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Maui Makawao Upcountry


Golden beaches give way to rolling hills and misty mountains as you ascend into Upcountry Maui, which is located on the higher elevations surrounding Haleakala — the island’s highest peak. Since early times, Hawaiians have farmed the volcanic soil of Upcountry fields, growing taro and sweet potato. Today, you can take farm tours, visit a goat dairy or even sip Maui-made wines and spirits in the rustic outposts of Kula and Makawao.

Upcountry is also the stomping ground of the paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboys—a culture that arose in the 19th century when King Kamehameha III invited vaqueros from California to teach islanders to wrangle cattle. Further east, the 10,023-foot Haleakala presides over the “Valley Isle,” with epic sunrises and otherworldly landscapes that feel more like the moon than Maui. It’s a dramatic departure from the coconut palms of Kaanapali and Kapalua.


Located on the mid-slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano, Makawao has one foot in its plantation past and another in its thriving arts community. This charming town was once named one of the top 25 arts destinations in the United States.

Makawao is the biggest little town in the region and is famous for its Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolo. Since the late 19th century, horseback-riding paniolo have wrangled cattle in Maui’s wide-open upland fields. The Makawao Rodeo, held yearly on the Fourth of July, is Hawaii’s largest paniolo competition and has been an Upcountry tradition for more than 50 years. The weekend events include a parade and traditional rodeo competitions such as barrel racing, calf roping and bareback bronco riding, all with a few Hawaiian twists.

For a snack, follow the locals to get a famous cream puff from T. Komoda Store. Established in 1916 by Takezo Komoda, a Japanese plantation worker, this little store and bakery does big business. Lines can be long in the morning when everything’s fresh, so come early.

You can also spend the afternoon meandering through the eclectic shops, boutiques and art galleries. It’s a town of working artists, where you can watch glassblowers, wood sculptors and painters as they fulfill your order. Makawao is also home to the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center, where visitors can take classes and explore free gallery exhibits. The combination of its paniolo heritage and its lively artistic community make Makawao a wonderful place to live on Maui.

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