The turnoff signs for the small towns that stretch across the cool, green and serene belt of pastures, farms and forests of Upcountry Maui begin as you ascend past the 1,000-foot elevation of Haleakala volcano.
At the 4,000-foot level, Alii Kula Lavender offers tours of its 13.5 acre farm.
The lavender grown on the farm infuses a multitude of farm-made products from personal to baked goods such as ...
... these lavender scones.
Paragliders cruise in for a landing on the windy, mist-kissed pastures neighboring Alii Kula Lavender Farm.
At New York-trained chef Justin Pardo's airy, popular Makawao town eatery Market Fresh Bistro, 85 percent of the menu is Maui grown or raised. Sister Olivia Coletti is manager of the restaurant.
A salad of Upcountry Maui-produced rainbow tomatoes and goat cheese fritters at Market Fresh Bistro. The tomatoes are from Tamimi Farms and the goat cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy, both located near Makawao.
Chef Justin's ragout of lamb from Haleakala Ranch and Kula tomatoes. "All of farmers are less than 10 miles away," says Pardo of his produce suppliers. "We call, ask them what they have, they deliver to us, and it's on the menu."
"Every single vegetable on that plate is from Maui," says Pardo, presenting this salad of snap peas, mixed greens, carrots and two types of radish (black and watermelon) and beets (golden and red). When we ask about the amazingly flavorful fresh beets, he puts us in touch with ...
... Janet Simpson who, with husband Jerry Ross, raised the beets at their all-organic Kupaa Farms, on the Kula district's warmer lower elevations.
Kupaa Farms raises more than 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables—like the dry-land taro seen here—on just four acres, for a fortunate handful of Maui locavore chefs.
Makawao Garden Cafe owner/chef Kathy Sparks exits the kitchen with a quartet of the eatery's tasty fresh-made sandwiches and salads.
Makawao Garden Cafe is situated in a sidewalk shopping alley, whose regulars include at least one four-legged patron who appreciates the sunny outdoor seating area.
Our menu favorites at Makawao Garden Cafe include this turkey avocado sandwich and a to die for baby brie, bacon and tomato sandwich on housemade foccacia.
Kula Country Farms roadside stand off Kula Highway is busy year-round for its wide selection of Upcountry Maui-grown produce. Here, a couple of feathered farm residents some grab breakfast before the stand opens for business.
Kula Country Farms' owner/grower Chauncey Monden with a handful of his farm's sweet Maui onions.
In the bins of Monden's Kula Country Farms stand are not just his family farm's fresh-picked corn ...
... and famously sweet Kula strawberries ...
... but produce from farms throughout Kula, such as these tomatoes.
Want to pick your own Kula Country Farms strawberries? Follow the rules and you're good to go.
Keokea-raised Isaac Bancaco (right) inspects gourmet lettuces at Waipoli Hydroponic Greens with farm co-owner Geoff Haines. The executive chef at the Grand Wailea Resort's Humuhumunukunukuapuaa restaurant, Bancaco orders as much produce as he can get from farmers in his hometown district.
Says Bancaco of Kula farms like Waipoli Hydroponic, "When I buy produce from Upcountry, guests get to enjoy it within a day to three days after it is picked. I won't get that if I buy from the Mainland, or even Oahu and the Big Island. Plus, it's the best produce in the world."
Keokea's landmark Grandma's Coffee House.
Rustic, inviting Grandma's Coffee House is a must-stop for breakfast and a cup of its house-grown, house-roasted coffee.
The selection of delicious house-made baked goods at Grandma's is also the stuff of Upcountry Maui legend. Try the lilikoi cheesecake, pineapple banana dream cake and ...
... locally-famous coffee cake.
The menu at Grandma's Coffee House at lunch includes plate lunch specials such as this Italian baked chicken ...
... shoyu chicken ...
... and fresh made sandwiches ...
Keokea businesses such as Grandma's Coffee House and Ching Store are the final stops before heading further down Kula Highway and through the rolling pastureland of Ulupalakua Ranch and settlement, with its sweeping south Maui views.
Maui's Winery is found at Ulupalakua Ranch and Settlement on Kula Highway. The winery's tasting room is a former ranch cottage built for King David Kalakaua to use during visits to Ulupalakua.
Afternoons find Maui Winery's tasting room filled with vino lovers downing sample pours of its grape and pineapple wines.
The lovely, manicured grounds of Maui's Winery is a welcome sight at the end of the drive to Ulupalakua ranching settlement.
Come harvest time, everyone on staff at Maui's Winery, from pourers to executives, works the Kula vineyards.
Afternoon scene at Ulupalakua settlement.
Jerry Thompson has worked the lands surrounding Thompson Ranch Riding Stables since he was a child.
Andrea (left) and Toni Thompson—Jerry's daughter and wife, respectively—guide trail rides on the emerald hills of the family's wondrously scenic property.
The Thompson family's 1,400 acres rise from the 3,500- to 6,500-foot elevations of Haleakala volcano.
Owner Jerry Thompson's father originally purchased the acreage in 1902 as a cattle ranching operation. The family has hosted trail rides on the vast property since 1970, making it one of the longest-operating riding stables on Maui.
Thompson's hard-working ranch dogs.
Horses and goat roam Thompson's ranch freely.
Haliimaile Pineapple Co. grows its famously sweet Maui Gold brand pineapple on 1,000 upcountry acres.
Haliimaile Pineapple Co. took over the Maui Gold pineapple brand when Maui Land & Pineapple announced in 2009 that it would shut down production.
Haliimaile Pineapple Co. vice president Rudy Balala with a pair of fresh-cut, Maui Gold's best. "Pineapple needs hot days and cold nights. That's why this area is perfect," says Balala.
Maui Gold is planted, hand-cut, washed and packed at the company's Haliimaile town production facility.
The appeal of the zipline course at Skyline Eco-Adventures Haleakala is dashing under the canopy of a lush eucalyptus grove on the slopes of the volcano.
The building occupied by Maui chef Bev Gannon's bright, airy Haliimaile General Store restaurant for the last 25 years first opened as a pineapple plantation store in 1925.
Kiawe plank roasted salmon, Hawaiian sea salt roasted fingerling potatoes and arugula salad, from the dinner menu, at Haliimaile General Store restaurant.
Sashimi napoleon—smoked salmon, ahi tartare, ahi sashimi, between crispy won tons and dressed with wasabi vinaigrette—at Haliimaile General Store restaurant.
Rock shrimp tempura—with truffle honey, spicy miso and sweet soy tobiko aioli dipping sauces—at Haliimaile General Store restaurant.
Surfing Goat Dairy produces more than two dozen varieties of fresh goat cheese on a 42-acre farm in lower Kula.
Just made goat cheese "biscuits" dry before ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes, macadamia nuts, garlic, chives or jalapeños are added.
Surfing Goat Dairy began operations with 44 goats. This was the herd number when we visited, which included 85 milking goats.
Cassidy Berg makes some new friends on one of Surfing Goat Dairy's farm and goat-milking tours.
Dog days under the milking line at Surfing Goat Dairy.
The wood-fired Margherita pizza and sunset view at Kula Lodge Restaurant.
Kula greens salad at Kula Lodge Restaurant.
Roadside view near Waipoli town.
Afternoon pastoral view on the Haleakala volcano summit drive.
The breakfast table at Hale Hookipa Inn in Makawao always includes fresh-cut fruit—banana, mango, lilikoi, guava and anything else in season—from innkeeper Cherie Attix's backyard.
Hale Hookipa Inn's parlor. Attix opened the near century-old former ranch residence as an inn in 1994, and has restored much of it herself.
Attix, who once owned an antique store, has filled Hale Hookipa's interiors with vintage books, lighting and tchotchkes. She even restored some of the furniture herself. "I especially like period pieces from Hawaii's plantation history," she says.
Twelve-year Ulupalakua settlement resident Candice Riddle runs a roadside stand near her home, selling baked snacks and eggs from her free-range hens. Her home, Sunset Farms, was once a recording studio used by Steely Dan and other musicians. "It's a great big insulated box, and I live in the little control room," says Riddle.
A small roadside park in Keokea honors Chinese revolutionary and political leader Sun Yat-sen, who, in the late 19th century, briefly lived in the area as a child.
Lion statue at Sun Yat-sen Park.
An long-abandoned vehicle near Ulupalakua settlement becomes a roadside canvas for amateur artists.
Single lane Waipoli Road climbs through 21,000-acre Kula Forest Reserve to Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area.
Polipoli's cloud-level roads and trails along Haleakala's southeastern ridge are popular with ATV riders and experienced hikers.
The winding, 22-mile Crater Road through Haleakala National Park to the 10,023-foot volcano's summit begins in Kula.
The native and imported trees and shrubs on the hiking trails of Hosmer's Grove in Haleakala National Park were planted in 1916 by forester Ralph Hosmer who hoped to launch a timber industry in the area.
Found alongside stands of eucalyptus, pine, spruce and cedar at Hosmer's Grove, are native Hawaii plants such as iliahi, akala and hinahina.
Rainbow-colored slice of life on the road to Haleakala's summit.