By Michele Bigley
When most think of Maui, the stunning Kaanapali Beach or lush Hana Highway spring to mind. But new life flourishes in Upcountry. Beyond the beaches, Maui's Upcountry stands tall as a hub for farm fresh cuisine, art galleries, and back-road biking trails perfect for getting lost.
In any other locale, Makawao would be considered a dusty cowboy town. And while you can find many paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) rounding up cattle, you'll also stumble on innovative artists and foodies who are filling Makawao's aging plantation style buildings with cherished destinations like Casanova Restaurant.
Specializing in plein air oil paintings of Hawaii's beaches, produce, and landscapes, New York transplant Jordanne Weinstein has showcased her work in her Lanai gallery for many years. Recently, she opened up Jordanne Gallery and Studio in the heart of Makawao—Lanai travelers: you can still find her creations in both of Lanai's Four Seasons hotels. Pop in and meet her and her dog in the store, and hear her talk story about each lovely creation.
Across the street, another collection of New Yorkers has descended upon Makawao, this time bearing the gift of farm fresh cuisine. Market Fresh Bistro sources much of its produce and meats from within a hundred miles of the spare and frankly simple dining room. But don't let the interiors fool you. Here you'll eat some fine cooking, like the Hawaiian catch of the day sandwich or a grass fed burger for a reasonable price.
Another worthy stop nearby is the Makawao Forest Reserve Trail, a 12-mile path through a dense forest of eucalyptus, Cook pines, and kupukupu. This is an often overlooked local bike trail, so whether you hire a bike to explore the area, jog it, or take a nice long walk, the area can feel like you've stumbled upon a secret hideaway.
Afterward, head down the hill to Spreckelsville Baby Beach: a sheltered swath of sand and sea guarded from waves. This is the perfect spot for soaking in the sea with little ones, or just chilling out away from the crowds before heading into Paia town for a coffee at Paia Bay Coffee. Hidden in the back of a parking lot, the tree-shaded patio lures locals for well-crafted lattes and simple sandwiches, breakfast treats, and cookies.
Finally, people wanting to really get into the spirit of Upcountry should splurge on the new luxury retreat Lumeria Maui, situated on six acres between Makawao and Paia. The restored historic buildings offer interiors with a global aesthetic: Japanese tansus, poster beds, and colorful woven pillows. Rooms feature local art, rock showers, and an outdoor sitting area. Guests get complimentary yoga and meditation classes. The onsite gardens showcasing rare crystals and Buddha statues and farm-to-table restaurant add charm.
Insider Tip: While you are in the area, be sure to check the schedule for the only pop-up restaurant in Maui, Kupu, which rotates destinations monthly, but never fails to offer fantastic sustainable fare in a memorable setting.
Photo credits: Maui Upcountry horses via Shutterstock; Local art galleries in Makawao courtesy of Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau; Lumeria Maui exterior courtesy of Lumeria Maui