“Everything is cooler in Kula”–or so the expression goes.
But when locals utter it, they mean far more than just the weather.
From superb restaurants and one-of-a-kind activities to some of the most splendid vistas on the island, Kula offers up a whole new side of paradise.
Whether you’re spending a day away from the beach crowds or honeymooning in an upcountry B & B, here are 9 ways to enjoy every minute of your Kula stay:
1. Grandma’s Coffeehouse
There are no Starbucks in this pasture-y part of the island, where mist clings to the slopes in veils and bright jacarandas grow in droves.
Start off your Kula trip by scoring a seat at Grandma’s Coffeehouse, where you can cherish soaring vistas of the outlying islands while sipping the proprietor’s excellent coffee, which is 100% organic and roasted in-house. Ask for local beans. It’s no secret that Maui coffee is considered as good as Kona, if not better!
Indulge in a fresh-baked delight, from perfectly-sugared cinnamon French toast to their worth-every-calorie Pineapple Banana Dream Cake.
Savory more your thing? Their veggie Benny on cornbread waffles is heavenly, while meat lovers can get their fix with Grandma’s hearty take on the much-loved Loco Moco.
2. Hosmer’s Grove
Forget golden sand beaches and bathwater waves for a day and disappear into Hosmer’s Grove, a eucalyptus-rich woodland that goes down in history as one of Hawaii’s first experimental forests.
Located within Haleakala National Park, this lush grove teems with pines, spruces, sandalwood, ‘ohia, and koa, offering visitors moderate hikes that both invigorate and enlighten.
Birdwatchers, take note: this is a terrific spot to catch sight of some of Maui’s most precious birds, including the Hawaiian amakihi—a beautiful black-billed honeycreeper known to charm these parts in flocks.
3. Maui Wine
Between the grassy hills, subtle colors, and wide open vistas, it’s no surprise that many visitors equate Kula with Northern California’s wine country.
The Valley Isle’s own version of Napa can be found at Ulapalakua Vineyards, where handcrafted, locally-grown varietals range from classic to tropically inspired.
Complimentary tastings are offered at their mango-wood bar, where visitors are introduced to their legendary Maui Splash—made with Maui Gold pineapples—Syrahs, and their Lokelani Sparkling Rose.
For those intrigued by the vineyard’s storied history, free walking tours are offered twice a day—including a peek into the wine cellar and cottage, the latter of which once catered to Hawaii’s last king.
4. Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area
Head skyward for an afternoon hike at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area, where crisp air and fogged-tipped trees give vacationers a wholly different take on the tropics.
Located over 6,000 feet above sea level, Polipoili presents ten acres of unsullied countryside, where feral pigs roam freely and Methley plums dangle from the trees. Redwoods stretch over a hundred feet into the air and panoramic views stretch for miles.
5. O’o Farm
Glean some insight into Maui’s rich agricultural scene by stopping by O’o Farm—a lush, eight-acre biodynamic plantation that grows everything from organic coffee and cabbage to fennel and figs.
The brainchild of two entrepreneurial surfers, O’o Farm caters to some of the finest restaurants on the island. Find out why at one of their tours and luncheons, where the farm’s esteemed chef takes guests out into the orchards to harvest their own meals.
Intrigued more by lattes than lettuce? Check out their new “Seed-to-Cup” tour—an inside look at how their plantation-grown coffee is picked and perfectly roasted. Pack your palate: part of the tour involves discussing the merits of different blends.
6. Curtis Wilson Cost Gallery at the Kula Lodge
From waves hitting lava-rocked shorelines to meticulous renditions of Maui’s own Pu’u O’Lai, Curtis Wilson’s delicate interpretations of Hawaii’s splendor have been capturing hearts since the early 70s.
Delight in Wilson’s prolific body of work at his eponymous gallery just inside the Kula Lodge, where each painting provides a window into Maui’s charmed, rustic past. Predominately oils—with watercolor studies of select pictures now available—his pieces stir and soothe simultaneously.
Post-browse, pop into the bar at the lodge next door, where handcrafted cocktails are best relished next to the lodge’s rugged fireplace.
Think all of Maui’s farms are dedicated to botanicals, tropical fruit, and coffee?
Think again: this unique farm in the heart of Kula extends the calming theme of the district with its 45 varieties of heavenly-scented lavender and astounding views.
Self and guided tours are available daily, taking visitors through a labyrinth of fragrant lavender and deep into gardens teeming with peaches, avocados, proteas, and hibiscus.
Stopping at their café is an absolute must (their lavender scone has inspired more than a few return visits), while their gift shop is packed with homegrown lavender goodies in the form of lotions, soy candles, and culinary additions. Helmed by a wonderful staff, this is a tranquil, exceptional experience.
8. La Provence
There are few lovelier places to enjoy a memorable lunch than at La Provence in Kula proper.
French countryside cuisine gets a Hawaiian spin in the form of Nicoise salads with fresh caught mahi mahi, quiches with upcountry vegetables, and crepes folded with luscious local ingredients (think: lilikoi and Kula strawberries). Homemade croissants, flaky tarts, and creamy brie pair beautifully with one of their handcrafted coffees, while the inviting garden setting offers diners a warm, cozy feel.
While technically not Kula, no trip upcountry is complete without a visit to one of Maui’s most spectacular treasures.
The largest dormant volcano in the world stretches over 10,000 feet into the sky, granting visitors commanding views of a cinder cone landscape so cavernous and desolate it’s akin to peeking at a yet-undiscovered planet.
Hikes within this majestic park span from leisurely to vigorous, with trails taking travelers into silent spaces rich with extraordinary flora and fauna—some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
For those looking for a more active approach to exploring Maui’s crown jewel, rent a bike for the day and glide down its slopes, where sweeping views compete with the sense of freedom only cycling can evoke (and the cool, crisp air feels like a salve for sun-chapped skin). Cooler indeed–and then some.