Kalama Wetlands

The Kalama Wetlands at Kalama park in Kīhei are the last part of a long journey for waters flowing from high on Haleakala. Water flowing overland and flowing underground finds its way here. Kalama is a perennial (permanent ) muliwai (estuary wetland) and is fed constantly by groundwater springs.

Sandy Beach: The beach at the river mouth is no place to be during a flash flood, as it can be flooded very quickly. However this wetland and beach system in an important link in the watershed’s infrastructure and provides important wetland services.

Sand flats: In front of the river mouth is an alluvial fan of sand from accumulated stream deposits. Also at the stream mouth where the freshwater flows into the ocean, the coral doesn’t grow. Coral growth is inhibited by freshwater so a natural sand flat occurs in this area. There are also various marine species here that are specialized to the freshwater springs that enter the ocean here. You can see the freshwater entering the seawater here, like a shimmering distortion when you snorkel. And you can sometimes feel the temperature change as spring water comes out of the seafloor at a different temperature than the surrounding seawater.

In the back-beach area there is now a large park. The kahawai (stream) that flows into this wetland comes through the Kihei Gulch #1, then through the shops at Kalama Village flows under South Kihei Road, and along the stream bed next to the whale statue. The wetland here expands when it rains, and there is a footbridge over it where the shoreline promenade crosses the stream near the skate park.  Under the ironwood trees is a cool dark area where a deep pool of brackish water lies.

Kalama Wetlands in Kihei.

Wetland Services: Wetlands, like the Kalama Wetlands, provide services called “wetlands services”. These include, filtering stormwater, detaining floodwater, providing a habitat, sequestering carbon, and absorbing chemicals and other contaminants. This wetland is the drainageway for the entire neighborhood.


The Kalama muliwai (wetland) and its supporting kahawai (stream, gully).

Nearshore Waters: The waters adjacent to the Wetlands are connected through underground springs where the groundwater flows daily into the ocean, as well as periodic overland flooding that comes during rainfall events. The nearshore waters are full of marine life that is protected, including several endemic and endangered species.

Protect Maui’s Coral Reefs sign posted at Kalama Park