With its wooden storefronts, tin roofs, hitching posts from bye-gone days, and generations old family stores, Makawao town, pronounced MAH-kah- WOW, is the definition of charming. Situated on the slopes of Haleakala, where Baldwin Avenue and Makawao Avenue meet, this quaint town of about 7000 inhabitants has maintained its rustic and unique atmosphere.
Makawao’s roots are held in the paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy. Paniolo first arrived here in 1838, by order of King Kamehameha III, with the intention of training Hawaiians how to manage wild cattle. His predecessor, King Kamehameha I, first brought cattle over to Maui in 1793, placing a “kapu” (taboo) on killing the animal, so they could propagate. As years progressed, many colorful Portuguese paniolo began to populate the area; and a visit to Makawao Town will still prompt a tip of the hat from one of these rustic gentlemen.
Through the years, Plantation workers and immigrants from Japan, Korea, and China opened storefronts selling their wares, which included groceries, horse tackle, kerosene, crack seed, and dried squid. In the 1940s, some 34,000 servicemen from the 4th Marine Division made camp nearby, flooding the town with commerce. When the marines were sent home, many stores closed; and, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that new life started invigorating the town again, creating the eclectic mix that we know and love.
Komoda Store and Bakery is one establishment that has persevered through the changes. Opening their doors back in 1916, this bakery is a local tradition. Patrons get there early and form a line to pick up the infamous coco puffs, pies, or the kids favorite, doughnut on a stick.
But make no mistake, there is a touch of cosmopolitan here. Fine art galleries, cafes, and fine italian cuisine are tucked back into all of the nooks and crannies of this little town. In fact, there are so many art galleries, with work from painters, glassblowers, wood sculptors, and jewelers, that Makawao has been dubbed the “Sedona of Maui”. Shoppers can also find a plethora of locally made products like, Hawaiian quilts, soaps, mustards, and spice rubs to satisfy any craving. And, a number of high-end boutiques also reside, veiled in folksy ambiance. Meander through one afternoon and explore the many treasures of Makawao.
Points of Interest
Komoda Store and Bakery
M, T, R, F: 7am - 5pm
Sa: 7am - 2pm
W, Su: Closed
This is a Makawao Institution! It is a fourth generation owned store, known for their yummy baked treats, like macadamia nut cookies, coconut pie, coco puffs, and doughnuts. The original site was located where Polli’s Mexican Restaurant sits today; and, its said, that the new site was bought in 1945 for only $10.
Polli’s Mexican Restaurant
11am - 10pm Daily
After a hard day, locals love the mango margarita. Quaint and fun atmosphere. You’ll definitely spot a cowboy in here.
Cassanova Italian Restaurant and Deli
11:30am - 9:30pm Daily
Cassanova’s offers a deli breakfast and lunch, and fine italian for dinner. Menu items might include gourmet pizzas, creative salads, ahi sicilian, and ciopinno. This venue turns into a bar and nightclub in the evening with live music.
Makawao Steak House (a Cafe O’Lei restaurant)
Tue - Sun: 4:30pm - 9:30pm
Fried Oysters, Kobe Beef Sliders, 12 oz Hawaii Ranchers New York Steak and salad bar. A favorite for upcountry residents.
Hot Island Glass
3620 Baldwin Ave #101-A
Watch the experts handcraft unique, island-inspired pieces.
3681 Baldwin Ave.
10am - 5:30pm Daily
Tucked away on the edge of the K. Matsui Store building, this unique Herb Shop can find a natural solution to heal your ailments. They also offer fresh teas, that patrons choose from large clear glass containers. The next best thing to an apothecary!
Seabury Hall and Campus
480 Olinda Rd.
Gorgeous campus, where the cream of the crop students attend a cutting edge high school with advanced curriculum. The grounds are stunning and worth a look around.
Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center
2841 Baldwin Ave.
Fine art studio, gallery, with a variety of art classes available.
Makawao Union Church
1445 Baldwin Ave.
Non-denominational church built in 1861. Beautiful stone church with lovely stained glass.
FREE - Limited street parking
FREE - Large public parking lot behind Stop Watch Bar & Grill on Makawao Avenue
Ongoing and Annual Events
Friday Town Party (3rd Friday)
Happening the 3rd Friday of every month from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.; As part of Maui’s ongoing Friday town parties, Makawao is happening on 3rd Fridays! The streets are blocked off to allow for food trucks, craft vendors, and live music. Come be part of the fun and community!
Obon Dance and Festival
Annual event in late July at the Makawao Hongwanji Mission on Makawao Avenue. The event includes ceremonial clothing, dancing, and drums. There are food and baked items for sale.
The Makawao Rodeo
Annual Fourth of July celebration. The town has a modest parade to kick off the festivities, of this more than 50 year old paniolo tradition. The rodeo and bull bash take place on Olinda Road at the Oskie Rice Arena.
Seabury Craft Festival
Annual Event the day before Mothers Day, in which you will find an assortment of unique, hand made gifts, treats, and treasures. Live music and a kids zone.
Upcountry Ag Festival
Annual Event in June. More arts & crafts from the good people of Upcountry Maui. Great local food from the unique mix of cultures that call Makawao home. Try the Pilipino pork Adobo or fried banana lumpia.
Get the best price and vehicle for your Maui car rental.
Zipline along the slopes of Haleakala with great views and excitement.
Maui has incredible mountain biking, especially in Makawao.
View this post on Instagram
Ke'anae Taro House by @tourmaui - The Ke’anae Peninsula was created from an immense lava flow originating from #HaleakalaCrater. Centuries ago Hawaiians brought soil down, by hand, from the mountains to create the #KeanaePeninsula. Their amazing display of physical labor is a testament to how revered this land is in Hawaiian culture. #maui #hawaii