Chapter 18 – Jack Gist
To South Kihei from Las Angeles
How long have you lived in Kihei?
I’ve lived in Kihei for 15 years. We had a condo there then bought a home. I love the beach, and now I live a mile from the ocean.
Where is Kihei, and what’s it like as a community?
Kihei is a fairly new community. They started building it up probably 20 years ago. It was once just a dessert. You would have to have a good set of tires to make it to Makenna Beach, just because the road was so bad. Now it’s paved. It’s amazing how well built up it is. It’s now a community of over 50,000 people where there once was nothing. It’s grown enormously and it’s just amazing.
Did you have your heart set on Kihei or did you consider buying in other neighborhoods in and around Maui?
I needed to buy something, so we bought the new condo in Kihei. At that point, I wasn’t too sure if I’d be fortunate enough to stay in the state. As things got better, I grew to appreciate the area. So when we were ready and the market leaned more towards us purchasing a home, I went for it. I have really grown to love it. There are desert-like conditions, dry heat, but you also have the ocean.
If you could live anywhere else on the island where would that be?
When I was living elsewhere on the island I wouldn’t dream of living in Kihei. Each area has its own climate. Up country is nice and cool; it doesn’t get as hot. Lahaina side, I’m not too crazy about because it gets so hot. I really don’t know. Maybe I’d live on the north shore or maybe I’d stay on the south side, maybe towards Maui Meadows or Wailea.
Do you worry about crime in Kihei?
No. We’ve had situations in the neighborhood where myself and some of the other neighbors gathered together as a self-appointed crime watch. Even if there is a situation it’s not that threatening. It’s safe.
Was it hard to meet people when you moved to Kihei?
Not really. You have an opportunity to invent yourself here. I feel really comfortable here. I’ve gained a lot of friends here the last 20-plus years. There’s a rule of thumb here: if Mother Maui likes you she’ll keep you if not she’ll spit you out. And I’ve seen a lot of people spit out. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
How’s the traffic in Kihei?
The traffic is bad, but compared to Los Angeles, we don’t have traffic. In my area there are two main roads that go through and if one or the other is closed it turns all of Kihei into a parking lot. And it’s horrendous.
I do three talk shows on our radio station, and they’re all involved in local and state government. One council member I have on my show is from my area, and we talk about infrastructure all the time. It’s frustrating that they build all these homes but haven’t finished the streets to accommodate all the cars. After building all these homes for 50,000 people they are finally building infrastructure.
How has the real estate market changed between the time you bought your first house and your most recent purchase?
We bought our house two years before they started building it to be sure that we get it. In that time the marketing went haywire. We paid $258,000 for the property before we moved in. Then the market exploded and the value on our house tripled. There were people who were millionaires overnight. Since then it’s now leveled out to probably $650,000. So that’s how it fluctuates. We have been looking at downgrading to get a condo closer to the beach and now the market on condos has gone up.
Do you like the quality of life in Kihei?
I like it. You could consider it crowded, but still the quality of life is good. I’ve got a good neighborhood and I like my neighbors. Everybody’s hard working people in our neighborhood. That makes a difference when they appreciate their house and their properties.
What would you say is the one “can’t miss” event or place that a family living in Kihei and Hawaii should be sure to experience?
Go on a whale watch cruise, because there’s nothing more incredible than seeing a whale on one of these cruises. I’ve even swam close to whales because they get near shore. I also would tell people to go to the beach. I go every Sunday morning if the weather’s on my side, which it is 90% of the time. I go out and paddle. It’s the best way in the world to spend a Sunday morning. One morning I was surrounded by a pod of dolphins while I paddled. It’s beyond description.
Do you travel between the islands much?
I used to until it got so expensive. It costs more to go to Oahu and back than to go to California. Interisland flights are very expensive. I haven’t even thought about it in a long time.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Kihei or in other parts of Maui?
For different things I like different restaurants. Spago’s Restaurant is one of the better restaurants within the hotels. It’s really good. For good steak, Outback Restaurant has never disappointed me. And they’ve withstood any competition.
Is there anything that you don’t like about living in Kihei or living in Hawaii?
Not really. It can be a bit crowded a bit in Kihei but I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Every time I even think about visiting California I get a knot in my stomach like I’m being punished. I feel very fortunate to live here
What advice would you give people who are house hunting in Maui and especially in Kihei?
You can get a good deal. Be aware that median price is $600,000-$650,000, so come financially prepared. Be aware of the market. If you see the term “fixer upper,” run. You wouldn’t believe what a fixer upper is here. I’ve seen some of these homes destroyed by previous owners with dogs or decorated with awful wallpaper.
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