Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was filled with love, joy, and experiences that will bring you wonderful memories for years to come. We are officially into the new year, the decorations are down (or on their way down), and life is slowing to a regular pace. As I now live in North Carolina, this is the time of year when the cold weather brings me down. I'm more of a sand and sunshine girl. So, If I can't be in the warmer weather, I will at least use this opportunity to write for you some of my great experiences that are NOT to be missed while in one of the BEST sand and sun destinations - HAWAII.
The island of Maui is known as the Garden Isle. It definitely lives up to its name. It's green and lush, and the scenery is breathtaking. And, while there is so much to do and see there (the famous Road to Hana being at the top of the list), there are some other lesser known roads and landmarks that should be on your short list. While very beautiful, the Road to Hana on Maui is somewhat treacherous. Knowing it would be me driving my jeep, and not wanting to make that return drive in the dark, I opted for taking in some of the other less traveled areas and sights on Maui. There are many other wonderful options for doing the Road to Hana which I recommend to my Distinguished Travelers. So, after a wonderful breakfast at the Fairmont Kea Lani, I loaded up the jeep for a day of adventure. On Day One here are the sights I hit in order. This detailed itinerary is the most efficient way to hit all of these stops along the way. There was a bit of backtracking now and again, but that is unavoidable when driving in the islands. Day one was a trip to the Haleakala National Park followed by driving “upcountry” to some great stops along the way.
Haleakala National Park
Home to the dormant Haleakala Volcano, it has some of the most breathtaking views. The roads are rugged, as is the terrain, but the drive to the top is well worth the views. My nugget of advice? Wear very warm clothing. With gale force winds and a snow-covered peak, this is no place to be sporting your shorts and tank top. Unfortunately, I never saw any of the local endangered Hawaiian geese known as nene, but maybe you will!
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
A stop at this unique farm on the island of Maui is well worth your time. Even though it wasn’t the height of season for blooms, the smell as you get out of your vehicle is intoxicating. We were just in time for the guided tour led by a local arborist who was able to share with us the operations and history of the farm, as well as take us on a tour of the grounds where we learned about the different types of lavender they grow, and the other vegetation grown on the farm. And don’t skip the gift shop. Everything from lavender oil, bath and body products, and even gourmet culinary ingredients infused with lavender is available for purchase. I was in lavender heaven.
Wait, WHAT?! Yes, you read that correctly, there is the Ulupalakua winery on Maui. It is a pretty classy operation with a lovely tasting room, beautiful grounds, and even a patio with seating where you can partake of some food and wine pairings. Yes, they do have a few pineapple wines, but that volcanic soil grows some great grapes. I brought home a bottle of my favorite from the tasting: The 2014 Malbec. And, I’m usually not a Malbec girl. For a unique experience, consider doing their Old Jail Tasting and tour. They will show you around the winery and the experience concludes with a tasting in the old stone building that once served as Captain James Makee’s private office.
Ulupalakua Ranch Store
Just across the street from the Maui Wine, you will find a unique Ranch store. The Ulupalakua Ranch is well known for producing quality beef. At the ranch store you will find a variety of goods branded with their ranch brand, and may even spot a local cowboy. Who knew this TX girl would be spotting cowboys in Hawaii? But, the Ulupalakua Ranch Store is quickly becoming known as a foodie destination. You can walk up to the counter for food made to order by their well known executive Chef Will Munder. They are committed to serving only locally sourced lamb, elk, and beef alongside only locally Maui grown produce. Let’s just say Hawaii has been farm to table before farm to table was even a “thing” on the mainland.
Church of the Holy Ghost
Dating back to 1879 and started by Portuguese immigrants from the Azores and Madeira Islands. The church is richly decorated and a popular stop for tourists as well as a site for weddings among the locals.
Surfing Goat Dairy
This dairy features many goat milk products including famous gourmet goat cheeses as well as gourmet goat milk chocolate truffles. You can make appointments for daily casual or grand dairy tours, or even an evening chore and milking tour to experience first hand what life on a dairy farm is like.
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery
This location encompasses both the organic Ocean Vodka and the Deep Island Hawaiian Rum distilleries. The grounds are beautiful, and you can participate in a tasting, walk the beautiful grounds, and visit the gift shop for a few souvenirs to bring home. Learn about the Hawaiian history of sugarcane cultivation, sustainable farming practices, and their green operations using solar power in their warehouse and bottling center.
Hawaiian cowboy town of Makawao, Maui
This charming town is voted one of the top 25 arts destinations in the United States. You can easily spend hours wandering the downtown eclectic shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Eat a famed cream puff from the T. Komoda Store, and if you are there in July, attend their yearly rodeo. This was one of my favorite towns along the drive. Plus, where else can you see people riding their horses through downtown?
It was such a wonderful and full day getting to know the island of Maui in an intimate way and learning about the people and its culture. I highly recommend my “Upcountry” drive if you plan on visiting Maui. Stay tuned for my second off the beaten track drive in my next article where we will see much of the rugged beauty of the island of Maui. Is Hawaii on your bucket list? If so, we should start working on getting you there.
Because life is short.
Stop dreaming. Start going.