Maui’s Small Towns

With all that our island has to offer, most residents will concur that Maui well deserves its no ka ‘oi moniker. Ask us about our favorite town here, and things get a bit more complicated. So we did just that: Asked local experts what’s so good about their towns. We’re not taking sides—we love them all.

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Wailuku | Makawao | Kīhei | Lāhainā | Paʻia | Hāna

Baldwin Avenue in Makawao
Baldwin Avenue in Makawao

MAKAWAO

This Upcountry town sits on the northwestern slope of Haleakala, surrounded by pastureland and forest. It’s aptly named — makawao translates as “eye of the forest.” This is also the heart and soul of Maui’s paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) heritage. In fact, you’ll still see hitching posts scattered throughout this rustic town that’s evolved into one of the island’s foremost centers for local artists and artisans.

Our resident advisors:

  • Rene Komoda, granddaughter of T. Komoda Store & Bakery founders Takezo & Shigeri Komoda
  • Peter Baldwin, owner of Pi‘iholo Ranch

What was it like growing up in Makawao?

RK: I grew up two blocks away from my grandparents’ store. I rode the bus from Makawao to Maui High School in Kahului. After school, my friends and I liked to stop at Iwaishi Store [where Makawao Steak House is now] because they had a soda fountain. I also worked at Komoda Store, selling pastries, measuring fabric, and wrapping presents. I still work there part time.

PB: On Saturdays, my friends and I rode our horses into Makawao to watch Lone Ranger movies at the Makawao Theater [where Viewpoints Gallery is now]. The admission price was six cents.

What makes Makawao unique?

RK: The rural atmosphere. There are lots of chickens wandering around town, and some residents have horses and goats in their yards. Also, the huge pine tree behind the public library. When you see that tree, you know you’re in Makawao!

PB: First of all, the scenery and climate. The abundant rainfall each year keeps everything green, and the elevation makes it about ten degrees cooler than at sea level. Also, because Makawao cannot expand geographically, it will never lose its small-town character.

Any hidden gems?

RK: Makawao is an “outdoorsy” town. There’s great hiking and mountain biking at the Makawao Forest Reserve off Pi‘iholo Road. You can rent mountain bikes at Krank Cycles on Makawao Avenue.

PB: The Makawao History Museum on Baldwin Avenue. I’d been wanting a town museum for about forty years, and now we have one.

Favorite place to eat?

PB: I enjoy taking my grandkids to Casanova. The chefs let them help make their pizza, and use the big paddle to put it in the oven. I also like the Tamimi Farms Rainbow Tomato Salad at Market Fresh Bistro. That, plus the soup of the day, makes for a perfect lunch.

How about an iconic store?

Maui-Towns-KamodasTK: Komoda Store, of course! [She laughs.] It’s the only store in Makawao that’s still the same as it was when I was growing up.

PB: Rodeo General Store. It has changed over the years, but it still has what you need to get you through the day without having to go downcountry.

They also recommended:

Satisfying your sweet tooth with a stick donut, cream puff, or long john from T. Komoda Store & Bakery . . . barbecue night Mondays at Polli’s Mexican Restaurant . . . watching Chris Lowry and Chris Richards turn molten glass into works of art at Hot Island Glass . . .  celebrating Makawao’s paniolo heritage at the annual Fourth of July Parade and Rodeo . . . unleashing your inner carnivore at Makawao Steak House.HP

1 COMMENT

  1. I used to live out near the East end of Pi’ihana Road for 8 years. Many times on Sunday mornings I would drive up to Iao Valley at 6:45am, just when the ranger was opening the gate to the Needle. When I would arrive at the top, I was the only one there and I would go hike up to the high observation point at the top of the steps. The air was so fresh and clean with a little moisture from the mist. I always felt a spiritual presence that would give me chicken skin. The silence from the lack of people made it all the more special, almost like I was transported into another dimension of space and time. One time I took my brother up to the bridge right in front of the gate at midnight on a full moon. We were silently looking down at the water below when all of a sudden a shadow came across the lone street light that’s there. As we looked up and looked back at the water, an apparition appeared on the rock below. I swear he looked like an ancient Hawaiian dressed in feathers and he was glowing white. We looked at him for maybe 4 or 5 seconds and ran like lightning to my jeep and tore off out of there. We couldn’t talk for at least 5 minutes, finally looking at one another and yelling out, “What the f*** was that…?!!!” I’ll never forget Maui, I love her with all my heart and soul. With aloha…

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