Upcountry Maui Destination Guide
Wherever you go, you’ll see imposing Haleakalā punctuating the high-elevation countryside’s green hills, valleys, farms and ranchland. Hike the otherworldly volcano slopes, ride with genuine paniolo (cowboys) and rub elbows with the locals in the towns of Pukalani, Makawao, Kula and Haiku.
At 10,023-feet, Haleakalā (“House of the Sun”) volcano houses one of the planet’s largest dormant craters. Hike, bike or horseback-ride the Mars-like red landscape looking out for endangered flora and fauna. Watch the sun paint the crater in a rainbow of shimmering hues on the fabled sunrise tour, well worth the 1:30 am wake-up time (yes, seriously). Though daytime and sunset views are awe-inspiring, too. Make reservations online up to 60 days in advance for a sunrise visit.
PANIOLO IN MAKAWAO
Hawaiian paniolo (cowboys) have been around since King Kamehameha III imported Californian pros to teach the locals how to work cattle in the 1800s. Get into it in charming Makawao, Maui’s cowpoke central. This former plantation town is also artsy, so make time to peruse the galleries, clothing stores, boutiques and artist studios. Don’t miss the creampuffs — or malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts), sweet bread, and donuts on a stick — at T. Komoda Store & Bakery, an institution for a century and counting. The town rodeo is in July.
KULA LAVENDER FARM
On a fragrant mountainside overlooking ocean and mountains, Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm is a sanctuary of serenity. Stroll the 13.5 acres, sniff 25 varieties of the purple bloom, take a 30 to 45-minute walking or cart tour, and enjoy a picnic in the fresh air. And of course, take home some farmstead lotion, soap or shaving gel. To make advance tour reservations, call 808 878 3004.
Just outside cowboy town Makawao, this reserve is 2,000 verdant acres of native and imported plants, shrubs, flowers and trees. Hike or cycle through fragrant eucalyptus and pine, past flowering ginger to the sound of tropical bird song, taking in views 2,500 feet below. Cool and lush, the forest boasts some of Hawai‘i’s best mountain biking trails.
kula botanical garden
Hundreds of colorful, exotic blooms, plants, shrubs and trees are on display at the bucolic botanical garden in Kula created by a local landscape architect and still family run. Set high up on the slopes of Haleakalā overlooking the ocean, eight-acre garden is a delight of unusual flora and botanicals, artful rock formations, rushing waterfalls, a koi pond, aviary and covered bridge, plus new additions like the carved ki’i (sculptures representing gods) exhibit. You might meet some of the resident geese milling around the property.
sURFING GOAT DAIRY
Taste or take home some two-dozen premium craft goat cheeses, and artisan truffles, at this national award-winning dairy in Kula. German expats Thomas and Eva Kafsak herd their 60 goats in from the pasture twice daily for milking. Take a tour with the farmers, buy some goat’s milk soap and sample some of the favorite cheeses: garlic-chive, Mango Supreme or Udderly Delicious. Make reservations at 808 878 2870.
farm to BAR
While Maui is best known for exotic imports along the lines of macadamia nuts and pineapples, the rural Upcountry has its own Napa Valley version. Sip ‘n swirl Grenache, Chenin Blanc, Malbec and Viognier at MauiWine, a 23-acre vineyard at Ulupalakua Ranch in rustic Kula on the volcano’s upper slopes nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. Tour the charming winery and grounds, and taste vintages over herbed kalamata olives. Elsewhere in Kula, and in Makawao, you’ll find boutique wineries, in addition to small-batch spirits producers. Visit Hāliʻimaile Distilling Co. for rum, vodka, gin and whiskey made with local pineapple and cane, and solar-powered OCEAN Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery, for vodka and rum made with their own cane cultivated on the 80-acre family-run property.
KULA COUNTRY FARM
Pick up picnic goodies and fresh baked goods at this quaint covered market in Kula. Hawaiians have been farming the fertile volcanic soil here for centuries, primarily staples such as sweet potato and taro. This four-generation 55-acre farm specializes in sweet, juicy strawberries, top-quality produce and, in fall time, hundreds of pumpkins from tiny to huge (don’t miss the autumn corn maze). Tour or u-pick, join a seasonal event, or stop in for some locavore shopping.
This rich agricultural area is a gold mine of delicious, just harvested ingredients, fresh catch and seasonal field-to-farm kitchens. Start with the Saturday Upcountry Farmers Market in Pukalani for ripe fruit, veggies, fresh pastries and local arts ‘n crafts. Go early, though, for the best picnic basket selections. Lunch on field salads, fresh fish, tender scallops, burgers and fully-loaded sandwiches at Kula Bistro. Also in Kula: Eat breakfast or lunch Maui comfort-food-style from the wood-fire oven, then get the inside scoop on coffee roasting and organic gardening on a culinary tour at O‘o Farm (book in advance). At popular outdoor La Provence, indulge in delicate tarts, flaky croissants and to-die-for blueberry-mango scones; order French lunch and bistro dishes, too (cash only).
In Kēōkea near Kula, folksy Grandma’s Coffee House is the staple for a casual meal from AM to PM: from-scratch baked goods, Eggs Benedict, fancy burgers, fresh fish and granny’s homespun meatloaf. Dine in a pineapple plantation setting at acclaimed Hāli’imaile General Store, high-quality regional ingredients — fish, meat, produce — deftly handled and paired with sophisticated sauces; the sashimi appetizer is a must. In Haiku, try stylish Izakaya at Nuka, especially the tempura shrimp udon.