Hawaiians used to refer to the area of Kihei as "Kama'ole" which means "barren." Situated on the coast, southwest of Haleakala, the area was noted for its dry, dusty and hot days - with less than 13 inches of rain annually. An effort in the early 1900's to establish a sugar plantation in the area met with failure. By 1930 only about 350 people made Kihei their home. There was no paved roadway. Other than non-native kiawe trees and good fishing spots, there was little to attract people to Kihei.
Today Kihei retains much of that 1970's look. Aside from more tourists, more traffic and a few more upscale merchants little has changed. It remains, however, a top destination for visitors who want to spend time on Maui without draining their savings accounts. The town is bordered by beaches and S. Kihei Road on one side and the newer Piilani Highway on the other. The highway is used mostly by visitors staying in the posh Wailea Resort area to avoid the traffic in Kihei.
If shopping is high on your list, there are no fewer than ten shopping malls of varying sizes crammed in between Kihei?s condominiums and hotels. Azeka Place in the center of town is Kihei's largest shopping center with over 50 shops and restaurants. A bit further away, the Piilani Village Shopping Center is a new, 150,000-sq.-ft. facility that includes grocery chain Safeway's largest store in the state, a large Hilo Hattie store, an Outback Steakhouse and Blockbuster video store.
Eating out is never a problem in Kihei. While many visitors choose to cook their own meals in their condominium units, the town has a wide selection of restaurants from fast food and moderately priced chains to a number of upscale dining establishments featuring Hawaiian Regional and Pacific Rim cuisine. The fun doesn't stop with the setting sun. Kihei?s nightlife includes dance clubs, karaoke spots and several sports bars.
Bird watchers and nature lovers will also find
something to enjoy. At the north end of Kihei is the national Wildlife Conservation District, Ke?lia Pond, where endangered Hawaiian stilts and coots thrive in a salt-water marsh that is easily visible from the road. Nearby, the harbor at Ma??laea is the launching site for an armada of pleasure boats taking visitors on charter fishing excursions, whale watching expeditions and snorkel trips to Molokini.
There is a excellent public golf course in Kihei, as well as world class resort golf courses nearby in
Wailea and Makena.
In Kihei, anyone can enjoy the sunshine, surf and sand that are the hallmark of the area. Here once Hawaiians lived in scattered villages, fished the sea and maintained fishponds for royalty. Here Kamehameha I moored his war canoes during his conquest of Maui and accepted the first cattle brought to Hawaii from British explorer George Vancouver. Here today, budget-minded visitors make their base to explore the beauty of Maui, the Valley Isle.