.
9. Stroll the Wailea beach path
Amble past renowned Wailea beachfront resorts by taking a walk along the Wailea beach path. The easy oceanfront 3-mile path runs from Polo Beach Park in the south (near Wailea’s Fairmont Kea Lani) up north to the Andaz Resort. While the beach path ends at the Andaz, you could continue along Keawakapu Beach for extra distance before turning around.
Early morning around sunrise is the best time to walk the path. It gets crowded by mid to late morning, when you’ll find yourself dodging runners and groups while claiming space on the path.
10. Tuck into a sunset picnic at Keawakapu Beach (or any beach in Kihei, really)
Stopping to experience at least one Maui sunset is a must-do for any vacationer. At the end of a hectic day touring the island, reward yourself with a beach picnic along the Kihei coast. You’ll have a spectacular view from just about any Kihei Beach. We recommend grabbing a few sandwiches from either 808 Deli or The Market and unfurling a blanket on Keawakapu Beach or Kamaole Beach Park III.
808 Deli | 2511 South Kihei Road #102
The Market | 10 Wailea Gateway Pl B-106
11. Birdwatch at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
Connect with nature and spot some of Hawaii’s rare bird species at this Kihei wetland. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge focuses on wildlife conservation and providing a safe haven for a variety of bird species. Visitors to the Kealia Pond refuge may be treated to a sighting of the endangered Hawaiian stilt (ae‘o) or Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke’oke’o).
Visitors to the refuge can explore the area via a boardwalk trail that winds through the wetlands and provides a prime viewing location for birdwatching. The trail is wheelchair accessible and features interpretive signs that provide information about the various bird species and their habitat.
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge | Milepost 6, Maui Veterans Highway
12. Splurge on an ocean view breakfast buffet
You won’t go hungry at Kihei’s Wailea resort district, with its selection of high-end restaurants helmed by famous chefs. Instead of paying for astronomical dinner prices at the resort restaurant, one of our favorite vacation splurges is a luxury breakfast buffet — complete with a stunning ocean view. Expect a dazzling selection of fresh fruit, pastries, and hot dishes such as custom skillet omelettes. We highly recommend either DUO at the Four Seasons Maui or Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz.
Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz Maui | 3550 Wailea Alanui Drive
DUO at The Four Seasons Wailea | 3900 Wailea Alanui Dr
13. Paddle around Makena Landing Park
Grab a kayak or paddle board and explore the surrounding waters. The area is known for its calm waters, particularly in the morning — making Makena Landing Park an excellent choice for beginners. Keep an eye out for marine life, particularly honu (Hawaiian sea turtles), as the park neighbors famed snorkeling site Turtle Town.
In the early sunrise hours, kayak and paddle board tour operators converge on the street near Makena Landing Park. Whether you rent equipment there or bring your own, the park offers easy water access from either the small beach or launch ramp that accommodates small boats and kayaks.
14. Scope out sea turtles at Five Graves
One of our favorite and most reliable spots in Kihei for seeing honu is at this hidden gem. Forget about the location’s unfortunate name (yes, there’s a small gravesite nearby) and follow the often overlooked public path toward the water. Walk between the residential homes to the lava outcropping. If the water is calm, you’ll often see sea turtles bobbing in the water nearby. You’re more likely to spot sea turtles here than you will see people.
Five Graves | 5090 Makena Alanui
Find out the best spots on Maui for sea turtle watching: Tried-and-True Spots For Sea Turtle Viewing
15. Stretch out on the sand at Big Beach
Go big on beach day and stake out a spot at Makena Beach State Park, also known as Big Beach. As the name suggests, you’ll find a wide swath of sand to enjoy. The beach measures more than a half-mile long and 100 feet wide. While the area is mostly undeveloped, you’ll find a lifeguard stand and portable restrooms on site.
Makena Beach State Park | 6600 Makena Alanui
Looking for the top Kihei beaches? Read: From Windsurfing to Turtle Viewing, These are the Best Beaches in Kihei
16. Catch a glimpse of wild goats at the La Perouse Bay lava fields
While most visitors drive to this southernmost section of Makena Road to see the lava fields at La Perouse Bay, many miss seeing the wild goats that roam this of-the-beaten-path part region of Maui. We typically spot the ruminants traipsing the rocky fields near the scant tree cover toward the beginning of the trail. While you’re here, explore the lighthouse trail and watch the waves crash against the rocky shoreline.
17. Savor warm malasadas from Sugar Beach Bake Shop
This sweet Portuguese concoction may have originated in a different country, but the confection has made an indelible impression on the Hawaii food scene. While you could make the morning trek to 100–year-old T. Komoda Bakery in Makawao, Kihei also has its own popular malasada shop. Stop at the Sugar Beach Bake Shop for warm malasadas (mornings only), or choose from their wide selection of baked treats.
Sugar Beach Bake Shop | 61 South Kihei Road