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Chapter 20 – Joe Hawkins

Kihei/wailea from American Samoa

How long have you lived in Kihei?

I’ve lived in Kihei for 12 years. Previously I’ve lived in Paia, in the Kula area, and Haiku.

Where is Kihei, and what’s it like as a community?

Kihei is on the south shore. And as a community it’s a blue collar working class community. And we have some of the large resorts areas, too. It caters to local and tourists alike.

What brought you to Kihei?

I was hired as the operations manager of HHawaii Media. I chose Kihei for the proximity to work. As the operations director I’m on call 24/7. An emergency can happen any time day or night so I choose to be close by.

How’s the job market?

I know that most of the jobs here are service related— hotel, restaurant, tourist. I’ve never had to look for a job on Maui. Each time that I’ve come I’ve had a job. Most people don’t move to Maui for work. They move to live on Maui and then they find any type of work they can do to sustain themselves. Everybody sees the postcards and they think it’s a great place to live, and it is, but it’s not as easy as all that. It’s an expensive place to live. Many people here work 2 or 3 jobs to sustain themselves.

Do you worry about crime in Kihei?

I don’t worry about crime. The area I live in, I haven’t witnessed any crime. I live in a large condo complex that takes care of security well.

Was it hard to meet people when you moved to Kihei?

It’s not hard. I’m an outgoing person and I’m also a high profile person. I do the morning show on the local radio station. I find that most people here in my age group– 60s– have retired from something. Their focus is on their family, grandkids. Their activities are centered around that. It is a transient population. People come and go with tourism.

What’s your commute like?

I’ve driven on all the islands, and we have less traffic than all the islands. I’m fortunate that I’m not out in the traffic in the morning because I’m the radio. We do have normal situations with accidents and traffic. The biggest problem here is there are no alternate routes. There’s one set of roads, and if there is an accident you are stuck until it’s cleared.

Do you have to be rich to live in Maui

I’m certainly not rich. You have to want to live on Maui. You have to have the heart for living in Maui. It’s a different lifestyle. The people who have been born and raised here have seen so many people come and go over the years, and the outcome hasn’t been great for them. It’s important to have a good heart and understand and respect the culture.

How has the real estate market changed between the time you bought your first house and your most recent purchase?

When I moved here in 1975 you could buy a house on the beach for $30,000. That’s not going to happen anymore. We had a huge downturn in the market in 2007, like everywhere, and that made it affordable for me to get into the market. That was unfortunate for some people who couldn’t stay in their homes, but it was good for me as I was able to buy a house I love.

Do you like the quality of life in Kihei?

I think the quality is excellent, There’s plenty of exercise. You have the beaches, the weather is perfect year-round. There is hiking, surfing, water sports. There are some things we don’t have in abundance, but all in all, this area holds a lot of promise for people

What surprised you most about moving to and living in Kihei?

The only surprise was the growth. I lived here in the 1970s and moved back 12 years ago, and to see the growth was surprising. Also it surprises me that so many of the houses don’t represent the Hawaiian architecture or lifestyle. It surprises me there is not more effort put into cohesive architecture standards. I’d like the place to look less like Ohio and more like Hawaii.

What would you say is the best way to spend a weekend on Maui?

Any weekend away from work is a good weekend. I enjoy driving up the mountain, going to the summit and hiking, or going to the backside to Hana and hiking. If I can go to my favorite beach with a good book and a good cigar, I’m a real happy guy.

What places should you avoid if you don’t want to see a lot of tourists?

Stay in your house; they are everywhere! We are a tourist-based economy. It would be like moving to Iowa and saying how do you avoid the farmer. That’s our business, tourism. It’s the machine that operates this place. Tourism and construction are the biggest factors in our economy. Without one you don’t have the other. I love talking to tourists and hearing if they are having a nice time.

Do you travel between the islands much?

Not as often as I would like, but I’ve travelled plenty. Each one holds something special and I’ve lived on them all nearly. In the 1970s I was a young guy out of the military, and I lived on Waikiki on the north shore, and it was wonderful. I really enjoyed living on the Kona side of the big island in the 1980s. Kauai is the island I go to most often. It’s the farthest north, the oldest island. To me it is what most people think Hawaii should look like. It gets the most rain and has the tropical environment.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Kihei or in other parts of Maui?

I have several. I often go to Fabiana’s—they have two locations. I’m probably there most often. And I like the salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays.

Is there anything that you don’t like about living in Kihei or living in Hawaii?

I’m a pretty content person. The cost of living is relative. You learn where to shop and how to shop. Your expenses are different here. I don’t find it any more expensive than certain places. There are certain things you pay more for. I shop at local produce stands for produce. You do pay more for some things, but you don’t pay for other things. You don’t pay for a seasonal wardrobe. Gas is expensive but you don’t have far to drive. You learn how to live Maui and then it’s not so difficult.

What advice would you give people who are house hunting in Maui and especially in Kihei?

My first bit of advice– if they’ve come on vacation and say we’re going home, selling everything, and moving back– perhaps what you want to do is rent first and make sure this place is for you. People visit here and fall in love with it and everything is wonderful. Then they come here and they’ve left all their family on the mainland. Unless they are willing to make a huge change I’d say give it six months to test the waters first.


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Gabe Amey