While many visitors to Maui flock to the sun-soaked beaches of the western and southern coasts of the island, a trip away from the shorelines reveals a whole new hidden gem. Upcountry Maui offers an island experience that takes you off the beaten path. Here, you’ll find rolling hills, lush forests, and charming small towns that will transport you back to historic Hawaii. Whether you’re ready to taste the freshest pineapples imaginable, explore an otherworldly volcanic crater, or relax amidst the serene beauty of lavender fields, here’s your adventure-filled travel guide to Upcountry Maui.
What is Upcountry Maui?
First thing’s first: what exactly does “Upcountry Maui” mean? The region is set on the island’s east side and away from the shorelines, perched proudly on the slopes of Haleakala (Maui’s dormant volcano). Featuring towering mountains, green pastures, cattle, and forests, the ethereal landscapes are a far cry from what you’d usually picture when you think of Hawai’i. A trip to the small towns of Pukalani, Makawao, Haiku, and Kula showcase traditional local life and rich history. In fact, you’ll even discover that Hawai’i’s “paniolo” culture (translation: cowboy) is still alive and well.
One of the most incredible sights that characterizes Upcountry is Haleakalā National Park, a 10,023-foot shield volcano that’s home of the highest peak on the island. The western slopes are the home of the communities in Upcountry, creating the unique countryside scenery.
Where to Stay in Upcountry Maui: Lumeria Maui Resort
Instead of mega-resorts and chain hotels, Upcountry boasts boutique properties, intimate lodges, and bed and breakfasts. For those seeking a relaxation and wellness-forward escape, the tranquil oasis of Lumeria Maui is the perfect sanctuary. Among its serene gardens, the wellness retreat offers its guests unlimited classes ranging from yoga to hula to meditation and mindfulness. Disconnect from the world with a massage at their on-site spa, a dip in the saltwater hot tub, or a nap in one of the many hammocks. Indulge in the fresh complimentary breakfast or make a reservation at The Wooden Crate – the onsite farm-to-table restaurant with locally sourced ingredients. Wind down at the end of the day in a beautiful guest room with a plush bed or step out on your lanai (patio) for a moment of silence.
Things to Do in Upcountry Maui
Explore Makawao’s Cowboy Culture
Saddle up and mosey on over to the charming town of Makawao, where Hawai’is paniolo (cowboy) culture is alive and kicking! This little gem of a town is bursting with character, from its quaint storefronts and vibrant art galleries to its mouth-watering local cuisine. As you wander through the streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Western movie set. If you’re lucky enough to visit over the Fourth of July, you might even catch the yearly rodeo. The real heart of Makawao lies in its people, who embody the warm and welcoming spirit of aloha. Strike up a conversation with a friendly local and learn about the unique blend of Hawaiian and cowboy culture that defines this special place.
Historic Town of Makawao Points of Interest:
Maui Hands | Art Gallery
Hot Island Glass | Glassblowing Studio
Haku Maui | Make Your Own Leis (Book Ahead)
Driftwood | Women’s Clothing Boutique
Little Tibet | Jewelry Store
Maui Cookie Lady | Artisan-Made Giant Cookies
Hot Tip: Pā’ia is also another traditional plantation town, though it feels more beachy than Makawao
Maui Gold Pineapple Farm
Sample the sweetest pineapples under the Hawaiian sun at the Maui Gold Pineapple Farm! On the plantation tour, you’ll be driven through the pineapple fields and learn all about the growing process. From planting to harvest, you’ll see firsthand the pineapples in different stages and discover the secret to what makes them so tasty. And the best part? You’ll get to eat the fruit fresh off the field, savoring the sweet, juicy flavor that’s made these pineapples world-famous. Don’t skip out on the pineapple soft-serve sold at the tour center! It’s made from 100% Maui Gold Pineapple that’s been frozen and churned. So delicious. So unforgettable.
Tour Cost: $75/adults, $65/children
Hiking in Haleakalā National Park
What makes Haleakalā National Park truly unique is its origin – it was formed by a massive shield volcano that last erupted over 500 years ago! The crater, which over 2,500 feet deep, is a testament to the sheer power and force of nature. If you drive up to the summit, you’ll feel like you’re walking on the clouds. The elevation is over 10,000 feet above sea level! The park offers a plethora of hiking trails for all skill levels – some of the most popular are the Sliding Sands Trail, Pipiwai Trail and Halemau’u Trail (pictured above). Because of the high elevation, it gets as cold as 30F! You’ll definitely need a jacket.
The national park is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, found nowhere else on earth. Be sure to leave no trace, stay on the trails, and respect the lands.
Hot Tip: Haleakala, which translates to “House of the Sun,” is most known to be the best place to watch the sun rise and set on the island. Although you do need a free National Park Service permit to access the park between 3-7am, you can access sunset freely.
National Park Service Entry Cost: $30 per vehicle
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
For lovers of all things floral, Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm is a beautiful place to stop and smell the flowers. The 13,500-acre garden features a beautiful variety of lavender plants, trees and blooming flowers to admire. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for all things lavender! You’ll find everything from lavender lemonade and chocolate to lavender bath and body products. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring your camera.
Entry Cost: $3
Ho’okipa Beach Park
Ho’okipa Beach Park is a prime spot for sunbathing and people-watching – especially because some of the world’s best windsurfers come here and ride some of the largest waves you’ll ever see. The shore is also home to majestic sea turtles, who come ashore to bask in the sun and rest after a long day of swimming. Aside from the turtles and windsurfers, the views of Maui’s coastline are unmatched at sunset. Grab a delicious cajun-style fish platter from the nearby Pā’ia Fish Market and have a picnic for the senses while the sun dips below the horizon.
Pack your swimsuit, insect repellant, and your sense of adventure for a visit to Twin Falls! Located off of the famous Road to Hana, the natural wonder features three waterfalls along the hiking trail. As you make your way through the forest, you’ll hear the distant roar of the falls growing louder and louder. Take a refreshing dip in the cool waters or lounge on the sun-soaked rocks. For the best waterfall at the end (pictured), be prepared to cross shallow streams.
Cost: $10 per Vehicle for Parking
From the lush landscapes and rolling hills to the charming towns and lively local culture, Upcountry Maui is worth the trip off the beaten path. As they say in Hawaii, “a hui hou” (until we meet again). May your next journey be filled with aloha and adventure!
Thank you so very much to the incredible team at Maui Visit for hosting my trip! Though this was a hosted trip, all opinions are my own.