Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

What to expect when driving in Kihei

UPDATED as of May 2023

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 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. Last year we dealt 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) and pretty horrendous traffic. Thankfully the round-about opened completely in February 2023 and many of the traffic woes when driving in Kihei have settled.

How do you drive a two lane round-about?

Good question. This is the first two lane round-about in Hawaii. We have 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.

Remember, traffic already in the traffic circle has right of way ~ both lanes of traffic must yield when entering the round-about. 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 school opening?

There is continued political wrangling what with the Land Use Commission refusing to issue an occupancy permit as the State didn’t put in a grade-separated pedestrian crossing (over- or underpass). Both Maui County’s mayor and the Hawaii governor got involved and I’m told there is now a temporary occupancy permit so students can begin their school year (August 2023) at their new school. Do note that the State will at some point be causing further traffic mayhem when they install a pedestrian overpass (unclear when that will start). For now all students will need to be shuttled onto campus to avoid crossing at the pedestrian crossing through the traffic circle.

South Kihei Road shenanigans

Sewer pipe project

Driving in Kihei wouldn’t be complete without tearing up good asphalt. Last 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 are done ~ they seem to be re-surfacing S Kihei Road for now.

Pedestrian crossing ‘islands’

The powers that be decided Kihei needed pedestrian crossing ‘islands’ along S Kihei Road which would help keep pedestrians safer as they cross the two-lane road. They are poorly marked and caused some vehicle damage due to drivers not paying attention to the new obstructions (better vehicle damage than injured pedestrians). Apparently they were installed without first consulting the Maui police or fire departments, and work crews are now tearing them out again. Another great use of tax payer money.

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?

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.