Upcountry Authentic Maui Island Area Inland Via Kula Highway

Kula-maui upcountry viewHawaii is a cowboy state? Don’t dismiss the idea right away. While you may think of surfers and hula dancers initially, remember that Maui paniolo cowboys have been herding cattle in Maui since the early 1800s.

Inland in what’s called “upcountry”, you’ll find an authentic Maui, one of expanive green ranch land and big, beautiful volcanoes, where cowboys interact with foreign expats and hippies, all of them carving their own piece of tropical Maui they’re eager to protect. Upcountry is insular and beautiful—and after a few days soaking up sun on the coast you may be up for a change of scene.

So leave the beach and check out the small seaside town of Paia. Paia sits right on Baldwin Avenue, which leads south into Upcountry. Paia is a full of stoners, surfers, and celebrities like Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson.

Then hit the Kula Highway, where you begin to climb almost immediately, rising 1,400 feet past rows of pineapple into the countryside around Makawao. The ranching community is at the heart of Maui’s paniolo culture: The streets are dotted with Old West storefronts and tack shops, and the customers come off like a mix of John Wayne and Jack Johnson.

Market Fresh Bistro, one of Maui’s newer culinary outposts, is a great place to grab lunch. What the cafĂ© lacks in creative naming, it makes up for in deliciousness, with farm-to-table salads and pasta that actually tastes like the fresh tomatoes it’s tossed with (3620 Baldwin Ave. #102A, 808/572-4877, salads from $8).

After lunch, we continue south on Kula Highway, a two-lane, nearly empty road that could easily qualify as one of the world’s most spectacular. Drive under blooming jacaranda trees and past cattle ranches and fields of colorful flowers that are the source for a lot of Hawaii’s leis. The 10,023-foot Haleakala volcano is just in front of you while the Pacific ocean and its breeze is behind you.

At Kekaulike Avenue, get off the highway and check-out Ali`i Kula Lavender farm (1100 Waipoli Rd., Kula, aliikulalavender.com), a 13.5-acre spread of purple-hued hills. There’s guided tours and an open-air patio where you can sit and enjoy lavender-infused everything, including scones and chocolate gelato. See the 45 varieties of the plants, each with its own unique smell before hitting the road again.

You’re not in heaven, it’s just seems that way.

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