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

Maui Jim Kahi Review

The Kahis are a high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $249 List | $249.99 at Backcountry
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  ⋅  Feb 22, 2019
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OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Lens Quality - 25% 10
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Coverage - 25% 9
  • Frame Quality - 15% 9
  • Style and Versatility - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Maui Jim Kahis are a great all-around pair of shades that boast great coverage, quality, and performance. They take home our Editors' Choice award for being the best pair of everyday shades of the bunch. 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 the heaviest sunglasses we tested, the extra weight pays off in performance. They also come with the hardiest case of all the everyday glasses, 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 Editors' Choice Award    
Price $249.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$241.99 at Amazon$245.00 at Backcountry$223.00 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$207.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Excellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb caseExcellent optics, good wind protection, 2 lenses included, easy lens changes, quality storage caseGreat lens clarity, universally flattering style, surprisingly comfortable, durable build, good eye protectionExcellent optics, storage case, modern style, good eye protectionGood coverage, lens suitable for a wide range of light conditions
Cons Heavy, large overall size and fit, expensiveExpensive, you have to take off arms to put them in their caseNot polarized, heavy, large, case not overly protective, expensiveExpensive, only comes with one lensExpensive for one lens, weird case
Bottom Line The Kahis are a high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality.The Smith Attack Max checks all of our boxes and takes home our Editor's Choice Award.These shades are protective, clear, and very cool.The Oakley Flight jacket has a unique style, excellent optics, and good coverage.POC's Do Half Blade boasts quality optics by Zeiss with ample coverage and wind protection for high velocity applications.
Rating Categories Maui Jim Kahi Smith Attack Max Vuarnet District Medium Round Oakley Flight Jacket POC DO Half Blade
Lens Quality (25%)
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Comfort (25%)
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Coverage (25%)
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Frame Quality (15%)
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Style And Versatility (10%)
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Specs Maui Jim Kahi Smith Attack Max Vuarnet District... Oakley Flight Jacket POC DO Half Blade
Lens Tested HCL Bronze Chromapop Red Mirror Brown Lynx Prizm Road Black 10.0
Ideal Activity everyday road cycling, mountain biking, running everyday road cycling, mountain biking, running road cycling, mountain biking
Ideal Lens Light Conditions Medium to bright light Chromapop Red Mirror: Bright light Chromapop Contrast Rose: Low to Medium light Medium to bright light Medium to bright light Medium to bright light
Polarized Yes No No, but it is available No No
Fit Large Medium-Large Medium-Large Medium-Large Medium-Large
Weight (grams) 40 32 37 33 30
UV Protection 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Visible Light Transmission (VLT) 15% 15% 9% 20% 21.7%
VLT Protection Index cat 3 cat 3 cat 3 cat 2 cat 3
HEV/Blue Light Protection 95% 100% 97% 100% Unknown
Infrared Protection "infrared effective" 0% 93% 0% Unknown
Number of Lenses Included 1 2 1 1 1
Neutral/Contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Increased contrast Neutral
Lens Material glass - "SuperThin Glass" plastic - Carbonic glass - mineral glass plastic - "Plutonite" polycarbonate plastic - polycarbonate
Lens Type unspecified spherical unspecified spherical spherical
Impact Resistance No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Protective Coatings Anti-reflective on front and back Hydroleophobic coating Anti-reflective back, silver bi-shade mirror Iridium coating anti-fog & ripel coating
Can take prescription lens? Readers only No No No No
Hinge type Spring/flex standard/barrel Standard/barrel standard/barrel standard/barrel
Case Included Hard rigid clam case and soft/cleaning bag Rigid zippered case and soft cleaning/storage bag Semi-rigid flex case and cleaning cloth Rigid zippered case and soft cleaning/storage bag Hard plastic case and soft cleaning/storage bag

Our Analysis and Test Results

From Mexico to Iowa, from mountains to beaches, we put these sunglasses to the test to find out which ones are best. To learn where the Kahis outcompeted the competition, read on.

Performance Comparison


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

Lens Quality


The Maui Jim Kahi's 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 the Native Highlines or Costa Hinanos, the Kahis felt darker to wear than either pair. 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.

Probably the worst thing about them is their extra weight, simply because they're made of glass. If you want incredible quality lenses without the extra weight, we suggest the Costa Hinanos. However, we think that for the exceptional clarity, contrast, and protection you get, the weight trade-off is well worth it.

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 Maui Jim 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. If you have a smaller head or face, we recommend checking out the Native Highlines or Costa Hinanos, which are much smaller overall. 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.

Coverage


The Maui Jim Kahis provides great coverage for a pair of everyday sunglasses. They have a base curve of 8, which functionally means they wrap around your face 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.


However, 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.

Because they're fairly heavy and large, the Kahis are also more prone to bouncing around if you find yourself on the back of a motorbike or running down the bus. The Kahis provide better coverage on larger heads where they can stay put. 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.

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 only other pair of everyday glasses with spring hinges in the test is the Costa Hinanos.


The heavy weight of the Maui Jim Kahis comes into play here as well. This heftiness lends a more durable feeling to the Kahis compared to the almost scary lightness of the Costa Hinanos or Oakley Holbrooks. However, that weight is, well, heavier. Most of us appreciated 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 too much.

Overall, we think the quality of the Kahi frames is solid and durable, withstanding everything we threw at 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.

Style and Versatility


While none of our testers hated the Maui Jim Kahis, they also aren't winning any unofficial awards for style like the classy Vuarnet District Rounds or Ray-Ban Classic Clubmasters. 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. If big sunglasses aren't your look, you might try something smaller like the Native Highlines. However, 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.

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.

All that protection comes at the cost of even more weight. The Maui Jim clam case tips the scales at a whopping 153 grams! Not something you're going to be excited to backpack the 2600 mile PCT with, but likely neither are the 40-gram Kahis. It's also the bulkiest case of all the sunglasses and takes up the most room in your suitcase or glove box. But it never failed us as we carted these glasses on airplanes and boats, across the country and across the continent. If size and weight don't matter as much to you as protecting your sun-babies, then we think you'll be stoked with what you get from the Kahi case and cleaner bag.

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

Best Applications


After months of wearing these sunglasses in all sorts of lighting and environmental conditions, we had a hard time finding a moment that we didn't like them. The Maui Jim Kahi polarized sunglasses perform admirably under both bright and variable lighting conditions. They maintain visual acuity with enhanced contrast and minimal color distortion. While these may not be the best choice for an adventure where weight is key, they are a solid performing and durable choice for just about every casual sunny day endeavor you could dream up.

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

Value


At around $250, the Maui Jim Kahis are no cheap pair of sunglasses. 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.

Conclusion


Our Editor's Choice winner for the best pair 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.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Kahis come in the Matte Brown Wood Grain that we tested, as well as two other frame colors --- Matte Black and Matte Aquamarine Wood Grain. The other two frames are fitted with Neutral Grey lenses, rather than the HCL Bronze we tested.

Maui Jim makes four lens colors — grey, brown, green, and rose. Their lenses are constructed out of various materials from the SuperThin Glass we tested, to plastic lenses and even blends that they claim are durable and clear. Maui Jim also makes over 140 other styles of sunglasses.


Maggie Brandenburg