Makawao Hawaii is one of the only towns in upland (interior) Maui where tourists visit in any numbers. There are no beaches and no surfing, no snorkeling or bikini shops, and hardly a kitschy souvenir to be found. What a Makawao vacation can offer you is a fascinating glimpse into a little-known piece of island history, peaceful and beautiful countryside with breathtaking views of the ocean far below, and a picturesque village with the rustic charm of an Old West frontier town. Makawao attractions even include an excellent 18-hole golf course at the Pukalani Country Club, overlooking the ocean.
Makawao Hawaii is located about fifteen miles east of Kahului, up on the slopes of Haleakala. Makawao travel is accessible only by car rentals via Highway 37, called the Haleakala Highway, which begins off the Hana Road not far from the Kahului Airport.
The unique history you can experience on a Makawao vacation concerns the Hawaiian cowboys, called paniolos. The first cattle on the islands, a gift to King Kamehameha I, arrived in 1793. This domestic cattle was added to the native wild cattle (pipi ahui), which were hunted for their meat and tallow. Soon, the cattle trade flourished, with the country of Chile as one of the main markets. King Kamehameha III brought the first vaqueros from Santa Cruz in Mexico to the islands in 1830 to teach the local ranchers how to herd cattle and domesticate the wild breed. These cowboys and wranglers became known as paniolos, a Hawaiianization of the word Espaniolo, meaning Spaniard. These were the first cowboys in what is now the United States, wrangling cattle long before the days of the Old West.
Many of the paniolos came to Maui and gravitated to the various cattle ranches, including the Ulupalakua Ranch on the western slopes of Haleakala and near Kihei. This is still an active cattle ranch, as well as the location of the Tedeschi Winery. Others came to Makawao Hawaii and the Haleakala Ranch, also still an active cattle ranch and polo team training center that additionally provides adventure activities and other outdoor things to do in the region. The cattle would be driven down the volcano slopes into Lahaina and to a slaughterhouse on Honolua Bay, near Kapalua. Today, one of the Kapalua surfing beaches is still named Slaughterhouse Beach.
If your Makawao travel occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, you can enjoy a demonstration of paniolo horsemanship at the weekend rodeos. On the fourth of July, the state’s largest paniolo competition is held here. In addition to the rodeo events, you can enjoy country-western dancing, a big parade, and other festivities.
There are very few Makawao hotels right in town, but your Makawao vacation can take advantage of some charming bed and breakfast inns and beautiful secluded retreats in the surrounding countryside, some of which are full-service Maui spas. Makawao travel is also rewarding even if you’re not spending the night here, but simply driving across the center of the island from Kahului or Paia to the western coast. You can stop for a visit giving you a little cowboy flavor and can browse the numerous art galleries, craft shops, and boutiques.