Upcountry Maui: Beauty Beyond Belief

Maui is nothing if not diverse, and while you may think the sand and the sea are the best parts about the island, you will be missing an entire world of experiences that can be found in the Upcountry, the land among the western slopes of Haleakala that stretches from Makawao in the north to Ulupalaka in the south. Your senses will come alive in the upcountry as you taste some of Maui’s favorite flavors from rich coffee to the famous Maui onion, breathe in the scent from 55,000 lavender plants and watch as the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) wrangle cattle in local rodeos or in the farmlands.

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512893915Upcountry Towns

Small towns dot the hills around Haleakala, and the natural beauty and connection with the land has brought vibrant culture to these towns as book stores, art galleries, boutiques and gourmet restaurants have begun to fill the streets. Each town is unique and has its own draw. Kula is the center of Maui’s culinary resurgence and is the place to go for farm tours and botanical tours. Be sure to stop at the famous Holy Ghost Church for a photo while you’re in the area. Makawao, known as the home of paniolo, is also a thriving arts community where you can browse the studios and galleries and watch glassblowers, wood sculptors and painters as they fulfill your order. Further north, Paia was once a booming sugar cane plantation town and is now full of colorful, unique boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. It’s also home to the Windsurfing Capital of the World, Hookipa Beach.

Lavender

160237728The Alii Kula Lavender Farm is a 13.5 acre farm that produces 45 different varieties of lavender as well as olive trees, hydrangea, protea, succulents and more. While lavender is not native to Hawaii, it has acclimated well to the climate of the Maui mountains and blooms year round. For an admission fee of just $3, you can explore the lavender farm at your leisure or choose one of the guided walking or golf cart tours (for an additional fee). More activities are available as well, like the Lavender Treasure Hunt (great for kids), picnic lunches (perfect for a romantic day) and craft classes (to make your own souvenir). For more Upcountry blooms, visit the Kula Botanical Gardens with eight acres covered in hundreds of varieties of flowers.

Farms & Ranches

Like many other parts of the country, Hawaii’s restaurants and food purveyors have turned their focus toward a farm-to-table theme. Wherever you dine among the state’s islands, it’s likely that some of your ingredients will come from the farms of Upcountry Maui. Chefs and farmers credit the area’s fertile soil for producing some of the tastiest and most unique ingredients, which can be sampled directly at their source. Take a tour that includes harvesting ingredients for a gourmet lunch at O’o Farm, or sample cheeses and take a tour at the Surfing Goat Dairy in Kula.

147651975Paniolo

In 1838, King Kamehameha III invited Spanish-Mexican vaqueros from California to teach Hawaiians how to manage wild herds. Since then, paniolo have been patrolling the hills of Upcountry Maui. While the cattle industry in the area has faded, the paniolo traditions live on throughout the upcountry’s ranches and in the village of Makawao. For more than 50 years, the Makawao Rodeo on July 4 showcases a family fun parade and traditional rodeo events such as barrel racing, calf roping and bareback bronco riding, all with a few Hawaiian twists. For a hands-on paniolo experience, book a trail ride at the Piiholo Ranch.

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