Upcountry on Maui is a term that is used to describe the area on the Haleakala side of Maui away from the shoreline.  Basically if you want to visit the beaches you must gasp…drive there!  

The largest towns Upcountry Maui are Pukalani, Makawao and Kula.  Since upcountry sits higher in elevation the temperatures here are much cooler than the rest of Maui. Obviously the higher you go, the colder it gets.  Upcountry is a great day trip on anyone’s Maui itinerary.

Things to do Upcountry Maui

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Getting To Upcountry Maui

As it is possible to explore Maui via public transportation and tour buses I recommend renting a car to explore the Valley Isle.  Renting a car gives you more freedom as the bus system is very limiting.

Upcountry Maui is about an hour drive if you’re coming from Lahaina traffic depending.  

If you are coming from Kihei/Wailea in South Maui its a about 30-45 minute drive.  

From Paia town it is close, about 15 minutes drive.

Plan on spending most of the day in upcountry Maui, as there’s lots of things to do.  Upcountry is also where the road starts to drive the back way to Hana.

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    10 13 Ways to explore upcountry Maui

    Sunrise atop Haleakala National Park a top thing to do in Maui

    Watch Sunrise atop Haleakala National Park

    Watching the sunrise above the clouds at 10,000 feet is a once and a lifetime experience and always worth the 330 am wake up call. 

    Haleakala in Hawaiian means house of the rising sun.  The summit of Haleakala sits at 10,023 feet above the clouds.  When the sun rises and creeps above the clouds, it creates one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. 

    Being able to do this activity requires a reservation in advance, plus $30 entrance fee to Haleakala National Park or a USA National Park Pass which pays for itself after 2 or 3 visits to any National Park in the United States which is a great deal if you love National Parks as much as I do. 

    Although not as spectacular as sunrise you can also watch sunset from atop Haleakala.  Watching sunset does not require reservations. 

    Make sure you dress warm, I’m talking gloves, snow cap, hoodie, jacket, wool socks…basically the warmest clothes you have, wear them.  Last time I was up here for sunrise it was 37 degrees and I was not dressed as warm as I wanted to be.  Check out what to pack for Maui so you don’t forget any essentials.

    Also be sure to give yourself ample time to drive to the summit.  Although you may be able to see Haleakala from where you’re staying it takes 45 minutes alone to drive up the switchbacks.  If you’re staying in West Maui, allot at least 2 hours to make it to the summit.

    Watching the sunrise above the clouds at 10,000 feet is a once and a lifetime experience and always worth the 330 am wake up call.

    Hiking sliding sands trail through Haleakala Crater

    Hike through Haleakala Crater

    Most people visit upcountry only to watch sunrise or sunset on at the summit of Haleakala Crater. While this is a great way to see the sunset but there are other ways to explore Haleakala volcano.

    Hit the trails and traverse down Sliding Sands Trail into the crater.  The hike is strenuous but worth the pictures and what an experience to be hiking inside a volcano.

    Another way to reach the crater floor is by traversing the knee crushing switchbacks down Halemauu Trail.

    This is by far my favorite and one of the best upcountry Maui hikes.

    A girl and a guy giving a baby goat bunny ears

    Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

    Just up the road from the Ocean Vodka Distillery is the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm.  If you go on a tour, you’ll learn how to care for the goats and how the Dairy Farm makes the delicious goat cheese.

    I always stop in here when I am showing people around but I don’t go on a tour.  There’s a gift shop where you can buy all the different flavors of goat cheese.  

    There’s usually baby goats nearby for you to pet as well!  Baby goats and a flight of goat cheese, need I say more.

    Hiking through Makawao State Forest Reserve Upcountry Maui

    Mountain bike at Makawao State Forest Reserve 

    One of the only places to go mountain biking on Maui is located upcountry inside the Makawao State Forest Reserve.  The state reserve is located about 2 and a half miles from Makawao town.

    There are seven trails and three skill areas in the Forest Reserve making this a fun activity for all skill levels.  The forest is full of indigenous plants, shrubs and trees including eucalyptus, ferns and pines.  

    There are also walking trails that in the reserve if you’d rather opt out of the mountain biking.

    Ocean Vodka Distillery in Upcountry Maui

    Ocean Vodka Distillery

    The location is beautiful set on a 80-acre organic farm on the slopes of Haleakala in Kula.  Here they grow sugar cane which is what this vodka is distilled from.
    As you tour around the farm you’ll have panoramic ocean views and may cross paths with a chicken or 2.

    The second half of the tour, you’ll be able to sample their organic vodka and rum.  This is personally one of my favorite vodkas for its clean, crisp properties.  Tours run daily and you’re gifted with a shot glass as a keep sake.

    Ocean’s is carried at most if not all restauarants on Maui.

    Unusual Things to do in Maui-2

    Visit Maui’s Only Winery

    The drive up to Ulupalakua Ranch is worth the trip in itself.  You will see several beautiful palm lined streets as you wind up the road to the tasting room.

    Sample a wine made from pineapples for an authentic Hawaiian experience.  Remember you have a limit of 6 bottles per checked bag for your flight home, the wine makes an excellent Christmas present.   Open daily til 5.

    You may also Enjoy:   Top Things to See on Maui

    a store front in Makawao in Upcountry Maui

    Wander Makawao Town

    Makawao is a small town Upcountry Maui that has rich ‘Paniolo’ history.  Paniolo’s or ‘Hawaiian Cowboys’ have been around the Makawao area since the 1800’s.  When most people think of cowboys they think of the American cowboy but the Paniolo is a bit more badass as to be considered a Paniolo they have  to have mustaches.

    As you cruise through this historic Maui town don’t be surprised to see a Paniolo strolling around.  This cowboy town is full of art galleries, boutique shops and a handful of restaurants.

    If you happen to be here during the 4th of July make sure you check out the Makawao Rodeo.

    Explore Polipoli Spring State Park

    Polipoli Spring State Park is located on the Kula Forest Reserve on the slopes of Haleakala crater.  There are 4 different hiking trails that you can use to explore the area.  

    Due to its elevation is does get cold and rainy so make sure come properly dressed.  For more information on hiking Maui.

    zip-lining the slopes of Haleakala

    Haleakala Ziplines 

    Get your adrenalin pumping by zip-lining the slopes of Haleakala crater.  This family friendly activity offers stunning views and thrill.  

    Located close to the entrance of Haleakala National Park gives you breathtaking views of the volcano and Hawaiian foliage including eucalyptus trees.  Make sure you bring a long sleeve or something warm as it has the potential to get cold due to the elevation. 

    Suitable for children 8 and up. 

    Pau Vodka distillery tasting room Upcountry Maui

    Sample Spirits at Pau Vodka 

    The PAU Distillery is located just outside of Makawao town in Upcountry Maui.  The tour walks you through the process of how the PAU spirits are created and bottled.  

    PAU creates several spirits including the flagship vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey which you are able to taste at the end of the tour in the tasting room.  PAU vodka stays true to its ‘Aloha Spirit’ as it is made from Maui Gold Pineapples and other local ingredients.

    Tours cost $10 per person and takes a half hour to 45 minutes.

    The general store in Upcountry Maui

    Eat at Hali’maile General Store

    Located directly across the street from the Pau Distillery is the Hali’imaile General Store which has been around since 1988.  It’s a great restaurant to have lunch at while you’re touring around upcountry.

    The menu is American with Hawaiian and Asian twists  like the Kalua Pork Enchilada Pie and my person favorite the Coconut Fish Curry.  If you’re having dinner be sure to sample a craft cocktail or 2.  They also have a beautiful wine list.

    Open for lunch Monday through Friday and nightly at 5 p.m.

    Saturday morning Farmers Market

    Saturday Morning Farmers Market

    Every Saturday morning there is an upcountry farmers market Maui held in Kula from 7 am to 11 pm.  This is where you can get the cheapest and freshest produce on the island.

    There are also tents selling their fresh product like poke bowls, turmeric shots, and small ‘plate lunches’.  Fresh fish, macadamia nuts, tropical flowers and plants can all be found at this farmers market.  Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags and your appetite.

    Lavender farm on Maui

    Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

    The 13.5-acre farm sits nicely on the slopes of Haleakala Crater.  The farm is filled with 25 different varieties of lavender, olive trees, hydrangeas and more.

    There’s a gift shop where you can buy the local lavender products like essential oils and soap.  Soak in the sights as you sip lavender tea and eat a lavender scone.

    The farm is open to the public only on Friday’s, Saturday’s, andSunday’s for the foreseeable future, from 10am to 4pm. General Admission is $3 per person, with a $1 off for Seniors, Military, and Kama’aina. Alternatively, we support the Maui Food Bank as an official drop-off location – with a donation of one non-perishable food item per person, admission will be waived.


    XX Jess

    Ways to Enjoy Upcountry Maui with I'm Jess Traveling
    Ways to Enjoy Upcountry Maui with I'm Jess Traveling
    Ways to Enjoy Upcountry Maui with I'm Jess Traveling
    Upcountry Maui: 13 Ways to ExploreUpcountry Maui: 13 Ways to ExploreUpcountry Maui: 13 Ways to Explore