Tag: upcountry

How to carve a pineapple jack-o’lantern

A number of years ago I discovered the joy of a pineapple jack-o’lantern, and frankly, we have not looked back! These little guys are so easy to carve and their crazy pineapple top hair make me laugh every time. Last weekend my son and I shot a short video on how to carve a pineapple jack-o’lantern. This video comes to you from the beautiful kitchen at our Kamaole Sands 2-206 condo. Hope you enjoy!

I wrote more about pineapples (how to carve and how to grow) last week – so check out that blog entry. I’ve also grown pineapples from pineapple tops in my flower bed, so search ‘Cara’s pineapple‘ on this blog for more pictures of that also!

A few tips for carving a pineapple jack-o’lantern

  • On Maui a pineapple jack-o’lantern will only last about a day before starting to mold. Save your carving for Halloween afternoon! For that matter, when I have carved pumpkins here on Maui, they’ve not lasted much longer than 2-3 days either.
  • Carving pineapples is significantly easier than a pumpkin – provided you trust your children with a knife, this is a fun activity for them to try!
  • Pineapple jack-o’lanterns are juicy. Unless they’re outside, put a plate under them!

Pumpkins on Hawaii

Why not carve a pumpkin? Honestly, pumpkins in Hawaii are expensive. The actual pumpkins themselves, but also canned pumpkin. Standard (15 oz)-sized tins average $3, the larger (29 oz) ones are usually $5-6. Our family loves pumpkin. My favorite recipe is this pumpkin swirl loaf. It is delicious – I triple the recipe, usually two loaves are polished off within two days, the third goes in the freezer for a treat. This year I bought a whole pumpkin from Costco, roasted it and made my own pumpkin sauce (and seeds). I may have regretted that by the time I started bagging all the sauce for the freezer. That’s a lot of pumpkin sauce! It also looks deceptively like frozen mango puree. Want to bet there will be some interesting ‘mango’ aka accidental pumpkin smoothies made at my house? Ha!

Have you been to the Kula Farms upcountry Maui? Every year they have a pumpkin patch, usually starting late September and running through Halloween. I love their farm stand.

This fall Mahi Pono harvested their first crop of Maui grown pumpkins. Mahi Pono is the owner of 41,000 acres of former sugar cane land here on Maui. Slowly but surely they are converting the dry former sugar cane fields into cropland. Their first plantings were potatoes, but they have branched out from that. Driving up Haleakala Hwy you can see fields of orange, lemon and coffee trees. Curious to buy their Maui grown produce? Per their website they currently sell under the Maui Harvest label at Foodland, Longs, Times and Tamura.

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Upcountry roadtrip and restaurant update

Last weekend we went for an upcountry roadtrip. One of the kids had a tennis game in Kula, so I thought…. why not combine that with lunch at the ranch? There is something about going for a drive and eating a picnic bbq lunch.

The ranch, you say? Ulupalakua Ranch is located above Makena and Big Beach. As the bird flies, it’s not that far. However, the private ranch road is not open to the public. Years ago there was some significant flooding upcountry which took out a section of Kula Hwy. At that time the ranch temporarily opened their gravel road to upcountry residents. The only way to get the ranch is to drive to Kahului, up Haleakala Hwy, Kula Hwy and just follow that road until you get there – in about 80-90 minutes’ time. But not to worry – it’s a beautiful drive!

The ranch’s General Store sells some picnic supplies, clothes, and touristy items. In the back they have an order counter for their bbq (open between 11-2). If you follow them on Instagram, they often post food photos which make me hungry every time. Maui Wine (and the visitor restroom) are across the road.

This weekend we timed our lunch trip just perfectly, arriving about 10 minutes before a large group. It was pouring rain at the ranch, but we snagged a table on the lanai. There are additional picnic benches with umbrellas on the lawn. We had an hour to spare before the game. I suggested a walk along Thompson Road to stretch my legs. I was overruled – carrot cake was calling.

Grandma’s Coffee House

When we pulled up at Grandma’s Coffee House there were no cars up front or parked on the road. I wondered if they were even open. Turns out we got lucky a second time, ordered our carrot cake and lilikoi cheese cake and sat in one of the booths. Then a large group of people arrived. Unfortunately my phone camera flaked and didn’t take the cake photo. Sorry! Both cakes were delicious. I did pick up a pack of their home grown and roasted espresso beans for at home enjoyment. Yum.

Mauna Loa changes

This past year my favorite Mauna Loa macadamia nuts updated their packaging. They also changed their chocolate recipe on their individual nuts. While the mac nut cluster chocolate seems largely the same, the other has changed significantly. The milk chocolate individual nuts are a lot more dark chocolatey than they used to. They are still great – just different! I have discovered a new favorite – kiawe smoked bbq mac nuts. Yum.

Restaurant news!

With the ongoing Delta surge, Maui’s mayor announced yesterday a vaccine passport type program for restaurants. Details have yet to be announced, but I’ll update the blog when we know more. It is supposed to go into effect September 15th.

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Maui strawberries and lilikoi tarts

Maui has been warming up. This is of course hardly a surprise, it is officially summer. My problem is, I just don’t like the heat (I know, I live in the wrong part of the world). So last week I drove upcountry for a cool-er walk, some strawberries and lilikoi tarts.

It was closing in on 80F when I left Kihei around 7:30am and by the time I arrived at my favorite Thompson Road pull-out an hour later, it was a wonderful 68F. I had tried rather unsuccessfully to convince a few friends to go walking, so I was doing this solo. I grabbed my mask (just in case), sunglasses and phone and headed out on my 3 mile (roundtrip) walk. This is a narrow road with bicoastal views, lava rock walls, horses and just beautiful scenery. There isn’t much traffic, but as long as you stay to the side of the road, everyone is friendly and waves.

La Provence

Sig told me to be sure to check out the French bakery while upcountry. One of the tennis moms had been telling him how amazing it was. I have a bit of a reputation for having a sweet tooth, so of course I had to stop. Turns out La Provence was a little more difficult to find than I thought it would be. It’s on a road that runs parallel (just above) Kula Hwy. However, I forgot that that parallel road is not continuous due to all the gorges on Haleakala. On the fourth attempt I got it right. La Provence is a sit-down restaurant (I’ve never done that), but also has a little hole in the wall bakery section. The lilikoi meringue tart and fruit tart were calling my name. Who am I to resist? FYI, they only take cash/checks.

Along the way I saw Kula Country Farms had a BOGO (buy one get one free) on their locally grown strawberries. Lucky me! They actually also have a u-pick, but were watering/fertilizing, so the u-pick was closed. If you are upcountry, do stop at their farm stand. The lady who runs it is the sweetest and they have great produce.

What did I do with my four packs of strawberries? Welll….. I was inspired by La Provence’s fruit tart to make an Austrian Obstboden for Father’s Day. As you may know, I grew up in Austria and have a rather particular taste for dessert. An Obstboden is a fruit flan. However, where I grew up, you didn’t fill it with pudding/custard, but instead a layer of matching fruit jam (as a moisture barrier) and then topped it with a gelatin glaze. Here’s my Father’s day cake. We ate it for breakfast. It’s basically a fruit salad!

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Current Maui Farmer’s Markets

This morning I saw a list of Maui farmer’s markets and thought – I know some people who may be interested! My readers! Here you are:

South Side
  • Saturday 8-12 behind Kukui Mall parking lot in Kihei (I am told this one USED to be located in the Fabiani’s parking lot)
  • Tuesdays 8-11:30 Wailea Village market (check my blog post from a few weeks ago)
  • sadly the market at Aloha Marketplace is gone, replaced by a couple food trucks
Kahului/North shore
  • Wednesdays – morning through mid-afternoon – Queen Kaahumanu shopping center in Kahului, center court
  • Wednesday/Friday 2250 Hana Hwy (Haiku area)
West side
  • Wednesday/Saturday Napili farmer’s markets 8-12pm
  • Thursday Lahaina Jodo Mission 4-7pm
Upcountry
  • Saturday Maliko Country Farms at Oskie Rice Arena (Makawao) 8-12pm
  • Wednesday Farmer’s market at Oskie Rice Arena (Makawao) 8-1pm
  • Upcountry Farmer’s market at Kula Malu shopping center 8-11am (I call this the ‘crunchy market’ – go and you’ll see why! It is an amazing farmer’s market)
farmer's markets
Saturday morning upcountry farmer’s market
There are also farm stands, open most of the week
  • Kumu Farms (at the Maui Tropical Plantation) Tues-Saturday
  • Kula Country Farms Mon-Sat 9-4pm – this is my favorite upcountry farm stand. They have strawberry u-pick Wed/Sat through mid June
  • North Kihei ABC Store Mon-Fri 8-4pm

Am I missing any that are open now in 2021? This list is always in flux, with regards to locations, days and times. But I sure love buying directly from the farmer and supporting local businesses.

Send me a message, I’ll add them to this list!

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New Years Sunset

Yesterday afternoon we drove up Haleakala to enjoy a post New Years sunset. It sure was beautiful. And there were a lot more people than I had anticipated.

Walking up the sunset I caught this view!

Last time we went for sunset was just over a year ago at Thanksgiving. My bad, I assumed with less people on the island, there would be fewer people at the summit of Haleakala. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of parking in the crater valley parking lot, but the top lot (with the best sunset view) was overflowing with double parked cars.

A couple of observations

  • Arrive early rather than just on time. You want to make sure you get parking. While we arrived on time, the upper lot was full and we ended up having to walk to the summit. Not usually a problem, but at 10,000 ft altitude it’s a bit harder to breathe and you can develop a headache.
  • It’s cold up there. Yesterday afternoon the temperature at the summit was at about 50F. It dipped after the sun set. We were prepared, dressed in our long pants, winter jackets, mittens, hats, scarfs and hiking boots. Yes, we still have these things left over from 10+ years ago when we moved to Maui. We saw a number of people in shorts and t-shirts with beach towels wrapped around them for warmth. Fail.
Anyone cold? It was 50F and windy. They didn’t stay long
  • Yes, per Hawaii State mandate, even here you have to wear a mask. The bonus is that it keeps your face protected from the wind!
hey look, my mask matched my scarf and hat! I did remove my glasses for this glamor shot – they kept fogging up!
  • The crater valley, though always amazing, doesn’t have the stunning colors before sunset that you see in morning pictures. Closing in on sunset the valley just looks dark. If you want to enjoy it with all its colors, come earlier in the afternoon.
late afternoon crater view. It’s certainly not as stunning as when lit by the sun
  • Stay on actual paths – don’t just wander among the dirt and plants. The amazing and protected silversword plants grow here. Stepping on their fragile root system will kill them.
A silversword plant right next to the summit parking lot
  • Don’t just leave as soon as the sun sets. Just like at the beach, the sky turns the most amazing colors within half hour or more of the sun having set. If you wait til it’s nearly dark, you can stargaze on the drive down – now that’s spectacular! Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your naked eye? Just be sure to pull into an actual pull-out.
  • While to the summit is beautifully paved, there are no guardrails once you enter the national park. Yesterday my new-driver son (just weeks away from taking his road test) chauffeured me. There is only a small ‘lip’ at the edge of the road, so pay attention!
  • There really are cows on the road between the lower forest and the park gate (before you reach the national park). Watch for them. Especially at night they like to hang out on the road. The asphalt holds the heat.
Moo. We saw a surprising number of cows and calfs. These on the other side of the guardrail. Plenty right up by the road also.
  • Sunset is soooo romantic. Last night we were standing next to a couple. Next thing we knew, he had a little box with an engagement ring and was proposing to his now-fiancee. It was so romantic!
My son snapped a picture of this sunset proposal. So sweet. Yes, they dropped some cards in the shuffle (but did get them before finishing up).

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Upcountry Christmas Shopping

Last weekend my neighbor and I headed upcountry to a pop-up Christmas market at Kula Farms. In days of Covid we weren’t sure what to expect, but we both had some shopping to do, wanted to support local and needed some girl-time. We had a great day!

Kula Country Farms and the pop-up Christmas Market

the flower stand

We started off at Kula Country Farms. There is some road parking, but you could also park in the pumpkin patch field if you trust your vehicle’s off-roading capabilities. There were 25+ vendors on property. Everyone (business owners and customers) wore masks, hand sanitizers everywhere, everyone making the best of the new normal. I picked up some hand-made soaps, locally made masks, some veggies at the farm stand and the best coffee – one with honey and coconut syrup. I’m normally a ‘black coffee gal’, but this was a worth-while exception!

Kula Botanical Gardens

Kula Botanical Gardens coffee
Coffee grown at the US’ highest elevation (3600 ft above sea level)

We headed back to our car, sanitized, and headed to our second stop – the Kula Botanical Gardens. Originally the plan had been to buy freshly cut Maui Christmas trees, however we knew they had completely sold out the weekend before (their first weekend open).

We checked out their gift shop and I picked up a pack of their home grown/roasted coffee. A few years ago the owner of Kula Botanical Gardens told me their coffee was grown at the highest elevation within the US. I remember from last time, it is great coffee!

We will save a walk through the 10 acre gardens for another day.

Kula Market Place

Next on the agenda, we drove up to Kula Market Place (located at the Kula Lodge). This is a neat gift shop featuring local artisans. Art, crafts, clothing, jewelry, quilts, food etc. If you’re upcountry, do check it out! My neighbor found the missing items on her Christmas shopping list and then it was time for lunch…

Kula Bistro

my mahi mahi sandwich! So delicious!

We headed back down Haleakala and back-tracked a bit to Kula Bistro. They are known especially for their desert case. The restaurant had indoor and outdoor seating, all subject to the social distancing guidelines. Maui County has new restaurant rules. Even when seated you have to keep your mask on until you eat or drink, replacing it when finished.

On a side note, bars are currently closed through December 26 to help contain the increase in positive case numbers on Maui.

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My favorite upcountry walk

My favorite easy upcountry walk is Thompson Road. It’s a picturesque one lane road above Grandma’s coffee house in Kula.

School is starting again here on Maui (we will see how that goes), so I forced the kids to go on a family walk. Yes, they would have preferred to stay home with on their devices, but such is life. Family is a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy, or at least that’s what I tell them.

How to get to this upcountry walk

From Kihei, you drive direction Kahului, then turn left on Hansen Road by the old Sugar Cane Factory. I don’t know about you, but I like to look at it while passing by, to see what’s going on. This past year the big pile of coal (for power production) has finally been hauled off. I wonder where it went.

You turn right onto Hana Hwy, then immediately onto Haleakala Hwy. Haleakala Hwy becomes Kula Hwy which you follow ‘forever’. You drive through Kula, past the Waldorf School, the Kula Farms stand – sadly they were closed this Sunday. You continue past the second Haleakala Hwy turnoff, past St John’s Episcopal Church and eventually end up at Grandma’s Coffee House. They were sadly also closed this Sunday.

Just before Grandma’s the road forks off to the left. Turn up there, take your very first right (it’s nearly immediate). This is Thompson Road. There are three pull-outs on the left. Park in one, get out and walk.

upcountry walk
Thompson Road

The upcountry walk

The road itself is patchy asphalt. Our youngest brought his new skateboard along which helped curb the complaining. I love looking at the huge plants, the insanely large bush of bird of paradise (it’s got to be 8 feet tall or more). There are lava rock walls, horse pastures, rolling hills.

Please be respectful of local residents who live here. Residents passing through always smile and wave, so do the same. It took us about an hour to the end and back. Well, that’s not entirely true. Thompson Road curves left and heads up the mountain – we’ve never gone up there.

But the best part about this upcountry walk – it was a full 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than in Kihei. Loved that!

upcountry road
This made me laugh. Along the road I found this. A locked gate with a no-trespassing sign and a bottle of hand sanitizer next to it. If you MUST trespass, at least be clean. Sign of our times.

For more of my favorite Maui hikes, click here.

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What to expect at a Sunrise On Haleakala

Our family has lived on Maui for ten years now, and believe it or not, I had never been to see sunrise on Haleakala. There have been a few reasons – but mainly having young children and my general dislike of crowds.

Those two blocks are no longer a factor – the kids are older, in fact I was able to bribe one of them to come along with me this morning. And as for crowds…. Haleakala National Park has limited visitors with a sunrise registration system a few years ago. And now with Covid, the park has further reduced those numbers.

What to bring before leaving the house/condo

  • winter clothes, wind breaker… you mainland folk may be used to standing in near freezing temperatures for an hour or two (don’t forget about wind), but apparently my blood has thinned from living on Maui. I was so cold – but loving every minute of it!
  • your wallet (credit card and ID, credit card only $30 for park admission, cash for Komoda’s donuts – they have a $10 minimum for credit card purchases)
  • a print out of your Haleakala sunrise reservation
  • drinks, snacks
  • enough gas to get there and back
  • Note: the last place to purchase anything on the way up would be a 24/7 gas station or perhaps McDonald’s in Kahului

Our journey to Sunrise on Haleakala

This morning we left our home in Kihei at around 2:20AM. Right off the bat, we saw a deer right next to the Piilani Hwy by the Kihei police station. I’m sure glad it stayed off the road as we passed. There was little traffic besides a black SUV also headed to sunrise.

We saw someone walking along the Veterans Hwy (formerly known as Mokulele, taking us towards Kahului). He also thankfully stayed on the bike path.

We hit our only red light at the turnoff onto Haleakala Hwy by King Kekaulike school in Pukalani. At this point the highway becomes a two lane road (with exception of a one lane bridge you come upon pretty quickly). It’s a gorgeous drive by day. As we passed through a grove of trees just before Kula Lodge area, we saw a large bird (I think an owl) flying in front of us. For a moment I worried he’d fly right into my windshield, but he changed direction, picked up speed and took off into the trees.

A little past Kula Lodge you follow the signs and turn left and at this point the roads get pretty wind-y as you really go up in elevation. Just past the tree line and past the second cattle gate, we came across a beef cow and her calf. Yes, we have in the past encountered them even laying down on the road. Definitely watch for them.

We reached the National Park gate which is just above the 6500 ft elevation mark when you come to a forested area). I picked up an annual park pass ($55 vs the $30 for a 3 day vehicle pass). We will certainly come up at least once more this year making it worth it. Note, if you have a US national park pass, bring it along as you can use it for admission. The park employee cross-referenced my name with her sunrise reservation list. Then we drove another half hour to reach the summit, passing crater valley parking lot on the way. Guess what – we were the only car there!

The sunrise experience

We bundled up in our winter jackets, hats and gloves, in our excitement completely forgetting to don our face masks. We were about an hour early for the show to begin but enjoyed some stargazing, though the moon was about half full, which didn’t allow us to see the Milky Way. On the plus side, we didn’t have to use our phones as flashlights as we walked around the in part cracked sidewalks. No tripping at the top of the world! Any medical care is a good hour’s drive away at the Kula fire station or perhaps tiny Kula hospital.

We could see Kihei and Kahului’s lights, as well as the faint flashing red lights along the windmills in Maalaea. We could also faintly see a few lights in the distance – I am pretty sure they would have been from Hawi, Big Island.

Haleakala Sunrise
gazing down at Kihei (left) and Kahului (right)

The skies started lightening around 5:10AM today, in the mean time another five cars had joined us. We walked back up to the lookout area (due to Covid-19 the shelter area was closed). It was a balmy 46F (7.8C) and thankfully no wind. We sure enjoyed the view, the sky changing colors above the cloud cover until finally the sun rose just before 6AM.

By sunrise another 20 cars arrived – a number of them ended up completely missing the show. We stopped briefly at crater valley and headed back down the mountain for our rewards of Komoda’s donuts in Makawao.

Would I do it again?

I’m thrilled we were able to experience a Haleakala Sunrise, even more so that we didn’t have to face the crowds so many are used to seeing at sunrise. However, I think I prefer sunset on Haleakala. Sunset doesn’t require reservations, there are fewer people, you can see if the mountain is cloud-covered prior to leaving Kihei (because it’s daytime). You aren’t exhausted from getting up super early. On that note – I would plan Haleakala Sunrise when you are still undergoing jetlag (at the beginning of your Maui trip).

Silver swords (‘ahinahina) in bloom

What a treat! It’s silver sword blooming season. These are such bizarre, delicate plants that are found exclusively on Haleakala.

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Waiakoa Loop Trail

Another day, another hike with the kids, this time the Waiakoa Loop Trail in upcountry Maui.

I’ve been wanting to go explore the hikes at Poli Poli for a while now. Last fall my cross-country running kid had a team practice up there. It turns out, I had a completely mistaken idea of where the hikes were.

The car adventure

Of course, to preface this – you drive all the way from Kihei past the Kula Farm stand along the Kula Hwy, then turn up the mountain and, just next to Kula Botanical Gardens, turn right up Waiopuli Road which takes you what my teenager had told me was Poli Poli. It’s the bottom of a large meadow with signs featuring hang-gliding. That portion alone is about a one hour drive from Kihei.

To get to the hikes, you traverse a large meadow with a newly paved one lane road featuring many hair pin turns, then continue up through forested areas (with more hair pin turns) until you get to the first of a series of trails. The hairpin turns aren’t so bad, and there are occasional pull-outs to allow for oncoming traffic. The sketchy part is – the newly paved road has steep dropoffs on either side of the asphalt (4-8 inches for sure which is great for the car). However, this balances out with the spectacular bicoastal views.

After our car adventure, we chose to go with the first trail we came upon – the Waiakoa Loop Trail.

Waiakoa Loop Trail

The Waiakoa Loop Trail has a very small parking lot (fitting maybe 3-4 cars) next to an ominous-sounding ‘hunter check-in station’. Consider yourself warned. The road continues up the hill promising further adventurous driving, but instead you head down a dirt access road (as of today this road has some deep ruts in it, my van would not have done well on it had it been open for driving – it’s not). The trail starts off with a steep downhill section, followed by a steep uphill section (not quite as bad as the beginning steep uphill section at the Waihee Ridge Trail). After that it levels out with alternating uphill/downhill parts, but not bad at all. This coming from an inexperienced hiker.

Waiakoa Loop Trail

After 0.7 miles you get to the beginning of the loop trail. Close the gate behind you and brush your shoes to prevent carrying non-endemic plant seeds onto the trail. This hike is completely in the forest (no views beside forest). We were partly in the clouds. It was however absolutely beautiful. We heard so many birds (my dad would have had a field day with his bird watching app). We saw absolutely no wildlife on the trail (though we had seen a nene bird near the trail head).

Disclaimer, we did not walk the entire trail. The entire trail is 3.8 miles (from the parking lot). We walked about 0.7 miles past the gate and then turned around, so a respectable 2.8 miles total.

Waiakoa Loop Trail
the hikes in the Kula Forest Reserve. You are here marks where you’ve already walked the access road and gotten to the gate. The orange dot on the yellow road is the hunter check-in station where you park.
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Upcountry drive

It’s been oddly stormy weather here over Christmas, with Kihei even getting rain showers. So we yesterda opted to go for an upcountry drive.

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park

This is a small upcountry memorial park dedicated to a Maui resident who was interestingly involved in the 1911 Chinese revolution, overthrowing the monarchy. The fish taking a bite out of the roof cracked me up. And this well fed rooster definitely stole the show. I know I just turkey for Christmas dinner but…. I couldn’t stop admiring the size of his thighs.

Ulupalakua General Store and Maui Wine

Next up we stopped at Ulupalakua General Store for some homemade burgers from their own meat. I tried the elk, the rest of the family enjoyed the beef burger. There’s just something about an outdoor grill and eating burgers upcountry at a picnic table.

The restroom is across the way past Maui Wine. We stopped in the Maui Wine building where they have an interesting history display of the ranch. The story on this plaque struck my funny bone. I love history – it’s full of interesting stories.

Captain Mackee was at the time the owner of what is now Ulupalakua Ranch

Maui Wine has changed the way it runs the tasting room. You can still go for complimentary tours (we have yet to go on one, our timing is always off), but tastings run $12-$16 for a flight of wines and they have pupus (cheese and charcuterie boards are available for purchase too). They have expanded the seating area and the gift shop, it is quite lovely. Old Jail tastings are $40. Do check the website for more information.

Grandma’s Coffee House

Next we stopped in at Grandma’s Coffee House for take-out coffee and desert. They grow their own coffee and have a nice display case of homemade treats. Their lunches are also excellent.

Finally, we headed back towards Kihei, driving through rain showers and sunny patches and past this amazing poinsettia hedge right along Kula Hwy.

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