15 Best Things to Do in Kula, Hawaii

Kula, Hawa
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The census-designated place of Kula sits on the island of Maui, stretching across the slopes of Haleakala, encompassing Makawao to Ulupalakua.

It’s a highland town, too, with many residential areas sitting comfortably at 500 to 1,100 meters above sea level.

Compared to the towns nearer the sea, Kula caters to people who want to live in Maui.

Many seaside towns are hotter and more crowded, as well.

In the Hawaiian language, Kula translates to “open meadows.”

It’s also one of Maui’s 12 foundation districts of ancient Hawaii, also called moku.

Likewise, Kula is also the largest district in Maui, covering the dry coastal areas to the pasture lands halfway up Haleakala’s slopes.

Kula also observes a rich tradition of ranching and agriculture.

Many ranches stand on the lands above the residential neighborhoods.

The district’s agricultural practices have made it a top producer of persimmons, cabbage, lettuce, and the Maui onion.

Likewise, Kula also produces several varieties of protea sold on the market.

Do you want to know more about Kula, HI?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in town:

Smell the Flowers at the Kula Botanical Garden

A gazebo surrounded by plants at Kula Botanical Garden
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In 1968, Warren and Helen McCord built a garden to showcase Warren’s landscape architecture business.

Since then, the garden has become a major tourist attraction in Kula, Hawaii, drawing thousands of guests annually.

The Kula Botanical Garden hosts roughly 2,000 species of flora and fauna endemic to Hawaii.

The family-owned garden sits on the slopes of Haleakala, with numerous brilliant and unique plants covering its eight-acre expanse.

A covered bridge at Kula Botanical Garden
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Likewise, the garden features gorgeous rock formations and energetic waterfalls.

Relax on the covered bridge or by the koi pond.

Otherwise, you can check out the birds in the aviary or visit the exhibit of carved tiki.

Your kids should also enjoy observing the Jackson chameleon exhibit or the African cranes and Nene gees in the aviary.

Don’t forget your camera before visiting the gardens unless you enjoy missing out on wonderful sights.

Tiki wood carvings at Kula Botanical Garden
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Challenge Yourself along the Waiakoa Loop Trail

If you want a reasonably difficult hiking challenge in Kula, go to the Waiakoa Loop Trail.

This 3.5-mile-long trail also doesn’t see a lot of people, adding to the challenge.

However, if you make the loop, you’ll feast your eyes on some of the most beautiful views on the island.

You can find this trail in the upcountry town of Kula, rising over 6,000 feet above sea level.

Wear a comfortable coat because temperatures at this elevation can get a little cooler than what you’re used to.

Likewise, go slow to prevent headaches.

It takes an average of 2 hours to finish the loop, so take your time.

Bring your camera to capture the gorgeous verdant island views. Bring your dog, too, but keep them on a leash.

Try Organic Vodka at the Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery

Exterior of Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery and its landscape
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This family-owned vodka distillery comprises an organic farm that spans 80 acres.

Likewise, the farm includes farms of over 30 species of Polynesian sugar cane, thriving under the hot tropical sun.

The sun also powers the distillery’s main facility, standing on the slopes of Haleakala.

Banana trees at Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery
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During your visit, you can enjoy a nice glass of organic vodka amid gorgeous views of the mountainside.

You can also join a guided tour or sample their newest products.

Then, buy a bottle and other merchandise at the distillery’s retail store.

Over the years, the distillery has perfected its organic vodka concoctions, winning several awards.

Enrich Your Spirit at the Historic Holy Ghost Mission Church

In 1879, Maui saw thousands of Portuguese Catholics immigrating from the islands of Azores and Madeira to work at the sugar plantations as contract laborers.

The immigrants brought their Catholic faith with them, along with their traditions regarding their home country’s Queen, Elizabeth.

Upon completing their contracts, they moved to Kula and became independent farmers and ranchers.

Father James Beissel designed the Holy Ghost Mission Church’s unique octagon shape, and it remains the only such church in Hawaii.

From 1894 to 1895, workers constructed the church.

Today, the Holy Ghost Mission Church has become a major tourist attraction in Maui.

Likewise, many couples get married at the historic church.

The church also belongs to an active parish that holds the annual Holy Ghost Feast, where guests can partake of tasty Portuguese sweet bread.

The Hawaii Register of Historic Places listed the building in its record in 1983.

A few years later, the National Register of Historic Places did the same.

Sample Goat Cheese at Surfing Goat Dairy

Exterior of a shed at Surfing Goat Dairy
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The one-of-a-kind dairy farm called Surfing Goat has produced several award-winning dairy products from goat milk, such as signature cheeses and goat’s milk soaps.

Regarding cheeses, the farm creates over 12 varieties of goat cheeses.

Today, Thomas and Eva Kafsack, both Germans, own the 42-acre dairy farm, established in 1998.

A goat at Surfing Goat Dairy farms
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As of 2014, the Surfing Goat is one of only two goat dairies that still operate in Hawaii.

You can find this dairy farm at the foot of the Haleakala Crater, and it’s also open for guided tours.

The guided tours let guests meet the farm’s goats and explore the farm.

Likewise, you can even try your hand at milking the goats and helping out the farmers on their evening chores.

Grab a Meal from Farm to Table at O’o Farm

Visit upcountry Maui to reach O’o Farm, a working farm that offers you tours and lets you pick your vegetables.

Likewise, the farm provides a gourmet lunch that features the vegetables you picked.

The eight-acre farm sits at an elevated slope of Haleakala, standing at 3,500 feet.

Its elevation gives you spectacular mountainside views, covering the central valley of Maui from its north to south coasts.

The O’o Farm produces coffee, fruits, lettuce, and various garden vegetables.

Their greenhouses also support tomatoes, flowers, and herbs.

What happens to these vegetables?

They get shipped to the Pacific’O Restaurant, the Feast at Lele luau, and the Aina Gourmet Market.

You’ll need to book a tour in advance before visiting.

One tour will give you a glimpse into the production of the farm’s French press coffee, complete with a tasting session and gourmet breakfast.

The lunch tour will take you through the vegetable fields, where you can pick the ones you want, which the farm will cook for lunch.

Catch the Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

Scenic view of Haleakala National Park's water
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The Haleakala National Park is massive, spanning over 30,000 acres of public land, featuring a staggering variety of landscapes.

You can explore red deserts that seem to come from Mars or traverse rock gardens near the Haleakala Crater.

Likewise, you can visit busy waterfalls and streams in the Kipahulu section of the park, by the coast.

If you plan to visit this national park, make sure to do it early in the morning.

A trail in Haleakala National Park
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Why?

The crown jewel of the Haleakala National Park is its view of the sunrise, one of the world’s most incredible sunrise views on the planet.

Even the writer Mark Twain became speechless at this spectacle.

However, if you get there in the middle of the day, you can still enjoy hiking and horseback riding along the park’s many trails.

You can also spot endangered species like the ahinahina or nene, Hawaii’s state bird.

View of the Kula mountains from Haleakala National Park
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Since the early 1970s, Curtis Wilson Cost has captured the majesty and spectacle of Hawaii through painting.

His reproductions and original paintings have earned him global acclaim and have turned his oeuvre into highly sought-after works.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to hang a Cost original in your home.

Together with his wife, Jill, Curtis opened the Curtis Wilson Cost Gallery in 1985 at the Kula Lodge.

Curtis continues to paint his home every year, constantly filling the gallery.

His work ethic has turned the gallery into the longest-running one-man art gallery in all of Hawaii.

Besides a visit to the gallery itself, the place also offers visits to Curtis’ studio showroom.

You can also buy Curtis’ original paintings and reproductions, so you can bring home a new tasteful piece of décor.

Grab Fresh Produce at the Kula Country Farms

Name sign of Kula Country Farms
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For four generations, the Monden ‘Ohana has enjoyed the bounty of the land because of their family-first attitude toward their farm.

They put love into every crop they plant, assuring them of bountiful harvests.

Today, they want to share this bounty with you. Just go to Kula Country Farms to start your healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

The Kula Country Farms has a farm stand, open six days a week, where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

Pumpkins at Kula Country Farms
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

All of these crops are grown on-site, too.

Likewise, the farm sources produce from the best farmers in the area.

Grab their famous Kula Onions and Kula Strawberries, along with asparagus, zucchini, herbs, cucumber, and many others.

You can also buy various baked goods there.

Sunflower arch for the pumpkin patch at Kula Country Farms
Kirt Edblom from Kihei, Hi, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Seek Solace in Nature at the Kula Forest Reserve

Trail maps at Kula Forest Reserve
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hawaii is one of the world’s biggest tourist magnets, with roughly 10 million tourists visiting in 2019.

In any given year, you might find more tourists than locals on these islands.

The crowds might turn off most tourists, but luckily, the islands still offer secluded spots for tourists who want to avoid people.

One of these quiet places is the Kula Forest Reserve on the island of Maui.

Climb the leeward slopes of Haleakala to reach this reserve, and see a side of Hawaii you haven’t seen before.

The reserve began in 1912 to reforest the area after decades of livestock grazing.

Today, the place is an excellent hiking and mountain biking spot.

You’ll cross open grassy overlooks and enter thick forests, each site promising a respite from the heavily trafficked tourist traps in Hawaii.

Sip Fine Wine at MauiWine

The historic ‘Ulupalakua Ranch also hosts a historic winery, MauiWine.

You can find this winery on the steep slopes of Haleakala, and it’s the oldest winery in all of the Hawaiian Islands.

After a tiring day of touristy activities, relax with a glass of the finest wines in this classic winery.

Take your pick from the winery’s comprehensive wine menu, and stretch your legs on the lanai.

Likewise, you can visit the tasting room before bringing home a bottle (or two) home.

What makes MauiWine’s selections unique?

Some of their wine doesn’t use grapes, but the signature Maui Gold Pineapples.

These delicious native pineapples give the wine a unique, yet somehow familiar, punch.

Likewise, these pineapples are also popular ingredients for other Maui foodstuffs, such as bread, cakes, desserts, and tropical drinks.

Catch the Sunset at Sun Yat-Sen Park

Aerial view of Sun Yat-Sen Park
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

In case you were wondering, the great Chinese statesman Sun Yat-Sen had deep connections with Hawaii.

From 1879 to 1912, the founding father and first president of the Republic of China lived for a time in his brothers’ house on Kula.

Sun would eventually establish the republic in 1912, replacing the ruling Qing Dynasty.

Today, you can find Sun Yat-Sen park on the Kula Highway, Route 37.

A tree at Sun Yat-Sen Park
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It sits high up, with an elevation of 2,400 feet, giving you priceless views of Kihei, Wailea, Makena, Puu Olai, and the windmills on the West Maui Mountains.

Look to the sea to find the distant islands of Molokini and Kaho’olawe.

Likewise, you’ll find several bronze statues of Sun Yat-Sen and his brother Sun Mei, along with stone dragons, a stone arch, and several unique plants.

Make sure to visit the park in the late afternoon.

You can catch the spectacular sunset from this park. Bring your camera to capture this delightful moment.

A plant and its flower at Sun Yat-Sen Park
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grab Some Ice Cream at the Haleakala Creamery

You’ll want to try the Haleakala Creamery’s unique “farm to spoon” ice cream, ranging from Chevre, Caramel, and “Goatlato” flavors.

Their ice cream also uses only the freshest local Hawaiian ingredients. What makes the Haleakala Creamery’s concoctions unique?

They use milk harvested from the 25-plus goats living on the five-acre property.

Likewise, each of the 25-plus goats has a name because they’re all part of one family.

The creamery also offers an hour-long “Farm to Spoon” tour, where you can meet the goats yourself.

During the tour, you’ll explore the entire family farm and learn about how they turn goat milk into tasty caramel sauces, cheese, and their signature “Goatlato.”

You can even try your hand at milking the goats, too.

After the tour, you’ll enjoy a gourmet tasting of their fresh cheese, caramel sauces, and the “Goatlato” ice cream.

Soar through the Skies with Paraglide Maui

A person paragliding over Maui
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Get your juices flowing by joining Paraglide Maui, which offers a suite of paragliding experiences.

You might want to begin with the “Full Paragliding Experience,” their most popular service, where you share a parachute with a trained pilot.

The journey begins when you drive from the side of Mount Haleakala to the Haleakala Watershed Preserve, with an elevation of 4,500 feet.

You’ll take two flights. The first flight will take you above the landing zone, giving you a breathtaking view of Maui.

A paraglider midair over Maui
Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, the next flight will let you experience the Maui skies with thrilling aerial maneuvers.

Each flight should last roughly four minutes, and you’ll slowly descend for 1,000 feet onto the landing zone.

This paragliding service is ideal for total first-timers to the sport.

You’ll fly with a USHPA-certified instructor who’ll help keep you safe during the drop.

So, drop your worries, run down the hill, and soar!

Explore the Woods along the Hosmer Grove Loop Trail

You can find the Hosmer Grove Loop Trail near the Haleakala National Park.

Upon entering the park premises, just turn left to reach the entrance of the loop trail.

The trail soon opens up to thick groves of sandalwood, one of the many plants deeply connected to Hawaiian history.

These plants were also highly valuable in China because they made aromatic woodcarvings and incense out of them.

However, the sandalwood forest on Hosmer Grove is one of the few of its kind remaining in Hawaii.

The Pacific shipping routes wiped out almost all of Hawaii’s sandalwood forests during the 1800s.

What remains of these forests are sandalwood pits, where tree trunks were once stored.

Besides sandalwood, the Hosmer Grove Loop Trail also presents a rich variety of plant life.

You can find spruce, eucalyptus, and pine on your hike. Bring your camera to capture this richness.

Final Thoughts

Kula is an excellent destination for tourists who might not want to join the crowds populating Hawaii’s beaches.

You can just retreat to the mountains and see the side of Hawaii you don’t see in travel brochures or TV ads.

Experience Hawaii to the fullest, and book your Kula trip today!