Makawao – The Biggest Little Town in Upcountry Maui
Just a few miles up the mountain is my one of my favorite places … Makawao. Known as “The Biggest Little Town in Upcountry”, manages to maintain its plantation past, with the Hawaiian cowboys, Fourth of July parade rodeo and to support a thriving arts community.
Since ince the late 1800’s, paniolo (Hawaiian for Cowboy) have wrangled cattle on horse-back in the wide-open fields of Upcountry Maui. No Fourth of July would be complete without the Makawao Rodeo. This tradition is more than fifty years old and is Hawaii’s largest paniolo competition. Regardless of the date the fourth falls on, a weekend filled with events includes a parade and traditional rodeo competitions such as barrel racing, calf roping and bareback bronco riding … with a few “Hawaiian twists”, of course!
Even if you aren’t on island during Rodeo time, Makawao still offers up quite a lot, including EATS! No visit is complete without a stop at the Komoda Bakery. 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. The bakery is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays; when they ae open, it’s early and they sell out quickly so make this an early stop. My personal fave are the donuts on a stick but everyone has their own.
Spend part of your day meandering through numerous eclectic shops, boutiques and art galleries. This town is home to working artists, allowing you to watch glassblowers, wood sculptors and painters as they work on your personal commission or any of the pieces they may be currently involved in. Maui Hands is an especially wonderful place as it’s owner has spent years finding and show-casing Maui’s finest artists, always ensuring that what you buy is truly Maui Made! This is but one of many wonderful places to spend some time. I always find something new and even after sixteen years on Island, am always in awe.
For the shoppers in the group, there is no shortage of unique clothing boutiques offering everything from t-shorts and flip flops to real Hawaiian Cowboy and Cowgirl attire. Not feeling proerly dressed? That can be quickly fixed whether you wish to dress up a bit or down a lot!
Not to worry, there are numerous eateries, with everything from a quick bite at a sandwich shop to a sit down dinner. One of the okdest of these establishments is Makawao Steak House. This warm and inviting space is like a small step back in time with it’s stone fireplace and ranch style wool blankets on the chairs (yes, it can get chilly when in the upper areas of Maui … often 15-30 degrees cooler than sea level). Open for dinner, there is no dress code. As it is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, reservations are recommended, especially for large parties.
The Makawao Forest Reserve is one of the most beautiful reserve areas that is publicly accessible to bikes on Maui. The Kahakapao Loop Recreational Area was recently redesigned by a collaboration between the State of Hawaii, IMBA and the Maui Mountain Bike Coalition. This collaboration resulted in a well designed, six plus mile loop that has something for everyone, from kids to adults, from beginner to advanced. There is a kid’s track, pump track, DH flow line, an advanced skills area and a cross country loop.
Ready to explore something other than the beaches? Try riding a bike or hiking under a canopy of fragrant trees!
Finally, among numerous other things, Makawao is home to the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center, where visitors can take classes and explore free gallery exhibits. Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center is a nonprofit, community based visual arts education organization offering open access to quality arts instruction by teaching artists. Programs and services are accessible to all, regardless of artistic aptitude. Their mission is to unlock creativity through exceptional visual arts education. Providing an array of programs that support lifelong learning in the arts including public workshops and classes, lectures, exhibitions, art events, historical house tours, family fun nights and educational outreach programs with schools and community partner organizations.
Throw items of clothing that can be layered and comfortable walking shoes into the car and head up (or down, depending on where you happen to be) and fall in love with Makawao, Maui, Hawaii! Enjoy!