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The ultimate guide to upcountry Maui
What is upcountry Maui? Upcountry Maui, also known as the “Upcountry,” is a term that describes not only a way of life but much of the area on the Haleakala (east) side of Maui away from the shoreline.
The area includes Haleakala National Park and the towns of Kula, Makawao, and Pukalani. In this ultimate guide to upcountry Maui, we will discuss things to do in upcountry Maui, along with what makes it so special.
What is upcountry Maui?
Upcountry Maui, also known as the “upcountry,” is a term used to describe the east region of Maui away from the shorelines. The area includes Haleakala National Park, Kula, Makawao, and Pukalani. Many visitors come to this area for its rich history in ranching and agriculture and its natural beauty.
One thing that makes upcountry Maui so unique is Haleakala National Park – a 10,023-foot shield volcano filled with rare and endangered plants such as the silverswords.
Why is there no road from Wailea to Upcountry Maui? (Hwy 37)
A fun and frustrating fact is that while Keokea and Highway 37 are very close to the Wailea area, there is no public road connecting them.
There actually is a road. However, it’s rumored to be Oprah’s private road, and no peasants are allowed. 😉
There is also a rumor that Upcountry residents don’t want to be connected with the tourist areas of Kihei, Wailea, and Makena. Still, the most commonly held belief is that the private road (about 3 miles long) belongs to Oprah Winfrey.
How to get to upcountry Maui
The main way to access upcountry Maui is by taking Highway 37 out of Kahului. Of course, you’ll need a rental car!
Rental cars are scarce in 2021, so I recommend reserving a car as early as possible. You’ll find the best prices anywhere at Discount Hawaii Car Rental.
You can reserve your car early, and you don’t have to pay until you arrive.
Where to stay in upcountry Maui
There are no resorts in upcountry Maui, and I’m sure the residents like it that way! The closest option is the Hana-Maui Resort. You can learn more about the Hana-Maui Resort in either the best boutique hotels in Hawaii or the best places to stay in Maui.
The Hana-Maui Resort is a luxury resort located near upcountry Maui. The hotel features an outdoor pool, spa services, and water sports rentals for both adults and children.
For those looking to experience the true Hawaiian culture, the resort offers daily cultural activities such as lei-making classes or demonstrations on traditional techniques like Kapa cloth and Kapa board making.
The Hana-Maui Resort is a great option for honeymooners or families with children. It offers world-class amenities while still providing the opportunity to experience daily regional activities and traditions.
While not truly all-inclusive, the Hana-Maui Resort is one of the only resorts to offer a food-included package. But, of course, that comes at a premium!
Things to do in upcountry Maui
Upcountry Maui offers visitors plenty of things to do – especially if you love the outdoors!
Road to Hana
The first part of the guide is all about Maui’s upcountry region and its most famous scenic drive, the “Road to Hana.” This paved stretch winds through historic towns full of local charm.
You’ll find waterfalls, beaches, lush rainforests, and miles of coastline along the way things to do in upcountry Maui.
Although technically, the Road to Hana is not upcountry since it’s by the ocean, it’s worth mentioning anyway, as it’s one of the best things to do in Maui.
You can check out my ultimate guide to the Road to Hana here.
Hiking in upcountry Maui
Hiking is a popular activity in upcountry Maui – whether it’s on the short, flat hikes to overlooks or longer strenuous treks. I have a blog post all about the best hikes in Maui, but for now, we’ll focus on the hikes in upcountry Maui.
The best hikes in upcountry Maui include:
Sliding Sands Trail (Haleakala)
Sliding Sands Trail sounds like a Mario level and is located at 10,000 feet on the summit of Haleakala Crater. The trail is all rock, dirt, and volcanic ash. It’s not for the faint of heart or those afraid of heights but it does offer some spectacular views!
Located in Haleakala National Park, Slidings Sands Trail is about 11 miles and is highly trafficked. Due to the altitude and length of the trail, it should only be attempted by experienced hikers.
Polipoli Springs State Park
Polipoli Springs State Park is a popular park in upcountry Maui that features a variety of trails and tree-covered slopes. It’s located just outside of Kula, making it one of the best hikes to do on upcountry Maui.
Located between Kula and Makawao, Halemau’u Trail is one of many trails that offers visitors an opportunity to hike upcountry Maui. Like many other Maui hikes on this list, this is an “out and back” trail.
With an elevation gain of 2,375 ft, this trail is sure to be easier on the way in than on the way out!
Haleakala Summit Trails
Haleakala Summit Trails are a mix of trails that offer visitors different views and experiences. The trails range from moderate to expert, so hikers should be sure they follow the correct trail markers for their skill level.
Hosmer Grove Loop Trail
Hosmer Grove Campground is the only campground in the summit area of Haleakala National Park. This short hike is great for everyone and features beautiful wildflowers and a view of Haleakala Crater.
Haleakala Ridge Trail
Haleakala Ridge Trail is a moderate-level hike located on the north side of Haleakala Crater. It’s a great option for those looking to see upcountry Maui from above, as it offers visitors panoramic views of the Ka’u Desert, Kaupo Gap, and Kipahulu Valley.
Helicopter tours of Maui
Another way you can experience upcountry Maui is by helicopter.
Helicopters give a bird’s eye view of Haleakala, beautiful waterfalls, and lush green valleys. This is a great way to see the vastness of this part of Maui, especially if you aren’t a hiker.
I have an entire blog post talking about helicopter tours in Hawaii, but here are some of my favorites in Maui:
- West Maui and Molokai with Air Maui.
- Hana Rainforest with landing with Maverick Helicopters.
- Complete Maui tour with Blue Hawaiian (The best company, in my opinion!)
- West Maui and Molokai with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.
Biking in Maui
Biking down Haleakala is one of the most popular things to do in Maui for anyone who enjoys cycling and beautiful views. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be an expert biker; it’s downhill. 😉
Cycling down Haleakala is an exhilarating experience that will give you a glimpse into the history of Maui and all its beauty, as well as provide breathtaking photo opportunities.
There are many bike companies in upcountry Maui to choose from, but I recommend Bike Maui.
You can also check out 50 things to do in Maui here.
The towns of upcountry Maui
Upcountry has some wonderful towns with a rich history to explore.
Kula is a small town in the Upcountry region of Maui, Hawaii. It has an estimated population of 1,724 as of 2010. Situated between Makawao and Kahului along the slopes of the Haleakala volcano at an elevation above 2,000 feet (610 m), Kula is known for its cool mornings and warm afternoons.
The high rainfall makes it lush with vegetation like sugar cane, pineapple fields, and macadamia nut trees that grow alongside residential areas. Kula has been called a microclimate because its climate is cooler and wetter than the rest of Maui.
Makawao was once the bustling center of commerce for the sugar cane plantations that lined its streets and employed most of its residents.
Today it is home to some of Maui’s best restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and historic buildings.
The town of Ulupalakua is located in the Upcountry region of Maui, Hawaii.
The town’s name means “a place to look at oneself” in Hawaiian, and it’s not hard to see why. The views here are spectacular! Breathtaking mountain ranges, lush vegetation, and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean all await you when you visit this part of Maui.
Things to do in upcountry Maui
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in upcountry Maui. However, there are plenty of other activities for those who don’t like to hike. Or those who want to spend some time doing something besides hiking!
Ali’i Lavender Farm
Sharon and Gary Daum originally started Ali’i Lavender Farm with the help of their children in 1998.
The goal for this farm was to provide quality flowers and herbs to local botanical shops on Maui; however, it quickly grew into more than that. Today they are one of the largest lavender farms in the United States!
Leilani Animal Sanctuary
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include an animal rescue or sanctuary to visit. If you love animals like I do, you’ll want to check out the Leilani Farm Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is an island paradise in upcountry Maui where farm animals are rescued from slaughter.
The sanctuary offers 1-hour tours twice a week. Reservations are required. If you’re not visiting the sanctuary, you can always visit their website to sponsor a furry (or feathered) friend.
Photo by Leilani Farm Sanctuary and used with permission.
Maui Ocean Vodka
Located on an 80-acre organic farm on the slopes of Haleakala, Maui Ocean Vodka is distilled using a proprietary process that incorporates traditional pot stills with modern distillation technology to create a smooth, crisp spirit.
The result: A vodka so pure and distinctively delicious they proudly call it “Aloha Spirit in a Bottle”!
Tours are available from 12 PM-5 PM.
Kula Country Farms
Kula Country Farms is one of the most popular places to visit for families on vacation in upcountry Maui. This farm offers fresh produce, flowers, and honey while providing visitors with an opportunity to explore nature!
Visitors can take part in the many family-friendly activities that Kula has to offer, including picking vegetables from their garden or feeding chickens.
If you’re visiting Maui in the fall, Kula Country Farms even has a Pumpkin Patch!
Maui Goat Yoga
Maui Goat Yoga offers goat-assisted classes that are perfect for people who want a more lighthearted approach to their daily routine but still enjoy the benefits of an energetic and challenging workout.
Participants will have just as much fun exploring new poses with these furry friends as they would without them.
Surfing Goat Dairy Farm
There are many dairy farms in upcountry Maui, but Surfing Goat Dairy Farm is one of the most unique.
Surfing Goat Dairy Farm is not just a farm that produces cheese and milk but also offers visitors on-site tours. You can learn everything from milking to bottling and even taste some for yourself.
MauiWine offers visitors a variety of wines made from pineapple wine grapes grown on their estate vineyard and other fruits like guava or passion fruit. They also offer gourmet food options like French macarons with local ingredients, Creole-style gumbo soup, Kula cornbread with housemade jam, and more.
The “other” Road to Hana or the backside of the Road to Hana
I talk about this in my best things to do in Maui blog post, the “other” Road to Hana, or the backside of the Road to Hana.
The road is very narrow, with many one-way bridges, which can be difficult for some drivers. If you are not careful, you may find yourself on a crazy detour.
Your best bet is to know your vehicle and always stay alert when driving on this side of the island.
I have a blog post with The 12 best scenic drives in Hawaii (several are in Maui) if you love scenic drives.
The Pools at ‘Ohe’o, or Seven Sacred Pools, are located on the “other” side of Hana.
The best places to eat in Upcountry Maui
Upcountry Maui offers a surprising number of options when it comes to food, but these are some of the best places to eat in upcountry Maui.
Located in Kula, Kula Bistro serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers local favorites such as Loco Moco. You can check out the menu online before you go.
Grandmas Coffee House:
Located in Keokea, Grandmas Coffee House offers the best breakfast in upcountry Maui. This is an upcountry Maui must-see for breakfast, lunch, or coffee!
Ulupalakua Ranch Store and Grill:
Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill is a visitor-friendly store where you can find all sorts of things, from wine to macarons.
The store offers visitors the chance to explore local food, drinks, and other items offered on their farms, such as local Maui beef or elk.
Humbowl Wagon Food Truck:
Located in Makawao, you’ll find the best Acai bowls at the Humbowl Wagon Food Truck.
In Makawao, Komoda Bakery has been around since 1916. They are famous for cream puffs, donuts on a stick, butter rolls & other pastries. So if you’re visiting Upcountry Maui and craving something sweet, make sure to stop by.
Pukalani Club House Restaurant & Bakery:
This casual Makawao restaurant offers great food at good prices, along with fantastic service and cold beer. What more could you want? Check out the Pukalani Club House Restaurant and Bakery website for their menu and more.
Hali’imaile General Store:
Maui’s original farm-to-table restaurant, Hali’imaile General Store, is famous for its local cuisine and amazing views.
La Provence is a popular French restaurant located in Kula. Make sure to arrive early as you might have to wait for seating.
More things to do in Maui
Currently, Maui has some extra rules regarding dining and certain activities. This is an evolving situation and can change at any time. Make sure to check out my vaccine passports in Hawaii post to keep up with the latest.
If you enjoyed this guide to upcountry Maui, make sure to check out more things to do in Maui.
- Snorkeling Molokini Crater, is it worth it?
- 50 things to do in Maui
- What is the best luau on Maui?
- Where to find a black sand beach in Maui
- The 10 best honeymoon hotels in Maui
- The Ultimate Guide to planning a Maui Vacation
The ultimate guide to Upcountry Maui
I hope that this guide to upcountry Maui will help you find some of the hidden gems during your next Maui vacation.
The upcountry region of Maui, Hawaii, offers some amazing views and so many things to do. You are sure to fall in love with this part of the island!
Whether you want to explore beaches or biking through lush jungles, there is something for everyone here in upcountry Maui.
I hope this guide has helped, and we can’t wait to hear back from you about whether it was helpful! I always appreciate comments with your thoughts and suggestions.
If you have any tips for visiting upcountry Maui or the best things to do in upcountry Maui, make sure to leave them in the comments below.
Plan your trip with a Maui Travel Agent
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I only take on a select number of clients every month. However, you can always contact me and see if I’m available if you need a little extra help with your trip.
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