The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Maui Jim Kahi Review

A high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality, though a bit heavy.
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Price:  $250 List | $249.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Excellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb case
Cons:  Heavy, large overall size and fit, expensive
Manufacturer:   Maui Jim
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 11, 2019
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 12
  • Lens Quality - 30% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Frame Quality - 20% 8
  • Style and Versatility - 15% 6
  • Coverage - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Maui Jim Kahis are a great all-around pair of shades that boast great coverage, quality, and performance. They one of our top choices for everyday shades. Their lenses provide top-notch protection, superb clarity, and excellent contrast while remaining fairly true-to-color. The large overall size of the Kahis may be challenging for those with smaller faces, but they provide great coverage in a quality frame. Though they are some of the heaviest sunglasses we tested, the extra weight pays off in performance. They also come with a super hardy case, which is great because you'll be bringing them with you everywhere! For a solid pair of glasses that are up for any casual adventure, you can't go wrong with the Maui Jim Kahis.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Maui Jim Kahi
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $249.99 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$144.98 at Backcountry
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$188.95 at Backcountry
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$245.00 at Backcountry$123.74 at Amazon
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Pros Excellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb caseGreat clarity, excellent contrast with little color distortion, flexing frames, works for most facesExcellent protection, great clarity, extremely comfortable, good for active endeavors, good for many facesGreat lens clarity, universally flattering style, surprisingly comfortable, durable build, good eye protectionGood contrast, superb clarity, excellent protective coatings, stay in place, lightweight, all-day comfort
Cons Heavy, large overall size and fit, expensivePeripheral coverage not ideal, cleaner bag a little stiff, may be sporty-lookingDeveloped a slight lens defect, fit is less secure, coverage could be betterNot polarized, heavy, large, case not overly protective, expensiveNot very stylish, lighter tint suffers in bright light, copper lens distorts colors, too small, expensive
Bottom Line A high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality, though a bit heavy.A high-quality blend of functionality, versatility, and style.Great protection and amazing comfort, but not completely perfect.These shades are protective, clear, and very cool.These incredibly lightweight glasses have high quality lens and perform well, especially for water-related sports.
Rating Categories Maui Jim Kahi Kaenon Clarke Costa Del Mar Spearo Vuarnet District Medium Round Costa Del Mar Hinano
Lens Quality (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
Comfort (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
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8
Frame Quality (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
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8
10
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7
Style And Versatility (15%)
10
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6
10
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7
10
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7
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9
10
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3
Coverage (10%)
10
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8
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7
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7
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7
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5
Specs Maui Jim Kahi Kaenon Clarke Costa Del Mar Spearo Vuarnet District... Costa Del Mar Hinano
Lens Tested HCL Bronze Grey 12 Pacific Blue Mirror Blue Mirror Brown Lynx Copper 580P
Ideal Activity everyday water sports water sports everyday everyday
Ideal Lens Light Conditions Medium to bright light Bright light Bright light Medium to bright light Low to bright light
Polarized Yes Yes Yes No, but it is available Yes
Fit Large Medium-Full Medium-Large Medium-Large Small
Weight (grams) 40g 29g 29g 37g 25g
UV Protection 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Visible Light Transmission (VLT) 15% 12% 10% 9% 12%
VLT Protection Index cat 3 cat 3 cat 3 cat 3 cat 3
HEV/Blue Light Protection 95% not specified 100% 97% 100%
Infrared Protection "infrared effective" 0% 0% 93% 0%
Neutral/Contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast
Lens Material glass - "SuperThin Glass" plastic - "SR-91" polycarbonate glass - 580 Polarized (polycarbonate available) glass - mineral glass glass - 580 Polarized
Impact Resistance No Yes No Yes No
Protective Coatings Anti-reflective on front and back Anti-reflective back, hydro-oleophobic, mirror Anti-scratch, hydro-oleaophobic, mirror Anti-reflective back, silver bi-shade mirror Anti-scratch, oil repellent, water repellent, naturally scratch resistant
Can take prescription lens? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Hinge type Spring/flex Standard/barrel Spring/flex Standard/barrel Spring/flex
Case Included Hard rigid clam case and soft/cleaning bag Rigid zippered and soft/cleaning bag Rigid zippered and soft/cleaning bag Semi-rigid flex case and cleaning cloth Rigid zippered and cleaning cloth

Our Analysis and Test Results

We tested the Kahis with HCL Bronze lenses, made for all-around, everyday use. They're size large and come with a hard clamshell case and microfiber cleaning cloth/bag. They're also available in prescription lenses.

Performance Comparison


Testing the Kahis from a boat in the Caribbean.
Testing the Kahis from a boat in the Caribbean.

Lens Quality


These Maui Jims with HCL Bronze lenses have an impressive line up of specs, and the killer performance to back it up. Made of SuperThin Glass, the Kahi lenses are naturally scratch-resistant, though a bit heavier than plastic lenses. They're polarized, anti-reflective, block 95% of HEV or blue light, and enhance contrast, helping you see past the surface of the sunny sea to the life teeming below the surface.

HCL Bronze Lenses
  • 99.9% Polarization
  • 100% UV Protection
  • 15% Visible Light Transmission (Category 3)
  • 95% HEV/Blue Light Blockage, "Infrared Effective"
  • Color: Amber/Brown, Material: SuperThin Glass
  • Not Impact Resistant, Anti-reflective Front and Back

Despite having a higher VLT (visible light transmission) than some of the others we tested, the Kahis feel on the darker side. They are exceedingly comfortable in bright light. The Bronze color also adds contrast to your field of vision and creates less color distortion than any other brown lens we tested. They are effective across most lighting situations.

The SuperThin Glass Maui Jim uses to construct these lenses provides superb clarity. We feel like we can see better when we're wearing them than when we're not. The anti-reflective coating on the front and back also help filter out extraneous light, making your vision even crisper. Additionally, we found the Kahis exceptionally easy to clean if and when they do pick up smudges, even if you have only your shirttail to use.

We are such big fans of the Kahi's HCL Bronze Polarized lenses that we had a hard time finding anything to complain about! We thought perhaps the fact that they wrap around your head and pick up trace amounts of hair grease might be a pitfall, but they are truly easy to clean, so we couldn't even count that.

The Kahis provide some of the best clarity and contrast of any pair we tested.
The Kahis provide some of the best clarity and contrast of any pair we tested.

Comfort


The Kahis are decently comfortable to wear, with their curved shape and rubber nose pads and bow backs. The flexible spring hinges prevent them from squeezing your head hard enough to give you a headache, while still providing enough pressure to keep them on your face. The rubber pads rest lightly on your nose, adding additional staying power, which is key for these super heavy sunnies. We were surprised with how much these sunglasses weigh (40 grams!) because they are pretty well-balanced and only a little front-heavy, helping them to feel lighter and more comfortable to wear all day.

That said, these glasses are not only heavy but large. Our narrow-faced testers had a few issues with the bows being extremely long and the overall width caused them to rest on the outsides of the tops of their ears. These glasses work better on a larger head for general comfort, but even medium to smaller testers didn't find them excessively uncomfortable to wear for hours at a time.

Rubber on the backs of the arms and underside of the nose pads help keep the Kahis comfortable and secure.
Rubber on the backs of the arms and underside of the nose pads help keep the Kahis comfortable and secure.

Style and Versatility


While none of our testers hated the Maui Jim Kahis, they also aren't winning any unofficial awards for style. Most folks who tested these glasses feel they have neutral style. They're not bad, but not turning heads either. The Kahis come in a few different colors, so if the Brown Wood Grain we tested isn't up your alley, there are other options. One of the largest issues we found with the Kahis, barring lack of style, is their large size. But if you classify your face as wide or large, or you like oversized sunglasses in general, the Kahi style work for you.

The Maui Jim case combo helps keep your Kahis protected and clean.
The Maui Jim case combo helps keep your Kahis protected and clean.

Frame Quality


The Kahis sunglasses just feel sturdy when you pick them up and put them on. Their matte brown wood grain nylon frames with rubber grip pads on the nose and arms are thick and instill confidence in their durability. They're not overly flexible but are just pliable enough so they don't feel as if they'll shatter with a bit of force. The Maui Jims also sport flexible, hidden spring hinges, giving you more room to maneuver them. The heavy weight of the Kahis comes into play here as well. This heftiness lends a more durable feeling to the Kahis compared to the almost scary lightness of some other models. However, that weight is, well, heavier. Most of us appreciate this sense of security though, making us feel more confident in our ability to toss them in our suitcase or backpack.

We read some reports of the rubber detaching from the nylon frames of the Kahi, but we experienced no such issues during our months of constant wear. The only very small issue we did have is that after months of use, the two hinges were slightly different tightnesses. This was easily fixed with a small screwdriver, so we didn't count it against them. Maui Jim also backs their products with a two-year warranty against manufacturer's defects and has a comprehensive repair program if you do happen to bust these burly beasts.

Frames that stay while you play - or while you sweat in the tropics and have a margarita about it.
Frames that stay while you play - or while you sweat in the tropics and have a margarita about it.

Coverage


These Maui Jims provide great coverage for a pair of everyday sunglasses. They have a base curve of 8, which functionally means they wrap around your face well without feeling so close that they're suctioned on like a pair of goggles. The lenses are also quite large, providing extra coverage and protection from the sun while keeping the frames more out of your field of vision. The Kahi bows are also a bit wider than the other everyday glasses we tested, which also helps block the sides a bit more from stray particles. While you don't have to wear these shades jammed up against your face, if you do, they provide pretty good coverage from side-entering light and even moderate protection from wind and dust blowing in from your open car window.

The heft of the Kahis detracts from their quality of coverage on smaller and even some medium-sized faces. With very long arms, they have extra room to move and slide down your nose if given the chance. The rubber grips help, but because of the long arms, our small-faced testers had a pretty large distance these sunglasses could slip before those rubber bow grips caught. Still, their large lenses and helpful curvature provide decent coverage on just about everybody.

These sunglasses provide great coverage on wearers of all sizes.
These sunglasses provide great coverage on wearers of all sizes.

Case Quality


A good sunglasses case should protect your investment against scratching, bumping, squeezing, and crushing. The case included as standard with a pair of Maui Jim Kahis does just that. It's the most rigid, protective case of any pair of sunglasses we reviewed and includes an additional cloth case that doubles as a cleaning cloth for your fabulous lenses. This clamshell bombshell easily snaps open and closed, with plenty of room inside for the large Kahi frames. Its rigid construction offers a lot of protection for your new duds, and without costing you a single extra dime. We found it very easy and convenient to use and works well tossed in your beach bag or crammed into your carry-on luggage.

The Kahis are a bit large on smaller faces.
The Kahis are a bit large on smaller faces.

Value


The Maui Jim Kahis are no cheap pair of sunglasses, and are actually one of the most expensive pairs we tested. And while spending more money doesn't always get you a better product, in this case, it does. The Kahis are a solid investment that impressed us with their excellent all-around performance, and we think they're worth what you'll pay.

We think the Kahis are a great pair of everyday shades.
We think the Kahis are a great pair of everyday shades.

Conclusion


One of our favorite pairs of everyday sunglasses, the Maui Jim Kahis are a well-crafted, high-performing piece of gear that's built to last you for years of fun in the sun. With excellent optical clarity and contrast and large, comfortable frames, the Kahis have you covered. Though they, and their superbly protective case, are the heaviest sunnies we tested, their performance and price are well worth it.

Clarity  protection and a durable design. The Kahis are a solid pair of specs.
Clarity, protection and a durable design. The Kahis are a solid pair of specs.


Maggie Brandenburg