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Everything You Need to Know About the Kihei Lifeguard Tower Murals

You may have noticed that the lifeguard towers along South Kihei Road have hand-painted murals on them.  Curious who painted the murals and what the meaning of the different murals are? Maui Walking Tours did some research to provide answers to your questions so you can appreciate the Kamaole lifeguard tower murals to their fullest!

Why Are Maui Lifeguard Towers Predominantly Yellow?

Maui County lifeguards are officially “Ocean Safety Officers”, which report to the Ocean Safety department. The Ocean Safety department is a division of Maui Fire & Public Safety Department. Now that you understand the organizational format, the tower color will make sense.  

All fire engines on Maui are yellow, hence the lifeguard towers on the Valley Isle are also yellow.  There is one fire engine on Maui that is the traditional red (keep your eyes peeled for it on the roads). This red engine was donated to the Maui Fire Department in November 2023 by the Menlo Park Fire District in California after the devastating Maui wildfires in August destroyed two local rigs. 

When Were The Lifeguard Station Murals Painted?

Nine different lifeguard towers across Maui were painted during the summer and fall of 2022. We are starting to see more and more public buildings and property decorated with local art over the last five years on Maui. From over two dozen murals across the town of Wailuku to a huge painting on the side of Kaahumanu Mall in Kahului, Maui is becoming more colorful by the day!

Who Are The Artists That Painted the Kamaole I, II, and III Murals?

A different local artist painted each of the Kihei lifeguard towers. Below we have profiled each artist and highlighted elements to look for in each mural.

Kamaole I: Bailey Onaga was born and raised on Maui. Instead of playing sports growing up, she was drawn to drawing and painting. She is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and followed her passion for art with further training and education at University of San Francisco. Onaga’s public murals can be found across Maui on lifeguard towers, walls of Wailuku, and even the halls of Lihikai Elementary School in Kahului.

Onaga prefers public murals because everyone in the community can enjoy the work. Paintings displayed in a museum can be restrictive to only those that can afford admission. 

The Kamaole I lifeguard tower mural depicts a beautiful sunset view from the perspective of the south Maui coastline.  You can see the West Maui Mountains in profile with the characteristic large wind turbines that run up the mountain ridge.  A warm color palette featuring hues of orange, yellow, and red are used throughout the mural which amplifies the beautiful Maui sunsets that many tourists and locals enjoy nightly from Kamaole Beach Park I. 

Kamaole II: Matthew Agcolicol was born and raised on Maui. After graduating from San Diego State University, College of Art and Design with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, Agcolicol has been busy making a name for himself across California and Hawaii. He has painted murals at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua, the Hawaii Tattoo Expo, at the Quartyard in San Diego, and so much more. Many of his creations are inspired by Hawaii’s diverse landscape and wildlife.

The mural at Kamaole II draws inspiration from the nature and flora that directly surrounds the tower. Pohuehue is an indigenous green vine with flowering violet petals often found along sandy beach regions across the state of Hawaii. The early Hawaiians would pound Pohuehue roots and leaves into a pulp and apply the paste on wounds and sores. It is fitting that this natural healing element is portrayed on a lifeguard tower that watches over and protects the shores of Kihei. You can also depict dive fins, a mask, and other equipment that our ocean safety officers use to keep ocean-goers safe. 

Kamaole III: The lifeguard tower at Kamaole III was a collaboration between two local artists: Matthew Agcolicol (same artist for the Kamaole II tower) and @jahjahsit.e. We found a great time lapse video on Agcolicol's Instagram that depicts the creation of the mural. What stands out to us in this beautiful mural is the depiction of the seabirds at the top. It is our interpretation that these birds represent the shearwaters that burrow in the nearby coastline that connects Kamaole III to the Kihei Surfside. If you walk along the pedestrian coastal trail you will come across signs that talk about these birds and even spot some of their burrows.

One More Interesting Fact About The Kihei Lifeguard Towers:

Maui Walking Tours sat down with the original architect that drew up the blueprints for the lifeguard towers that call the Kamaole beaches home. We were told that the towers were actually built by Maui prisoners. You will notice the wooden lifeguard towers in Kihei are handmade, as opposed to the newer towers you will find at Makena’s Big Beach that are a molded/fabricated fiberglass.

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1 opmerking

Thanks for the local info. It's so easy to walk by every day, see the beauty of the art, and not know enough about it.

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