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?
TK: 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