Maui is paradise. From the ocean beaches to the top of the volcano, down the winding, coastal road to Hana and through the upcountry cowboy towns and ranches. We love it there. My family recently got to spend a couple weeks in Maui and we were fortunate to experience a wide variety of life on the island beyond the regular tourist stops. Maui is breathtakingly gorgeous and you can't help but imagine what life could be like there. Like our home here in Seattle, the islanders are growing more involved with how the land is managed and how it directly affects the people, plants and animals on the island and in the ocean life surrounding them, including this humpback whale we saw. Most of the valley between the Haleakala Crater and West Maui Mountain is covered in sugar cane fields, and as you drive up the mountain highway you see farms tucked in every corner - many with views of the island below them. Our favorite area of the island is between Paia and Makawao, a stretch of Baldwin Avenue between the hippy town at the beach and the cowboy town up the mountain. It is bordered by ranchland stretching down the mountain side with sweeping views of the ocean, small fruit farms and old plantation houses.
Keep going a little further to Ulupalakua and you'll wind up a stone's throw from Oprah's Maui Farm and a pineapple winery, and you'll pull into Grandma's Place for a steaming cup of Maui grown coffee, a cinnamon roll and the best omelets and breakfast sandwiches around. It's the kind of place where the wide plank floors have seen a hundred years of cowboy boots and flip flops, and the wooden screen door will forever screech and slam every time it's opened. The Hawaiian music is overlaid with rooster crows and the "barista" hasn't heard of a flat white yet. (We actually overheard two fancy women trying to explain to the poor girl how to make one. I rolled my eyes at least a dozen times...it just isn't the place for that ladies!) You may have just come from braving the freezing wet wind at the top of the crater to watch the sunrise like we did, and even though it's quickly warming up into the 70's we were still layered like eskimos trying to regain feeling in our fingers and toes. While staying in Paia, we took a road trip to a family farm in Kula, up the mountain a ways and ate a basket of fresh strawberries while playing in the kids area...you can't believe the view that a farm has up there - wide open skies and slopes down to the sugar cane fields and ocean below.
Close by is Surfing Goat Dairy, an organic, solar powered goat dairy farm that produces amazing goat cheeses, truffles and soaps used all over the island. How can it not be amazing when the goats get to live in such a peaceful place!
We thought it would be a good day to drive the winding, hairpin road to Hana - thinking for sure that our kids were tired and cranky enough to just fall asleep and we could have a couple hours of peaceful driving through the rainforest. We were so wrong! Like any great plan that involves kids, it always goes sideways right?? But it led to the most beautiful stopover of our entire trip!
We decided to turn down a random road to get banana bread on a peninsula we once stopped at our last time there 5 years ago down the Keanae Road. Of course the two girls sitting at the table by the banana bread stand were eating the very last one and our kids were wailing from being hungry, tired, cranky and basically being young kids on a long windy roadtrip. (Are we out of the forest yet??) Did I glare at them on my way back to the car?? Maybe. We kept driving around the peninsula and came to a wide open playing field across from the craggy shore, backed by an old stone church, then family farms, then the mountain swelling up behind that. Gorgeous. We threw rocks and broken up coral pieces into the water, played barefoot tag and fed them all the remaining snacks that were considered atrocious five minutes before.
While walking the backside of this field I was checking out the cows and vegetable gardens just beyond, and I locked eyes with the farmer and gave a little wave. What was it like to live there, growing food just like his ancestors had done for hundreds of years before him? In the shadow of the mountain, a hundred yards from the ocean, on this tiny Hawaiian outcrop of land on top of lava fields? It was idyllic. At least to my visiting eyes.