Kihei, Maui County, Hawaii

Century 21 | RE/MAX

Located on the southwest coast of Maui county is a place called Kihei, considered as the ultimate Hawaiian paradise. A vibrant town boasting of 10 miles of pristine white beaches combined perfectly with visually appealing sunsets, Kihei is the dream island not only for tourists but for permanent settlers as well. If Maui is the second fastest-growing county in Hawaii, then Kihei is one of the top towns that helped Maui reach that privileged status.

Kihei is one of the towns of Maui, which is one of five Hawaiian counties with the seat of operations found in the Kahului-Wailuku metro area. The island is located just three feet above sea level and is a census-designated place. The total population is placed at more than 16,000 based on the 2000 United States census. The local residents are a mixed breed of people coming from different parts of the world with Caucasians making up the majority. The rest of the population percentage is divided unevenly among Blacks, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics. Surprisingly, the native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders comprise only about 0.1 percent of the total Kihei population.

Kihei's total area is 30.8 square kilometers, of which 26.3 square kilometers is land and 4.5 square kilometers is water. The population of Kihei is divided almost equally between the males and the females with the average age set at 35 years. Majority of the men and the women in Kihei are married, but the number of divorced people are also significant.

Interracial marriages do not come as a surprise given Kihei's diverse mix of people. However, there are indications that same sex relationships exist in the area with the current number of gays and lesbians registered at a little less than 400.

Beaches and resorts can be found almost anywhere in Kihei and many of them are simply beautiful. The shorelines are simply enthralling and one can take a leisurely walk as calm and clear waves hit the white sand just a few meters away from one's feet.

Kihei's History

Originally called "Kama'ole" by the natives that means "barren", Kihei started off as a lifeless, deserted and dry town with less than 13 inches of rain falling on the area annually. In the 1900's, efforts to put up a sugar plantation was met with failure.

In 1930, Kihei was still considered a barren town, only non-native kiawe trees can be found on roadways that were largely unpaved. There was little attraction in Kihei except for the first 350 native settlers and a few good fishing spots.

Things remained generally the same in Kihei for the next two years, such that the government decided to put eleven beach lots up for sale. Even then, only six were sold. A slight ray of hope occurred in 1950 when some Kihei lands were developed for farming but were eventually sold for a low $225 per acre. The economic activity then at Kihei was so slow that residential lands can be bought for as little as five cents per square foot.

It took another ten years before progress finally decided to give Kihei a visit. This took place when water was piped in to the town from Central and West Maui. From there, it was only a matter of time before developers saw the potential of the area as a perfect spot for fun and sun-loving visitors.

The period from 1970 down to the 1980's saw Kihei lands giving way to numerous condominium units, shopping centers and strip malls, each establishment just a couple of blocks away from one another. Genuine progress finally settled in Kihei when the first batch of tourists came, looking for inexpensive but modern lodging.

Today, Kihei is one of Hawaii's busiest beach towns. The scenery has remained largely the same as it was during the 70's except for the fact that more tourists are coming in, traffic has become a little heavy and more merchants from the upscale class have ventured into the town trying to sell their wares. This has blended well with the town's many spectacular beaches and paved roads including the South Kihei Road and the newly-built Piilani Highway, often used by visitors who are lodged in at the exclusive Wailea Resort.

Kihei's Attractions

If you have always loved the waters, then Kihei is the perfect place for you. The town is literally composed of beaches lined up one after the other and are considered as the town's most desirable attraction.

The Sugar Beach is perhaps Kihei's top beach attraction. Stretching several miles west from North Kihei up to the Maalaea Wharf, it is the longest beach in Maui where one can have an unobstructed view of the majestic Pacific and West Maui Mountains as well as the fabulous tropical sunsets. Tourists can also get to watch from the beach through a private balcony (lanai in Kihei) Hawaiian Humpback whales as they return to the warm waters of the Maalaea Bay.

However, beaches are not the only exciting feature that Kihei has to offer. Shopping malls of varying sizes abound in the area with Azeka Place located in the center of the town as the largest, housing more than 50 shops and restaurants. Another commercial center, the Piilani Village Shopping Center, stands on a 150,000 square feet of land and home to several prominent retail stores like Safeway, Hilo Hattie, Outback Steakhouse, and Blockbuster video store.

For nature lovers, there is the Kealia Pond, a national Wildlife Conservation District where endangered species of Hawaiian stilts and coots are protected, dwelling in salt-water marsh. Visitors can take a peek at this endemic though endangered animals as the pond is quite visible from the road.

The nearby Maalaea Harbor meanwhile has several pleasure boats which are ever ready to help out visitors who want to go whale watching, snorkeling down the Molokini waters, or simply do a bit of fishing.

Kihei's Economy

Tourism remains the top income earner for this quaint little town southwest of Maui. With its dry and sunny weather, complimented by magnificent white sand beaches which stretch for several miles, Kihei is the excellent hideaway for seasonal visitors looking for a humid place that will protect them from the cold weather hovering in their hometowns.

From this industry alone has sprang forth several other businesses which thrive practically all- year-round when tourists, both local and foreign, make their way to this famed vacation spot. An example of these are the innumerable hotels, condominium units, lodging houses, and other high-rise establishments that practically touch the golden Kihei skies. Some of these are quite popular like the Royal Mauian Resort located directly adjacent to one of Kihei's more popular beaches, the Kamaole Beach I. The hotel's rooftop garden has a barbecue and serving bar.

Shopping centers are but natural offsprings of the commercial boom in Kihei. There are many of these in the center of the town, offering diverse job opportunities for many local residents, who incidentally are either professionals or holders of higher education degrees.

There are also Kihei car rental services that offer inexpensive rides to tourists to and from different places of destination. Many of them can be found at several airports just a few miles away from the town proper.

On the whole, Kihei's economy is having its grandest time ever, thanks mainly to the sun, the surf, and the sand which have become the hallmarks of this unassuming little town. What was once a place of scattered and small villages with nary a sign of a bright future is now a place teeming with so much activity and life.

Kihei Statistics:

Population: 16,749
Households: 6,170
Median resident age: 35.3 years
Median household income: $46,215
Median house value: $247,200
Land area: 10.2 square miles
Elevation: 7 feet
Latitude: 20°45'N
Longitude: 156°27'W
Zip code: 96753
County: Maui
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