One of Maui’s most unique natural wonders is the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei. While it may not be as well sought-after or renowned as the Road to Hana or the famous Haleakala Crater, this special wetland positioned in between the Maalaea Harbor and Kihei is a sight worth exploring as you get to know your new island home.
The refuge, established in 1992, will surely catch your eye while you’re driving down North Kihei Road. Unlike the surrounding mountains and the nearby Sugar Beach, this area is a wetland and is flat with low-level ponds. It is also home to around 30 endangered species, including various Hawaiian water birds such as the Hawaiian stilt and the Hawaiian coot. You might also like to know that other endangered species that benefit from this protected area include the Hawaiian Hoary Bat and the Hawaiian hawksbill turtle. Thanks to its establishment as a wildlife refuge, it’s become a safe nesting as well as feeding and resting habitat for some of these animals. It also happens to be one of the few remaining natural wetlands in the entire Hawaiian Islands chain.
Prior to western contact, this area may have been used by Native Hawaiians as a place to gather salt. The name, Kealia, means “salt encrusted” in Hawaiian and refers to the crystalline salt margins that are left around the ponds when they shrink in size during the dry season. Some archeologists believe that Hawaiians may have used this area to retrieve salt for many centuries. Later on, the pond and the surrounding areas would be used for grazing cattle and eventually an airport during World War II.
Visiting the Refuge
While you cannot explore inside the refuge, the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk makes for a beautiful stroll along the bird sanctuary and boasts a visual vantage point to soak in the beautiful vista. The boardwalk is located beside Maalaea Bay and is about 2,200 feet long. While walking on the boardwalk, you’ll have a chance to read up on the area’s history and learn more about the refuge through self-guided interpretive exhibits. These exhibits will educate you on the visiting birds that rest in the wetlands, including the occasional white-faced ibis.
One of the many perks of island living is having natural beauty like Kealia Pond close by. Whether you are just starting to fall in love with Maui or you are looking to relocate, we here at Real Estate Maui Hawaii are here to help you find the Hawaii home of your dreams. Our contact information is available at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!