Your vacation to Maui won’t be complete without a visit to Upcountry. Known for its rolling hills and scenic views, Upcountry is home to several organic farms, botanical gardens, and sprawling ranches. Some of the major towns that make up Upcountry are Pukalani, Makawao, Kula, and Ulupalakua. When visiting this part of Maui, consider staying in the town of Kula, where you will find some of the best vacation rentals in Maui. Some of these offer excellent proximity to the Haleakala National Park.
Unlike the other regions in Maui, Upcountry is not that touristy, which makes it even more interesting to explore. The region has plenty of hidden gems that you won’t find anywhere else on the island. It also offers various activities for all kinds of tourists. Here, you can go horseback riding, hiking, or exploring the organic farms and tropical gardens.
Here are some of the best activities you can enjoy in Upcountry Maui.
Experience Horseback Riding
Upcountry is famous for the Hawaiian cowboy, locally known as the paniolo. Horseback riding has been a popular activity here since the late 1800s. Some stables offer horseback rides on the Ulupalakua Ranch. This is a 20,000-acre open range overlooking La Perouse Bay and the Ahihi-Kinau Reserve. If you come here during the winter months, you could spot some humpback whales frolicking in the bay!
You will have plenty of options for your horseback riding in Upcountry. Trail rides generally range from a couple of hours to a whole day. There are also private and customized tours available. It’s highly recommended that you book in advance, as many of the popular rides get booked quickly.
Go Hiking in Makawao
Right in the heart of the Makawao Forest Reserve, there’s a popular hiking trail known as the Kahakapao Loop Trail. This trail is popular with mountain bikers and locals walking their dogs. It’s 5.7-mile long and will take you through eucalyptus and pine forests. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and a thick jacket since it has an elevation of more than 3,000 feet and the air can get really cool.
If you do not want to deal with a throng of bikers, check out the Waihou Spring Trail instead. This two-mile trail is located along Olinda Road and is only open to hikers. And unlike the Kahakapao Loop, this trail does not have a steep elevation, so it’s ideal for easy hikes. During your hike, you’ll be passing through a beautiful plantation of pine trees, although the real treat is at the end, where you will find a 30-foot vertical rock with tunnels bored through.
Explore a Beautiful Lavender Farm
Exploring the gorgeous lavender fields should be on top of your things to do in Upcountry Maui. Nestled on the slopes of Haleakala National Park, the Ali’i Kula Lavender farm grows 25 different varieties of lavender plants. These gorgeous flowering plants bloom abundantly between July and August. As you explore the farm, you’ll come across more than 55,000 lavender plants, as well as other plant species, including hydrangea flowers, olive trees, and succulents.
When you visit the lavender farm, you can choose from a guided walking tour or cart tour. You can also choose the tour that includes a gourmet picnic lunch. The tours will usually last for 30 to 40 minutes and will cover the farm’s history and other interesting details about the lavender plants.
Stroll through the Historic Town of Makawao
If you love culture and history, then take time to stroll through the historic town of Makawao on your visit to Upcountry Maui. The lovely streets of Makawao are lined with rustic and colorful shops and art galleries run by friendly locals. Considered the “hub” of Upcountry, this small old ranching community runs a farmers market on Wednesdays.
Stop in at the Rodeo General Store for a prepared meal or a coffee at their coffee bar. Don’t forget to cross the street to the Komoda Store and Bakery for a cream puff, donuts on a stick, and other amazing pastries since 1916!
Visit a Botanical Garden
Upcountry Maui is famous for its beautiful botanical gardens. One such garden is the Kula Botanical Garden, which covers an eight-acre of multi-level hillside terrain. The garden has easy paths where you can walk through to discover a hundred different plant varieties, including an excellent display of proteas, which is considered one of the world’s most exotic flowers.
The diverse landscape of Kula Botanical Garden includes a stream, a large koi pond, and interesting rock formations. Visitors can buy snacks and enjoy the gorgeous views from the deck. There’s also a gift shop on-site, which sells a variety of locally made items and some plant-related goods that you can take home as souvenirs.
Taste the Most Delectable Wines
After a whole day of exploring the Upcountry area and enjoying a variety of activities, cap off your day with a taste of the most delectable wines on the island. MauiWine, located right next to the Ulupalakua Ranch Store, produces an assortment of wine made from locally grown ingredients, such as pineapples and traditional grapes.
When you arrive at the winery, your first stop would be the King’s Cottage tasting room. This cottage was built during the 1870s and this is where you can sample different varieties of locally made wines. Take advantage of the free guided tours where you will learn about the history of the ranch and other interesting things about the local wines of Hawaii.
Upcountry Maui is such a wonderful area to explore. It may not have the beachfront vacation rentals and luxury resorts that Kihei and Wailea are known for, but it certainly has some of the most scenic views that can rival the most popular tourist areas on the island. Not only that, Upcountry enjoys a much cooler climate and has several gardens and farms that produce organic fruits and veggies. And with several exciting activities to offer, a visit to Upcountry Maui is highly recommended on your next holiday to Maui.