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If you’ve ever wondered where exactly Kahului, Hawaii is located, you’re not alone. As one of Maui’s main population centers and home to the island’s primary airport, understanding Kahului’s geography is key for visitors and residents alike.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Kahului is located along Maui’s northern shore, situated between the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala volcano on East Maui. It serves as the commercial and industrial hub of the island.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Kahului’s location and geography. With helpful maps and clear explanations of its placement relative to other major towns and geographic features, you’ll have a detailed understanding of where exactly to find this central Maui town.

Locating Kahului Along Maui’s North Shore

Between West Maui Mountains and Haleakala

The town of Kahului lies on the northern coastline of the island of Maui, perfectly positioned between the towering West Maui Mountains to the west and the impressive Haleakala volcano to the east. With the rugged peaks of the West Maui Mountains providing protection from wind and rain, and the sloping terrain of Haleakala opening up central Maui to sunshine and pleasant weather, Kahului enjoys a mild tropical climate year-round.

The location also provides spectacular views. From Kahului, one can glance west across emerald green sugarcane fields to see the sharp ridgelines of the West Maui Mountains. Their peaks often capped with fluffy white clouds.

To the east rises the massive shield volcano Haleakala, its size dominating a full third of the island. On clear days, you can even spot its red cinder cones peeking above the clouds over 10,000 feet high.

With central Maui’s flat and fertile land perfect for growing sugarcane, pineapple, coffee and other crops, Kahului emerged as an important hub for Maui’s agricultural industry. Its protected harbor and proximity to fertile farmland still make it an ideal location today for processing and shipping produce.

Bordering Other Central Maui Towns

Kahului serves as the commercial and population heart of central Maui. Its borders blend into the neighboring towns of Wailuku, the county seat, busy port town of Kahului, college beach town of Kīhei, quaint plantation village of Pāʻia, and upcountry artists’ enclave of Makawao.

Together, these central Maui communities form a contiguous urban area with over 50,000 residents. Kahului acts as the center point and core of economic activity in the region. It hosts Maui’s main airport, deep water harbor, major shopping centers, and industrial parks.

Yet each town surrounding Kahului maintains its own unique small town charm. Wailuku has its historic plantation-era architecture, government buildings, and remnants of its role as a major sugarcane producer. Kīhei offers magnificent beaches and resorts.

Pāʻia and Makawao provide a delightful blend of surf culture, boutique shops, and art galleries.

So while Kahului forms the urban foundation of central Maui, it is bordered by delightful communities that each contribute their own character. Exploring central Maui means discovering this diversity, all centered around the hub of Kahului.

Pinpointing Kahului’s Location on a Maui Map

Kahului’s Placement Within Central Maui

When looking at a map of the island of Maui, you’ll find the town of Kahului situated along the northern shore of the island in the region referred to as Central Maui. More specifically, Kahului lies between the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala, with the island’s largest harbor, Kahului Harbor, located on Kahului’s southern edge.

As Maui’s commercial and industrial hub, Kahului serves as the economic engine for the whole island. The town’s central location, combined with its harbor and airport, have enabled it to become a major transportation gateway and distribution center.

Goods shipped to Kahului are dispatched to various towns and resorts across Maui.

Given its flat terrain near sea level and position next to the shoreline, Kahului experiences mostly sunny weather year-round. Its close proximity to Mount Haleakala also means it occasionally gets cloud coverage and showers when trade winds push moisture downhill from higher elevations.

Key Roads Connecting Kahului

There are several major thoroughfares allowing movement in and out of Kahului. Heading west takes you onto route Honoapi‘ilani Highway leading to Lahaina and Ka‘anapali. Going east connects to Hana Highway, a famously scenic drive along Maui’s lush and rugged coastline.

And venturing south leads onto route Kuihelani Highway stretching through rich sugar cane fields towards Maalaea Harbor.

Right within Kahului itself, major roads such as Ka‘ahumanu Ave, Hana Hwy, and Dairy Road serve to distribute regional traffic flowing to and from the harbor area. Of course, feeding into all these roads is the complex network of surface streets and neighborhoods that make up Kahului proper.

Understanding Kahului’s Designation as Maui’s Commercial Hub

Home to Kahului Airport and Harbor

As the largest population center on Maui, Kahului serves as the island’s main commercial and transportation hub. Most notably, Kahului is home to Maui’s lone commercial airport, Kahului Airport (OGG). Located just minutes from the town center, Kahului Airport handled over 7 million passengers in 2022, serving as the gateway to Maui for most visitors and business travelers.

The airport provides direct flights to major cities throughout the continental US, with service from Alaska, American, Delta, United and other major airlines.

Just 3 miles from downtown Kahului lies the island’s main seaport. Kahului Harbor welcomes cruise ships, commercial cargo carriers, sailing vessels, and other ocean-going vessels that are crucial for goods transport and tourism.

In the 1960s and 70s, an influx of people, equipment, and supplies transformed Kahului into Hawaii’s main port on Maui, an important distinction it retains today.

Surrounded By Business Parks and Shopping Centers

Kahului lies at the heart of Maui’s central valley, with major routes to all areas of the island. This central location has led to significant commercial development in and around the town. Kahului is home to several expansive business parks, including the 177-acre Maui Business Park and the 40-acre Maui Business Park II, which combined house over 70 companies employing thousands of local residents.

Within 5 minutes of the Kahului Airport are three large shopping centers. At Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, visitors can browse through 75 stores and restaurants. Maui Mall is an open-air shopping center with over 50 shops, from big box retailers like Macy’s to surf brands like Quicksilver.

The Maui Marketplace is another popular open-air mall with fashion, food, and entertainment options just steps from the airport grounds.

Kahului regularly appears on national rankings of top retail markets. The town features 22 food and beverage stores per square mile, nearly 5 times the national median. Similarly, there are around 3 times as many clothing stores per resident compared to the typical US town.

This range of shops generates over $2 billion in annual retail sales for Kahului, clearly designating it as Maui’s retail capital.

Geography and Climate of Kahului, Hawaii

Low-Lying Topography

Kahului is located on the northern shore of Maui island, with a low-lying topography surrounded by the West Maui Mountains. The land is flat and slopes gently from the western mountains toward the shoreline, with elevations ranging from sea level to around 100 feet above sea level.

This geography makes Kahului prone to flooding during periods of heavy rainfall, as water flows down from the mountains into the lower-elevation areas near the coast. Several rivers, including the Iao Stream and Kanaha Stream, run through Kahului and often overflow their banks.

Mild Tropical Weather Patterns

True to its Hawaiian setting, Kahului has a mild tropical climate all year long. Daily average temperatures range from 73°F in the winter months to 81°F in the summer (U.S. Climate Data).

Rainfall is moderate but occurs frequently due to orographic lifting as the trade winds blow moist air up the slopes of the West Maui Mountains. The average yearly rainfall in Kahului is about 20 inches (NOAA Data).

Kahului’s weather is also strongly influenced by its coastal location. Land breeze and sea breeze patterns are common, bringing warmer and cooler alternating winds off the land and ocean. Large waves and high surf are typical along the beaches during the winter months when storms track across the northern Pacific Ocean.

How Kahului Got Its Name and Origins

The name Kahului means “the two carriers” or “the two embraces” in Hawaiian. According to local legends, it refers to the two islands of Maui and Moloka’i that seem to embrace the central plain where Kahului lies.

The area was originally inhabited by Native Hawaiians who lived along the shoreline and fertile central valley. Ancient Hawaiian artefacts found in the region indicate early Polynesian settlers arrived around 600-800 AD.

Kahului was a political and religious center in ancient Hawaii ruled by local chiefs.

In the early 19th century, Kahului developed into an important regional hub and port under the Kingdom of Hawaii. Its central location made it a key spot for the sugar plantation industry. The first sugar mill opened in 1849, attracting immigrant workers from China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines.

Today, Kahului is Maui’s main commercial and shopping area. The Kahului Airport brings in visitors from around the world. With its rich history and culture, convenient location, and modern amenities, Kahului continues to be the heartbeat of Maui.


Hopefully this detailed guide has helped answer your question, “Where is Kahului, Hawaii?” We covered its precise location along Maui’s northern coast, mapped its placement relative to central Maui landmarks, explained its commercial significance as home to the airport and harbor, described its topography and climate, and dove into the origins of its name.

With this thorough understanding of exactly where Kahului sits both geographically and economically on Maui, you can now navigate and describe its location with ease. Whether you’re visiting or a longtime local resident, pinpointing Kahului is an important first step to maximizing your time on the Valley Isle.

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