Exploring Maui - Fodor's Maui (2016)

Fodor's Maui (2016)

Exploring Maui

Main Table of Contents

The Scene

West Maui

The South Shore

Central Maui


The North Shore

East Maui

The Scene

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Updated by Lehia Apana

Those who know Maui well understand why it’s earned all its superlatives. The island’s miles of perfect beaches, lush green valleys, historic villages, top-notch water sports and outdoor activities, and amazing marine life have made it an international favorite. But nature isn’t all Maui has to offer: it’s also home to a wide variety of cultural activities, stunning ethnic diversity, and stellar restaurants and resorts.

Maui is much more than sandy beaches and palm trees; it’s a land of water and fire. Puu Kukui, the 5,788-foot interior of the West Maui Mountains, also known as Mauna Kahalawai, is one of Earth’s wettest spots—an annual rainfall of 400 inches has sculpted the land into impassable gorges and razor-sharp ridges. On the opposite side of the island, the blistering lava fields at Ahihi-Kinau receive scant rain. Just above this desertlike landscape, paniolo (cowboys) herd cattle on rolling, fertile ranchlands. On the island’s rugged east side is the lush, tropical Hawaii of travel posters.

In small towns like Paia and Hana you can see remnants of the past mingling with modern-day life. Ancient heiau (platforms, often made of stone, once used as places of worship) line busy roadways. Old coral-and-brick missionary homes now house broadcasting networks. The antique smokestacks of sugar mills tower above communities where the children blend English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino, and more into one colorful language. Hawaii is a melting pot like no other. Visiting an eclectic mom-and-pop shop—such as Upcountry Makawao’s Komoda Store and Bakery—can feel like stepping into another country, or back in time. The more you look here, the more you find.

At 729 square miles, Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian Island, but it offers more miles of swimmable beaches than any of its neighbors. Despite rapid growth over the past few decades, the local population still totals less than 200,000.


Maui is made up of two volcanoes, one now extinct and the other dormant but that erupted long ago, joined into one island. The resulting depression between the two is what gives the island its nickname, The Valley Isle. West Maui’s 5,788-foot Puu Kukui was the first volcano to form, a distinction that gives that area’s mountainous topography a more weathered look. The Valley Isle’s second volcano is the 10,023-foot Haleakala, where desertlike terrain abuts tropical forests.


Maui’s history is full of firsts—Lahaina was the first capital of Hawaii and the first destination of the whaling industry (early 1800s), which explains why the town still has that seafaring vibe. Lahaina was also the first stop for missionaries on Maui (1823). Although they suppressed aspects of Hawaiian culture, the missionaries did help invent the Hawaiian alphabet and built a printing press—the first west of the Rockies—that rolled out the news in Hawaiian, as well as, not surprisingly, Hawaii’s first Bibles. Maui also boasts the first sugar plantation in Hawaii (1849) and the first Hawaiian luxury resort (1946), now called the Travaasa Hana.


In the mid-1970s savvy marketers saw a way to improve Maui’s economy by promoting The Valley Isle to golfers and luxury travelers. The ploy worked well; Maui’s visitor count is about 2.5 million annually. Impatient traffic now threatens to overtake the ubiquitous aloha spirit, development encroaches on agricultural lands, and county planners struggle to meet the needs of a burgeoning population. But Maui is still carpeted with an eyeful of green, and for every tailgater there’s a local on “Maui time” who stops for each pedestrian and sunset.

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West Maui

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Lahaina | Kaanapali and Nearby | Kapalua and Kahakuloa

Separated from the remainder of the island by steep pali (cliffs), West Maui has a reputation for attitude and action. Once upon a time this was the haunt of whalers, missionaries, and the kings and queens of Hawaii. Today the main drag, Front Street, is crowded with T-shirt and trinket shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Farther north is Kaanapali, Maui’s first planned resort area. Its first hotel, the Sheraton, opened in 1963. Since then, massive resorts, luxury condos, and a shopping center have sprung up along the white-sand beaches, with championship golf courses across the road. A few miles farther up the coast is the ultimate in West Maui luxury, the resort area of Kapalua. In between, dozens of strip malls line both the makai (toward the sea) and mauka (toward the mountains) sides of the highway. There are gems here, too, like Napili Bay and its jaw-dropping crescent of sand.

West Maui

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27 miles west of Kahului; 4 miles south of Kaanapali.

Lahaina, a bustling waterfront town packed with visitors from around the globe, is considered the center of Maui. Some may describe Lahaina as tacky, with too many T-shirt vendors and not enough mom-and-pop shops, but this historic village houses some of Hawaii’s most excellent restaurants, boutiques, cafés, and galleries. TIP If you spend Friday afternoon exploring Front Street, hang around for Art Night, when the galleries stay open late and offer entertainment, including artists demonstrating their work. A free gallery street map is available in Lahaina Visitor Center on the ground floor of the Old Lahaina Courthouse (648 Wharf Street).

Sunset cruises and other excursions depart from Lahaina Harbor. At the southern end of town an important archaeological site—Mokuula—is currently being researched, excavated, and restored. This was once a spiritual and political center, as well as home to Maui’s chiefs.

The town has been welcoming visitors for more than 200 years. In 1798, after waging war to unite the Hawaiian Islands, Kamehameha the Great chose Lahaina, then called Lele , as the seat of his monarchy. Warriors from Kamehameha’s 800 canoes, stretched along the coast from Olowalu to Honokowai, turned inland and filled the lush valleys with networks of stream-fed loi kalo, or taro patches. For nearly 50 years Lahaina remained the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. During this period, the scent of Hawaiian sandalwood brought those who traded with China to these waters. Whaling ships followed, chasing sperm whales from Japan to the Arctic. Lahaina became known around the world for its rough-and-tumble ways.

Then, almost as quickly as it had come, the tide of foreign trade receded. The Hawaiian capital was moved to Honolulu in 1845, and by 1860 the sandalwood forests were empty and sperm whales nearly extinct. Luckily, Lahaina had already grown into an international, sophisticated (if sometimes rowdy) town, laying claim to the first printing press and high school west of the Rockies. Sugar interests kept the town afloat until tourism stepped in.


It’s about a 45-minute drive from Kahului Airport to Lahaina (take Route 380 to Route 30), depending on the traffic on this heavily traveled route. Traffic can be slow around Lahaina, especially 4-6 pm. Shuttles and taxis are available from Kahului Airport. The Maui Bus Lahaina Islander route runs from Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului to the Wharf Cinema Center on Front Street, Lahaina’s main thoroughfare.


Visitors arriving by sea at Lahaina Harbor are greeted by the version of Hawaii seen in postcards. A former whaling port, Lahaina has a rich history, several informative museums, and flashy shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Lahaina Visitor Center in the Old Lahaina Courthouse is a good place to start your exploration, and any one of the staff members there can answer your questions or provide information on the best sites to visit.

Lahaina is relatively compact, with sandy beaches and creature comforts within walking distance. Taxi fares run $5-$15 in and around Lahaina. Famed Kaanapali Beach is a short 4½ miles away.


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Baldwin Home Museum.
If you want some insight into 19th-century life in Hawaii, this informative museum is an excellent place to start. Begun in 1834 and completed the following year, the coral-and-stone house was originally home to missionary Dr. Dwight Baldwin and his family. The building has been carefully restored to reflect the period and many of the original furnishings remain: you can view the family’s grand piano, carved four-poster bed, and most interestingly, Dr. Baldwin’s dispensary. Also on display is the “thunderpot”—learn how the doctor single-handedly inoculated 10,000 Maui residents against smallpox. Admission includes a guided tour every half hour, or come Friday at 6 pm for a special candlelight tour. | 120 Dickenson St. | Lahaina | 808/661-3262 | www.lahainarestoration.org | $7, includes admission to Wo Hing Museum | Sat.-Thurs. 10-4, Fri. 10-8:30 .

Banyan Tree.
Planted in 1873, this massive tree is the largest of its kind in the United States and provides a welcome retreat and playground for visitors and locals, who rest and play music under its awesome branches. Many Lahaina festivals and weekend arts and craft fairs center on the Banyan Tree. TIP The Banyan Tree is a popular and hard-to-miss meeting place if your party splits up for independent exploring. It’s also a terrific place to be when the sun sets—mynah birds settle in here for a screeching symphony, which is an event in itself. | Front St. between Hotel and Canal sts. | Lahaina | www.lahainarestoration.org .

Hale Paahao (Old Prison).
Lahaina’s jailhouse is a reminder of rowdy whaling days. Its name literally means “stuck-in-irons house,” referring to the wall shackles and ball-and-chain restraints. The compound was built in the 1850s by convict laborers out of blocks of coral that had been salvaged from the demolished waterfront fort. Most prisoners were sent here for desertion, drunkenness, or reckless horse riding. Today, a wax figure representing an imprisoned old sailor tells his recorded tale of woe. There are also interpretive signs for the botanical garden and whale boat in the yard. | Wainee and Prison Sts. | Lahaina | lahainarestoration.org | Free | Daily 10-4 .

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church.
Built in 1927, this beautiful open-air church is decorated with paintings depicting Hawaiian versions of Christian symbols (including a Hawaiian Madonna and child), rare or extinct birds, and native plants. At the afternoon services, the congregation is typically dressed in traditional clothing from Samoa and Tonga. Anyone is welcome to slip into one of the pews, carved from native woods. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, lived in a large grass house on this site as a child. | 561 Front St., near Mokuhina St. | Lahaina | 808/661-4202 | www.holyimaui.org | Free | Daily 8-5 .

Fodor’s Choice | Martin Lawrence Galleries.
In business since 1975, Martin Lawrence displays the works of such world-renowned artists as Picasso, Erté, and Chagall in a bright and friendly gallery. Modern and pop-art enthusiasts will also find pieces by Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Japanese creative icon Takashi Murakami. | 790 Front St., at Lahainaluna Rd. | Lahaina | 808/661-1788 | www.martinlawrence.com .

Fodor’s Choice | Old Lahaina Courthouse.
The Lahaina Arts Society, Lahaina Vistor Center, and Lahaina Heritage Museum occupy this charming old government building in the center of town. Wander among the terrific displays and engage with an interactive exhibit about Lahaina’s history, pump the knowledgeable visitor center staff for tips—be sure to ask for the walking-tour brochure covering historic Lahaina sites—and stop at the theater with a rotating array of films about everything from whales to canoes. Erected in 1859 and restored in 1999, the building has served as a customs and court house, governor’s office, post office, vault and collector’s office, and police court. On August 12, 1898, its postmaster witnessed the lowering of the Hawaiian flag when Hawaii became a U.S. territory. The flag now hangs above the stairway. TIP There’s a public restroom in the building. | 648 Wharf St. | Lahaina | 808/667-9193 for Lahaina Visitor Center , 808/661-3262 for Lahaina Heritage Museum | www.lahainarestoration.org/old-lahaina-courthouse | Free | Daily 9-5 .

Fodor’s Choice | Waiola Church and Wainee Cemetery.
Immortalized in James Michener’s Hawaii, the original church from the early 1800s was destroyed once by fire and twice by fierce windstorms. Repositioned and rebuilt in 1954, the church was renamed Waiola (“water of life”) and has been standing proudly ever since. The adjacent cemetery was the region’s first Christian cemetery and is the final resting place of many of Hawaii’s most important monarchs, including Kamehameha the Great’s wife, Queen Keopuolani, who was baptized during her final illness. | 535 Wainee St. | Lahaina | 808/661-4349 | www.waiolachurch.org | Free | Weekdays 8-2, Sun. service at 9 .

Fodor’s Choice | Wo Hing Museum.
Smack-dab in the center of Front Street, this eye-catching Chinese temple reflects the importance of early Chinese immigrants to Lahaina. Built by the Wo Hing Society in 1912, the museum contains beautiful artifacts, historic photos displays of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and a Taoist altar. Don’t miss the films playing in the rustic theater next door—some of Thomas Edison’s first films, shot in Hawaii circa 1898, show Hawaiian wranglers herding steer onto ships. Ask the docent for some star fruit from the tree outside, for the altar or for yourself. Note that the altar may be closed at certain times. TIP If you are in town in late January or early February, this museum hosts a nice Chinese New Year festival. | 858 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/661-5553 | www.lahainarestoration.org | $7, includes admission to Baldwin Home | Daily 10-4 .


Fort Ruins.
Coral stone ruins are all that remain at the site that served mostly as a prison; however, the ruins are actually not the real leftovers from the fort. They were constructed as a set for the 1961 movie The Devil at 4 O’Clock . The real fort was built from 1831 to 1832 after sailors, angered by a law forbidding local women from swimming out to ships, lobbed cannonballs into town the previous year. The fort was finally torn down in the 1850s and the stones were used to construct the new prison. Cannons raised from the wreck of a warship in Honolulu Harbor were brought to Lahaina and placed in front of the fort, where they still sit today. | Canal and Wharf sts. | Lahaina .

Hauola Stone.
Just visible above the tide is a gigantic stone, perfectly molded into the shape of a low-back chair and believed by Hawaiians to hold healing powers. It sits in the harbor, just off the land, where the sea and the underground freshwater meet. | Wharf and Papelekane sts., behind Lahaina Public Library | Lahaina | www.lahainarestoration.org | Free .

Lahaina Galleries.
Fine works of both national and international artists are displayed at this well-regarded gallery. Besides the space in Lahaina, there’s a second location in The Shops at Wailea. Prices start at more than $2,000 for originals. | 828 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/661-6284 | www.lahainagalleries.com .

Lahaina Harbor.
For centuries, Lahaina has drawn ships of all sizes to its calm harbor: King Kamehameha’s conquering fleet of 800 carved koa canoes gave way to Chinese trading ships, Boston whalers, United States Navy frigates, and, finally, a slew of pleasure craft. The picturesque harbor is the departure point for ferries headed to nearby islands, sailing charters, deep-sea fishing trips, and snorkeling excursions. It’s also a port of call for cruise ships from around the world. | Wharf St. | Lahaina | Free .

Lahaina Jodo Mission.
Established at the turn of the 20th century by Japanese contract workers, this Buddhist mission is one of Lahaina’s most popular sites thanks to its idyllic setting and spectacular views across the channel. Although the buildings are not open to the public, you can stroll the grounds and enjoy glimpses of a 90-foot-high pagoda, as well as a great 3.5-ton copper and bronze statue of the Amida Buddha (erected in 1968). If you’re in the vicinity at 8 on any evening, you may be able to hear the temple bell toll 11 times; the first three peals signifying Buddhist creeds, and the following representing the Noble Eightfold Path. | 12 Ala Moana St., near Lahaina Cannery Mall | Lahaina | 808/661-4304 | Free .

Pioneer Mill Smokestack.
The former Pioneer Mill Company used this site to mill sugar back when Lahaina’s main moneymaker was sugarcane. In 2010, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation restored the original smokestack—the tallest structure in Lahaina—and created a place for visitors to learn about the rich plantation history of West Maui. Take an interpretive walk around the smokestack along the landscaped grounds, then check out the refurbished locomotives that used to cart sugar between the fields and the mill. | 275 Lahainaluna Rd. | Lahaina | 808/661-3262 | www.lahainarestoration.org .


4 miles north of Lahaina.

As you drive north from Lahaina, the first resort community you reach is Kaanapali, a cluster of high-rise hotels framing a world-class white-sand beach. This is part of West Maui’s famous resort strip and is a perfect destination for families and romance seekers wanting to be in the center of the action. A little farther up the road lie the condo-filled beach towns of Honokowai, Kahana, and Napili, followed by Kapalua. Each boasts its own style and flavor, though most rely on a low-key beach vibe for people wanting upscale vacation rentals.


Shuttles and taxis are available from Kahului and West Maui airports. Resorts offer free shuttles between properties, and some hotels also provide complimentary shuttles into Lahaina. In the Maui Bus system the Napili Islander begins and ends at Whalers Village in Kaanapali and stops at most condos along the coastal road as far north as Napili Bay.


The theatrical look of Hawaii tourism—planned resort communities where luxury homes mix with high-rise hotels, fantasy swimming pools, and a theme-park landscape—began right here in the 1960s, when clever marketers built this sunny shoreline into a playground for the world’s vacationers. Three miles of uninterrupted white-sand beach and placid water form the front yard of this artificial utopia, with its 40 tennis courts and two championship golf courses.

Located near the Sheraton Maui, this area in ancient times was known for its bountiful fishing (especially lobster) and its seaside cliffs. The sleepy fishing village was washed away by the wave of Hawaii’s new economy: tourism. Puu Kekaa (today incorrectly referred to as Black Rock) was a lele, a place in ancient Hawaii believed to be where souls leaped from into the afterlife. | Kaanapali .


Farmers’ Market of Maui-Honokowai.
From pineapples to corn, the produce at this West Maui open-air market is local and flavorful. Prices are good, too. Colorful tropical flowers and handcrafted items are also available. | 3636 Honoapiilani Hwy., across from Honokowai Park | Honokowai | 808/669-7004 | Mon., Wed., and Fri. 7-11 am .


Kapalua is 10 miles north of Kaanapali; 36 miles west of Kahului.

Upscale Kapalua is north of the Kaanapali resorts, past Napili, and is a hideaway for those with money who want to stay incognito. Farther along the Honoapiilani Highway is the remote village of Kahakuloa, a reminder of Old Hawaii.


Shuttles and taxis are available from Kahului and West Maui airports. The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, has a resort shuttle within the Kapalua Resort.


The wild side of West Maui, this tiny village at the north end of Honoapiilani Highway is a relic of pre-jet-travel Maui. Remote villages similar to Kahakuloa were once tucked away in several valleys in this area. Many residents still grow taro and live in the old Hawaiian way. Driving this route is not for the faint of heart: the unimproved road weaves along coastal cliffs, and there are lots of blind curves; it’s not wide enough for two cars to pass in places, so one of you (most likely you) will have to reverse on this nail-biter of a “highway.” WARNING Watch out for stray cattle, roosters, and falling rocks. True adventurers will find terrific snorkeling and swimming along this drive, as well as some good hiking trails, a labyrinth, and excellent banana bread. | Kahakuloa.

QUICK BITES: Julia’s Best Banana Bread.
Follow the signs in Kahakuloa village to this bright green roadside stand, which offers some of Maui’s most delicious banana bread, coconut candy, passion fruit butter, taro chips, and other treats. The stand is open daily 9-5:30 or until the goodies are sold out. | 7465 Kahekili Hwy. | Kahakuloa .

Beautiful and secluded, Kapalua is West Maui’s northernmost, most exclusive resort community. First developed in the late 1970s, the resort now includes the Ritz-Carlton, posh residential complexes, two golf courses, and the surrounding former pineapple fields. The area’s distinctive shops and restaurants cater to dedicated golfers, celebrities who want to be left alone, and some of the world’s richest folks. In addition to golf, recreational activities include hiking and snorkeling. Mists regularly envelop the landscape of tall Cook pines and rolling fairways in Kapalua, which is cooler and quieter than its southern neighbors. The beaches here, including Kapalua and D.T. Fleming, are among Maui’s finest. | Kapalua .

QUICK BITES: Honolua Store.
In contrast to Kapalua’s many high-end retailers, the old Honolua Store still plies the groceries and household goods it did in plantation times. Hefty plates of ono (delicious) local foods are served at the deli until 6:30 pm and best enjoyed on the wrap-around porch. The plate lunches are the quintessential local meal. | 502 Office Rd. | Kapalua | 808/665-9105 .

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The South Shore

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Maalaea | Kihei | Wailea and Farther South

Blessed by more than its fair share of sun, the southern shore of Haleakala was an undeveloped wilderness until the 1970s, when the sun worshippers found it. Now restaurants, condos, and luxury resorts line the coast from the world-class aquarium at Maalaea Harbor, through working-class Kihei, to lovely Wailea, a resort community rivaling its counterpart, Kaanapali, on West Maui. Farther south, the road disappears and unspoiled wilderness still has its way.

Because the South Shore includes so many fine beach choices, a trip here—if you’re staying elsewhere on the island—is an all-day excursion, especially if you include a visit to the aquarium. Get active in the morning with exploring and snorkeling, then shower in a beach park, dress up a little, and enjoy the cool luxury of the Wailea resorts. At sunset, settle in for dinner at one of the area’s many fine restaurants.

The South Shore

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13 miles south of Kahului; 6 miles west of Kihei; 14 miles southeast of Lahaina.

Pronounced “Mah- ah -lye- ah, ” this spot is not much more than a few condos, an aquarium, and a wind-blasted harbor (where there are tour boats)—but that’s more than enough for some visitors. Humpback whales seem to think Maalaea is tops for meeting mates, and green sea turtles treat it like their own personal spa, regularly seeking appointments with cleaner wrasses in the harbor. Surfers revere this spot for “freight trains,” reportedly the world’s fastest waves.

A small Shinto shrine stands at the shore here, dedicated to the fishing god Ebisu Sama. Across the street, a giant hook often swings heavy with the sea’s bounty, proving the worth of the shrine. At the end of Hauoli Street (the town’s sole road), a small community garden is sometimes privy to traditional Hawaiian ceremonies. That’s all, there’s not much else—but the few residents here like it that way.


To reach Maalaea from Kahului Airport, take Route 380 to Route 30. The town is also a transfer point for many Maui Bus routes.


Maalaea Small Boat Harbor.
With so many good reasons to head out onto the water, this active little harbor is quite busy. Many snorkeling and whale-watching excursions depart from here. There was a plan to expand the facility, but surfers argued that would have destroyed their surf breaks. In fact, the surf here is world-renowned. The elusive spot to the left of the harbor, called “freight train,” rarely breaks, but when it does, it’s said to be the fastest anywhere. Shops, restaurants, and a museum front the harbor. | 101 Maalaea Boat Harbor Rd., off Honoapiilani Hwy. | Maalaea .

Fodor’s Choice | Maui Ocean Center.
You’ll feel as though you’re walking from the seashore down to the bottom of the reef at this aquarium, which focuses on creatures of the Pacific. Vibrant exhibits let you get close to turtles, rays, sharks, and the unusual creatures of the tide pools; allow two hours or so to explore it all. It’s not an enormous facility, but it does provide an excellent (though pricey) introduction to the sea life that makes Hawaii special. The center is part of a complex of retail shops and restaurants overlooking the harbor. Enter from Honoapiilani Highway as it curves past Maalaea Harbor. TIP The Ocean Center’s gift shop is one of the best on Maui for artsy souvenirs and toys. | 192 Maalaea Rd., off Honoapiilani Hwy. | Maalaea | 808/270-7000 | www.mauioceancenter.com | $25.95 | Sept.-June, daily 9-5; July and Aug., daily 9-6 .


9 miles south of Kahului; 20 miles east of Lahaina.

Traffic lights and shopping malls may not fit your notion of paradise, but Kihei offers dependably warm sun, excellent beaches, and a front-row seat to marine life of all sorts. Besides all the sun and sand, the town’s relatively inexpensive condos and excellent restaurants make this a home base for many Maui visitors.

County beach parks, such as Kamaole I, II, and III, have lawns, showers, and picnic tables. TIP Remember: beach park or no beach park, the public has a right to the entire coastal strand but not to cross private property to get to it.


Kihei is a 20-minute ride south of Kahului once you’re past the heavy traffic on Dairy Road and are on the four-lane Mokulele Highway (Route 311).


Fodor’s Choice | Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
This nature center sits in prime humpback-viewing territory beside a restored ancient Hawaiian fish pond. Whether the whales are here or not, the education center is a great stop for youngsters curious to know more about underwater life, and for anyone eager to gain insight into the cultural connection between Hawaii and its whale residents. Interactive displays and informative naturalists explain it all, including the sanctuary that acts as a breeding ground for humpbacks. Throughout the year, the center hosts activities that include talks, labs, and volunteer opportunities. The sanctuary itself includes virtually all the waters surrounding the archipelago. TIP Just outside the visitor center is the ancient Koieie fish pond; it is a popular place for locals to bring their children to wade in the water. | 726 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/879-2818 , 800/831-4888 (toll-free) | www.hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov | Free | Weekdays 10-3 .

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.
Natural wetlands have become rare in the Islands, so the 700 acres of this reserve attract migratory birds, such as osprey and long-legged stilts that casually dip their beaks into the shallow waters as traffic shuttles by. It is also home to other wildlife. Interpretive signs on the boardwalk, which stretches along the coast by North Kihei Road, explain the journey of the endangered hawksbill turtles and how they return to the sandy dunes year after year. The main entrance to the reserve is on Mokulele Highway. A visitor center provides a good introduction. | Mokulele Hwy., mile marker 6 | Kihei | 808/875-1582 | www.fws.gov/kealiapond | Free | Weekdays 7:30-4 .


Farmers’ Market of Maui-Kihei.
Tropical flowers, tempting produce, massive avocados, and locally made preserves, banana bread, and crafts are among the bargains at this South Shore market in the west end of Kihei, next to the ABC Store. | 61 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/875-0949 | Mon.-Thurs. 8-4, Fri. 8-5 .


15 miles south of Kahului, at the southern border of Kihei.

The South Shore’s resort community, Wailea is slightly quieter and drier than its West Maui sister, Kaanapali. Many visitors cannot pick a favorite, so they stay at both. The luxury of the resorts (borderline excessive) and the simple grandeur of the coastal views make the otherwise stark landscape an outstanding destination. Take time to stroll the coastal beach path; a handful of perfect little beaches, all with public access, front the resorts.

The first two resorts were built here in the late 1970s. Soon a cluster of upscale properties sprang up, including the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea and the Fairmont Kea Lani. Check out the Grand Wailea Resort’s chapel, which tells a Hawaiian love story in stained glass.


From Kahului Airport, take Route 311 (Mokulele Highway) to Route 31 (Piilani Highway) until it ends in Wailea. Shuttles and taxis are available at the airport. If you’re traveling by Maui Bus, the Kihei Islander route runs between The Shops at Wailea and Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului. There’s a resort shuttle, and a paved shore path goes between the hotels.


Coastal Nature Trail.
A 1.5-mile-long paved beach walk allows you to stroll among Wailea’s prettiest properties, restaurants, and rocky coves. The trail teems with joggers in the morning hours. The makai is landscaped with rare native plants like the silvery hinahina, named after the Hawaiian moon goddess. In winter, keep an eye out for whales. The trail is accessible from Polo Beach as well as from the many Wailea beachfront resorts. | Wailea Beach, Wailea Alanui Dr., south of Grand Wailea Resort | Wailea .

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Central Maui

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Kahului | Wailuku | Haleakala National Park

Kahului, where you most likely landed when you arrived on Maui, is the industrial and commercial center of the island. West of Kahului is Wailuku, the county seat since 1950 and the most charming town in Central Maui, with some good, inexpensive restaurants. Outside these towns are attractions ranging from museums and historic sites to gardens.

You can combine sightseeing in Central Maui with some shopping at the Queen Kaahumanu Center, Maui Mall, and Maui Marketplace. This is one of the best areas on the island to stock up on groceries and supplies, thanks to major retailers including Walmart, Kmart, and Costco. Note that grocery prices are much higher than on the mainland.

Kahului and Wailuku

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3 miles west of Kahului Airport; 9 miles north of Kihei; 31 miles east of Kaanapali; 51 miles west of Hana.

With the island’s largest airport and commercial harbor, Kahului is Maui’s commercial hub. But it also offers plenty of natural and cultural attractions. The town was developed in the early 1950s to meet the housing needs of the large sugarcane interests here, specifically those of Alexander & Baldwin. The company was tired of playing landlord to its many plantation workers and sold land to a developer who promised to create affordable housing. The scheme worked and “Dream City,” the first planned city in Hawaii, was born.


From the airport, take Keolani Place to Route 36 (Hana Highway), which becomes Kaahumanu Avenue, Kahului’s main drag. Run by Maui Bus, the Kahului Loop route traverses all of the town’s major shopping centers; the fare is $2.


Most visitors who arrive on Maui by sea will dock at Kahului Harbor. Although this area is more commercial hub than tourist attraction, it’s a convenient and central place to begin your explorations. Because many attractions are spread far apart, your best bet is to reserve a car from one of the many rental companies stationed at Kahului Airport, 2.2 miles down the road.

For taxi travel in and around Kahului, expect to pay around $5-$10. Travelers on a tight budget can walk or catch a taxi 1½ miles from the harbor to the island’s largest mall, Queen Kaahumanu Center. This is the central hub of the Maui Bus, and a starting point for buses headed to the more desirable tourist towns of Kihei and Lahaina; the cost is $2 per ride or $4 for a day pass.


Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum.
Maui’s largest landowner, A&B was one of the “Big Five” companies that spearheaded the planting, harvesting, and processing of sugarcane. At this museum, historic photos, artifacts, and documents explain the introduction of sugarcane to Hawaii. Exhibits reveal how plantations brought in laborers from other countries, forever changing the Islands’ ethnic mix. Although Hawaiian cane sugar is now being supplanted by cheaper foreign versions—as well as by sugar derived from inexpensive sugar beets—the crop was for many years the mainstay of the local economy. You can find the museum in a small, restored plantation manager’s house across the street from the post office and the still-operating sugar refinery, where smoke billows up when cane is being processed. Their gift shop sells excellent sugar, coffee, and a selection of history books. | 3957 Hansen Rd. | Puunene | 808/871-8058 | www.sugarmuseum.com | $7 | Daily 9:30-4:30; last admission at 4 .

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.
Hawaiian and Polynesian species are cultivated at this fascinating seven-acre garden, including Hawaiian bananas; local varieties of sweet potatoes and sugarcane; and native poppies, hibiscus, and anapanapa, a plant that makes a natural shampoo when rubbed between your hands. Reserve ahead for the weekly ethnobotany tours. Self-guided tour booklets and an audio tour wand is included with admission, and a docent tour is $10 (and must be arranged in advance). | 150 Kanaloa Ave. | Kahului | 808/249-2798 | www.mnbg.org | $5 | Mon.-Sat. 8-4 .


Halekii-Pihana Heiau State Monument.
Stand here at either of the two heiau (ancient Hawaiian stone platforms once used as places of worship) and imagine the chief of Maui surveying his domain. That’s what Kahekili, Maui’s last chief, did and so did Kamehameha the Great after he defeated Kahekili’s soldiers. Today the view is most instructive. The suburban community behind you is all Hawaiian Homelands—property owned solely by native Hawaiians. | End of Hea Pl., off Kuhio Pl. | Kahului | 808/984-8109 | www.hawaiistateparks.org | Free | Daily 7:45-4:30 .

Maui Swap Meet.
Even locals get up early to go to the Maui Swap Meet for fresh produce and floral bouquets. Hundreds of stalls sell everything from quilts to didgeridoos. Enter the parking lot from the traffic light at Kahului Beach Road. | University of Hawaii Maui, 310 Kaahumanu Ave. | Kahului | 808/244-3100 | www.mauiexposition.com | Sat. 7-1 .

Maui’s Fresh Produce Farmers’ Market.
Local purveyors showcase their fruits, vegetables, orchids, and crafts in the central courtyard at the Queen Kaahumanu Center. If “strictly local” is critical to you, it’s a good idea to ask about the particular produce or flowers or whatever you want to purchase. | Queen Kaahumanu Center, 275 W. Kaahumanu Ave. | Kahului | 808/877-4325 | Tues., Wed., and Fri. 8-4 .


4 miles west of Kahului; 12 miles north of Kihei; 21 miles east of Lahaina.

Wailuku is peaceful now—although it wasn’t always so. Its name means Water of Destruction, after the fateful battle in Iao Valley that pitted King Kamehameha the Great against Maui warriors. Wailuku was a politically important town until the sugar industry began to decline in the 1960s and tourism took hold. Businesses left the cradle of the West Maui Mountains and followed the new market (and tourists) to the shores. Wailuku houses the county government but has the feel of a town that’s been asleep for several decades.

The shops and offices now inhabiting Market Street’s plantation-style buildings serve as reminders of a bygone era, and continued attempts at “gentrification,” at the very least, open the way for unique eateries, shops, and galleries. Drop by on the first Friday of the month for First Friday, when Market Street is closed to traffic and turns into a festival with live music, performances, food, and more.


Heading to Wailuku from the airport, Hana Highway turns into Kaahumanu Avenue, the main thoroughfare between Kahului and Wailuku. Maui Bus system’s Wailuku Loop stops at shopping centers, medical facilities, and government buildings; the fare is $2.


Fodor’s Choice | Bailey House Museum.
This repository of the largest and best collection of Hawaiian artifacts on Maui includes objects from the sacred island of Kahoolawe. Erected in 1833 on the site of the compound of Kahekili (the last ruling chief of Maui), the building was occupied by the family of missionary teachers Edward and Caroline Bailey until 1888. Edward Bailey was something of a Renaissance man: not only a missionary, but also a surveyor, a naturalist, and an excellent artist. The museum contains missionary-period furniture and displays a number of Bailey’s landscape paintings, which provide a snapshot of the island during his time. The grounds include gardens with native Hawaiian plants and a fine example of a traditional canoe. The gift shop is one of the best sources on Maui for items that are actually made in Hawaii. | 2375A Main St. | Wailuku | 808/244-3326 | www.mauimuseum.org | $7 | Mon.-Sat. 10-4 .

Fodor’s Choice | Iao Valley State Monument.
When Mark Twain saw this park, he dubbed it the Yosemite of the Pacific. Yosemite it’s not, but it is a lovely deep valley with the curious Iao Needle, a spire that rises more than 2,000 feet from the valley floor. You can walk from the parking lot across Iao Stream and explore the thick, junglelike topography. This park has some lovely short strolls on paved paths, where you can stop and meditate by the edge of a stream or marvel at the native plants. Locals come to jump from the rocks or bridge into the stream—this isn’t recommended. Mist often rises if there has been a rain, which makes being here even more magical. Be aware that this area is prone to flash flooding; if it’s been raining, stay out of the water. Parking is $5, when an attendant is present. | Western end of Rte. 32 | Wailuku | www.hawaiistateparks.org | $5 per car | Daily 7-7 .

Kepaniwai Park & Heritage Gardens.
Picnic facilities dot the landscape of this county park, a memorial to Maui’s cultural roots. Among the interesting displays are an early-Hawaiian hale (house), a New England-style saltbox, a Portuguese-style villa with gardens, and dwellings from such other cultures as China and the Philippines. Next door, the Hawaii Nature Center has excellent interactive exhibits and pathways for hikes that are easy enough for children.

The peacefulness here belies the history of the area. In 1790, King Kamehameha the Great from the Island of Hawaii waged a successful and bloody battle against Kahekili, the son of Maui’s chief. An earlier battle at the site had pitted Kahekili himself against an older Hawaii Island chief, Kalaniopuu. Kahekili prevailed, but the carnage was so great that the nearby stream became known as Wailuku (Water of Destruction), and the place where fallen warriors choked the stream’s flow was called Kepaniwai (Damming of the Waters). | 870 Iao Valley Rd. | Wailuku | Free | Daily 7-7 .

Market Street.
An idiosyncratic assortment of shops makes Wailuku’s Market Street a delightful place for a stroll. Brown-Kobayashi and the Bird of Paradise Unique Antiques are the best shops for interesting collectibles and furnishings. Wailuku Coffee Company holds works by local artists and occasionally offers live entertainment in the evening. On the first Friday of every month Market Street closes to traffic (5:30-9) for Wailuku’s First Friday celebration; festivities begin at 6, and the fun includes street vendors, live entertainment, and food. | Market St. | Wailuku | www.mauifridays.com .


Keopuolani Park.
Originally named Maui Central Park, Keopuolani Park got its name after schoolchildren argued before the county council that it be named for Hawaii’s most revered queen, who was born near here and was forced to flee across the mountains before the arrival of Kamehameha the Great’s army. This 101-acre park includes seven playing fields and a running path, gym, pool, skate park, and grass amphitheater. | Kanaloa Ave. | Wailuku | Daily 7-7 .

Maui Tropical Plantation & Country Store.
When Maui’s cash crop declined in importance, a group of visionaries opened an agricultural theme park on the site of this former sugarcane field. The 60-acre preserve offers a 40-minute tram ride with informative narration that covers the growing process and plant types. Children will enjoy such hands-on activities as coconut husking. Also here are an art gallery, a restaurant, and a store specializing in “Made in Maui” products. Don’t leave without checking out the Kumu Farms stand, which offers seasonal organic produce and some of the tastiest papayas around. | 1670 Honoapiilani Hwy. | Waikapu | 808/270-0333 | www.mauitropicalplantation.com | Free, tram ride $20 | Daily 9-5 .


41 miles southeast of Wailuku; 28 miles southeast of Pukalani.

From the Tropics to the Moon! Two hours, 38 miles, 10,023 feet—those are the unlikely numbers involved in reaching Maui’s highest point, the summit of the volcano Haleakala. Nowhere else on earth can you drive from sea level (Kahului) to 10,023 feet (the summit) in only 38 miles. Haleakala Crater is the centerpiece of the park, though it’s not actually a crater; technically, it’s an erosional valley, flushed out by water pouring from the summit through two enormous gaps. The mountain has terrific camping and hiking, including a trail that loops through the crater, but the chance to witness this unearthly landscape is reason enough for a visit. Another section of the park, Oheo Gulch in Kipahulu, can only be reached via the Road to Hana.

Exploring Haleakala Crater is one of the best hiking experiences on Maui. The volcanic terrain offers an impressive diversity of colors, textures, and shapes—almost as if the lava has been artfully sculpted. The barren landscape is home to many plants, insects, and birds that exist nowhere else on earth and have developed intriguing survival mechanisms, such as the sun-reflecting, hairy leaves of the silversword, which allow it to survive the intense climate.

Fodor’s Choice | Haleakala National Park.
Nowhere else on Earth can you drive from sea level to 10,023 feet in only 38 miles. And what’s more shocking: in that short vertical ascent to the summit of the volcano Haleakala you’ll journey from lush, tropical island landscape to the stark, moonlike basin of the volcano’s enormous, otherworldly crater.

Established in 1916, Haleakala National Park covers an astonishing 33,222 acres, with the Haleakala Crater as its centerpiece. There’s terrific hiking, including trails for one-hour, four-hour, eight-hour, and overnight hikes, one of which goes through the Waikamoi Cloud Forest on Monday and Thursday only and requires reservations (call the park line no more than a week in advance). No other hikes require reservations. There is also on-site camping.

TIP Before you head up Haleakala, call for the latest weather conditions. Extreme gusty winds, heavy rain, and even snow in winter are not uncommon. Because of the high altitude, the mountaintop temperature is often as much as 30°F cooler than that at sea level, so bring a jacket.

There’s a $15-per-car fee to enter the park, good for three days. Hold on to your receipt—it can also be used at Oheo Gulch in Kipahulu. Once inside the park, stop at the Park Headquarters to learn about the volcano’s history, and pick up trail maps (and memorabilia, if you please) at the gift shop. Campers and hikers must check in here.

What’s in store for you as you make your ascent:

The Leleiwi Overlook is at about the 8,800-foot level and offers you your first awe-inspiring view of the crater. The small hills in the basin are cinder cones (puu in Hawaiian). If you’re here in the late afternoon, it’s possible you’ll see yourself reflected on the clouds and encircled by a rainbow—a phenomenon called the Brocken Specter. Don’t wait long for this, because it’s not a daily occurrence.

At 9,000 feet, at Kalahaku Overlook, the famous silversword plant grows in the desertlike landscape. This endangered beauty grows only here and at the Big Island’s two peaks. When it reaches maturity it sends forth a 3- to 8-foot-tall stalk with several hundred tiny sunflowers. It blooms once, then dies.

Haleakala Visitor Center, at 9,740 feet, has exhibits inside and a trail that leads to White Hill—a short, easy walk with even better views of the valley.

The highest point on Maui is the Puu Ulaula Overlook, at the 10,023-foot summit. Here, a glass-enclosed lookout provides a 360-degree view. The building is open 24 hours a day and has the best sunrise view. The Maui News posts the hour of sunrise, which falls between 5:45 and 7 am, depending on the time of year. Bring blankets or hotel towels to stay warm on the cold and windy summit. On a clear day you can see the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and the Big Island; on a really clear day you can even spot Oahu glimmering in the distance.

TIP The air is thin at 10,000 feet. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little breathless while walking around the summit. Take it easy and drink lots of water. Anyone who has been scuba diving within the last 24 hours should not make the trip up Haleakala. | Haleakala Crater Rd. | Makawao | 808/572-4400 , 866/944-5025 for weather conditions | www.nps.gov/hale | $15 per car | Park 24 hrs; park headquarters daily 8-3:45; Haleakala Visitor Center daily 6-3 .

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The Kula Highway | Makawao

The west-facing upper slope of Haleakala is considered “Upcountry” by locals and is a hidden gem by most accounts. Although this region is responsible for most of Maui’s produce—lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, sweet Maui onions, and more—it is also home to innovators, renegades, artists, and some of Maui’s most interesting communities. It may not be the Maui of postcards, but some say this is the real Maui and is well worth at least a day or two of exploring.

Upcountry is also fertile ranch land; cowboys still work the fields of the historic 18,000-acre Ulupalakua Ranch and the 30,000-acre Haleakala Ranch. TIP Take an agricultural tour and learn more about the island’s bounty. Lavender and wine are among the offerings. Up here cactus thickets mingle with purple jacaranda, wild hibiscus, and towering eucalyptus trees. Keep an eye out for pueo, Hawaii’s native owl, which hunts these fields during daylight hours.

A drive to Upcountry Maui from Wailea (South Shore) or Kaanapali (West Maui) can be an all-day outing if you take the time to visit Maui’s Winery and the tiny but entertaining town of Makawao. You may want to cut these side trips short and combine your Upcountry tour with a visit to Haleakala National Park —it’s a Maui must-see/do. If you leave early enough to catch the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala, you should have plenty of time to explore the mountain, have lunch in Kula or at Ulupalakua Ranch, and end your day with dinner in Makawao.

Central Maui, Upcountry, and North Shore

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15 miles east of Kahului; 44 miles east of Kaanapali; 28 miles east of Wailea.

Kula: most Mauians say it with a hint of a sigh. Why? It’s just that much closer to heaven. On the broad shoulder of Haleakala, this is blessed country. From the Kula Highway most of Central Maui is visible—from the lava-scarred plains of Kanaio to the cruise ship-lighted waters of Kahului Harbor. Beyond the central valley’s sugarcane fields, the plunging profile of the West Maui Mountains can be seen in its entirety, wreathed in ethereal mist. If this sounds too dramatic a description, you haven’t been here yet. These views, coveted by many, continue to drive real-estate prices further skyward. Luckily, you can still have them for free—just pull over on the roadside and inhale the beauty. Explore it for yourself on some of the area’s agricultural tours.


From Kahului, take Route 37 (Haleakala Highway), which runs into Route 377 (Kula Highway). Upper and Lower Kula highways are both numbered 377, but join each other at two points.


Alii Kula Lavender.
Make time for tea and a scone at this lavender farm with a falcon’s view: it’s the relaxing remedy for those suffering from too much sun, shopping, or golf. Knowledgeable guides lead tours through winding paths of therapeutic lavender varieties, protea, and succulents. The gift shop is stocked with many locally made lavender products, such as brownies, moisturizing lotions, and fragrant sachets. Make a reservation in advance for the walking tours. If you don’t make it to the farm, there’s also an Alii Kula Lavender gift shop in Paia town. | 1100 Waipoli Rd. | Kula | 808/878-3004 | www.aklmaui.com | $3, walking tours $12 (reservations recommended) | Daily 9-4 .

Fodor’s Choice | MauiWine.
Tour Maui’s only winery and its historic grounds, the former Rose Ranch, for a chance to learn about its history and to sample such wines as Ulupalakua Red and Upcountry Gold. The King’s Cottage tasting room is a cottage built in the late 1800s for the frequent visits of King Kalakaua. The cottage also contains the Ulupalakua Ranch History Room, which tells colorful stories of the ranch’s owners, the paniolo tradition that developed here, and Maui’s polo teams. The winery’s top seller, naturally, is the pineapple wine, Maui Blanc. Complimentary tastings of the pineapple and sparkling wines are available all day. The old Ranch Store across the road may look like a museum, but in fact it’s an excellent pit stop. The elk burgers are fantastic. | Ulupalakua Ranch, 14815 Piilani Hwy. | Kula | 808/878-6058 | www.mauiwine.com | Free | Daily 10-5:30; tours at 10:30, 1:30, and 3:30 .

Fodor’s Choice | Oo Farm.
About a mile from Alii Kula Lavender are 8 acres of organic salad greens, herbs, vegetables, coffee, cocoa, fruits, and berries—all of it headed directly to restaurants in Lahaina. Oo Farm is owned and operated by the restaurateurs responsible for some of Maui’s finest dining establishments, and more than 300 pounds of its produce end up on diners’ plates every week. Reserve a space for the midday tours, which include an informational walk around the pastoral grounds and an alfresco lunch prepared by an on-site chef. Cap off the experience with house-grown, -roasted, and -brewed coffee, and some of the yummiest chocolate in the state. Reservations are necessary. | 651 Waipoli Rd. | Kula | 808/667-4341 for reservations only | www.oofarm.com | Lunch tours from $58 | Mon.-Thurs. 10:30-2 .


More of a friendly gesture than a town, this tiny outpost is the last bit of civilization before Kula Highway becomes a winding back road. A coffee tree pushes through the sunny deck at Grandma’s Maui Coffee, the morning watering hole for Maui’s cowboys who work at Ulupalakua or Kaupo Ranch. Keokea Gallery next door sells cool, quirky artwork. And two tiny stores—Fong’s and Ching’s—are testament to the Chinese immigrants who settled the area in the late 19th century. TIP The only restroom for miles is in the public park, and the view makes stretching your legs worth it. | Kula .

Kula Botanical Gardens.
This well-kept garden has assimilated itself naturally into its craggy 8-acre habitat. There are 2,500 species of plants and trees here, including native koa (prized by woodworkers) and kukui (the state tree, a symbol of enlightenment). There is also a good selection of proteas, the flowering shrubs that have become a signature flower crop of Upcountry Maui. A flowing stream feeds into a koi pond, nene and ducks can be viewed, and a paved pathway—which is stroller- and wheelchair-friendly—meanders throughout the grounds. | 638 Kekaulike Hwy. | Kula | 808/878-1715 | www.kulabotanicalgarden.com | $10 | Daily 9-4 .

Surfing Goat Dairy.
It takes goats to make goat cheese, and they’ve got plenty of both at this 42-acre farm. Tours range from “casual” to “grand,” and any of them delight kids as well as adults. If you have the time, the “Evening Chores and Milking Tour” is educational and fun. The owners make more than two dozen kinds of goat cheese, from the plain, creamy Udderly Delicious to more exotic varieties that include tropical ingredients. All are available in the dairy store, along with gift baskets and even goat-milk soaps. | 3651 Omaopio Rd. | Kula | 808/878-2870 | www.surfinggoatdairy.com | Free, tours $12-$28 | Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 9-2 .

Fodor’s Choice | Upcountry Farmers’ Market.
Most of Maui’s produce is grown Upcountry, which is why everything is fresh at this outdoor market at the football field parking lot in Kulamalu Town Center. Vendors offer fruits, vegetables, flowers, jellies and breads, plus exotic finds like venison, kimchi, and macadamia nuts. Reflecting the island’s cultural melting pot, prepared food offerings include Korean, Indian, and Thai dishes. There’s also a nice selection of vegan and raw food. Go early, as nearly everything sells out. | 55 Kiopaa St., near Longs Drugs | Pukalani | www.upcountryfarmersmarket.com | Sat. 7-11 am .


10 miles east of Kahului; 10 miles southeast of Paia.

At the intersection of Baldwin and Makawao avenues, this once-tiny town has managed to hang on to its country charm (and eccentricity) as it has grown in popularity. Its good selection of specialized shops makes Makawao a fun place to spend some time.

The district was originally settled by Portuguese and Japanese immigrants who came to Maui to work the sugar plantations and then moved Upcountry to establish small farms, ranches, and stores. Descendants now work the neighboring Haleakala and Ulupalakua ranches. Every July 4 weekend the paniolo set comes out in force for the Makawao Rodeo.

The crossroads of town—lined with shops and down-home eateries—reflects a growing population of people who came here just because they liked it. For those seeking greenery rather than beachside accommodations, there are secluded bed-and-breakfasts around the town.


To get to Makawao by car, take Route 37 (Haleakala Highway) to Pukalani, then turn left on Makawao Avenue. You can also take Route 36 (Hana Highway) to Paia and make a right onto Baldwin Avenue. Either way takes you to the heart of Makawao.


Fodor’s Choice | Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center.
The grande dame of Maui’s visual arts scene, “the Hui” hosts exhibits that are always satisfying. Located just outside Makawao, the center’s main building is an elegant two-story Mediterranean-style villa designed in 1917 by the defining Hawaii architect of the era, C.W. Dickey. Explore the grounds, sample locally made products, and learn about exceptional plant species during a tour held Monday and Wednesday at 10 am; it costs $12. A self-guided tour booklet is available for $6. | 2841 Baldwin Ave. | Makawao | 808/572-6560 | www.huinoeau.com | Free | Mon.-Sat. 9-4 .

QUICK BITES: Komoda Store and Bakery.
One of Makawao’s landmarks is Komoda Store and Bakery, a classic mom-and-pop shop that has changed little in three-quarters of a century. If you arrive early enough, you can get an incredible “stick” doughnut or a delicious cream puff. The store daily makes hundreds, but sells out of them every day. | 3674 Baldwin Ave. | Makawao | 808/572-7261 .

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The North Shore

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Paia | Haiku | Road to Hana | Huelo, Kailua, and Nearby | Keanae, Wailua, and Nearby | Hana and Nearby

Blasted by winter swells and wind, Maui’s North Shore draws water-sports thrill seekers from around the world. But there’s much more to this area of Maui than coastline. Inland, a lush, waterfall-fed Garden of Eden beckons. In forested pockets, wealthy hermits have carved out a little piece of paradise for themselves.

North Shore action centers on the colorful town of Paia and the windsurfing mecca of Hookipa Beach. It’s a far cry from the more developed resort areas of West Maui and the South Shore. Paia is also a starting point for one of the most popular excursions in Maui, the Road to Hana. Waterfalls, phenomenal views of the coast and the ocean, and lush rain forest are all part of the spectacular 55-mile drive into East Maui.


9 miles east of Kahului; 4 miles west of Haiku.

At the intersection of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue, Paia has eclectic boutiques that supply everything from high fashion to hemp-oil candles. Some of Maui’s best shops for surf trunks, Brazilian bikinis, and other beachwear are here. Restaurants provide excellent people-watching opportunities and an array of dining and takeout options from flatbread to fresh fish. The abundance is helpful because Paia is the last place to snack before the pilgrimage to Hana and the first stop for the famished on the return trip.

This little town on Maui’s North Shore was once a sugarcane enclave, with a mill, plantation camps, and shops. The old sugar mill finally closed, but the town continues to thrive. In the 1970s Paia became a hippie town, as dropouts headed for Maui to open boutiques, galleries, and unusual eateries. In the 1980s windsurfers—many of them European—discovered nearby Hookipa Beach and brought an international flavor to Paia. Today this historic town is hip and happening.


Route 36 (Hana Highway) runs directly though Paia; 4 miles east of town, follow the sign to Haiku, a short detour off the highway. You can take the Maui Bus from the airport and Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului to Paia and on to Haiku.


There’s no better place on this or any other island to watch the world’s finest windsurfers and kiteboarders in action than Hookipa Beach. They know the five different surf breaks there by name. Unless it’s a rare day without wind or waves, you’re sure to get a show. Note that it’s not safe to park on the shoulder outside this beach. Use the ample parking lot at the county park entrance.

QUICK BITES: Mana Foods.
This North Shore’s natural-foods store has an inspired deli with hot and cold items. | 49 Baldwin Ave. | Paia | 808/579-8078 | www.manafoodsmaui.com .


13 miles east of Kahului; 4 miles east of Paia.

At one time this area centered on a couple of enormous pineapple canneries. Both have been transformed into rustic warehouse malls. Because of the post office next door, Old Haiku Cannery earned the title of town center. Here you can try eateries offering everything from plate lunches to vegetarian dishes to juicy burgers and fantastic sushi. Follow windy Haiku Road to Pauwela Cannery, the other defunct factory-turned-hangout. This jungle hillside is a maze of flower-decked roads that seem to double back on themselves.


Haiku is a short detour off Hana Highway (Route 36) just past Hookipa Beach Park on the way to Hana. Haiku Road turns into Kokomo Road at the post office.


The Road to Hana is a 55-mile journey into the unspoiled heart of Maui. Tracing a centuries-old path, the road begins as a well-paved highway in Kahului and ends in the tiny, rustic town of Hana on the island’s rain-gouged windward side, spilling into a backcountry rarely visited by humans. Many travelers venture beyond Hana to Oheo Gulch in East Maui, where one can cool off in basalt-lined pools and waterfalls.

Tips on Driving the Road to Hana

If you’re prone to motion sickness be aware that the Road to Hana has a fair share of twists and turns. Drive with your window down to allow in the fresh air—tinged with the aroma of guava and ginger.

With short stops, the drive from Paia to Hana should take you between two and three hours one-way. Lunching in Hana, hiking, and swimming can easily turn the round trip into a full-day outing, especially if you continue past Hana to the Oheo Gulch and Kipahulu. If you go that far, you might consider continuing around the “back side” for the return trip. The scenery is completely different, and you’ll end up in beautiful Upcountry Maui.

Because there’s so much scenery to take in—including abundant waterfalls and beaches—we recommend staying overnight in Hana. It’s worth taking time to enjoy the full experience without being in a hurry. Try to plan your trip for a day that promises fair, sunny weather—although the drive can be even more beautiful when it’s raining, the roads become more hazardous.

During high season (January-March and summer), the Road to Hana tends to develop trains of cars, with everyone in a line of six or more driving as slowly as the first car. The solution: leave early (dawn) and return late (dusk). If you find yourself playing the role of locomotive, pull over and let the other drivers pass. You can also let someone else take the turns for you—several companies offer van tours.

Basic Road Tips

✵ Common courtesy in Hawaii dictates that slower drivers should pull over for faster drivers. Please don’t try to zoom through this winding road.

✵ When approaching one-lane bridges, it is local custom for about five cars to go in one direction at a time. If you happen to be the sixth car, stop before entering the bridge and let drivers traveling in the other direction pass.

✵ Instead of stopping in the middle of the road, or a bridge, to snap photos, park at a turnoff and carefully walk back to the waterfall to take your photos.

✵ Although rain makes the drive more beautiful, with gushing waterfalls and rainbows, it also makes the roads slick. Drive slowly and cautiously on wet roads.

✵ Just after Haiku the mile markers start at zero again.

This drive is a Hawaii pilgrimage for those eager to experience what glossy magazines consider the “real” Hawaii. To most, the lure of Hana is its timelessness, and paired with the spectacular drive (which brings to life the old adage: the journey is the destination), this is one of Hawaii’s best experiences. The Road to Hana is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful drives on the planet.

The challenging part of the road takes only an hour and a half, but the drive begs to be taken at a leisurely pace. You’ll want to slow the passage of time to take in foliage-hugged ribbons of road and roadside banana-bread stands, to swim beneath a waterfall, and to inhale the lush Maui tropics in all its glory. You’ll also want to stop often and let the driver enjoy the view, too.

Road to Hana: Huelo to Nahiku

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10 miles east of Haiku.

As the Road to Hana begins its journey eastward, the slopes get steeper and the Pacific Ocean pops into view. The first waterfall you see, Twin Falls, is around mile marker 2, and farther up the road is the Koolau Forest Reserve. Embedded in the forest are two townships, Huelo and Kailua, both of which are great places to pull over and take in the dramatic landscape.


Just after Haiku, the mile markers on the Hana Highway change back to 0. The towns of Huelo and Kailua are at mile markers 5 and 6. To reach the townships, follow the signs toward the ocean side of the road.


Twin Falls.
Keep an eye out for the Twin Falls Fruit Stand just after mile marker 2 on the Hana Highway. Stop here and treat yourself to some fresh sugarcane juice. If you’re feeling adventurous, follow the path beyond the stand to the paradisiacal waterfalls known as Twin Falls. Although it’s still private property, the “no trespassing” signs have been replaced by colorfully painted arrows pointing toward the easily accessible falls. Several deep, emerald pools sparkle beneath waterfalls and offer excellent swimming and photo opportunities. In recent years, this natural attraction has become a tourist hot spot. Although the attention is well deserved, those who wish to avoid crowds may want to keep driving. | Hana Hwy., past mile marker 2 | Haiku-Pauwela .

When you see the colorful mailboxes on the makai of the road around mile marker 5 on the Hana Highway, follow the windy road to the rural area of Huelo—a funky community that includes a mix of off-the-grid inhabitants and vacation rentals. The town features two picturesque churches, one of which is Kaulanapueo Church, constructed in 1853 out of coral blocks. If you linger awhile, you may meet local residents and learn about a rural lifestyle you might not have expected to find on the Islands. The same can be said for nearby Kailua (mile marker 6). TIP When you’re back up on Hana Highway, pull into the Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand for yummy smoothies and killer views of the Pacific below. | Hana Hwy., near mile marker 5 | Huelo .

Waikamoi Nature Trail.
Slightly after the town of Huelo, the Hana Highway enters the Koolau Forest Reserve. Vines wrap around street signs, and waterfalls are so abundant that you don’t know which direction to look. A good start is between mile markers 9 and 10, where the Waikamoi Nature Trail sign beckons you to stretch your car-weary limbs. A short (if muddy) trail leads through tall eucalyptus trees to a coastal vantage point with a picnic table. Signage reminds visitors: “Quiet, Trees at Work” and “Bamboo Picking Permit Required.” Awapuhi, or Hawaiian shampoo ginger, sends up fragrant shoots along the trail. TIP The area has picnic tables and a restroom. | Hana Hwy., between mile markers 9 and 10 .

Road to Hana: Nahiku to Hana

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13 miles east of Kailua.

Officially, Keanae is the halfway point to Hana, but for many, this is where the drive offers the most rewarding vistas. The greenery seems to envelop the skinny road, forcing drivers to slow to a crawl as they “ooh” and “aah” at the landscape. Keanae itself isn’t much of a stunner—save the banana-bread shack at the bottom of the road—but the scenery as your car winds through these tropics makes the white-knuckle parts of the drive worth it. Around the village of Wailua, one of the most fiercely native Hawaiian regions on the island, there seem to be waterfalls at every turn.


Garden of Eden Arboretum.
Just beyond mile marker 10 on the Hana Highway, the Garden of Eden Arboretum offers interpretive trails through 26 acres of manicured gardens. Anyone with a green thumb will appreciate the care and attention given to the more than 500 varieties of tropical plants—many of them native. Trails lead to the lovely Puohokamoa Falls, and provide a glimpse into the botanical wonders that thrive in this lush region. TIP If it has rained recently, Waikamoi Falls (also near mile marker 10) provides a chilly pool for swimming. | 10600 Hana Hwy. | Haiku-Pauwela | 808/572-9899 | www.mauigardenofeden.com | $15 | Daily 8-4 .

Keanae Arboretum.
Here you can add to your botanical education or enjoy a challenging hike into the forest. Signs help you learn the names of the many plants and trees now considered native to Hawaii. The meandering Piinaau Stream adds a graceful touch to the arboretum and provides a swimming pond. You can take a fairly rigorous hike from the arboretum if you can find the trail at one side of the large taro patch. Be careful not to lose the trail once you’re on it. A lovely forest waits at the end of the 25-minute hike. | Hana Hwy., mile marker 17 | Keanae | Free | Daily (recommended to visit only during daylight hrs) .

Keanae Overlook.
Near mile marker 17 along the Hana Highway, you can stop at the Keanae Overlook. From this observation point you can take in the quiltlike effect the taro patches create against the dramatic backdrop of the ocean. In the other direction there are awesome views of Haleakala through the foliage. This is a great spot for photos. | Hana Hwy., near mile marker 17 | Keanae .

Upper Waikani Falls.
Although not necessarily bigger or taller than the other falls along the Hana Highway, these are the most dramatic—some say the best—falls you’ll find in East Maui. That’s partly because the water is not diverted for sugar irrigation. The taro farmers in Wailua need all the runoff. To access the falls, park a half mile beyond mile marker 19, and follow the trail on the Hana side of the bridge to the 70-foot waterfalls. TIP This is a particularly good spot for photos. | Hana Hwy., past mile marker 19 | Wailua (Maui County) .

Best Attractions along the Road to Hana

The entire Road to Hana features postcard-worthy views. You’ll be craning your neck to take in the lush landscape that seems to swallow your car, and every turnoff offers another striking photo opportunity, each one seemingly better than the last. However, there are some pit stops you’ll kick yourself for skipping.

For jaw-dropping views, pull into the Huelo Point Lookout near mile marker 5, order a smoothie, and drink in the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and the historic Huelo township below.

If you are a banana-bread fan, be sure to stop in the small community of Keanae for some of the best loaves you’re likely to try at the Keanae Landing Fruit Stand. Just be sure to arrive early, since the stand sells out frequently.

A half mile past mile marker 19, take a quick look toward the mountain to glimpse Three Bears Falls, also known as Upper Waikani Falls. There is a short trail to access this trio of gushers; just be sure that your shoes can handle the muddy terrain.

The waterfalls of Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park will likely be the backdrop for your holiday cards this year. From here you can embark on a muddy and rigorous hike into the rain forest to spot waterfalls spilling into pools. Wear durable hiking boots and bring extra clothes, as this trail will leave you covered in mud.

At mile marker 24, Hanawi Falls is another picturesque spot. The safest way to see the falls is on the bridge, so use caution.

At mile marker 31, turn onto Ulaino Road to explore the vast cave network of Kaeleku Caverns. Afterward, make your way to nearby Piilanihale Heiau, a beautiful 16th-century temple. While there, you can also amble through the lovely Kahanu Garden.

Near mile marker 32 you should carve out time to hike the 3-mile trail from Waianapanapa State Park to Hana Bay. You’ll scramble over lava rock and along a stunning coastline rarely seen by travelers.

After you arrive in Hana, motor straight to Hamoa Beach, one of Hawaii’s most beautiful strands. But the road does not end in Hana. In fact, for many travelers, the payoff comes at Oheo Gulch’s abundant hiking trails—don’t miss the inland hike through the bamboo forest. After you’re done, you can travel a mile past Oheo Gulch and pay your respects at the grave of Charles Lindbergh.

Wailua Overlook.
From the parking lot on the side of the Hana Highway near mile marker 21, you can see Wailua Canyon in one direction and Wailua Village in the other. Photos are spectacular in the morning light of the verdant expanse below. Also from your perch, you can see Wailua Village’s landmark 1860 church, which was allegedly constructed of coral that washed up onto the shore during a storm. | Hana Hwy., near mile marker 21 | Wailua (Maui County) .

Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park.
Many believe the stretch of landscape between mile markers 19 and 25 of the Hana Highway contain the most picturesque waterfalls on Maui. While there are stunning waterfalls in all directions, perhaps the loveliest is about a half mile beyond mile marker 22. The series of waterfalls gushing into a pool below will have you snapping screen savers. To get here, park at the turnoff just over the bridge and then carefully walk west across the bridge to the waterfalls. There are hiking trails that snake up the mountain, but they are muddy and slightly dangerous. TIP Usually in the parking lot by the waterfalls, a couple of flatbed trucks are loaded with crafts and fruit breads for sale. Look around for Dave’s banana-bread truck; it’s some of the best on the island. | Hana Hwy. | Wailua (Maui County) | ½ mile past mile marker 22 .

Tropical Delights

The drive to Hana wouldn’t be as enchanting without a stop or two at one of the countless fruit and flower (and banana bread) stands by the highway. Every so often a thatch hut tempts passersby with apple bananas (a smaller, firmer variety), lilikoi (passion fruit), avocados, or star fruit just plucked from the tree. Leave a few dollars in the can for the folks who live off the land. Huge bouquets of tropical flowers are available for a handful of change, and some farms will ship.

One standout is Keanae Landing Fruit Stand, in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community of Keanae. This legendary banana-bread shop is just past the coral-and-lava-rock church. Aunty Sandy’s sweet loaves lure locals and tourists alike, but be sure to arrive early, because once the stand runs out, you’ll have to scurry back up the main road to the Halfway to Hana Fruit Stand to find a tasty replacement.


15 miles east of Keanae.

Even though the “town” is little more than a gas station, a post office, and a general store, the relaxed pace of life that Hana residents enjoy will likely have you in its grasp. Hana is one of the few places where the slow pulse of the island is still strong. The town centers on its lovely circular bay, dominated on the right-hand shore by a puu (volcanic cinder cone) called Kauiki. A short trail here leads to a cave, the birthplace of Queen Kaahumanu. Two miles beyond town, another puu presides over a loop road that passes Hana’s two best beaches—Koki and Hamoa. The hill is called Ka Iwi O Pele (Pele’s Bone). Offshore here, at tiny Alau Island, the demigod Maui supposedly fished up the Hawaiian Islands.

Although sugar was once the mainstay of Hana’s economy, the last plantation shut down in the 1940s. In 1946 rancher Paul Fagan built the Hotel Hana-Maui (now the Travassa Hana) and stocked the surrounding pastureland with cattle. Now it’s the ranch and its hotel that put food on most tables. It’s pleasant to stroll around this beautifully rustic property. In the evening, while local musicians play in the lobby bar, their friends jump up to dance hula. The cross you can see on the hill above the hotel was put there in memory of Fagan.


Kaeleku Caverns.
If you’re interested in spelunking, take the time to explore Kaeleku Caverns (aka Hana Lava Tube), just after mile marker 31 on the Hana Highway. The site is a mile down Ulaino Road. The friendly folks at the cave give a brief orientation and promptly send nature enthusiasts into Maui’s largest lava tube, accented by colorful underworld formations. You can take a self-guided, 30- to 40-minute tour daily 10:30-4 for $11.95 per person. LED flashlights are provided. | Ulaino Rd., off Hana Hwy. | Hana | 808/248-7308 | www.mauicave.com | Daily 10:30-4 .

Piilanihale Heiau.
This temple was built for a great 16th-century Maui king named Piilani and his heirs. Hawaiian families continue to maintain and protect this sacred site as they have for centuries, and they have not been eager to turn it into a tourist attraction. However, there is now a brochure, so you can tour the property yourself, including the 122-acre Kahanu Garden, a federally funded research center focusing on the ethnobotany of the Pacific. | 650 Ulaino Rd. | Hana | To get here, turn left onto Ulaino Rd. at Hana Hwy. mile marker 31; the road turns to gravel; continue 1½ miles | 808/248-8912 | www.ntbg.org | $10 | Weekdays 9-4., Sat. 9-2; guided tours weekdays (call for hrs; reservations required) .

Fodor’s Choice | Waianapanapa State Park.
Home to one of Maui’s only black-sand beaches and freshwater caves for adventurous swimmers to explore, this park is right on the ocean. It’s a lovely spot to picnic, hike, or swim. To the left you’ll find the volcanic sand beach, picnic tables, and cave pools; to the right is an ancient trail that snakes along the ocean past blowholes, sea arches, and archaeological sites. The tide pools here turn red several times a year. Scientists say it’s explained by the arrival of small shrimp, but legend claims the color represents the blood of Popoalaea, said to have been murdered in one of the caves by her husband, Chief Kakae. In either case, the dramatic landscape is bound to leave a lasting impression. TIP With a permit, you can stay in a state-run cabin for a steal. It’s wise to book a year in advance as these rustic spots book up quickly. | Hana Hwy., near mile marker 32 | Hana | 808/984-8109 | www.hawaiistateparks.org | Free .

Hana Cultural Center Museum.
If you’re determined to spend some time and money in Hana after the long drive along the Hana Highway, head to the Hana Cultural Center Museum in the center of town. Besides operating a well-stocked gift shop, it displays artifacts, quilts, a replica of an authentic kauhale (an ancient Hawaiian living complex, with thatch huts and food gardens), as well as other Hawaiiana. The knowledgeable staff can explain it all to you. | 4974 Uakea Rd. | Hana | 808/248-8622 | www.hanaculturalcenter.org | $3 | Weekdays 10-4 .

Ono Organic Farms Farmers’ Market.
The family-owned Ono Farms offers certified organic produce at this roadside market at an old gas station—the only one in Hana. Depending on the season, you’ll find such unusual delicacies as rambutan (resembling grapes), jackfruit (tastes like bananas), and lilikoi. | Hana Hwy., near Hasegawa General Store | Hana | 808/248-7779 | www.onofarms.com | Daily 10-6 .

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East Maui

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Kipahulu and Nearby

East Maui defies definition. Part hideaway for renegades, part escape for celebrities, this funky stretch of Maui surprises at every turn. You might find a smoothie shop that powers your afternoon bike ride, or a hidden restaurant-artist gathering off a backcountry road serving organic cuisine that could have been dropped in from San Francisco. Farms are abundant, and the dramatic beauty seems to get better the farther you get from Hana. This route leads through stark ocean vistas rounding the back side of Haleakala and into Upcountry. If you plan to meander this way, be sure to check the weather and road conditions.

East Maui

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11 miles east of Hana.

Most know Kipahulu as the resting place of Charles Lindbergh. Kipahulu devotes its energy to staying under the radar. There is not much for tourists, save an organic farm, a couple of cafés, and astounding natural landscapes. Maui’s wildest wilderness might not beg for your tourist dollars, but it is a tantalizing place to escape just about everything.


To access Kipahulu from Hana, continue on Hana Highway, also known as 330, for 11 miles southeast. You can also reach the area from Upcountry’s Highway 37, which turns into Highway 31, though this route can take up to two hours and is a bit rough on your rental car.


Fodor’s Choice | Oheo Gulch.
One branch of Haleakala National Park runs down the mountain from the crater and reaches the sea here, 10 miles past Hana at mile marker 42 on the Hana Highway, where a basalt-lined stream cascades from one pool to the next. Some tour guides still incorrectly call this area Seven Sacred Pools, but in truth there are more than seven, and they’ve never been considered sacred. You can park here and walk to the lowest pools for a cool swim. The place gets crowded, though, because most people who drive the Hana Highway make this their last stop. It’s best to get here early to soak up the solace of these waterfalls. If you enjoy hiking, go up the stream on the 2-mile hike to Waimoku Falls. The trail crosses a spectacular gorge, then turns into a boardwalk that takes you through an amazing bamboo forest. You can pitch a tent in the grassy campground down by the sea. TIP The $10 parking fee is good for three days and includes entry to Haleakalā Volcano. | Piilani Hwy., 10 miles south of Hana | Hana .

Grave of Charles Lindbergh.
Many people travel the mile past Oheo Gulch to see the grave of Charles Lindbergh. The world-renowned aviator chose to be buried here because he and his wife, writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh, spent a lot of time living in the area in a home they’d built. He was buried here in 1974, next to Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church. The simple one-room church sits on a bluff over the sea, with the small graveyard on the ocean side. Since this is a churchyard, be considerate and leave everything exactly as you found it. Next to the churchyard on the ocean side is a small county park, a good place for a peaceful picnic. | Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church, Piilani Hwy. | Kipahulu .

Kaupo Road.
Also called Piilani Highway, this road winds through what locals say is one of the last parts of real Maui. It goes all the way around Haleakala’s “back side” through Ulupalakua Ranch and into Kula. The desertlike area, with its grand vistas, is unlike anything else on the island, but some of the road is in bad shape, sometimes impassable in winter, and parts of it are unpaved. Car-rental agencies call it off-limits for their passenger cars, and no emergency assistance is available. The small communities around East Maui cling tenuously to the old ways—please be respectful of that if you do pass this way. Between Kipahulu and Kula may be a mere 38 miles, but the twisty road makes the drive take up to two hours. TIP Fill up on gas and food, as the only stop out here is Kaupo Store, which hawks a few pricey necessities.