Though most visitors to Maui congregate along the Ka’anapali Beach seafront of West Maui, the island itself is surprisingly large and diverse in elevation and activities away from the ocean. Its geography is made even more interesting by the island playing host to two volcanoes – one on West Maui and one on East Maui – that create large round bulges of landscape joined by a narrow land bridge by the airport and Wailuku, the county seat.
A car and a good map are all you need to explore Maui’s newest touristic interest: an agri-tourism road trip that provides the perfect excuse to sample some exhilarating upcountry scenery where rural vistas and narrow winding roads reveal an entirely different, more “local” personality behind this famous tourist island. A caution based on personal experience is that none of these worthwhile attractions is easy to find with roadside signage being poor to non-existent, so consult their respective websites for maps and directions. If in doubt, stop and ask a friendly Upcountry resident.
A Sampler by Alison Gardner, Travel with a Challenge editor
How could there be a winery on Maui? Though the often humid, virtually season-less climate seems too treacherous for grape growing, the 35-year presence of Maui’s Winery with its mountainside vineyards and wine-making reputation provides lessons in persistence and innovation that have clearly led to success. Located on the slopes of Haleakala volcano, the landscape is cool and lush, the winery grounds shaded by great green umbrellas of thick-trunked trees to overcome even the hottest day.
Welcome to Maui Winery’s extensive Tasting Room. Mitchell Silver
Maui’s Winery vine-yard with West Maui’s extinct volcano in the background. Mitchell Silver
The winery, on a segment of the much larger Ulupalakua Ranch property, is a good hour’s drive east of the international airport and Wailuku. Its elegantly-designed King Kalakaua Cottage Tasting Room is “discovered” by about 180,000 visitors a year.
There are also scheduled complimentary tours of the property three times a day and a fine museum with tales of Hawaii’s 19th century plantation history. Groups of ten or more should make an advance reservation. During the late 19th century, visits from Hawaii’s native royalty were welcomed (hence the King Kalakaua Cottage!) and plenty of cultural color has been added to the ranch by Hawaii’s cowboys or paniolo.
Formerly known as Tedeschi Vineyards, the present name, Maui’s Winery, boldly says it all – there is only one on the island. Happily it produces a variety of very good quality wines, among the most currently popular being a pineapple fruit wine exported to Japan, Canada, Switzerland and the U.S. mainland. Winery president and visionary, Paula Hegele, deserves much of the credit for the vibrancy of this established winery, constantly looking for ways to upgrade its 23-acre vineyard and considering new varietals based on the experience of non-traditional wine producing regions abroad. A new Maui-style Syrah is getting rave reviews and a Chenin Blanc that debuted in honor of the winery’s 30th anniversary has definitely passed the aficionado taste test.
The winery is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., www.mauiwine.com, tel: (808) 878-6058.
Maui Blanc Pineapple Wine is a signature product of the winery. Tony Novak-Clifford
The lavender farm offers a cool, relaxing retreat in a beautiful mountain setting. Alison Gardner
Lavender is widely known for offering comfort, relaxation and serenity to the human spirit as well as a natural healing agent for cuts, insect bites and burns. We encounter its versatility in lotions, candles, foods, perfumes and aromatherapy, to name a few products. Nestled even higher on the slopes of the Haleakala volcano, the beautiful 13.5 manicured acres of the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm in Kula survey the central Maui isthmus and West Maui mountains from a 4,000 foot elevation. Bring comfortable walking shoes to enjoy the pathways and a light sweater or jacket in case a mist drifts in during your visit.
The farm is home to approximately 55,000 lavender plants and 45 different varieties of lavender, olive trees, hydrangea and protea, created and cared for by agricultural artist and horticultural master, Ali’i Chang. On any given day he may be found nurturing his flowerbeds and lavender fields with passion and personal charm. Though his lavender beauties are not native to Maui, they thrive in Kula’s perfect weather so that the lavender blooms year round.
Ali`i Chang works in his lavender gardens most days. Ali`i Kula Lavender
The farm gift shop showcases the lavender theme. Ali`i Kula Lavender
The farm is open daily
9 a.m. to 4 p.m., www.aklmaui.com,
tel: (808) 878-3004.
Informative walking tours of 30 minutes are offered five times a day and golf cart tours twice a day, usually with Mr Chang himself at the wheel (book ahead by phone to get a 20% discount and ensure your place). There is a creative gift shop that will take care of everyone on your present list, and you should consider immersing even further in the lavender theme with a lavender herb tea and lavender scones from the gallery gift shop. You may also order a Lavender Gourmet Lunch Basket to take out into the gardens and enjoy in this fragrant setting with the grand mountainside view.
Where else in the world but Hawaii would you see “surfing” and “goat” next to each other in a company name? It clearly declares that a visit to this farm will not only be a delicious educational and tasting experience but one where you will have fun!
Looking for a new twist in their lives, German expatriates, Thomas and Eva Kafsack, decided nine years ago to move to Hawaii and practice the art of gourmet cheese production, a far cry from their previous occupations of heading a software company and teaching high school German. They found that “new twist” by starting Surfing Goat Dairy from scratch. It is one of only two goat dairies in the state of Hawaii, beautifully situated in the rural Kula area on 42 lush green acres skirting the lower level of Haleakala volcano.
Maybe there’s more to the “surfing goat” name than appears. These kids are on board! Surfing Goat Dairy
Thomas Kafsack relaxes with his goats. Surfing Goat Dairy
On the taste bud side, Surfing Goat Dairy produces over thirty award-winning cheeses from fresh creamy Chevre to Feta to ripened cheeses in wax, many with added ingredients such as herbs, spices or fruit. At the very least, you will want to sample the “Udderly Delicious” (plain), the “Mandalay” (apple, bananas and curry), and the exotic “Pirate’s Desire” (anchovies and capers). All products are as natural as they get …. no hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or herbicides are associated with this herd of four-footed cheese producers!
Eva Kafsack leads an Evening Chores and Milking Tour at the dairy.
Surfing Goat Dairy On the farm interest side, you need no reservation for “Casual Tours” or the “Evening Chores and Milking Tours”. “Grand Tours” are offered at specific times on specific days for which reservations are advised (consult the website). While all these hands-on tours will appeal to any age of visitor, children in your party will definitely consider this farm visit to be a highlight of their stay on Maui.
The dairy is open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. www.surfinggoatdairy.com,
tel: (808) 878-2870.
Unless absolutely committed to a beach location, I recommend a few days based in the county seat of Wailuku, as part of any Maui vacation. Only a five-mile drive from Kahului Airport and much closer to any upcountry explorations, Wailuku (population 12,000) is also a worthy destination in itself with nice museums, eateries, events and activities to share with local people. I made great connections while leaving the car parked, walking the residential streets to admire flower gardens and striking up spontaneous conversations with residents. You might even get invited — as I did — to a Hawaiian band concert and tasty picnic lunch under a great canopy of cooling trees on a hot day.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, www.mauiinn.com, on the edge of the county seat is a wonderful oasis of lush tropical gardens and vintage Hawaiiana heritage owned by two multi-generational Hawaiians. Tom (six generations) and Janice (three generations) Fairbanks are terrific hosts who are passionate about sharing the aloha tradition of Hawaiian hospitality. Their breakfast menus are creative and colorful, my favorite taste treat being the purple sweet potato and zucchini pancake topped by a poached egg of pure gold! Sixty per cent of guests are repeat which provides the strongest testimony of success for any accommodation.
Bailey House, www.mauimuseum.org, is an outstanding museum tucked away on a Wailuku residential sidestreet only a few blocks from Old Wailuku Inn. Showcasing Hawaiian culture, artefacts, furnishings and paintings from 19th century Maui, it is full of intriguing stories from both pre-contact and settler times that will make you want to linger at this 1833 residence-turned-museum much longer than you think!
Open for lunch and dinner in the downtown core on Market Street, Café O’Lei Wailuku is a small, popular restaurant known by residents for its mid-priced menu with multi-ethnic Hawaiian flavors. My tastebuds were particularly impressed with the chicken coconut curry soup and a warm crab artichoke dip for which I would fly across the Pacific any time.
Lonely Planet’s Maui Travel Guide (including Moloka’i and Lana’i), 1st edition, September 2011, is an excellent resource for all aspects of your island exploration.
For additional Maui articles in our collection, check out a senior-friendly Maui Zipline Eco-Adventure on the slopes of Haleakula Volcano and our charming feature about Maui’s most Hawaiian beach hotel.
Photo above right: One of the elegant Hawaiiana heritage bedrooms at The Old Wailuku Inn. The Old Wailuku Inn
With an exciting Hawaiian culture and nature focus tailored to your interests, Open Eye Tours & Photos offers privately-guided visits to places seldom seen as well as to popular sights throughout Maui. Customized activity levels allow for hiking, walking or no walking. Serving enthusiastic seniors, couples, families, and singles since 1983. Let Pono Fried show you his Maui — refreshing, unique, fun! www.openeyetours.com.
Pride of Maui is Maui’s #1 snorkeling adventure catamaran tour offering guided tours to famous Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. Activities include snorkeling, snuba and scuba diving. Amenities include glass bottom, two bathrooms, warm showers, complimentary lunch, open bar, and deep ladders for easy water entry. www.prideofmaui.com
Alison Gardner is a travel journalist, magazine editor, guidebook author, and consultant. She specializes in researching vacations throughout the world, suitable for people over 50 and for women of all ages. She is also the publisher and editor of Travel with a Challenge Web magazine, www.travelwithachallenge.com.