Lavender and Lunch near Kula: Maui Upcountry Road Trip

Lavender and Lunch near Kula: Maui Upcountry Road Trip
The road out of Makawao passes through sugar cane fields, where you can glimpse the ocean through the waving grasses. I turned my car onto state Route 37 and headed toward Kula, home of the Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm.

The Haleakala crater, the remnant of a once-active volcano, dominates Upcountry Maui, and the soil on the leeward side supports many farms, including this one, which looks like something you'd see in Provence. The sustainable farm sits at a 4,000-foot elevation, which offers perfect cool weather for the 55,000 lavender plants. It's a popular place for a picnic (the farm charges $3 just to get in), and there are daily tours ($12) as well as frequent gardening and crafting classes.

Road Trip Starting Point:
Exploring Maui's Upcountry

I took a look at the tours but decided that it would be more fun to meander the purple-flowered hillside on my own, despite the rain clouds I saw rolling in from the mountains. Bees buzzed around the rows, and the air smelled like a spa, au natural; this relaxed me far more than any yoga class would. Before I left, I bought a lavender scone from the farm's gift shop to eat later.

Back in Makawao, Rene Wineland -- owner of the shop Aloha Cowboy -- had given me a quick synopsis of Maui's ranching history: In the 1830s, a few decades after cattle had been introduced to the island, Kamehameha III invited Spanish-Mexican vaqueros to capture and slaughter the beasts, which had been running free and causing problems. These vaqueros, along with the Hawaiians they brought into the business, became the paniolos, the Hawaiian cowboys.

At 20,000 acres, Ulupalakua Ranch remains one of the biggest of Maui's ranching tracts, where the Erdman family raises elk as well as cattle. You can sample both meats in burger form at the ranch's Grill (I saw a few people buying steaks to bring back to their condos). While both sounded great, I couldn't resist the opportunity to indulge in another Hawaiian staple, a BBQ kalua pig sandwich, and took it to the lawn's picnic tables. The pork tasted succulent, with a tangy sauce. Even the bun was grilled, a nice touch.

Right across the road from the grill sits Maui's Winery, located in a ranch guest house that was built for King Kalakaua, a frequent visitor back in the 1870s. Also known as Tedeschi Vineyards, the winery is the only commercial one on the island and has red, white and fruit varietals. I skipped the tour, opting for a free tasting of pineapple wine instead. Swirl, sip -- ugh, too sweet. I skipped buying a bottle.

Maui Upcountry Road Trip Stop Four: Hanging 10 with the Goats >>
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Malasadas in Makawao

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