Kihei v Lahaina 4 Nights

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diverjen

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Hi All! First time to Hawaii and Maui. Trying to sneak a post COVID kid free mini dive trip on miles sales tickets to Maui for mid September for 4 nights. About us: late 30s/early 40s couple. We have about 120 dives, AOW and Nitrox but haven't been in the ocean since COVID, but do keep skills up as much as possible in the pool which is to say not much lol. We will probably do a refresher and some pond diving and/or aquarium diving before we go just to get some good practice. We have mainly dove Bonaire, Anilao/PG and USVI.

We love muck, shore, and boat diving and want to stick to easier diving since its been awhile and we are leaving 2 small kids at home for the first time and we very much need/want to return to. Since its such a short trip we are trying to decide if we should base out of Kihei or Lahaina. Ideally we would do a couple boat dives (maybe 1- Molokini Crater and 1- Lanai) and some shore diving ( I'm hearing some good things about Mala and Airport?). Anyway, I want to book a car (definitely need a car, right? Or should we rethink a little?) and condo soon but couldn't really tell if one or the other location was a more obvious fit. Seems like once I get that figured we can look for ops. TIA!
 

Marquito

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I'm certainly no authority, but happy to share my experience should it be helpful. I was in Maui in August 2021 and stayed in Kihei. I did some boat dives with Maui Dreams (based in Kihei) whose boat was located in the Ma’alaea Harbor (~15-20 minute drive north from the dive shop in Kihei). I also did boat dives with Lahaina Divers whose boat was in one of the slips in Lahaina near the big banyan tree (~5 minute walk from the dive shop in Lahaina). I also did a couple of shore dives, to include Makena Landing (~15 minute drive south of Maui Dreams in Kihei) and Mala Wharf (~5 minute drive north of Lahaina Divers in Lahaina). I did find that I was venturing north of Kihei quite often, not just diving-related, but also for restaurants (FOND and Star Noodle are great) and some beaches that I liked (Honolua Bay and DT Fleming), and so with an upcoming trip I'm going to try staying north of Lahaina (further north than I would probably prefer, but the price was right).

Context for why I dove with two shops... We were traveling with friends and had already settled on accommodations in Kihei (so found Maui Dreams which was nearby), but I also wanted to do a hammerhead dive and Lahaina Divers is the only operator that does that dive (might now be one other operator, but I heard they use a smaller boat and the passage to the site can be very tumultuous).

Also, I absolutely recommend the Mala Wharf dive -- I had a couple dozen sea turtles all to myself on what resembled an underwater airport with turtles flying in to be cleaned or to sleep and then flying off into the blue (also an adult and juvenile black tip were sleeping under the cleaning station).

And yes, you absolutely want a car.
 

AquamanKauai

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Aloha and congrats on your upcoming trip!

You can't really go wrong either way in my opinion with Lahaina or Kihei. It's also not that big of a deal to drive from one to the other. For many years I've been vacationing from Kauai to Maui and have stayed in one of these locations and driven to dive in the other. As you continue to research you'll see that there are countless shore dives on the island. Mala wharf and Makena Landing are absolutely fantastic sites that rival experiences you can have on the boats. There are many dive operations on the island but over 20 years of professional diving here in the islands I feel that Mike Severn's in Kihei sets the bar. Even if you stay in Lahaina which I've often done - it's a pretty easy run down to Kihei in the early morning. Pauline, Warren and Andy are the best staff I've ever gone diving with. Book way in advance to ensure you can go with them. Amazing knowledge and passion for diving.

If you were to stay in Lahaina take a look at the Maui Guest House. It is a simply wonderful place to stay and the owner Tanna is wonderful. It's in a quiet neighborhood with beautiful views and you can't beat the price. The location is just north of Lahaina town.

As a diver you should carve out a little time for the Maui Aquarium too! For a smaller aquarium it is really impressive!

Feel free to send me a PM if I can help with any questions that you may have while planning. I'd love to help more if I can.
 

Desertlifter

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Like mentioned above, Mike Severns is a great if not the great operator on Maui. I dove with Maui Dreams on Molokini last year and they were great too.

I grew up going to Maui and my parents live in Wailuku. Kihei and Lahaina both have their strong points depending on where your interests lie. Maui Ocean Center is worth a trip either way.

A car is a very good idea IMO. I always use Manaloha Rentals for my car. No counter to worry about for pick up and drop off, which is great.
 

DancinDiver

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You can't really go wrong either way in my opinion with Lahaina or Kihei. It's also not that big of a deal to drive from one to the other. For many years I've been vacationing from Kauai to Maui and have stayed in one of these locations and driven to dive in the other.

I feel that Mike Severn's in Kihei sets the bar. Even if you stay in Lahaina which I've often done - it's a pretty easy run down to Kihei in the early morning. Pauline, Warren and Andy are the best staff I've ever gone diving with. Book way in advance to ensure you can go with them. Amazing knowledge and passion for diving.

diverjen,

I agree with Aquaman. You can't go wrong either way between Lahaina and Kihei, and Mike Severns absolutely sets the bar. Pauline, Warren, and Andy indeed have amazing knowledge of and passion for diving.

We've traveled to Maui many times, and we always stay at north Kaanapali, at Old Airport Beach. Old Airport is a simple dive, great for a first dive of a trip. Or, enter at the southern end of Old Airport, and let the current slowly carry you around Black Rock. That makes a nice night dive. To the north, the north end of Kapalua Beach is another easy shore dive. Mala Wharf (turtles galore) in Lahaina is the best, though, by far -- but don't go after a rainy period because it'll be murky. Near Kihei, Ulua Beach and Makena Landing are very good.

You absolutely need a car. You'll find parking difficult at many dive sites, so go early.

Don't expect Hawaiian diving to compare with Anilao or PG. It is its own thing. Hard corals only. Subtle color. For us the joy is in the endemic fish -- which is exactly something Pauline and team can help you with.
 

DancinDiver

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For a little more insight, see this Maui and Mike Severns trip report: Maui 2021 trip report
 

Montana Diver

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For the longest time I hated the midday traffic in and out of Lahaina. Kihei was always better. This year the traffic in Kihei was just as bad in town. Highway is still better around Kihei, but much worse than 15 years ago. I dived with Ed Robinson forever and always enjoyed the dives. Ed sold out in 2019 my dive guide and boat captain went to Maui Dream Dives. Overall, they are a phenomenal group. All dive guides are very good. The boat leaves out of Maalaea Harbor. They use a 45 Newton with 6 divers per dive guide.

Mala Wharf is a great dive. Turtle soup and some fairly large White tips. Lots of other critters, but the shore entry is challenging. 100 yards to waist deep water. A good place to use a set of dry suit boots, damn rocky.
 

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