Many Hawaiian refer to the area of Kihei as 'Kama'ole 'Aina' (barren land). Kihei even has three beaches that bear the Kama`ole name. Kihei is located directly on the southwest coast of Haleakala. The area is known for its dry weather - it can often be dusty and hot in this area of the island. The average precipitation here is less than 13 inches of rain annually. In the early 1900's there were failed attempts to establish sugar plantations on this part of the island. During the 1930's, only about 375 people live in Kihei. The road was not paved and there was little visitor interest in the area. Attempts to sale portions of the area between the 1930's and 1950's were marginally successful. The land was cheap - but no one really wanted to invest in any property here. But as usual, time changes things... by the 1960's when water was finally piped into the area, developers finally realized the potential to attract visitors to this side of the island. Kihei development began with no real plan - condominiums went up by the dozens - right on top of one another. Shopping centers and strip malls suddenly dotted the once barren coastline. It wasn't long before budget-conscious visitors began to realize the great deals available in Kihei, and the expansion continued.
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Today Kihei looks much like it did in the 1970's and 80's. You'll find over 60 condos, timeshares, hotels, and the like in Kihei. Many have been 'upgraded' in recent years but there are still plenty of deals to be found for those willing to sacrifice the lush scenery to save a few dollars. To reach Kihei from central Maui you'll head south along Highway 311 (Mokulele Hwy) to the junction of Highway 31 and South Kihei Road. If you're coming from the west side of the island, take Highway 310 (North Kihei Road) to the same junction. Once you've arrived in the area, Kihei itself is bordered by beaches and South Kihei Road on one side and the Piʻilani Highway (Hwy 31) on the other. There is no connection between Kihei and the portion of Pi`ilani Highway (Highway 31/37) upcountry as of yet, even though some maps oddly show there as being a road that connects the two. This is a little confusing to visitors because both Highways are in fact 'Highway 31' - but if you look at a good map, you'll see they are not connected. The State Highway 31 that passes just above Kihei is used mostly by visitors staying in the posh Wailea Resort area further south of Kihei to avoid the traffic in town along S. Kihei Road. Today beaches are still one of the main attractions, especially since it's right across the street from most accommodations. Several parks also dot the coastline. Kamaʻole I, II and III beaches are some of the best life-guarded beaches in Hawaii.