Discovering The Hidden Gems Of Kahului, Maui: A Guide To A Local Maui Experience

Last Updated on 22 Jun 2024 by Fiona Perisone

Every visitor to Maui spends at least a little time in Kahului, but they typically then head to the big tourist attractions in the west and south. And this is a shame because Kahului is exactly where you need to be to experience local life! It has so much to offer, with an incredible local food scene, colorful block parties, exciting outdoor adventures, and interesting historical and cultural centers!

Don't just pass through the biggest city in Maui on your way to the typical tourism hubs. Spend some time in the "Dream City" - what Maui locals refer to as the town on the island. Read on to learn where to go, what to do, and where to stay.

Best Time To Visit Kahului

The weather in Kahului is pretty stable, so you can enjoy all outdoor activities at any time! And although summer is typically the peak tourism season, many tourists don't take advantage of Kahului. Crowds and high prices are typically not going to be a concern, no matter what time you visit!

However, you will probably visit Kahului as part of a larger Maui adventure. In this case, the best time to visit is during the months on either side of the peak season. These "shoulder season" months of May and September

Top Attractions

Maui Arts & Cultural Center

Maui Arts & Cultural Center

The Maui Arts & Cultural Center is an indoor and outdoor gathering venue that is always hosting something interesting. The MACC hosts over 1800 events each year, including hula, taiko drumming, theater productions, music performances, drama, ballet, acrobatics, comedians, storytelling, and much more. Check their schedule when you arrive.

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum

Kahului has a fascinating history in sugarcane history, and a quick drive to the Puunene neighborhood of Kahului will take you to the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum. Here, you can enjoy exhibits that showcase this history and see actual sugar farming equipment being used.

Iao Valley State Monument

Iao Valley State Monument

Only 4 miles away from Kahului is the Iao Valley State Monument. This state park sits at the foot of the West Maui Mountains and is the perfect place to spend a day hiking or taking a nature walk. The state park is filled with streams, waterfalls, and the Iao Needle. A fun kid-friendly nature walk is themed around finding hidden treasures from a map.

Kanaha Beach Park

Kanaha Beach Park

Located within Kahului Bay is the Kanaha Beach Park. It's nice to stroll the rocky shoreline of the large Kahului harbor, but all the walking trails lead to the Kanaha Beach Park, where the beach turns sandy, and the waves are perfect for snorkeling and kite surfing! You can learn how to kite surf by taking a 3-day kitesurfing course that is perfect for beginners. This area is staffed with lifeguards, and there are bathroom and shower facilities nearby, as well as picnic tables.

Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary

Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary

This large bird sanctuary and wetlands are located nearby Kanaha Beach Park. It's completely free and is home to two endangered Hawaiian bird species. This is a great place to see the 'alae (Hawaiian coot), ae'o (Hawaiian stilt), and likely a few koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck).

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

The Maui Nui Botanical Gardens can be found in the very center of Kahului. It focuses on conserving native plant species but also works to conserve native culture. The gardens are free to explore and host various workshops to teach the use of native fibers and dyes.

Things To Do

Maui Swap Meet

Maui Swap Meet

The Maui Swap Meet is one of the best places to go every Saturday morning! Located at the Maui Community College, a 50-cent admission fee gets you into an incredible outdoor bazaar filled with handmade wares, fresh Hawaiian flowers, homegrown produce, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. There is usually live music being performed.

 Queen Kaahumanu Center

Go Shopping

Because Kahului is the main shopping hub for Maui's locals, you'll find fewer boutique shops and more big box stores in most shopping districts. However, the Queen Kaahumanu Center is worth a visit. It has over 100 shops and restaurants, and you'll surely find some incredible items there.

private Jeep tour

Take A Tour

There are many ways to explore the landscape of Kahului, Maui, and Hawaii as a whole! One of the most popular is to take a private Jeep tour, which follows the Hana Highway in a very thrilling way. You can also hop on one of the many helicopter tours that take off from the Kahului Airport. It will take you over the West Maui Mountains, Haleakala, and Hana before heading out to Molokai.

Food truck

Eat Some Truck Food

There's good food all over Kahului, such as the Tasaka Guri-Guri in the Maui Mall and Tante's Island Cuisine inside the Maui Seaside Hotel. But the best place to eat in Kahului is actually across the street from a Costco gas station! Here, you'll find a food truck park filled with picnic tables. Try the acai bowls from the Mo'ono Hawaii truck or a meal from Kalei's Lunch Box. The food trucks here offer delicious local food!

Block party

Enjoy A Block Party

As the sun sets, the first Friday of the month calls for more activities to be carried out. That is the Wailuku First Friday, a large block party on Market Street. You'll spend the evening enjoying live music, art booths, kid's activities, and browsing the wares of street vendors and food vendors.

Where To Stay Around Kahului

You're not going to find luxury resorts and vacation rentals here. However, there are still a few hotels in Maui's central hub.

The Maui Seaside Hotel is in a great location, within walking distance from both the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and Kihei Beach. It houses Tante's Island Cuisine restaurant, which serves various cultural foods.

Another lodging option is the Courtyard by Marriott Maui Kahului Airport. This is a pricier hotel option, but it's large, clean, and located near the airport.

Of course, you can also camp! Pitch a tent at Camp Keanae to really immerse yourself in the Hawaiian landscape. Of course, you'll miss out on the modern amenities when you camp, but when else would you get to sleep under the stars in the Pacific Ocean?

Where Is Kahului Located?

Kahului, situated on Maui - one of the expansive Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean, is located on the northwestern tip of the island, where its shape tapers. Being Maui's most populous city, it somewhat merges with Wailuku towards its east and Paia towards its west.

How To Get To Kahului

It's incredibly easy to get to Kahului because this is where the island's airport and largest harbor are located! In fact, almost every visitor to Maui lands in Kahului first. Many national and international airline companies run direct flights in and out of Kahului Airport. Kahului Bay is the largest harbor in Maui, and all cruise ships spend time docked there. The heavily-traveled Hana Highway starts in Kahului, and it is the hub of every Maui adventure!

If you're already in central Maui, you can easily drive to Kahului from either Kihei or Lahaina. The distance from Kihei to Kahului is only 15 miles, and you can drive it yourself or hop on the Route #10 bus. The drive from Lahaina to Kahului takes longer since the West Maui Mountains are in the way, but you'll be there in about an hour on the Route #20 buses.

Transportation Within Kahului

During your stay in Kahului, you will either need to rent a car or use public transportation. The streets in and around Kahului are well-maintained and easy to navigate, and the parking situation is simple and straightforward. So it's perfectly possible to drive yourself around in a rental car without much-added stress! But if you'd rather not, there are two bus networks - one for the city itself and one for the greater Maui island. You can also use a ride-sharing platform, such as Uber, or rent a bike.

Golden Tips For Visiting Kahului

Bring Your Walking Shoes

Bring some comfortable walking shoes! Yes, Hawaii is known for its beaches, and rightly so. The Kahului Harbor and Kanaha Beach Park mean that you'll spend plenty of time along the shore. But Kahului is a residential town, and you'll spend a lot of time on paved sidewalks. Cheap beach shoes can get uncomfortable on hot asphalt! Pack a pair of solid tennis shoes for your shopping excursions.

Car Rental Insurance

Most travelers choose to rent a car when traveling around Maui. The rental company will require some level of auto insurance, but it's a wise idea to take out a separate travel insurance policy.

Book Shows In Advance

Check out the Maui Arts & Cultural Center calendar as you decide when to visit Kahului! The shows are fantastic and might become the deciding factor as you choose what week to enjoy your holiday.