Friday, May 28, 2010

Kula, as in Cool

About midway between sea level and the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala is Kula, a miles-long run of pastures, flower beds (including proteas), and old-timey businesses strung along sections of a two-lane highway and rural roads. Bring a jacket, since it is chilly at 4,000 feet, but also bring open expectations to find some really kool stuff. The airborne view is across Maui toward the West Maui Mountains, as well as the three other outer islands.

Kula Lodge, draws a lunch crowd, and next door, the Kula Marketplace will fill the bill for gourmet picnic foods and a surprising array of gift ideas and artwork. Down the road is Kula Gardens, Maui's oldest botanical garden and a family-pleaser. Jog off road a tad to see the movie-like setting of Kula Sanatorium (now a medical center) then keep curling around the mountain to Sun Yat Sen Park, a tribute to Kula's Chinese heritage.

Around the bend from the park is Tedeschi Vineyards, the most popular stop in the Kula area. It's been around since 1974, taking over the historic James Makee estate, which was a favorite retreat for King David Kalakaua (Hawaii's last king) and hosted writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Taste sparkling wines made from pineapple and tour the arboretum. The winery is right next to Ulupalakua Ranch, and real live paniolos (cowboys) may be around the country store.

Make sure to veer off the highway and take sections of Kula Road. You'll find quirky places like Cafe' 808, Morihara Store, and the Church of the Holy Ghost, an octagonal edifice built in 1894. For more details, see Maui Trailblazer, pages 143-151 and pages 162-163.