Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

What to expect when driving in Kihei

If you’ve been to Maui before, you will know the ins and outs about driving in Kihei. We have the Pi’ilani Hwy with speed limits set at 40 mph (everyone goes 50+) and then slow South Kihei Road, with speeds at 20-30 mph, with many traffic lights, potholes, pedestrians and cyclists and some missing sidewalks.

The speed limit change

The State decided to throw us all a curveball this past year when the ‘powers that be’ decided we needed a two lane traffic circle/round-about in front of the new Kihei Highschool (Kulanihako’i High) on the P’iilani Hwy. Yes I have a pretty strong opinion on this.

The State permanently reduced the speed limit on the Pi’ilani Hwy to 35 mph ~ think of the hwy as Pi’ilani Drive or Boulevard, from North Kihei all the way into Wailea. This year we’ve been dealing with zipper merging (and the drivers who don’t understand how to) and ‘half-abouts’ (half a round-about as the other side is constructed). Traffic is generally worst between 7-9am south-bound (towards Wailea) and 3-6pm North-bound (towards Kahului) as locals try to get to and from work.

The opening of the round-about

The day is finally here! Workers will be closing the Piilani Hwy/Drive/Blvd between Kaonoulu and Pi’ikea 8pm Tuesday (Dec 20), reopening as a round-about on Wednesday (Dec 21) at 5am. There will be two lanes open south bound and one lane open north bound. The second north bound lane will open at some point.

How do you drive a two lane round-about?

Good question. This is the first two lane round-about in Hawaii. We’ve got two single lane round-abouts on Maui, one by Kihei’s Safeway and one in Kahului’s Maui Lani subdivision. The Department of Transportation produced this helpful how-to video, but failed to account for the actual traffic volume that is usually on the Pi’ilani Hwy/Dr/Blvd. Also, please take note there is a pedestrian crossing on the South end for students to cross from the residential area to their new high school.

When is the new highway opening?

I haven’t heard yet…. last we heard there was some back and forth if the County will allow the school to open without the required pedestrian overpass. Technically the school is ready to welcome students this January 2023 but it is anyone’s guess if it actually will. A small first class is currently housed in container classrooms at the local middle school.

South Kihei Road shenanigans

Sewer pipe project

Driving in Kihei wouldn’t be complete without tearing up good asphalt. This fall the County started a project of replacing sewer pipes under South Kihei Road. Yes, this involves digging up the road. They started on the South end by the sewage transfer station and are very slowly working their way through the less pot-holed sections of S Kihei Road. I think they’ve stalled out near Kamaole Sands about a month ago. I’m sure they’ll restart it as we get into high season. The more cars on the road, the better to do construction.

The Maui Coast Hotel construction
shoreline access traffic sign

The Maui Coast Hotel is expanding and adding a new building (I’m told the size of the existing one), doubling (?) the number of the hotel’s rooms. There is a huge crane on site ~ do they actually need a crane that size, or is it was the only one available in the Hawaiian Islands? They have been re-routing traffic for the past few weeks weekdays between 8am-3:30pm.

The moral of the story….. Driving in Kihei is a little nutty these days. Relax, this ain’t the mainland. Take your time, pay attention (especially at the traffic circle). Go to the beach, work on your tan and please stay off the roads as much as you can.