Want to live on Maui? Considering Kihei and its world-class beaches? You may have been here on vacation and thought that Kihei would be a wonderful place to live. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of living in this laid-back beach town.
When I first moved to Kihei in 2006 from Cincinnnati, Ohio I was loving life. My wife and I were both working evenings, allowing us each day to enjoy South Maui’s finest beaches. Our friends and family were impressed that we had made such a drastic change and seemed to be thriving in our new island home. At the same time, they were astonished that we were paying $1,050 each month to rent a 1-bedroom ohana. Cincinnati had, at that time, some of the most affordable housing in the country. Our monthly rent in Kihei could easily cover the mortgage of a pristine house in Ohio. But for us, the monthly rent payment was worth it, for it afforded us the environment we preferred.
Is Kihei Right for You?
I’m often asked if Maui is the best place to live. I respond saying that it’s the best place for me. In looking at all of Maui, I find Kihei to be the best choice… for me. For the other 22,000 or so Kihei residents, I must assume they agree, for this touristy beach town has its price.
In looking at the pros and cons to living anywhere, what you’ll come to find is that anything could be considered either a pro or a con. Is life on Maui better than it is in Ohio? For someone who values a larger house, more diverse job opportunities or driving accessibility to a plethora of destinations, the answer would be no. For this reason, I will present facts you may or may not have considered when determining whether living in Kihei is right for you.
If you’ve been browsing Zillow, you most likely have seen in the description, “only 5 minutes from the beach!”. While this certainly catches the eye for those who don’t know better, those who know Kihei understand that everywhere is 5 minutes from the beach. The quality of said beach may change, but that’s for another blog. Kihei is essentially 6 miles of coastline, with housing extending inland roughly 1 mile.
Kihei has nearly everything you need for daily living. Except for a hospital, this town has it all. There are 3 major grocery stores, dozens of restaurants and shops, a post office, library, gas stations and plenty of outdoor areas to enjoy. It’s also centrally located to the entire island of Maui. If you’re living in the northern portion of Kihei, you can reach the Kahului Costco in 15 minutes, play a round of golf in Wailea after a 15-minute drive, get to Lahaina in less than 30 minutes or surf North Shore waves in the same amount time.
Spoiled by Convenience?
While Kihei seems to have it all, this can become a negative if you let it. Maui has such a diverse landscape with waterfalls, forest trails, lava fields, and fresh streams. With all the comforts of Kihei, it’s easy to remain stagnant and never want to leave. If you’ve had a long work week, driving an hour to explore a different area of the island can feel cumbersome. Why drive to a beach in Kapalua when you can easily just go down the street? Why try a new restaurant in Paia when your favorite place is 5 minutes away? I must admit, there have been months when the only reason I left Kihei was to drive to Costco. With all the amenities of Kihei’s 12 square miles, you may forget just how wonderful Maui is.
- Pros: Ample shopping and dining options, close to the beach no matter where you live
- Cons: Easy to become too comfortable and forget to enjoy the entire island
In Kihei, the highway speed limit is 40 miles per hour, a tucked in aloha shirt is considered formal and the only time you see people running is if they are doing it for exercise. This town is laid back in more ways than one. For your typical Kihei resident, shorts and t-shirts are the standard. It’s not uncommon to see people in shops without a shirt. Even at a nice dinner restaurant, pants and closed-toed shoes may be overdoing it. If you like dressing up, please do, just know that you may be the only one wearing a long-sleeved collared shirt or cocktail dress.
People tend to move slower and like to talk. Let’s say you stop at a grocery store on your way home from work. You get in the shortest checkout lane with only two people in front of you. The person checking out has a raincheck needing management approval then proceeds to pay using a personal check. The next person in line is friends with the cashier. This is their time to catch up and, while the conversation only lasts for a minute or so, that minute feels a lot longer if you’re in a rush. *Based on a true story*
The Slower Pace is a Way of Life
People take their time driving, frequently giving others the right of way out of turn. A trip to Kahului for groceries and housewares can be a half-day outing and a whole day off work can be spent sitting on a chair at the park. This relaxed lifestyle can take some getting used to. It’s nice when you can take your time to smell the plumerias, but it can also be bothersome if you’re low on patience.
- Pros: Slower pace to not feel rushed, resort casual is quite formal
- Cons: Not ideal if you’re in a hurry, you may feel out of place by dressing up
The weather in Kihei is typically quite predictable. While there is a noticeable difference between summer and winter, the variance is minimal. In the summer months, the temperature highs are in the upper 80s, lows around 70. Winter can get chilly (by Kihei standards), with overnight lows occasionally getting down to the low 60s. Winter days you can still expect the highs to be around 80 degrees.
When looking at rain… what rain? Kihei was originally called “Kama’ole” meaning barren, with annual rainfall around 10 inches per year. The majority of this whopping 10 inches of rain falls in the winter months, January being the wettest month.
Sunshine is abundant in Kihei, with a reported annual average of 276 sunny days. Having lived here since 2006, I personally feel this number may be low. In addition, if South Kihei is cloudy, there’s a fair chance North Kihei has sunshine.
Another element to the weather is wind. When the trades are blowing, you can expect to see steady winds around 20 miles per hour in the afternoons, with gusts around 30 mph. When this occurs, your afternoon beach session can result in broken umbrellas, nasty sunburns, and skin irritation from being “sand blasted.” At the same time, these trades produce natural air conditioning. On summer days when the temperature reaches 90 degrees, paired with 75% humidity, it can be unpleasant without these trade winds.
Another Boringly Beautiful Day…
If you’re reading this from a somewhere that’s cold or gets a lot of rain, you may think this sounds perfect. But for some, the weather can feel too repetitive. I’ve never heard a Kihei resident complain about the rain. In fact, we love it because it’s so rare. We appreciate the chance to be inside, curled up on the couch watching a good movie while it’s pouring rain outside. There are also some people who prefer having four distinct seasons. Furthermore, when it’s warm and sunny outside, one may feel guilty for being indoors, despite what they may want or need to do.
- Pros: Plenty of sunshine, no heating required, very little rain
- Cons: Windy afternoons, insignificant season change, uncomfortable summer days without the trades
Less than 100 years ago, Kihei was desolate. Development began in the 1970s, and it started to become a destination. Today, Kihei is one of the most visited places in all of Hawaii. Not only are vacationers here throughout the year, but there are many part-time residents who own second homes.
With no better way to put it, Kihei is crowded. While traffic has not become much of an issue, especially compared to many places, there are a lot of people in such a small geographical area. Many of these people are tourists.
Tourism is both a blessing and a curse in Kihei. Frankly, one could argue that it is both a positive and a negative to any town. However, while some of these towns have a “touristy area” where visitors tend to congregate, this is not the case in Kihei. The entire town, North to South, is filled with sun-loving, blissful beachgoers.
For full-time Kihei residents, this can get old. When looking to run a few errands, getting behind a driver who doesn’t know his way around, coupled with jaywalkers darting across the street the watch the sunset can be frustrating. What was once a “locals” restaurant known for delicious omelets or fish tacos now has a 30-minute wait. When you’re grabbing some fresh seafood from the grocery store behind a tourist who samples eight items before deciding, it can be irritating.
More than One Benefit to Tourism
However, there are two significant benefits to tourism in Kihei. The most obvious is that tourism provides a multitude of job opportunities. For anyone working in hospitality, short-term accommodations or retail, life would be quite difficult without tourism. The other benefit to living in such a popular tourist destination comes from looking at situations through the eyes of those visitors. For the tourist, every sunset is magical. The sand between their toes feels heavenly. Boogie boarding a small wave feels like the ride of a lifetime. These are some of the things that long-term residents find themselves taking for granted. Taking a moment to see the appreciation from their perspective can act as a reminder of how blessed we are to live in Kihei.
- Pros: Job opportunities, rekindling appreciation
- Cons: Crowds of people, wait times
It’s expensive. At the same time, it’s also relative. For a family moving to Maui from San Francisco, it’s not too bad. However, this is the exception and not the rule. To purchase a single-family house in Kihei, you’re looking at around $700,000 at the time of this writing. In September of 2018, I wrote this blog, Top 5 Kihei Condos Under $400K. Just 8 months later, this information is becoming out of date.
If you’re interested in renting, it’s quite difficult to find something decent as demand is currently very high. It’s not uncommon for rentals to receive dozens of applications within a few days. Currently, for a 2-bedroom condo you can expect to pay around $2,000 per month, and for a 3-bedroom house more than $3,000. While rent isn’t cheap, the bigger struggle is making it to the top of the application pile. With such low inventory and high demand, this can be a particular challenge for island newcomers who are not yet established.
The prices I’ve mentioned here are for basic housing between 700-1500 sqft. If you start looking into larger, remodeled homes with ocean views, you could easily spend over a million. In addition, if you are wanting a property with a large lot size, you will have a tough time as the majority of Kihei lot sizes are less than .25 acre.
Where is the Positive in Expensive Housing?!
Well, as someone once said, “more money, more problems,” I say more house, more problems. With smaller living quarters, there are fewer furnishings needed. You’ll spend less time cleaning your home and tending the yard. A family with a smaller house also needs to be more conscientious as to what things they buy. A pool table, 80” flat screen TV and 8-seater dining table may be bad choices. A smaller home typically means less expensive upkeep and fewer material possessions. This allows for more time and money to spend on quality steaks for the weekend beach BBQ.
- Pros: Less house means less time and money on upkeep
- Cons: Purchasing property is expensive, finding suitable rentals is difficult
If you believe that Kihei may be for you, give me a call. I find this place to be very special and love discussing it with others. Furthermore, if you are interested in receiving new real estate listings the moment they hit the market, shoot me an email. I would be happy to provide you with up-to-date, accurate property information for what may suit your needs. If you would like to learn more about relocating, check out 3 Phases of Moving to Maui- What to Expect After you Move to Maui.
Mahalo for reading and enjoy your day, no matter where in the world you are.