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Sun + Sea + Sand = Kïhei

July 13, 2009
Wayne Smit
Kïhei, known as Maui’s Sun Coast, is a magnet for visitors and residents alike, each choosing it for its mixture of affordable and livable homes, its abundant assortment of stores and shops and its fusion of local and resort living. Kïhei is a long and narrow coastal community stretching for about eight miles from Sugar Beach in the north to Keawakapü Beach in the south.

South Kïhei Road is remembered by long-time residents as a dusty, bumpy, gravel road along the shore.

Things were so desolate in the area in 1932 that in an effort to shift population to Kïhei, the government

offered 11 beach lots for sale. Only six were sold. Even by 1950, plots capable of being farmed sold for a mere $225 an acre, and residential

property could be bought for as little as five cents a square foot.

As late as 1960, the area’s population was only about 1,600 hearty souls. But the arrival of piped-in water changed all that; today the population

hovers around 16,500 and may be in for a steep increase as new housing projects come online.

The former fishing village swells to twice that size during tourist seasons as island visitors flock to the area for its sunshine and beautiful


In the old days the area was known as Kama‘ole, a word in the Hawaiian language that means barren. Later, as the area expanded, it became

known as Kïhei, which in Hawaiian means cloak or shawl (perhaps meaning that you had to wear a covering to protect from the unrelenting

tropical sun). More and more people are finding the “Sun Coast” to be their choice for becoming Mauians. And, just as in the past, it is the sun,

the sea and the sand that draws them to “barren” Kïhei.

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