Maui's South Shore

The Ultimate Guide to Wailea, Kihei and Makena.

The Wailea coast is a stretch of coastline on the south side of Maui nestled between the town of Kihei and Makena resort development. The name Wailea comes from a Hawaiʻian legend, of Lea, a goddess of canoe builders.who was tragically turned into a bird that flies over this shoreline. Wai means water in Hawaiʻian, hence, the area became know as ‘the waters of Lea’.  Known for its luxury hotels fronting a 1.5 mile scenic coastal walk. Known for excellent weather and mellow beautiful beaches.

History: In ancient times, Hawaiʻians made the slopes of Haleakala above Wailea their home and grew and harvested sweet potatoes. Closer to the shore, fishing villages and hales (homes) were established over time. In1848 the Great Mahele Land Distribution Act was enacted by King Kamehameha. This resulted in the rise of cattle raising throughout the area. It also lead to the creation of Ulupalakua Ranch. In the 1940’s during WWII, the shores of Wailea became a temporary training spot for Marines in the Pacific Theatre. The Marines trained on what they named, Little Tarawa, named after the beach landing mission on the island of Tarawa for which they were training for. Today the beach is more commonly known as Ulua Beach. In1957, the Matson Navigation Company was looking to expand their hotel resorts, and purchased 1,500 acres of Wailea coastline. However, nothing happened until Alexander and Baldwin stepped in and began developing the area in 1971 and the first hotel, the Maui Intercontinental (now the Marriott) appeared in 1973. Today, there are six hotels and eight resort developments–2,000 condos and vacation rentals–that line the 1.5 mile coastal trail.

Offerings: Each resort offers its own unique experience, from the huge waterslides of the Grand Wailea to the super-luxe Four Seasons. Activity offerings include three championship golf courses at the Wailea Golf Club, with a David Leadbetter golf academy; 11 tennis courts at the Wailea Tennis Club; five spas plus fitness centers at the resort hotels; and shopping or dining at the Shops at Wailea.

Feature Photo: HTA/Tor Johnson

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