Sprawled between Pu‘unene’s green sugarcane fields and the sparkling resort destination of Wailea, Kihei, with its proliferation of strip malls and subdivisions, is often regarded as a locale to be bypassed rather than explored. But this bustling South Maui beach town has more to it than meets the eye. As the place many of the island’s working-class families call home, Kihei is where the real Maui comes out to eat, drink, and play.
Along South Maui’s coastline, Kama‘ole Beach Parks I, II, and III offer white sand and brilliant blue water. 2400, 2550, and 2800 S. Kihei Road. 808-879-4364; tinyurl.com/oefdfmz.
South Maui’s shallows attract migrating whales each winter, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary provides an oceanfront view, plus year-round exhibits. Closed weekends. 726 S. Kihei Road. 808-879-2818; tinyurl.com/hihwnms.
At Kihei’s north end, enjoy a stroll on the 2,200-foot boardwalk of Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, where you can spot native birds like the pink-legged ae‘o, or Hawaiian stilt. Highway 311, at milepost 6. 808-875-1582; tinyurl.com/huhyace.
A locally popular boutique chain that was founded in Pa‘ia, Mahina offers breezy sundresses, flirty tops, and youthful accessories perfect for the on-trend island girl. 1913-B S. Kihei Road. 808-879-3453; shopmahina.com.
Meanwhile, budget shoppers or anyone with an eclectic sense of style can find gently used treasures at Rainbow Attic, a thrift and consignment store that attracts fashionable bargain hunters from around the island. 1881 S. Kihei Road. 808-874-0884; rainbowatticmaui.com.
Avid or beginning quilters can pick up supplies and kits and learn traditional Hawaiian appliqué techniques at the Maui Quilt Shop. 1280 S. Kihei Road. 808-874-8050; mauiquiltshop.com.
Beers such as Bikini Blonde Lager and Big Swell IPA are on tap at Maui Brewing Company. Take a $15 tour and try samples in the tasting room. 605 Lipoa Parkway. 808-213-3002; mauibrewingco.com.