If you only venture up the mountain to see the crater, you’ll miss the heart of Maui’s agricultural region, from protea farms to cattle ranches. Several places offer tours—and even better, samples!
A trip to Kula Country Farms, opposite Rice Park on Kula Highway (Route 37), makes for a sweet afternoon jaunt. Freshly picked strawberries are available year-round—with the option of picking your own. The farm stand offers a bumper crop of locally grown organic veggies; outside are picnic tables, a children’s garden, rabbits and chickens. By late September, Kula Country Farms will boast the island’s largest pumpkin patch. A new addition is the food trailer parked at Kaʻonoʻulu Ranch, serving the soon-to-be famous Papa Rice burger, ono fish sandwiches, fresh salads, plate lunches, desserts, and drinks.(375 Kōheo Rd., Kula • 878-8381 • www.kulacountryfarmsmaui.com)
Just past the farm stand, Kula Highway intersects with Kekaulike Avenue (Route 377). Hang a left, then a right on Waipoli Road to Ali‘i Kula Lavender, where you can stroll on your own, or take a guided tour that ends with lavender scones and lavender lemonade. Or call to book lunch: your choice of chicken Caesar wrap, turkey Swiss wrap, chicken bacon club, Italian sandwich with pepper jack cheese, garden or Greek salad, plus a decadent, lavender-infused dessert and beverage. (1100 Waipoli Rd., Kula 878-3004 • www.aliikulalavender.com)
Kula Highway continues south, past the little town of Kēōkea and Sun Yat-sen Park, which honors the father of modern China and occasional Maui resident Dr. Sun Yat-sen. (See “Maui’s Chinatown,” MNKO Nov/Dec 2011.) Long before you stop reveling in the panoramic views of the island’s south coast, you’ll reach ‘Ulupalakua Ranch, home of ʻUlupalakua Vineyards. Maui’s only commercial winery crafts half-a-dozen grape varieties; the tasting room and adjacent history room are in a cottage once reserved for visits by Kalakaua, Hawai‘i’s last king. If your visit coincides with growing season—April through June—reserve a spot on an exclusive vineyard tour. (‘Ulupalakua Ranch, Rte. 37, Kula • 878-1266 • email@example.com • www.mauiwine.com)
And if all those sips whet your appetite, jog across the road to ʻUlupalakua Ranch Store, in existence for 160 years and still one of Upcountry Maui’s best lunch spots. The store sells logo ranch items and locally crafted gourmet food, perfect for your picnic basket. This is ground zero of the 18,000-acre cattle ranch; try a burger, grilled to perfection, at a picnic table the store’s lānai. (ʻUlupalakua Ranch, Rte. 37, Kula • 878-2561 • www.ulupalakuaranch.com/store.htm)
Two venues practically adjacent to each other are worth the detour down ʻŌmaʻopio Road. The goats at Surfing Goat Dairy don’t surf, but they do provide the essential ingredient for the flavored goat cheese you can sample on a tasting tour. (3651 ʻŌmaʻopio Rd., Kula • 878-2870 • www.surfinggoatdairy.com)
Save some energy to explore Ocean Vodka Organic Farm & Distillery. Tours happen five times a day (except holidays), cost $10 per person (kids eleven and under free), or $25 with lunch. You’ll come away with a new appreciation for agriculture on Maui . . . and maybe a bottle to take home. Cheers!(4051 ʻŌmaʻopio Rd., Kula • 877-0009 • www.oceanvodka.com)