This cute cowboy town on the slopes of Haleakala volcano is worth a stop on your visit to Upcountry Maui.
With its colorful wooden storefronts, eclectic shops, and quiet, rustic vibe, it will transport you to the days of Upcountry Maui’s cowboy past.
The wooden horse-ties where cattle ranchers and Hawaiian cowboys, called “paniolos,” tied up their horses when they came into town, still exist.
One tip: You have to come with the right expectations to not feel underwhelmed.
The first time we visited Makawao–as tourist many years ago–we felt that it was small and sleepy. You can thoroughly see everything there is to see in less than half-a-day, and everything closes early–think 4-5pm.
Early morning is our favorite time to be here–dappled light streams in over the colorful wooden storefronts, and the air feels fresh.
We come for a morning coffee, a donut, a stroll and some browsing–the shopping is surprisingly great as well! Besides the coffee shop and bakery which open early, most shops are open from 10:00am to 5:00pm.
If you’re lucky and you’re here for 4th of July, you can see the rodeo parade through town and watch the Makawao Rodeo competition! During Christmas, a small horse parade also rides through the town.
If you do make it into town early, make a stop at Sip Me for a delicious latte with home-made macadamia nut milk and a liliko’i croissant. Sitting out on their patio underneath the trees feels glorious.
Update: Bad news–Sip Me has closed. Good news: In its exact place is now opening a new coffee shop, called Espresso Mafia and their coffee is even better! They have not fully reopened indoors but have a cart outdoors in the sitting area.
Up the street is Komoda Bakery, open since 1916. It’s become famous for its stick donuts, cream puffs, and more. Locals love to pick up their rolls for BBQs too, so expect long lines upon opening. When they do sell out, they often close up shop. Check current opening times, as they are closed some days altogether.
Our favorites are the guava malasadas and glazed stick donuts.
If you’re in town during lunch time, you can try one of the food trucks. Our favorite is Satori–a ocean and farm to table sushi truck that serves “Maui fusion style sushi.” It has many gluten-free options and everything is naturally dairy-free. They have a cute sitting area, and sometimes live music. If your kiddo likes hot dogs better, there’s a food truck for that across the street.
If you’re up on Haleakala for sunset viewing and are driving through Makawao on your way down the mountain, Casanova is a great place to have dinner. The ambiance inside is nice and they use a lot of fresh, local ingredients. We’re here every other month and always order the Lamb Scottadito or the Etruscan Chicken Al Mattone. The pizzas made in the wood-fired oven with Keawe wood are great too.
Rodeo General Store, serves up ready-to-go plate lunches, musubi, and sandwiches if you are really in a hurry. This small grocery store and deli, is a good place to shop for local foodie souvenirs. You’ll find mango, ube, and Kula raspberry jams, Maui honeys, hot sauces made with Hawaiian chillies, alaea sea salt, Maui chocolate, and much more here. Their wine-selection is also quite good, and the gelato is delicious. See if you can spy their daily dad joke on the chalk board outside and Puff the cat lazying around the store. There are even stickers of her that you can buy.
Since Makawao is mostly enjoyed for its vibe and a stroll, you’ll love browsing here. Every shop has a unique personality inside and out.
I’m still astonished at how on-point and well-curated many of the boutiques are! There’s a good chance you’ll find something you’ll truly love. The offerings aren’t too geared for tourists, as they cater mostly to Upcountry locals. During the pandemic most shops managed to stay afloat for this reason.
My favorites for shopping are Tribe for its colorful, bold styles that veer retro; Monarch Collective for its elegant, understated jewelry pieces that feature Hawaiian shells; Holoholo Surf for its cheerful prints and relaxed silhouettes; and Pink by Nature for its pared-down, modern selections.
If you’re looking to refresh your home with some beach vibes, Designing Wahine Emporium, has a selection of linens, home accessories, and books. There’s a chair outside where gentlemen or ladies can wait. Although most times, I do see men sitting there. And yes, both my dad and husband have sat here on occasion. 🙂
I’d recommend the Rodeo General Store, for foodie treasures.
Kids will love Makawao! The charming, colorful storefronts are a blast from the past that they’ll enjoy. And already the drive up along rolling hills of farm and ranch land is beautiful. You’ll hear “horse!” or “baby goats!” all the way into town!
For girls, you can find beautiful batik dyed dresses at Oh Baby! Our favorite is one that has ties in the back so you can adjust the size as your little girl grows. Think Blue Ginger style.
Walk across the street to Droplets and you’ll find a very sweet, well-curated kids boutique and toy shop. They carry local designers that feature Hawaiian animals, plants, and foods. Great for souvenirs! Droplet’s swimwear and rash-guard selection is amazing as well! We’ve bought 4 out of 5 of Evelyn’s swimsuits at their Wailea location, which is bigger and easily the best shop for kids on Maui!
Don’t forget to stop by The Maui Cookie Lady. The tiny shop itself is worth a visit for your little ones. Mitzi, the super-friendly owner, modeled her shop after elves’s workshops from German fairy tales in honor of her late father’s German heritage! Super cute!
Of course, you won’t be able to leave her shop without a giant, delicious cookie. They are all handmade with local ingredients such as Kula lavender, Hawaiian sea salt, and macadamia nuts. Flavors range from Kona Coffee Dark Chocolate to Birthday Cake with tons of sprinkles. They sell other local food products, too! The mochi waffles mix is a must-take foodie souvenir.
Maui has an impressive number of artists and art galleries, and Makawao is a great place to find them. One of the popular artists in residence is watercolor artist, Shellie Reves, who offers her beautiful watercolors of tropical motives as prints as well as ready-to-wear on silk scarves and shirts. She also occasionally offers art classes at her painting studio.
Yuliya Galeeva and Jordanne Fine-Art are two other artist’s who have studios in Makawao. Both offer fine-art paintings, inspired by Maui’s landscapes.
Then there are Maui Hands and Viewpoints Gallery. Both curate the best of Maui’s fine-art paintings, photography, hand-built furniture, sculpture, ceramics, and more. Maui Hands also has the largest collection of Ni’ihau shell jewelry.
Hot Island Glass has its glassblowing workshop and showroom tucked in a courtyard toward the northern end of Baldwin Avenue. Most days, there is something being fired and sculpted. It’s fun to watch! You’ll find a range of beautiful pieces here: vases and bowls rich in color, pendant lights, delightful, little geckos or turtles, and more sculptural large pieces. My favorites are their plumeria bowls and pineapples.
Not to miss: Haku Maui. If you have the time, sign up for one of their lei making classes! Making a lei while on vacation to Hawaii is one of the things you should do at least once. And this is one of the best places on Maui to do it! Their Lei Po’o (flower crowns) are especially beautiful. The experience of making one is amazing, and you’ll love wearing yours the rest of the day! Great as a birthday or special occasion adornment. They also sell ready-made leis if you are short on time.
If you’re interested in alternative and natural medicine, The Dragon’s Den is worth a visit! They occasionally host classes or workshops as well.
Wic Apothecary & Rituals is a curious little place that you might find interesting to browse through. They offer herbal remedies as well as a long list of services such as astrology, biofeedback, psychic reading, reiki, ancestor healing.
Makawao town has a teeny tiny museum, the Makawao History Museum, right at the north end, where you can learn more about its Paniolo past. It’s a quick stop and sometimes they host specialty exhibits.
What to do next?
So you’ve seen all of charming Makawao and are ready for another Upcountry adventure? Lucky for you, Upcountry has lots to offer from adventurous camping in the crater or paragliding or biking, to relaxing at an amazing Hawaiian spa or savoring the local taste on a farm tour and lunch experience.
We make out home in Upcountry Maui and love the area, so we have lots of great recommendations about what to do up here.
If you’re specifically interested in food spots or restaurants in Upcountry, here’s our compilation on that topic.
Driving up to sunrise at Haleakala and want some insider tips? Or curious about the difference between sunrise and sunset at Haleakala? We have a post about that.
Or maybe you have a little one in tow and would like some kid-friendly Upcountry Maui recommendations? Well, there’s lots to do for kids up here, and we’re happy to share our knowledge.
In any case, we wish you much aloha and joy in discovering Makawao and Upcountry Maui!
A hui hou!
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