Wanderlust: Maui’s other side – Kihei, HI
By Kellie Edson
I find that most people who visit Maui tend to stay in Ka’anapali or Lahaina…sometimes you’ll hear of them staying in Wailea, but it’s more rare that you hear about the gem in between – Kihei.
We’ve been going to visit Kihei since I was a child. My parents had their honeymoon in Kihei, my husband and I had ours there 5 years ago, and most recently, we took our 15 month old toddler at the end of May.
Almost 15 years ago, my parents took a leap of faith and bought a tiny little studio condo in the Kihei Akahi complex. They managed to roll it over into a 1 bedroom in the same complex a few years later, and we’ve managed to hang on to C-309 since then. When the housing market crashed, it looked like we may lose it, and I left our honeymoon thinking it would be the last visit. But it’s managed to stay alive, the little condo that could, renting out year-to-year and I’m so happy we’ve kept it. If you are interested in going to Maui, my parents are offering a special discount to GOTG readers who want to rent this August or September– only $79 per night – a total steal. Check out www.kiheialoha.com for more information and tell them you read about it on GOTG.
Anyway, if you plan on visiting Kihei, here are some highlights you should totally consider.
Kihei Caffe Breakfast. We ate here 4 times in the 6 days that we were there. It was THE best. First off, because they open at 5am…and because we have a toddler, who pretty much stayed on California time, we were up early (no really – like 3am) every day. Which was also excellent because it wasn’t crowded at all at that time. Whereas, when we drove by later in the day there was a line out the door and around the corner. (Proof of how good it is!) I had the eggs benedict twice and the French toast with coconut and pineapple. But the real game changer – coconut syrup. So much better than maple. Get it – you won’t be sorry.
PS – there’s also all kinds of chickens and roosters that hang out at Kihei Caffe. Clare loved ‘em.
Cinnamon Roll Place. We’ve been going here for many years. It’s right around the corner from the condo and so good. You can even get fun toppings like macadamia nuts to give it that Hawaiian flare.
South Maui Fish Company Food Truck. Of course with the plethora of food trucks in Sacramento, we had to check out such a highly rated truck in Maui. Warning – it’s not open on Sundays! We wanted to go a second time and were sad to discover they were closed on Sundays. It’s in the same shopping center as Kihei Caffe, and it was seriously the best Poke bowl ever. My husband was chatting with the owner, and he said because he has such low overhead with a food truck, he can pay the fisherman premium money, so they give him the best fish. (You can also buy fresh fish from them to take back to your condo/hotel to cook.)
(little blurry, but that’s half spicy, half regular poke with pineapple coleslaw, yum!)
Three’s Bar & Grill – Happy Hour is cheap, fish is good, and the top shelf margarita is even better. Don’t miss it.
Ululani’s Shaved Ice– Real, Hawaiian shaved ice. Not the mainland snowcone chunky variety. SO many flavors to choose from, and you can also have vanilla or macadamia nut ice cream under the ice. Yum! (There is one in Kihei and also in Lahaina)
Ono Gelato – In case you didn’t get your fill of sweet cold treats at Ulliani’s, stop by ono for some gelato. The flavors were all so good it was hard to decide, but I went with lilkoi and coconut for a Hawaii flare.
Memphis Belle Café – We went to both Lava Java and Memphis Belle for coffee. And of course brought a pound of Sacramento local Temple Coffee to have at the condo. Out of the two, I liked the eclectic vibe of Memphis better and the fact that they had things like flat white, cold brew and other specialties.
Shopping/ Beaches/Other things to do:
Shops at Wailea – A lot of the shops that you will find in Lahaina or Paia – two areas more known for shopping – you can also find here. They have upscale, local, and gift shops like ABC or Whalers. It’s a good one-stop shop for this side of the island.
Clare very much enjoyed the fountains at the shops.
Kalama Shopping Center – This lovely outdoor open-air market is where you can Kihei Caffe, South Maui Fish Co, and Three’s as mentioned above. You can also find unique local gifts, jewelry, food items, soap and more.
Wailea Beach Walk – I think this was combo of googling and remembering from a long time ago back when we used to volunteer at the now defunct Maui Writer’s Conference that there was a beach path in Wailea. Basically you start at the Kea Lani resort and it’s a path that wraps around the front of all the major Wailea hotels. It’s beautiful and right next to the ocean. It’s also full of runners early in the morning, so we opted for baby wearing rather than trying to maneuver a stroller.
Kamaole Beaches – Kamaole I, II & III are right across the street from the Kihei Akahi where we stay, so maybe it’s the convenience that makes me partial to these beaches, but they are some of the best for swimming, boogie boarding and even snorkeling on the south side of the island.
Maui Ocean Center – About 15 minutes outside of Kihei (on the way to Lahaina) is the Maui Ocean Center. It’s much smaller than say the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it’s cool because it houses sea life specific to the islands. There’s an awesome walk through tunnel where rays and sharks are swimming above and below you. It’s a must see if you have kiddos, but honestly it’s pretty cool even without them. We went on our honeymoon by ourselves, also.
We had a great time in Kihei, and I hope that these tips will help you have an equally great and delicious time on your visit!