Sun, Sand and South Maui Maui's "Sun Coast"

by Wayne Smith

This is the fifth in a series of articles in Real Estate Maui Style about various residential areas on Maui to show potential real estate buyers the island's diversity. Past articles can be seen on our web site at

South Maui is easy for first time visitors to miss. The Kuihelani Highway from the airport heads straight to the well-known West Maui destinations of Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua, and many visitors miss the two left turns which would take them to South Maui, a special region of the island many refer to as the "sun coast" of the island.


South Maui, which is known for its gentle weather, is long and narrow. It stretches for about 20 miles from Maalaea to Makena along North and South Kihei Road, Wailea Alanui and Makena Alanui, and the developed area, with few exceptions, is less than a half mile wide.

Kihei town is South Maui's commercial hub. Virtually all of the daily activities of simultaneously being a town and community for residents and a bustling resort for visitors, takes place along a band of tropical paradise skirting the ocean. The lushness has been created by man's success at bringing water to the desert-like climate. In fact, water imported from other parts of the island has made Kihei and all of South Maui the special place it is today.

Kihei was originally a tiny fishing village with fresh water limited to a few natural springs and undependable runoff from seasonal and infrequent rains high on the slopes of Haleakala. Wailea and Makena were rough ranch lands filled with scrub and kiawe trees. Cattle ranged freely over thousands of acres of land which didn't have enough water for sugar cane cultivation, the island's major crop from 1850 until the present. The whole of South Maui was considered to be too hot, too dry and too dusty for human habitation. Those hardy individuals and families who chose to live there eked out their existence with hard work and perseverance against the arid conditions. There was an old saying among the early Hawaiians residents that a girl was very fortunate when she found a boy from Kihei to marry because, if he could survive the area's hardships, he was obviously a hard worker and would make a good husband and provider.

The Weather

South Maui's weather is amazingly predictable: It doesn't change much from year to year, season to season, or day to day. About the only thing to discuss about the weather is if or when the trade winds will appear.

Receiving less than 10 inches of annual rainfall, South Maui has by far the most sunshine on Maui, and perhaps in the state. It is a desert made tropical with lots of water. With the exception of the Makena cloud which passes almost every late afternoon over the Makena area, blue sky prevails in South Maui. The cloud is the vestige of trade wind and convection clouds which form around and sweep along the sides of Haleakala, dropping moisture in ever-decreasing amounts along the slopes. By the time it heads out to sea over Makena it is almost devoid of moisture, but gives a brief respite from the intense sun and sometimes manages to spritz the area with a little Hawaiian pineapple mist.

A glance at the terrain mauka, or mountain side, of the Pi'ilani Highway, a modern highway which parallels busy South Kihei Road, gives a general impression of what the Kihei area is like with its combination of a lot of sun and only a little rain. The highway more or less marks the edge of development all along its route.

The view makai or seaward of the highway, with its wonderful views of the ocean and palm trees which grace almost every condominium complex, resort hotel and many homes, shows what can be done to create a tropical paradise in the desert.

The trade winds which kick up almost every afternoon provide a natural cooling system for most of South Maui. While providing air conditioning in the rooms, most of the fine resorts in Wailea harness the trades to keep their open lobbies and public areas cool and comfortable. Most homes and many business do the same. Only on those infrequent days when a low pressure weather system over the islands draws in humid and hot air from the tropics, does weather become much of a negative factor for enjoying the area.

The Beaches

South Maui has more than 20 miles of ocean beaches stretching from Maalaea in the north to LaPerouse Park at the southern tip of the island. The many pristine beaches are easily accessible and provide a wide range of opportunities for enjoying recreational activities in and around the beautiful blue ocean which defines the region.

Kihei's Kamaole Beach Parks 1, 2, and 3 are a showpiece of connected stretches of golden sand separated by rocky outcroppings of ancient lava flows. The rocks are easily traversed and often provide great seaward views, especially in whale season, an abundance of tide pools to explore, and the added beauty of waves crashing and splashing against them. As they stretch into the water, the rocks also provide great habitat for a variety of ocean life, including sea turtles, to lure snorkelers into the warm clear waters of the Pacific. The mile-long stretch of beach of the Kamaole parks is often interspersed with grassy, tree-shaded overlooks which are Maui's most popular beaches for family gatherings and celebrations.

Sugar Beach is Maui's longest strand, stretching for over five miles along the shore of Maalaea Bay. It's a great beach for walking and enjoying South Maui's sun, sand and surf. It is also a favorite nesting place for the protected green sea turtles and even more rare hawksbill turtles.

Golf Takes Advantage of Weather

Gentle weather, the hallmark of South Maui, creates the perfect ambiance for golf, tennis and most other outdoor activities. In recent years with the development of the planned resort communiity of Wailea, golf has become a major attribute of South Maui and draws many new residents to the area.

The world-class Wailea Golf Club has grown to three championship courses and two clubhouses, each with their own pro shop and restaurant.

The WGC has earned more than two dozen of the golf and travel industry's most prestigious awards, including honors for best new resort courses, best designed layouts, most women-friendly facility and top pro shop. Combined, the Wailea Blue, Gold and Emerald courses have made Wailea one of the only clubs in Hawaii to offer as many as 54 holes of golf, each with view of the magnificent Pacific Ocean.

With Kihei's Elleair Golf Club at the Silversword golf course, South Maui offers a range of challenging courses for every level of golfer from duffer to professional. Most of the courses' holes skirt the main roads in Kihei, Wailea and Makena and add greenery to the dry landscape which dominates the area mauka the highway.

A good place to live

Kihei is Maui's fastest growing region. New home developments, schools and a recently-completed community center complex, with auditorium, meeting rooms and Olympic size swimming pool, attest to the growth. While it seems to many residents that too many strip malls, large and small, line the main street, more business and commercial development is taking place along the Pi'ilani to serve the anticipated population expansion of the area.

South Maui living runs the gamut from ultra-expensive oceanfront and exclusive golf club homes, villas and condominiums, to simple, relatively inexpensive neighborhood homes, condominiums and apartments, and everything in between.

Condominiums dot the landscape all along South Kihei Road, for many years the only through road serving the area. Ranging from small complexes to huge, most are attractive and afford owners a way to enjoy Kihei on both full and part-time basis. Condos in Kihei are available from about $100,000 to $.5 million. In exclusive Wailea and Makena the prices of condos typically range from $350,000 to several millions.

Single family homes can be purchased from the mid-$100,000 range in Kihei and from the mid-$300,000 well upwards in Wailea and Makena.

Located on the lower slopes of Haleakala and mauka of the Pi'ilani, Maui Meadows is a unique and diverse enclave of homes which take advantage of the elevation above the ocean and provide spectacular views to Molokini and Kahoolawe. Begun nearly 30 years ago, custom homes in the Meadows take advantage of much of what is pleasurable about living in South Maui.

Several new land developments along the Pi'ilani highway offer building lots for custom homes ranging in price from the high $100,000 in Kihei to several millions for oceanfront property in Makena.

Maui Research and Technology Park

Kihei is the home of the Maui Research & Technology Center and the surrounding high-tech industrial park. The MRTC is part of a state-wide effort to foster and support a technology industry in Hawaii. Its purpose is to provide business assistance to technology-oriented businesses through business assistance programs, shared resources, and reasonably priced office space.

Putting it all together

More and more people are finding the "Sun Coast" to be their choice for becoming Mauians and Hawaiians-by-choice. And, just as in the past, it is the ocean, the sun and the sand which draw them to beautiful South Maui.


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