Maui’s south and west sides are often abuzz with sun-seeking tourists and locals relishing a day off on the sand. Escape the hustle and bustle by taking a jaunt upcountry to Makawao Town.
Tucked into the gem-toned hills above the North Shore, this historic outpost sits at the heart of what was once rugged cowboy country. While posh boutiques and elegant eateries now line its streets, the spirit of its paniolo past still looms: you’re just as likely to see signs of its quaint, country sensibility as you are of its transformation into the island’s artsiest and most chilled-out town.
In for a day? Here are your best bets for an unforgettable Makawao stay:
Komoda Store and Bakery
Modern times may be afoot but Makawao is still home to some of the sweetest Mom and Pop shops around.
With its weathered storefront and charming memorabilia, this hundred-year-old bakery takes patrons back to a simpler but no less tastier time. Long Johns and guava malasadas are sold next to old-fashioned favorites like cream puffs and French apple pie, ensuring that everyone in your party can relive their childhood one scrumptious bite at a time. Get there EARLY! Komoda Bakery is netorious for selling out each morning.
Ho’omana Spa Maui
Lomi lomi massages are a dime a dozen in Hawaii, where massage therapists and specialty spas are as ubiquitous as Starbucks in Seattle. Make no mistake about it, though: Ho’omana is the real deal.
Each treatment is accompanied by a traditional Hawaiian prayer and essential oils derived from the botanical plants that bloom on its gorgeous organic farm. Set in a lush, calming landscape and manned by a staff well-versed in bona fide Hawaiian healing, this heavenly spa redefines what it means to rewind.
Polli’s Mexican Restaurant
Back in the day, few restaurants on Maui served Mexican eats, making a trip to Polli’s a special (if not altogether necessary) treat.
Today, the thirty-five-year-old island fave features a sign outside that reads “Come Inside and Eat or We’ll Both Starve”—and that playful, irreverent approach is felt in the divey vibe right inside its well-oiled doors. Revel in its kitschy spell at Happy Hour, when locals flock to the bar for ice-cold Coronas, tangy margaritas, and buckets of homemade chips.
Baldwin Avenue Boutiques and Galleries
Whether you’re in the market for an exquisite gift or a funky souvenir, the shops lining Baldwin Avenue are bound to thrill.
Get lost at the stylish boutiques that sells everything from luxe cashmere sweaters to hip home décor. Monarch Collective is the best of the best! Little Tibet sparkles just around the way, where acclaimed artisan Jacques Perreault showcases semi-precious stones and rare, eye-catching jewelry. Volcano Spice Company, a gourmet spice shop helmed by Melbourne, Florida native and celebrated cook “Chef Kev,” takes good ole’ sauces and rubs and gives them an exotic, inspired kick (think: lilikoi spicy table sauce and Jawaiian-style blazing hot seasoning). And no trip to Makawao is complete without checking out the galleries that shine on its main street, from homegrown Maui Hands—which exhibits an eclectic array of pieces by local artists—to Viewpoints Gallery, an airy venue that features landscapes near and far. Definitely stop by Hot Island Glass to watch Chris Richards create glass masterpieces.
Makawao Forest Reserve
Rent some wheels or lace up those shoes and hit the trails at Makawao Forest Reserve, where winding trails, cooler climes, and towering eucalyptuses give folks a much-needed respite from our plugged-in environs.
Filled with native plants, melodious birds, and silence so complete it both stuns and soothes, this fertile reserve is nature at its brightest and best.
Feeling wanderlusty? Hit up Haleakala Bike Company, where you can rent a hard tail or full suspension bike and get insider tips before setting out on a tree-lined spin.
Hiding behind Viewpoints Gallery, right next to Hot Island Glass, you’ll find Freshies Maui in the Makawao Courtyard. Here you’ll find outdoor seating under a beautiful flowering tree for hot and fresh meals (from tacos to huevos rancheros) as well as amazing salads. They’re worth coming to for breakfast at the beginning of your Upcountry day, then coming back to for lunch!
Laid-back luxury meets serenity and instruction at this lovely, all-inclusive wellness retreat.
Housing the oldest wooden structure on the island, Lumeria offers twenty acres of verdant land, where visitors can take a yoga class, dine at the property’s farm-to-table café, or indulge in a solo stroll on its peaceful, meditative grounds.
Reluctant to say goodbye to this glorious slice of the island? Book a night to restore your soul: Each well-appointed room feels like its own mini-sanctuary.
Makawao History Museum
From an old shave ice machine to branding irons, from saddles to wagon parts, this little museum on Makawao’s main drag displays artifacts that take travelers back to its rich ranching past.
For a souvenir found nowhere else, purchase a copy of the museum’s classic cookbook, which features original recipes from upcountry’s colorful residents. Should you find yourself curious about the rural buildings that line Makawao’s pastoral roads, pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour of the town’s beloved haunts.
The Gallery Shop at Kaluanui
Downtown Makawao may boast one-of-a-kind treasures at its dazzling galleries, but The Gallery Shop at Kaluanui gives visitors a chance to browse and purchase artwork by true up-and-comers.
Featuring paintings, drawings, crafts, and sculptures from students at Hui No’eau—a community-based, nonprofit visual arts center—proceeds from Kaluanui go to programs that help the organization survive and thrive. Post-perusal, take a stroll around the Hui’s tranquil grounds—chances are you too will find your muse.
Once upon a time, Casanova was considered the closest thing Maui had to a nightclub outside of Lahaina, while its homey café featured the only espresso machine around for miles. The Italian restaurant has maintained its iconic status: diners come in for the terrific pastas and pizzas but often stay for the pizzazz.
And rest assured, night crawlers: (Pre-COVID, still waiting to get back to normal.) Casanova stpaid homage to its clubby past by featuring late night entertainment and weekend lineups that ranged from world-class DJs to renowned reggae bands. Brava, indeed–or, rather, Hana Hou.