Insider Tips For Exploring Upcountry Maui
Upcountry Maui, on the western slopes of Mount Haleakala, is a truly beautiful area of the island and offers plenty of attractions to fill a full-day excursion. Its elevation on the mountainside offers cool temperatures and stunning panoramic views, and Upcountry Maui is loaded with wonderful little eateries, unique farm tours (from vodka to goat cheese), lovely botanical gardens, serene pastures with grazing animals, and small, charming communities.
Here are my favorite Upcountry attractions—the ones I recommend to my family and friends when they visit Maui. I always suggest visitors take a break one day from the beach and enjoy a cool and leisurely upcountry excursion. Just make sure you follow a map or GPS, as some of these places are off the beaten path. Have fun exploring!
NOTE: This blog was updated in April 2021, but due to the continuing impacts of COVID-19, some of the businesses and activities mentioned in the blog could possibly change their operations. As things are changing constantly amidst this pandemic, please check with these places directly to verify their operating status and hours. Mahalo!
What To Do In Upcountry Maui
Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery
Ever visit a vodka farm? Hawaii Sea Spirits offers a tour of their 80-acre sugar cane farm and distillery in Upcountry Maui, which produces Ocean Organic Vodka, the only spirit in the world made from sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water. There’s no admission fee to visit the farm and gift shop; there is a fee for the half-hour tour, which ends with a tasting of Ocean Vodka. They also offer an informal cafe with outdoor seating and panoramic views of the island.
Surfing Goat Dairy
This delightful goat farm has become a popular Maui visitor attraction, in addition to producing more than 30 delicious goat cheese products. It’s a fun and interesting place—especially for families with young children. You can pet the goats, and the farm has numerous products (including national award winners) available for sampling and purchase. Goat cheese truffles anyone? No admission fee, and a variety of great tours are available for purchase that allow you to feed and milk the goats, learn about the cheese-making process, and enjoy a tasting of the dairy’s gourmet cheeses. If you visit in spring, you’ll get a bonus because it’s kidding season–all the baby goats will be skittering around. No kidding.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
This beautiful 13-acre farm is a serene place to stop and smell the…lavender. Take in the spectacular views and wander around the beautiful grounds, featuring dozens of varieties of lavender, protea, and other plants that bloom all year in the cool Upcountry climate. Browse the gift shop where you can purchase all things lavender. And I do mean ALL things—like lavender lemonade, or lavender scones with lavender jam and lavender honey. This delightful shop goes way beyond the typical boring bottle of lavender-scented lotion! There is a $3 admission for entry to the farm, and various tours are available for an additional cost, including walking tours, cart tours, a lavender lunch, and a scavenger hunt for kids. (COVID Update: At the time of this blog update, the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm is operating on a limited schedule, and tours and other special activities have been temporarily suspended.)
Yes, Maui has its very own winery! Nestled on a historic estate in Kula, surrounded by massive trees that are well over 150 years old, MauiWine’s tasting room and gift shop could not be situated in a more picturesque setting. The winery started in 1974 (formerly known as Tedeschi Winery) and now produces a range of unique pineapple wines as well as traditional estate wines. Wander the lovely grounds and stop by the tasting room to sample these wonderful handcrafted wines. (COVID Update: Please refer to Maui Wine’s website for the latest word on their operations. At the time of this blog update, protocols for their wine tasting have been adjusted to meet health requirements, and advance reservations are highly recommended.)
Of course, no exploration of Upcountry Maui is complete without paying homage to Haleakala itself–the massive dormant volcano whose western slopes are home to the Upcountry communities. A visit to the summit of Mount Haleakala is an unforgettable and utterly unique Maui experience, and it is beautiful at any time of day, although sunrise and sunset are the most popular choices. Start with the Haleakala sunrise, then continue to explore the other Upcountry attractions. Or spend an afternoon working your way up the mountain, enjoying Upcountry stops along the way, and end with sunset at the summit!
Another Upcountry Option:
Makawao – If you have time during your exploration, include a stop in the charming town of Makawao, on the lower slopes of Haleakala. This historic little paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town has some of the best boutiques and gift shops on the island, as well as great little eateries. Stop in Makawao at the beginning of your Upcountry day, then head up the mountain. Or save Makawao for the downward trek from the mountain and have dinner there or in nearby Paia.
My Picks for Where To Eat in Upcountry Maui
Kula Lodge Restaurant: I love this restaurant for its brick oven pizzas and spectacular views of the island. Also stop into the Kula Marketplace store in the adjoining parking lot. One of my favorite shops for unique, locally-made products. Check out the beautiful angel trumpet trees in the parking lot here at Kula Lodge!
Ulupalakula Ranch Store: Located directly across the street from the MauiWine winery, this eclectic western-motif store has a wide selection of gift items, as well as really good food, offering both a deli (eat in or take-out) and a grill. The outdoor picnic-style seating looks out over South and West Maui. It’s a great place to enjoy a casual meal with a million-dollar view, especially before or after your wine tasting.
Grandma’s Coffee House: A visit to Grandma’s in Keokea is a must during any upcountry excursion. This charming little place — a landmark in upcountry Maui since 1918 — is still churning out great comfort food for breakfast, lunch, or take-out treats, plus fresh-roasted organic Maui-grown coffee.
Kula Bistro: This is a wonderful little café with an Italian flair, open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. No panoramic view at this place (except from the parking lot–see photo below), but that doesn’t matter one bit because the food is great! Casual atmosphere, big servings, and you’ll be drawn to the dessert counter, which displays a decadent array of pastries, pies, tarts, and cheesecakes. Kula Bistro is a very popular place so it can be crowded, and you might have to wait for a table. And it’s BYO alcohol…so bring that bottle you purchased at MauiWine, and they’ll pop it for you. The perfect way to end your Upcountry day!
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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