Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve

Located along the south central coast of the island of Maui between the towns of Kihei and Ma΄alaea is the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve which the locals call the “mud flats”. With the high cost of property, Kealia Pond is one of the few natural wetlands left in the Hawaiian Islands. It is 691 acres in size and attracts about 2,700 visitors annually to view and learn more about Hawaii’s endangered species of water birds.

Due to human expansion (loss of suitable breeding grounds), predators (both natural and introduced), loss of natural vegetation, and even hunting, Hawaii is very tough on its native birds. In the last 200 years, more species of birds have become extinct in Hawaii than anywhere else in the world. There were 87 species of birds classified as native to Hawaii. Of those 87 species of birds, 23 are now extinct and 29 more are on the endangered list.

The Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve is a natural habitat sanctuary for many of Hawaii’s endangered species of water birds. If you choose to visit Kealia Pond, you may see such endangered water birds as the Hawaiian Coot (΄Alae ke΄oke΄o), the Hawaiian Duck (Koloa-maoli), the Black-crowned Night Heron (΄Auku΄u), and the Hawaiian stilt (Ae΄o).

Seasonally, there is always something happening at Kealia Pond Preserve. From the fall through early summer, the ponds serve as a settling basin which results in about 200 acres of shallow mud flats. These mud flats offer food, rest, and are suitable nesting areas as well. From late summer to early spring, these ponds also play host to many of the state migratory waterfowl. The tidal areas make for ideal hunting areas for such endangered species as the Black-Crowned Night Heron. From early summer (July) through mid-winter (December), the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle come to the shoreline here to lay their eggs.

Human access to the preserve is on foot via a boardwalk. The boardwalk helps to keep you dry and comfortable while protecting the natural habitat. It starts at the outlet of Kealia Pond on the ocean side of North Kihei Road and winds its way through the preserve past sand dunes and ponds all the way north to Maalaea Harbor. Spotting the boardwalk are many informative signs and displays explaining the pond system and the types of birds and vegetation you might observe while visiting Kealia. You will also find shade shelters along the way which serve as excellent spots to sit and observe the preserve comfortably with a pair of binoculars.

The Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve is operated by the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. As such, it is monitored and does have hours of operation. The boardwalk is open to the public for self-guided tours 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, Mon-Fri. It is closed on public holidays. Please call in advance if you are planning on bringing groups of 20 people or larger.

The Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve is located just a mile north of Kihei. To get there from Kihei, leave town heading north on the main drag, North Kihei Road (Highway 31). When you get to the junction of North Kehei Road (Hwy 31) and the Mokulele Highway 311/350, go right onto the Mokulele Highway 311/350. Just 0.2 miles down the road, you will find the entrance road on your left. The entrance is located at milepost 6 on the Mokulele Highway 311 and is marked by the US Fish and Wildlife Service sign. You will find the office less than 0.5 miles down this road.

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve
Milepost 6, Mokulele Highway (Hwy 311)
Kihei, HI 96753
Phone: (808)875-1582