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Exploring Maui’s Beautiful South Shore

Home to some of the top beaches in Maui, including Big Beach and Little Beach, South Maui boasts a relaxed vibe and some of Maui’s most incredible natural beauty.

Whether you’re departing on a snorkeling tour of world-famous Molokini Crater from Maalaea Harbor, wandering through the Maui Ocean Center, or just kicking back with a shave-ice, Kihei, Wailea, and Makena a universe of fun in the sun.

Little Beach Aerial Shot

Little Beach and Big Beach


Kihei is more than just a great place to visit, which is why many locals, or “kama‘ainas,” make it their home.

In addition to miles of golden sand beaches, Kihei also offers affordable accommodations and loads of great shopping and dining options that cater to locals and visitors alike.

In Kihei, you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to live on Maui.

Kamaole Beach Park 1 and Charley Young

Kamaole Beach Park in Kihei

Beaches Near Kihei

With a slightly drier climate, the air temperature in South Maui is warmer, making its beaches desirable to swimmers and sunbathers alike.

Here’s a short list of some of the best Kihei beaches:

  • Kamaole or “Kam” 1, 2, and 3
  • Charley Young Beach
  • Keawakapu Beach
  • Polo Beach

If a family beach day in Kihei is on your agenda, be sure to highlight one of the three Kamaole Beach Parks on your map.

Equipped with restrooms, showers, BBQs, and grassy lawns, these popular Kihei beaches are perfect for family fun.

Beach Volleyball at Makena Beach Big Beach Maui Hawaii

Makena Beach Maui

Surf Lessons and SUP

While visiting Kihei, why not try out Hawaii’s favorite pastime? Surfing! A Maui surfing lesson is an exhilarating way to experience Hawaii’s warm, tropical waters.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding or “SUP” has become wildly popular in Maui as of late because it’s fun and super easy to learn.

Lessons are available for both of these popular activities, and both surf and SUP companies guarantee that you’ll be standing up on your first lesson.


Maui Surf Lessons Lahaina Hawaii

Dining in Kihei

South Maui is known for all the awesome ocean and beach activities that are available in the region. After playing all day you’re bound to work up an appetite.

Thankfully, there are countless eateries to choose from, where fresh, island fish and sushi are plentiful. A couple of local favorites are Coconut’s Fish Café and Kihei Caffe.

Here’s a list of our favorite places to dine for locals and visitors alike:

  • Ulalene’s Shave Ice
  • Kihei Caffe
  • Coconut’s Fish Café
  • Café O’Lei
  • Cuatro
  • Da Kitchen Express
  • South Maui Fish Company
  • 808 Bistro

Rental Car

For getting around in South Maui, hit Kihei Rent-A-Car for a great value on a smooth ride.

Not all rental car places are the same. Rent your rig from the locals who will treat you like Ohana every time.

Shopping in Kihei

If relaxed shopping is your idea of “downtime” on your vacation itinerary, Kihei is your place.

Many funky little malls and marketplaces are scattered through this mellow beach town.

Seek out Rainbow Mall, Kihei Kalama Village, Kamaole Shopping Center, and Kihei Town Center to start your journey. If “chic” happens to be your cup of tea, The Shops at Wailea is only a short drive away.


Unlike Kihei, which is known for its laid-back, local feel, Wailea is known for ultra-ritzy hotels, immaculate, white sand beaches, expensive boutiques, and world-class golf courses.

It’s essentially the “Beverly Hills” of Maui.

Shopping In Wailea

Even if “lifestyles of the rich and famous” isn’t quite your bag, it’s still fun to have a peek around the neighborhood.

The Shops at Wailea is a perfect place to grab an iced coffee before enjoying a relaxing stroll through Waldorf Astoria’s opulent Grand Wailea Resort.

Housing the largest art collection in the State of Hawaii, The Grand Wailea is arguably the most spectacular resort on Maui.

Since The Grand Wailea is conveniently nestled on one of the best beaches in Maui, Wailea Beach, this resort is worth a visit for that reason alone.

Makena Beach (Big Beach)

If you’re visiting Kihei and Wailea, you absolutely need to hang out at Makena, or “Big Beach.” The long, wide expanse of golden-white sand on Makena Beach is one of Maui’s top beaches.

Big Beach has a notoriously strong shore break, so please exercise caution.

Makena Beach Big Beach Maui Hawaii

Makena Beach (Big Beach)

People relaxing at Makena Beach Big Beach Maui Hawaii

Big Beach

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can hike over the rocks on the north end of Big Beach to access Little Beach, where clothing is optional and rarely worn.

Don’t forget to bring high SPF sunscreen!

Maalaea Harbor

Just north of Kihei is the quaint, harbor village of Maalaea.

Not only is Maalaea home to the Maui Aquarium, or Maui Ocean Center, it’s also home to one of the most active harbors in Maui.

Maalaea Harbor Maui Hawaii

Departing Maalaea Harbor

Maalaea Harbor offers a myriad of exciting boat tours, including whale watching, sport fishing, scuba diving, sunset cruises, and snorkel excursions to famous Molokini Crater.

Maalaea Snorkel Tour Maui Hawaii

Snorkel Tour At Molokini

Maui Aquarium / Maui Ocean Center

On your visit to Maalaea, you’ll find one of the most memorable things to do in Maui: Visiting the spectacular Maui Aquarium, or Maui Ocean Center.

The Maui Ocean Center, the largest tropical aquarium in the Western Hemisphere, offers a cornucopia of brilliantly colored corals and tropical fish, sharks, octopi, and sea turtles in over 60 exhibits.

Maui Ocean Center

Here are a few highlights of the Maui Ocean Center:

  • Sharks, Sting Rays, Octopi, and Giant Green Sea Turtles
  • Over 60 different exhibits
  • 750,000-gallon “Open Ocean” exhibit
  • 240-degree view acrylic tunnel
  • Outdoor “touch pools”


A snorkel tour to the volcanic crater, Molokini is an absolute must-do adventure for any Maui vacationer. What makes Molokini Crater so special? Its crescent-shaped crater, of course!

Aerial View of Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater

Not only does the crater provide a calm sanctuary for marine life, but it also houses a thriving reef, teeming with a diversity of coral.

Here are a few reasons why Molokini snorkel, SNUBA, and scuba-diving excursions often rank as a major highlight for Maui visitors:

  • Crystal clear waters with visibility up to 150 feet
  • Over 250 species of tropical fish and aquatic life
  • The crater offers refuge from waves and strong currents
  • Marine life is less “skittish” since they’re used to human visitors
  • Quick boat ride – less time getting there, more time being there!

Sea Life of Molokini Crater Maui Hawaii

Turtle Photo

Sea Turtle At Molokini

South Maui In A Nutshell

A diversity of shopping from fancy to easy-going, some of Maui’s best and largest beaches, and ocean adventures that will leave you exhilarated, make Kihei, Makena, and Wailea a vacationer’s paradise.

Nearby and Notable

Here’s a list of popular Maui activities and destinations that are within arm’s reach of South Maui:

  • Iao Valley hike and Japanese gardens
  • Maui helicopter tours of Haleakala, the West Maui mountains, and Molokai
  • Upcountry Maui zip-line adventures
  • Sunrise atop Haleakala
  • The Road to Hana
  • For info about the other Hawaiian Islands, sign-up for the Hawaii Vacation Guide newsletter!
Maui Zipline North Shore

Upcountry Maui Zipline

Haleakala Sunrise

Sunrise At Haleakala

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