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  • Ken Wong

Kihei's History

KIHEI'S HISTORY: Originally called "Kama'ole" by the natives that means "barren", Kihei started off as a lifeless, deserted and dry town with less than 13 inches of rain falling on the area annually. In the 1900's, efforts to put up a sugar plantation was met with failure.

In 1930, Kihei was still considered a barren town, swamp land and only non-native kiawe trees can be found on roadways that were largely unpaved. There was little attraction in Kihei except for the first 350 native settlers and a few good fishing spots.

Things remained generally the same in Kihei for the next two years, such that the government decided to put eleven beach lots up for sale. Even then, only six were sold. A slight ray of hope occurred in 1950 when some Kihei lands were developed for farming but were eventually sold for a low $225 per acre. The economic activity then at Kihei was so slow that residential lands can be bought for as little as five cents per square foot.

It took another ten years before progress finally decided to give Kihei a visit. This took place when water was piped in to the town from Central and West Maui. From there, it was only a matter of time before developers saw the potential of the area as a perfect spot for fun and sun-loving visitors.

The period from 1970 down to the 1980's saw Kihei lands giving way to numerous condominium units, shopping centers and strip malls, each establishment just a couple of blocks away from one another. Genuine progress finally settled in Kihei when the first batch of tourists came, looking for inexpensive but modern lodging. Today, Kihei is one of Hawaii's busiest beach towns. The scenery has remained largely the same as it was during the 70's except for the fact that more tourists are coming in, traffic has become a little heavy and more merchants from the upscale class have ventured into the town trying to sell their wares. This has blended well with the town's many spectacular beaches and paved roads including the South Kihei Road and Piilani Highway, often used by visitors who are lodged in at the exclusive Wailea Resort.

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