Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country

Looking West from the Kula Highway

Too much sun or just looking for something new to do? Consider a drive to Kula and through the Up Country on the western slope of Mount Haleakala. It’s shorter (and easier) than a drive to Hana. You won’t see any magnificant waterfalls or show-stopping marvels, but there are fabulous panoramic views and several places worth a visit. In the picture to the right you can see the Island of Kahoolawe, the cinder cone by Big Beach, and the tiny crescent of Molokini. Click on the photo to to enlarge. Farther to the right (outside the photo) is a great view of the West Maui Mountains, Maalaea Bay, the Island of Lanai and, if the clouds aren’t in the way, Molokai.

It’s not far from Kihei to Kula as the crow flies (or Oprah drives). But unless you’re a crow or have a key to Oprah’s private road, you have to go through Kahului before you head uphill. (See our post What’s Up with Oprah and Maui? if that’s confusing.) As you get to Kahului, head toward the airport then turn right onto the Hana Highway. Turn right again at the stoplight a few miles down and follow the signs to the Haleakala Highway. It starts getting interesting from Pukalani on. For this post, ignore the cutoff to Haleakala National Park, we’re staying on the Kula Highway.

While a trip to the Up Country is about the journey and not the destination, there are fun things to see and do as you drive the Kula Highway. Sadly, our favorite botanical garden, Enchanting Floral Gardens, closed at the end of 2011, another casualty of 9/11. (Long sad story.) Continue on to Keokea where you’ll find a small but lovely Catholic Church (especially inside), a small county park (with the only public restrooms in town), an art gallery and Grandma’s Coffee House. (See our Grandma’s Coffee House posting – you’ll want to stop for the locally grown fresh-roasted coffee, a snack, or a meal.)

View from Sun Yat-Sen Park with Kihei in the distance

Look for the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park between mileposts 18 and 19. It’s very small but it has a couple of cool statues, picnic tables, and a terrifc outlook. (Notice how close you are to Kihei in this photo!) The park grounds were donated by Ulupalakula Ranch and the improvements by the Sun Yat-Sen Foundation for Peace and Education. Often called “the father of modern China,” Sun Yat-Sen was a pre-communist revolutionary who lead the overthrow of the Quin Dynasty in 1911. A nice place to enjoy a picnic.

Past the park the road narrows and winds through pasture lands. The occasional house may be luxurious, ordinary, or “rustic.” The views, however, just don’t stop.

There’s not a lot of traffic on this road but people coming the other way may have been imbibing at the Tedeschi Winery where the samples are free or the Ulupalakua Ranch Store and Grill (where they’re not). I wouldn’t worry though – it’s probably more dangerous on South Kihei Road. And speaking of the Winery and the Ranch Store and Grill, that’s our next stop.

The Ulupalakua Store and Grill

The Ulupalakua Ranch and the Tedeschi Winery are well worth a visit. In the photo to the right, Kathy is making friends with some of the locals. I think they’re a little shy.The old guys sitting on the bench, and other solid country folk about the place, are a foretaste of what’s inside. There are the normal souvenirs, local arts and crafts, and so forth. But there are also old and sometimes odd things. One sign on the wall says “Bad decisions make for good stories.” A look around and a hamburger or sandwich from the grill won’t make a great story but it wouldn’t be a bad decision. You can eat there or take your food across the road to one of the picnic tables on the winery grounds.

Unlike a lot of wineries, tasting at the Tedeschi Winery is free. I’m not going to give a review here but if you like sweet wine (think pineapples), you may like what they have to offer. Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan of sweet wine. Like I said, it’s the journey, not the destination.

The small grounds around the tasting room are very nice with some amazing tree specimens. Check out this one!

If you drive the Kula Highway you get to do it twice. Unless you plan to keep on going you’ll eventually have to stop and turn around and the Ulupalakua Ranch and Winery are as good a place as any. The views are just as fine in the other direction.

There’s lots more to see and do on the roads above Kula – not the least Haleakala National Park – but I’ll save that for future posts.

One response to “Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country

  1. Pingback: Haleakala National Park – Come Prepared | Welcome to Maui

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