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Kihei Town History

Early History

Located on Maui’s southwest shore and known for sunny weather and lovely nature, Kihei boasts a colorful history. Originally called ‘Kama’ole’ which means ‘barren’, the town of Kihei began as a deserted town with hot and dry climate.

The first residents of Kihei were fishermen, and for many centuries this place was inhabited only by local fishermen and harvesters. In the early 20th century, there were efforts to put up a sugar plantation, however, they were not fulfilled. When the Second World War broke out, Kihei played an important role as the training ground for thousands of military troops.

Until the second half of the 20th century, there was little attraction in Kihei except for fishing spots and several hundred residents. In the attempt to draw more people and accelerate economic activity, the authorities decided to offer eleven beach lots for sale. However, only six lots were purchased. Until the 1950s, Kihei was the place with the cheapest land prices on the entire island.

Latest History

Kihei has grown exponentially with the development of tourism. In the 1970s, the first groups of tourists came to Kihei — they were looking for cheap accommodation and inexpensive entertainment. Over the decades, shopping centers and hotels were built and new infrastructure was developed. Kihei has become one of the most popular destinations on the island of Maui, thanks to its fascinating beaches, affordable housing, and plenty of dining options.

Today Kihei is a city of approximately twenty thousand people, and this number doubles every tourist season. A large portion of Kihei’s population is employed in the tourism industry. Other major employers include the Monsanto Company, Safeway, the Hawaii State Department of Education, and Keller Williams Realty Maui. Kihei is home to a few research centers, including the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Maui High Performance Computing Center.

With its crystal-clear water and a scenic shoreline, Kihei is filled with entertainment and exotic attractions worth a lengthy stay or a day trip. Enjoy the sunshine on one of Kihei’s sandy beaches, observe Hawaii’s endangered birds in Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, spend some time beer tasting at a local brewery, or take surfing lessons. Here in Kihei, everyone will be able to enjoy their perfect vacation without spending too much money.


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