Chances are that your first experience on Maui will be when you land at the Kahului Airport. Kahului is the hub of activity located in the valley between the West Maui mountains and the slopes of Haleakala on the Southside of Maui. The closest towns are Wailuku to the west and Paia to the east.
Looking at Kahului from a high altitude you’ll note that it looks like an actual city whereas most of the other towns on the island become just small neighborhoods by comparison. It is the most “urban” town on Maui, and you might overhear locals saying, “I’m going into town” referring to Kahului.
Kahului is where most of Maui’s residents live and work due in large part to the airport, heliport, seaport, malls, warehouses, and schools. Most of the island’s car rental facilities and large box stores such as Costco, Kmart, and Walmart are located in town which makes Kahului very busy almost every day.
See Kahului Map
NEW! Also see: Maui Bike Tours Comparison
Kahului is also home to our official seaport, Kahului Harbor. The large cruise ships often stop here overnight and the harbor is a buzz with container ships and surfers. Located near the harbor and airport you’ll find several small malls; Maui Marketplace, Maui Mall, and Ka’ahumanu Mall. The biggest of which is Ka’ahumanu which is named after Queen Elizabeth Ka’ahumanu who was born in Hana, Maui in 1768.
Before sugarcane, the valley where Kahului had its beginnings was largely uninhabited. Later, Kahului was home to Maui’s first railroad in the 1880s which hauled sugar cane from the sugar mill to the harbor. A town sprouted up around the sugar cane industry and in the year 1900 the bubonic plague wiped out the entire town. They decided to burn down the town to snuff out the plague. What is now modern-day Kahului was the result of a planned community development by the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Company in 1948.
Today’s bustling Kahului is the hub of business on Maui. Sprawling homes, apartments, warehouses, and communities dot the landscape and make Kahului the best place to find affordable housing, office space, and a place to start up a business because almost everything is nearby. We also have a few excellent spots for food like Tin Roof for takeout and Casanova’s for a nice seated dining experience.
Once a week a cruise ship docks and visitors embark on Kahului for shopping and renting cars to explore the rest of Maui. Hidden down a few back roads between the Kahului airport and the harbor are a few interesting beaches. Airport Beach and Kanaha Beach Park entertain windsurfers, paddle boarders, and kiteboarders in this often windswept area. In the early morning, you might see a line of 10-15 fishermen standing in the shallows fishing for small bait. A lot of people might be surprised to know that during a brief period in May and June you can watch the sunset from these Kahului Beaches.
Rest assured that Kahului has all the trappings of a city in the making. This town has a great mix of neighborhoods, business, tourism, and commerce. Recently a new hotel was built near the airport and Costco is expanding. Updates to the Maui Mall, the addition of a Target Department store, development of a bus depot near the sugar mill are all signs of expansion and growth.
You might miss most of Kahului if you’re vacationing here but it’s almost certain that you’ll leave Kahului wondering if you might have missed something as you drive through towards the airport. From a local’s perspective, you may just have missed an opportunity to really get to know the heart of Maui.
Education, Arts & Culture
- University of Hawaii, Maui College
- Aloha Friday Farmers Market (Maui College)
- Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum
- Maui Arts & Cultural Center
- International Terminal
- Kahului Heliport
- Inter-Island Terminal (small planes)
- Rental Car Companies
- Cargo Flights
- Cargo and Shipping Port
- Cruise Ship Docking
Gardens, Beaches & Natural features
- Kanaha Beach Park
- Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary (Birds)
- Maui Nui Botanical Gardens
- Home Depot/Lowes
- Queen Ka’ahumanu Mall
- Maui Mall
- Maui Marketplace
- Swap Meet (Saturday, behind Maui College)
- Consolidated Theatres Kaahumanu 6
- Maui Mall Megaplex