Explore South Maui Kihei Views

Insider Tips For Exploring South Maui

When most people think of South Maui, golden sand, high-end resorts, snorkeling, and championship golf courses spring to mind.

But lava deserts, black sand beaches, and the first off-grid brewery in the United States? Not so much.

The truth is, there is so much to see and do on this diverse coastline. We’ve got the exclusive scoop on how to explore South Maui from inside out and top to bottom— giving you a true feel for life in this sunny, buzzy region. Here are our insider tips for exploring South Maui.

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1. Take A Drive Past Makena To The Ahihi Kinau Reserve For Unbeatable Snorkeling

Just a few miles beyond Makena State Park is the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve. The reserve and surrounding areas are home to an environment like nowhere else on Maui. Jagged lava fields and wiry kiawe trees dominate this unspoiled landscape.

Explore South Maui Ahihi Cove

But the real allure of this area isn’t just the otherworldly environment; it’s the snorkeling. Since 1973, the reserve has included 807 acres of protected marine ecosystems. And according to a 2007 coral reef survey by the Division of Aquatic Resources, the reef in the Ahihi Kinau Reserve was the only one not declining overall. Today, the reserve remains one of Maui’s best off-the-beach snorkeling locations.

Explore South Maui Snorkeling

The public can access two snorkeling sites within the reserve: Kanahena Bay ( aka “Dumps”) and Ahihi Cove. Parking is only available at Kanahena Bay, and you’ll need to backtrack on foot less than a quarter mile to reach Ahihi Cove. There is a small fee to park and enjoy the reserve. Ahihi Cove is well-suited for beginner snorkelers, while more experienced snorkelers will enjoy Kanahena Bay. Please help protect our marine ecosystems by only wearing reef-safe sunscreen and never stepping on corals.


2. Hike The Hoapili Trail, But Get An Early Start

Beyond the Ahihi Kinau Reserve is an area called Keoneʻoʻio, better known as La Perouse. La Perouse is where Makena Road ends. Past that point, the pristine lava coastline stretches into oblivion. The only way to explore this striking landscape is on foot via the Hoapili Trail. The Hoapili Trail follows portions of what remains of the King’s Highway— a historic footpath that dates back to the 16th century and once circumnavigated the island.

Explore South Maui Hoapili Trail

This 5.5-mile out-and-back trail leads to Kanaio Beach, but the terrain is so rugged and harsh that few people opt to complete the journey. Instead, we recommend getting an early start and hiking just a mile or two. You don’t have to hike far to enjoy striking views of brilliant turquoise waters and Haleakala’s resplendent slopes. Be sure to bring plenty of water and ample sun protection. Even in the early morning, the sun is brutal. Also, wear sturdy shoes. The loose, sharp lava rocks can be slippah-shredding and ankle-busting.


3. South Maui Food Trucks Are A Foodie’s Dream Come True

South Maui— particularly Wailea— is often touted as a five-star foodie destination. And while there are some terrific upscale eateries in South Maui, Kihei food trucks can hold their own.

Explore South Maui Kihei Food Trucks

Individual food trucks dot the coast of South Maui, from Kinaole Grill near Kamaole Beach I to the famous JAWZ Tacos in Makena State Park. But if you’re looking for more options, you can find a menagerie of mobile eateries at Kihei Food Truck Park behind Azeka Shopping Center and at South Maui Gardens near Kalama Park.

From the artfully plated, fine-dining-style eats at Kitoko Maui to the onolicious burgers at Da Nani Pirates, there is a world of flavors waiting to be discovered in South Maui.


4. Don’t Skip A Tour Of Maui Brewing Company

Maui Brewing Company’s accomplishments are pretty incredible. In 2005, MBC was a small, single brew-pub. Today it is the largest craft brewery in the state, operating out of an 85,000-square-foot facility in Kihei.

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But the accomplishments don’t end there. MBC is recognized around the world for its locally-sourced quality brews. The brewery also launched Hawaii’s first locally-made ready-to-drink canned cocktail line several years back. And in 2019, MBC became the first 100% off-grid brewery in the United States.

Explore South Maui Beer

To better understand Maui Brewing Company’s rapid rise to greatness, take a $20 tour of the facility. You’ll learn about the trials of becoming off-grid and Maui Brewing Company’s symbiotic relationship with the Maui community and local farmers. You might even taste award-winning beer fresh out of the brite tank. Tours are offered on weekends only.


5. Beach Hop On The Wailea Beach Path

You’ve heard of bar hopping. But have you ever heard of beach hopping? For the ultimate beach crawl, set your sights on the Wailea Beach Path. The Wailea Beach Path runs almost the entire length of Wailea, starting at Mokapu Beach near the Andaz and culminating at Polo Beach, fronting the Fairmont Kea Lani.

Explore South Maui Beach Path

The two-mile path leads past four pristine beaches— Mokapu, Ulua, Wailea, and Polo Beach— with countless scenic vistas along the way, making it one of the best areas to go exploring in South Maui. Even if you’re not up for a beach-hopping day, meandering the Wailea Beach Path is a great way to get your steps in.


6. There’s More To Makena State Park Than Big Beach…

Big Beach— a mile-long strip of golden sand and whomping shorebreak— is often thought of as Makena State Park’s biggest attraction. But there is more to Makena State Park than Big Beach, and we’re not talking about Little Beach, Big Beach’s little sibling to the north.

Explore South Maui Oneuli Beach

No, we’re referring to Oneuli Beach. This black sand gem is tucked on the north side of the Pu’u Olai cinder cone, hidden from Makena Road by a snarl of kiawe trees. Like Big Beach, swimming conditions here aren’t always ideal, let alone safe. But the views of South Maui, the West Maui Mountains, and the unique black sand make Oneuli well worth a stop. Admittedly, the sand at Oneuli is lighter than the inky black beach at Waiʻanapanapa, but it’s certainly a novelty in South Maui.


7. North Kihei Is Paradise For Beach-Going Introverts

Does the sight of Wailea Beach or Keawakapu on a busy day send you running for the hills? Never fear. The isolated beaches of North Kihei are your solution.

Explore South Maui North Kihei

Unlike the busy beaches near Wailea and South Kihei, North Kihei’s beaches are less frequented. This is because the water in North Kihei isn’t always as crystal clear as the beaches further south, and the wind kicks up earlier. But if your primary goal is to kick back in the sand, unbothered, then North Kihei is for you.

We recommend trying your hand at Lipoa Street Beach, Waipuilani Park, Mai Poina Beach Park, and Sugar Beach. Nine times out of ten, you can find a people-free pocket of sand to laze out on.


8. There’s Something For Everyone In The Kihei Kalama Area

The Kalama area— Kihei Kalama Village and Kalama Park— is the beating heart of Kihei. And there is something for every walk of life in this part of South Maui.

Kalama Park is a haven for active visitors, with walking paths, beach volleyball courts, a rollerskating rink, and a skatepark. You can even sign up for a surf lesson at Maui Waveriders and hit the waves right out front.

Explore South Maui Kalama Village

Meanwhile, across the street at Kihei Kalama Village and South Maui Gardens, you’ll find a host of souvenir shops, local restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and food trucks. At night, Kihei Kalama Village’s bars become a local nightlife hotspot. This is one of the most lively— and eclectic— places in South Maui.


9. Kealia Coastal Boardwalk Is A Hidden-Gem That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Most of South Maui is dominated by resorts, condos, and other development. But at Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, nature and tranquility reign supreme.

Explore South Maui Kealia Boardwalk

The boardwalk is located in the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for several rare Hawaiian waterbirds. Kealia Boardwalk is a great place to spot endangered native wildlife, but the mile-long boardwalk also offers dramatic views of the West Maui Mountains and one of the last remaining wetlands on Maui. The best part? Most of the time, you’ll share the boardwalk with only a few others, if not have it entirely to yourself.


10. Visit The Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center To Learn About Whales And Look For Green Sea Turtles

It’s no secret that Hawaii boasts some of the best whale watching on the planet. But did you know 14,000 square miles of nearshore waters in Hawaii are part of a protected humpback whale sanctuary? Even if you’re not visiting during whale season, you can experience the majesty of these gentle giants at the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Explore South Maui Whales

Nestled on the banks of Kalepolepo Fishpond, the sanctuary visitor center features fascinating exhibits and a boatload of information about Maui’s marine life. In whale season, the visitor center is a great place to look for whales splashing offshore. And you can usually spot green sea turtles basking near the walls of the fishpond year round.

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Thanks for reading! We hope these ‘insider tips’ help you explore South Maui in-depth on your next visit. Happy travels!


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