Maui, Hawaii

Tag: upcountry

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.
Comment »

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.

Comment »

Sunset atop Haleakala

I love watching sunset, watching the colors change. But there’s nothing quite like watching it at the beach. Except perhaps from atop the highest mountain.

Yesterday we dropped our turkeys off at an upcountry imu (here’s a link to last year’s imu roast for lots more info!) and then continued up the mountain. We got there just before sunset which was great as it allowed us to see the crater valley which is spectacular in itself. I almost think it’s better in the morning though, when the sun really shows off all the different colors in the valley.

Haleakala’s crater valley

We had passed through some clouds on our way up to the summit (10,023 feet elevation), but it cleared up just past the National Park gates (yes, this is a national park – 3 day entrance fee starting in 2020 is $30, an annual pass is $50).

a silversword plant – these are endangered and grow only on Maui. A step on their root system will kill them, so don’t get close.

Sunrise viewing is hugely popular on Haleakala, so much so that a few years ago the park instituted a reservation system. If you want to go see sunrise, make sure two months prior you go online and buy a ticket. Tickets are cheap – only $1.50/car (however, you ALSO need to purchase or have along your national park pass to enter the park). But they are day-specific, so you do need to go on that day (this limits the total number of cars to 150, which is the number of parking stalls up there). They do release a few additional tickets two days prior, so that’s always an option also. Note, park wardens will not allow you into the park between 3-7AM without this special ticket.

I’ve never driven up for sunrise. I would prefer to see if it’s cloudy or clear before I drive all that way (rather than taking my chances leaving at 3AM to get to the summit in time for a possible sunrise).

Yesterday the top parking lot was full, but there were plenty of parking spaces in the crater parking lot.

Stargazing with cows

We stayed at the summit until it was quite dark and then drove back down the mountain. Just past the national park gate and forest, we encountered cows on the road. Yes, there are signs warning of cows, do watch for them as they like to munch grass right next to the road. In fact, I’ve come across cows lying on the road in the evening (which is nice and warm from the sun).

We parked in a pull-out near some cows, turned off the car and stood next to it, gazing up at the stars. It was so dark, we couldn’t see the cows, just hear them snorting and munching their grass. As you know, we used to own a dairy farm, so we loved that. It was a beautiful evening.

Comment »

Kula Lodge

I had an errand to run today near Kula Lodge. Kula Lodge is at the 3200 ft elevation. As you drive up our volcano (Haleakala), you will find that the roads get narrower, the speed limits drop and the views become increasingly spectacular.

The Kula Lodge is the highest sit-down restaurant on Maui with an outdoor pizza oven and stunning bi-coastal views. This is also home to the Curtis Cost Gallery – his Maui scenery paintings are just spectacular. You can also stay at the Kula Lodge, though we’ve never done it.

One of my favorite things to do (though I haven’t done it for a while), is to kick off an evening of stargazing with pizza at the Kula Lodge. It’s time we did that again.

The poinsettia hedge in the parking lot is starting to bloom. It is mid-November. Where did the year go?

Kula Marketplace

As I was a bit early, I stopped at the Kula Marketplace gift shop to look around. Always on the look out for new Made in Maui products and goodies. Today I found a few: a new to me hotsauce by Volcano Spice using Maui grown scorpion peppers. I love the HI Spice Smoke Scorpion sauce, so I’ll have to taste-test these two. I love the color.

I also found these coasters which I thought would make fun Christmas presents.

Kula Lodge
Christmas coasters

I may have mentioned a time or two how much I love upcountry Maui. I don’t know what I love more – the scenery and the views, or cooling off from Kihei’s heat!

Comment »

Treats from Komoda’s Bakery

Yesterday my son had another cross country race. This one was at an upcountry high school. As we drove up Haleakala Hwy, he asked – Mom, can you pick up Komoda’s for the team?

Komoda’s is a family run bakery in Makawao that celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago. Yes, it’s a hole in the wall. But it is one of our family’s favorite treat places. In particular the kids like the stick donuts. Five sugar glazed mini donuts on a stick. What’s not to love?

The thing with Komoda’s is – they open at 7AM. For best selection, you have to be there at 7AM or even earlier to get a parking spot and get in line. Mornings there is a line out the door and if you arrive much later, they won’t have much left. Komoda’s closes once they’re sold out (sometimes by 2pm). And they are closed Wednesdays and Sundays and sometimes in September when the family takes time off.

They are best known for their cream puffs and cocoa puffs. I however prefer their Coconut Danish.

Yes, I caved, I picked up 20 stick donuts for the team, a bag of dinner rolls for company we had last night. And a Coconut Danish for me.

Surprise

The best part was surprising my son with a shopping bag of stick donuts when he was only expecting a few for him and his friends. They ran 3 miles (plus their warm up miles). They worked for it.

upcountry
and they’re off – Maui’s high school boys’ track and field event

Comment »

Upcountry Walk

This weekend one of the kids needed to be upcountry for a 7 AM cross country run. To put this in perspective, we needed to leave our home in Kihei at 6:10 AM to meet at Grandma’s Coffee House which was their chosen meeting point. The coach chose one of my favorite upcountry walks for the run, so I made coffee and headed up the mountain with my athlete.

We made fantastic time, getting there early. I left the teens to do their run and started off on a walk, stopping regularly to take pictures of trees, flowers and of course the view. It is just breath-takingly beautiful upcountry. And cool. I am always warm, so I particularly enjoyed cooling down a little from Kihei’s heat.

The narrow, winding and hilly road is lined by traditional lava rock walls and offers gorgeous views.
Look to the left, down the mountain, and see Kihei, the ocean and West Maui Mountains in the distance.
upcountry walk
Look to the right and enjoy the meadows on Haleakala’s volcanic slopes, looking for cows, horses and goats.
upcountry walk
It is the tail end of jacaranda season, but there were still blooms to enjoy.
upcountry walk
I always smile when I see these peeling trees shedding their bark.
upcountry walk
Colorful blooms along the side of the road
upcountry walk
These giant leaves were catching discarded jacaranda blooms.

Grandma’s Coffee House

After my beautiful walk (and the team’s run), we all gathered at Grandma’s Coffee House for some breakfast. This is a small mom and pop shop, one of few restaurants in the area and consequently a bit of a gathering place. The coach struck up a conversation with an older gentleman reading his paper. Turns out he’s Grandma’s son. His own son, Alfred Franco, now runs Grandma’s Coffee House. He talked story with us for a while, telling of the coffee growing/roasting they do.

I had a small black Americano – one of the best coffees I’ve had in a while – and a pineapple coconut muffin. It hit the spot!

Comment »

Missing Person Amanda Eller – FOUND

Update: I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Amanda Eller was found, alive, after 17 days of being lost in the forest. There are numerous news articles and press statements about her ordeal. It is quite the story.

If you are on Maui, you will have seen some of the hundreds if not thousands of missing person posters. Local physiotherapist and yoga instructor Amanda Eller went missing on May 8th, eleven days ago. Police found her car the next day at the popular Makawao Forest Reserve. Since then family and friends have mounted a large search and rescue operation. For much more information and daily posts by the search and rescue volunteers, check out the facebook page FindAmanda.

missing person

Makawao Forest Reserve is a popular hiking, off-road biking and horseback riding area in upper Makawao with a series of trails, gorges and pools. It is a large area. From what I gather volunteers have been systematically searching the area. Unfortunately searchers discovered Amanda’s phone in her parked car. If you read through the many comments on the posts on the FindAmanda site, you will see that there are several theories in what may have happened. Officially police have not released any information indicating that there may be foul play involved. If you want to help, check out the FindAmanda page – they are looking for volunteers to help in their efforts, and also food donations for the volunteers searching.

Praying that Amanda is found – very soon!

Missing Persons on Maui

Ironically the Missing Person wall on the weird building at the World War II era airport site along the highway was painted over a few months ago. For as long as I can remember, this building has always been covered in graffiti. About two years ago or so, someone painted it black and then covered it with the names of Maui’s missing persons. In recent years two missing persons cases really stick out, Moreira (Mo) Monsalve and pregnant Charli Scott who went missing months apart from eachother in 2014. Heart-breakingly Mo is still missing. Charli’s jaw bone was found and her ex-boyfriend convicted of a horrible crime.

missing person
Comment »

I just love those purple jacaranda trees!

If you’ve driven upcountry Maui, you probably will know what I’m referring to: those beautiful purple flowering jacaranda trees.

Jacaranda trees are actually not endemic to Hawaii but are native to South America. If you go for an upcountry drive, they are just starting to bloom. They are so beautiful.

Maui’s only paint party place, Island Art Party, is located here in Azeka Shopping Center in Kihei. Yesterday’s paint theme was ‘upcountry drive’ which included some of the beautiful purple blooms. I’ve been eyeing up this painting for some time now and lucky me, my friend suggested we go painting.

If you’ve never gone to one of these paint parties, no worries. It is a fun social event, where they give you step by step instructions on how to paint the painting (everyone paints the same thing). Worst case, you throw out the painting when you’re done. Best case, you have an amazing souvenir of your stay on Maui.

Here are a few pictures of my painting. I’m about 90% happy with it. But I had a fantastic evening!

Do check out their website for their event calendar. Island Art Party has new owners and is currently waiting for their liquor license (no alcoholic beverages available at this time). They are hoping it’s a matter of weeks. On the walls and unused tables you can admire upcoming art projects.

Island Art Party
Upcoming art projects – isn’t that sunset sail one (3rd from right on bottom) amazing?

Seabury Craft Fair

If you are on Maui around Mother’s Day, do check out Seabury Hall’s annual Craft Fair on Saturday, May 11th (the day before Mother’s Day). It’s a fantastic craft fair with juried crafts, a wonderful food section, kids games etc. But in my opinion the best thing about this craft fair – it’s the setting: beautiful bicoastal views, white tents under purple blooming jacaranda trees on a beautiful college prep campus. Don’t miss it! Parking across the road at the rodeo grounds is free, admission is $5.

Comment »

Waihou Spring Hike

Last weekend we went on a family hike. One of my favorite hikes on Maui is the Waihou Spring Trail in Olinda. I should qualify, usually we just do the 1 mile loop in the pine forest and call it a day. It’s an easy stroll and generally not busy at all. There is an off-shoot from the loop leading to the Waihou Spring Trail which we always walk down. But – there’s always a but – then you get to a danger sign, warning you of certain death.

hike
The experimental pine forest

The thing about hiking upcountry Maui is that it very often rains up there, so the switchback trail to the springs is often wet. This past Sunday however it was dry. Add to that, we had family along that are generally more adventurous than we are, so we thought – well, why not. Down a series of switchbacks we carefully walked to the bottom of the gorge where we found a sweet waterfall with caves behind it. And a rooster. Don’t ask me what the rooster was doing in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of the gorge. I didn’t see any chickens around. I can only presume he got lost, or accidentally went down there. Who knows. The hike out of the gorge was steep, but we all made it back out and lived to tell the tale! I would not recommend this hike if it’s wet.

hike
You’ve been warned – I would not go down this trail unless it’s completely dry. It’s a steep one.

Where is the Waihou Spring Trail

This trail is located upcountry Maui. To get there, drive up to Makawao. Turn right onto Baldwin and just follow the road up the mountain. The road will get narrower and narrower. Slow down, take your time and enjoy the views and watch for traffic. Eventually you pass the Maui Bird Conservation Center (to your left) and enter into a pine forest. You will shortly see parking on the right side. It will take you about an hour to get here from Kihei.

hike
the waterfall at Waihou Spring
Comment »

It’s Winter!

For the past few weeks we’ve been hearing about winter stories on the US mainland and Canada. My cousin in Edmonton looked up the temperature in Antarctica and told me Edmonton had matching temperatures the other day (one day I would love to go on a cruise to Antarctica – not for the temperature, but just to SEE it, even just from a distance).

Here on Maui we heard about your suffering and decided to join the club. Well, not that we had anything to do with it. There is some sort of low pressure system to the north of us bringing cool temperatures and strong winds. This morning the temperature was a frosty 60F (roughly 15.5 Celsius). Those of you who know me know that I hate heat (I know, I live on Maui – what am I doing?). I am cold. I am actually wearing a hoody and have closed the windows in an effort to preserve heat.

Maui County has closed the South Maui (Kihei) beach parks because of danger of large swell. North Shore beach parks have also been closed. Apparently we are expecting waves up to 60 ft (that would be on the North shore, not in Kihei). Today is a good day to stay inside or go shopping.

Haleakala National Park is closed due to high gusts of wind (up to 80 mph). Also apparently it’s snowing with a forecast of up to 3 inches. Remember your rental car does NOT have decent tires, please don’t drive up there. There are no emergency services, snow plows, salt/sand trucks. Plus there will be local families eager to see snow – some for the first time 🙂

We aren’t going to die.

Yes, this is unusual, even for Maui winter. But we aren’t going to die. We aren’t even going to freeze. Since we don’t have a furnace, we’ll just dress a little warmer. If you are on Maui, please stay out of the ocean until the storm dies down and waters have stopped churning. Remember, stay out of the ocean if it is brown or murky. This is particularly when sharks come out to feed. Plus you could get a nasty infection from run-off in the water.

I’m sure the weather will go back to normal and warm up soon. At least that’s what we’re hoping for!

Comment »