Ultimate Guide to Kahului
People who live on Maui find themselves coming to Kahului all the time. What do they come for? Malls, movies, restaurants and—most important on an island where things cost a lot—Costco.
Kahului is where people come to take care of business. The biggest mall, Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center on Hwy 32, hosts lots of events (like a farmer’s market every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday), as well as the nicest branch of Maui Friends of the Library bookstore where you can find new copies of many Hawaiian books. And Maui Marketplace on Dairy Road is where you’ll find the island’s Barnes and Noble bookstore. Maui Mall has the island’s giant Whole Foods Market and largest movie theater.
Kahului is pronounced kah-hoo-loo-ee.
The Hawaiian language is a beautiful, gentle and melodious language that flows smoothly off the tongue. Just the sounds of the words conjure up trees gently swaying in the breeze and the sound of the surf. With a few ground rules you’ll come to realize that pronunciation is not as tough as you might think.
When missionaries discovered that the Hawaiians had no written language, they sat down and created an alphabet. This Hawaiian alphabet has only twelve letters. Five vowels; a, e, i, o and u, as well as seven consonants; h, k, l, m, n, p and w. The consonants are pronounced just as they are in English with the exception of W. It is often pronounced as a V if it is in the middle of a word and comes after an E or I. Vowels are pronounced as follows:
A—pronounced as in Ah if stressed, or above if not stressed.
E—pronounced as in say if stressed, or dent if not stressed.
I—pronounced as in bee.
O—pronounced as in no.
U—pronounced as in boo.
Kahului Maui Weather
Kahului is nearly always windy. And on those few occasions that it’s not windy—it’s real breezy. If you rent a large vehicle, like a minivan, it’ll often feel like someone’s outside rocking your car.
Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport
The Marriot Kahului hotel is located by the Kahului airport (you can’t miss it), so it appeals to business travelers. It has a wonderfully outfitted lobby with a made-to-order restaurant that is open for breakfast and dinner until 10 p.m. and also serves up a happy hour. Scattered around the lobby are smart TVs to which you can hook up your laptop. The lobby has many places to plug in your computer and enjoy the free WiFi without killing your battery. There is also a 24-hour self-serve snack area with pizzas, soups, drinks, etc., and a microwave. The pool is small, but the covered cabanas are free for the taking, and there’s a large fire pit at night. There are no views here (except of Costco), and rooms have no lanais and oddly no room safes (you have to use the front desk safe deposit boxes). The rooms are modern and comfortably sized with either a shower-only or tub/shower combo. The family suites have a full kitchen and feel quite roomy. There are also connecting rooms here.
Maui Beach Hotel
Rooms at this hotel are small but clean. It’s located in the middle of Kahului, so even though it’s on a beach, it’s actually on the commercial harbor and not recommended for swimming. (There’s quite a lot of debris at the high-tide line.) Cheaper rooms facing the highway have double-paned glass that effectively blocks traffic sounds. Deluxe rooms have a tub/shower combo instead of just a shower. Only some rooms have a lanai, and only rooms in Kahului Wing have a microwave. We wish the architect had put the pool and dining room facing the ocean instead of the street. Their restaurant has a reasonably priced breakfast buffet. Close to the airport where they run a shuttle as part of the resort fee.
This local hotel chain always has clean, tidy rooms and grounds, and this location is no exception. Though on the beach, it’s actually on a commercial harbor, and the water is not recommended for swimming.
The rooms, though very dated, always have spotless bathrooms with polished chrome fixtures (wish we knew their secret—ours always get pitted with rust). They’ve refreshed the bedding in rooms, but still have the same old furniture. Some other areas like the lobby and pool also have new furnishings. Larger rooms are in the tower building (with elevator), and its even-numbered rooms have better views. No rooms have lanais.
Their rack rates should be taken with a grain of salt. Nearly everyone gets discounted, and they have lots of packages. Staff is friendly. No room safes, but they have free safe deposit boxes at the front desk. Local calls are $0.50. Close to the airport for people with late arrivals or early flights.
For some unique places to stay, consider Wailuku hotels, a short distance from Kahului.
Old Wailuku Inn
They consider themselves a B&B, but we’ll classify them as an inn. This was a banker’s home built in 1924, which has been lovingly restored. (The termites had almost carried it away.) Room amenities are well-considered and very homey. Rooms vary a lot, but all are very quaint and some quite roomy. Some have deep whirlpool bathtubs and separate showers.
Other amenities, like many kinds of tea, a very good breakfast that varies each day (served at 8 a.m.—continental served at 7 a.m.) and stocked refrigerators, make this a nice place to stay. They also have a take-away fruit and yogurt parfait for those who have an early tour or flight. The inn is filled with interesting furnishings. Also check out the ‘ohi‘a wood floor upstairs. No laundry facilities. Our review hasn’t changed for a number of editions because they haven’t changed either. We like it.
The location isn’t the best at this hostel—you can’t walk to the beach—but they offer different tours each day (including snorkeling at Black Rock in West Maui, taking the Road to Hana, and hiking on Haleakala) to make up for it. Tours are free, but the guides work for tips. They also have free beer on Friday nights. Pretty impressive. Total party atmosphere. (And they want you to know that before booking so you aren’t surprised.) Walls are wood construction and thin, so the sound carries. Free coffee and make-it-yourself pancakes in the mornings (clean up after yourself, too). They have a strict rule—no Maui residents. You have to show them an out-bound airline ticket or a foreign passport. Clean, small rooms and shared baths (which could be cleaner) but BYOT (towel). Beat-up pool table in game room with a computer. Dorms have lockers, but bring your own lock. Private rooms need to store valuables in the front desk safe.
A Kahului restaurant receives an Ono in our books when it stands out from the rest.
Killer local grinds, brah. This is what happens when a local boy becomes an accomplished chef and uses his skills to make gourmet local food at food truck prices. Kau kau tins, dry mein, garlic shrimp, poke bowls. We haven’t had a bad item. The selection is small, but they’re all items most visitors are unfamiliar with, so no worries. $8–$15 for lunch. Only open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lines can be long, and there are only a couple tables, so take it to go. Since the food might not be familiar to you, consider ordering on their website and picking it up. On Dairy Road (despite their actual mailing address) near Hana Highway in the same center as the more visible Las Piñatas.
Da Kitchen Café
Island-style, gourmet comfort food. Nearly everyone who eats here ends up raving about it. Wide selection of local items, such as loco moco, teriyaki chicken, chicken katsu, lau lau, and kalua pork in a casually upscale setting. The saimin could use a little work—you’re better off with the Won Fat Guy’s chow fun. The teri chicken sandwich is good. The more adventurous will want to try the poke. If you’re presently wanted by the cholesterol police, don’t come here—they may raid the place. Portions are very generous. The Notorious B.I.G. loco moco is big enough to share and then some. Portuguese sausage: two giant beef patties, bacon, spam, Mexican chili with an egg all over rice. Don’t order dessert; you won’t have room for it.
This is where most visitors take their Windsurfing and Kiteboarding lessons. As a beach destination it won’t make your palms sweaty unless you know to walk to your right when you get to the sand from the parking area. After scrambling over some rocks you’ll find a very pretty little stretch of sand backed by trees that you might have all to yourself. A particularly good place to hang out if you’re waiting for someone who’s plane is late. (Yup, been there, done that.) In front of Kahului Airport off Amala Street. Park at the second (farthest) parking lot.
Ho’okipa Beach Park
This beach is upcurrent of most of the runoff that plagues other area beaches farther west. It’s widely recognized as perhaps the best place in the world to windsurf, and boarders from everywhere make their pilgrimage to this spot. If you’re not an expert, don’t try. If the ocean doesn’t get you, the surprisingly territorial windsurfers will. (Novices use Kanaha Beach.) But this is a great place to watch the hordes of windsurfers as well as the pounding surf that often racks the shore. (Windsurfing is not allowed until 11 a.m. Surfers own the waves before then.) It’s uncommon not to have wind here.
Like several areas along the North Shore, the shoreline here is dominated by a rock bench. This blocks much of the waves (in the summer time) and tide-pools form between the sand and rock, making for a great place for kids to explore. The area should be avoided in winter time, though.
In Central Maui, the town of Pa‘ia has a large art community, making it one of the most eclectic places on the island to shop. Here too, you’ll find lots of boutique clothing shops, including popular local swimsuit designers Maui Girl and San Lorenzo. Nearby Makawao in Upcountry is an often-overlooked shopping destination, and in some ways it’s even better than Pa‘ia.
Maui is the undisputed playground of Hawai‘i. No other island has the range of activities and scenery available to you here. There’s almost nothing you can’t do on Maui: hike in pristine rain forests, snorkel in an extinct crater, coast a bicycle 10,000 feet down a volcano, walk along miles of beaches, frolic under a waterfall, dive into a natural freshwater pool, lie on a black or even red sand beach, or sip a drink as the sun sets over nearby islands. Whatever fantasy about Hawaii you have, Maui is bound to deliver.
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