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On our most recent family vacation to Maui, we made the town of Kihei our home base. Kihei is on the southwest shore of Maui, the sunniest and driest side of the island. Located 20 minutes from the airport, Kihei was most central to all the sites on Maui we wanted to see.
Because we have always loved living amongst locals when we travel, we decided to forego a hotel and found a great VRBO. Located just one block from Charley Young Beach, this one bedroom condo was perfect for our small family. The first floor abode had a cute porch (known as a “lanai”) and such special touches that we don’t normally find in VRBOs– local Hawaiian juices for us when we arrived! We loved staying at this VRBO because we were close enough to walk to the beaches, playgrounds and restaurants.
And boy, did we take advantage of all Kihei offered!
With plenty of beaches to explore, Hawaiian cuisine to devour and incredible sunsets, life in Kihei, Maui couldn’t get much better (*except if we lived here full time*). Check out our favorite places central to Kihei below!
Our Favorite Places to Explore in Kihei, Maui
Charley Young Beach
Just steps from our homebase in Kihei was Charley Young Beach. Located at the north end of Kamaole I, this beach is pretty popular with locals, just like Kamaole III. Snorkeling is great at all three Kamaole beaches, but best at Charley Young Beach! There are only three spaces in the parking lot, so you’ll have to find street parking, but this beach is worth it.
Kamaole Beach I, II and III
All three of Kamaole Beaches are situated within the same sandy strip of 1.5 miles. These beaches are pretty popular due to its proximity to amenities and accessibility to favorite eateries.
Kamaole I (“Kam I”) is the largest of the three beaches and sits just south of Charley Young Beach. Kamaole II (“Kam II”) is, of course smaller than I, but offers good snorkeling near the rocky portions. Kamaole III (you guessed it, “Kam III”) is the most popular and best for boogie boarding. Kam III is also the smallest of the three, but has the largest grassy area for activities which could be why it’s so popular.
Andrew, Amelia and I found ourselves at Kalama Park quite a few times over our trip to Maui, particularly for the playground and beautiful sunsets. Situated on the coast of Kihei, we couldn’t help but think how lucky Amelia was to swing overlooking the Maui coastline.
Kalama Park is a huge, 36 acre park perfect for any type of activity. There are sand volleyball courts, tennis and basketball courts, a gazebo, picnic tables, a skating rink, in addition to Amelia’s favorite, the playground! Another reason we loved Kalama Park so much was its proximity to our favorite places to eat in Kihei (hint: they’re listed down below!). Andrew would wait in line while I took Amelia to play. After Amelia went to sleep, Andrew would also run down to catch the sunset.
If you are within walking distance to this park, I highly suggest checking it out. You can also walk along the rocks and catch some black crabs– they were pretty creepy looking to me!
Without a doubt, Maui Fishpond has to be one of the *best kept secrets* in Kihei (and maybe even Maui!). We really seemed to stumble upon Maui Fishpond when researching other beaches in Kihei. Located in North Kihei next to Kalepolepo Beach is a section of shallow ocean water separated by rock walls. In this area, you can literally snorkel and swim with the turtles!!! We saw at least 8 turtles without even trying. Some sleeping on rocks, and others swimming right by you. Truly the highlight of our trip!
Kalepolepo Beach is a pretty sleepy and small beach, which makes it such an “off the beaten path” choice for tourists. But, if you are interested in being up close and personal with turtles, Maui Fishpond is where you HAVE to go! We visited our last night in Maui and, without a doubt, it was a great conclusion to our Hawaiian vacation!
Our Favorite Places to Drink & Eat in Kihei, Maui
Maui Brewing Company
One of our favorite nights in Kihei entailed sipping some brews outside at Maui Brewing Company. Located on the border of Kihei and Wailea, this *gigantic* brewing company, of course, offers beer and other casual dinner food. While the grub itself isn’t amazing, it is a pretty fun spot to bring friends and family and sit inside or outside. There is also live music some nights of the week. The wait for a table wasn’t too long since the brewery itself is so large. We were a big fan of the Big Swell IPA, but were disappointed we couldn’t find it back home at our local grocery store in California.
Paia Fish Market
Our favorite meal in Kihei was at Paia Fish Market. Although not the original restaurant (the original is in Paia!), we were in for such a treat. There was a long line (about 45 minutes), but it was 100% worth it for the freshest catch in Kihei! I ordered mahi mahi and Andrew ordered snapper. This was quite easily our best dinner in Kihei.
If there is a long line, and you have kids, head over to the playground at Kalama Park while your partner waits! It’s directly across the street.
While Paia Fish Market easily delivered the best dinner on Maui, Kihei Caffe delivered the best breakfast we had. Kihei Caffe is a pretty popular and very busy breakfast spot. After about an hour wait, I ordered Eggs Benedict and Andrew ordered the contemporary Hawaiian dish, Loco Moco– essentially rice, pork, two fried eggs and gravy. If visiting Hawaii, you *HAVE* to try loco moco at least once during your visit!
Again, if there is a long wait at Kihei Caffe (there will be…), check out the Kalama Park directly across the street.
Uluani’s & Sugar Beach Bake Shop
And, I saved the best for last, Uluani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice! The BEST shaved ice on Maui. Admittedly, I was a little nervous to try shave ice because I don’t like snow cones, but WOW! This is nothing like a snowcone, and I am ashamed I thought it would be anything similar.
Andrew and I both got their most popular combinations: No Ka Oi and Sunset Beach. The Sunset Beach combo won us both over, and Amelia ate the shave ice like there was no tomorrow. My only regret was not finding Uluani’s earlier in our trip…
While Andrew waited in line, I checked out the bakery next door called Sugar Beach Bake Shop which is also owned by Uluani’s. I ordered the chocolate banana cream pie and lilikoi key lime pie to take home for later that day. The banana cream pie was easily one of the best pies I’ve EVER had. I, unfortunately, was not a fan of the lilikoi flavor in the key lime pie.
Staying in Kihei was a great choice for our small family of three. We loved being able to explore the town, parks and local beaches while staying away from large hotels. With so much to do in Maui, we were glad we could call Kihei our homebase while visiting this beautiful Hawaiian island.
MAHALO for reading– more Maui posts to come soon!