Tip: This small town opened Hawaii's first sugar mill in 1835.

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Upcountry Maui: Home of the Paniolo

"Makawao" — Hawaiian for "where the forest begins" — reflects the eclectic nature of Maui's diverse and changing community. The historic building facades and the old hitching post on Baldwin Avenue could be the set of a western movie. But today you're more likely to see bicycle riders than cattle stampeding through the
center of town. Hundreds of riders coast down from Haleakala each day on their trip from summit to sea.

Fourth of July weekend is a big deal in Makawao. Maui County holds its yearly parade here and the local Roping Club hosts Hawaii's biggest rodeo of the year.

More and more though, Makawao is shedding its Wild West image to reflect the multi-cultural origins of Maui's newest wave of inhabitants; artists and musicians, spiritual healers, teachers and seekers, alternative health professionals, herbalists, acupuncturists, body workers, naturopathic and holistic physicians.

A bookstore in the center of town serves as a gateway to this vital alternative community. Spiritual counselors are available daily for readings in the store that brims with books, and there are CDs and gifts for adventurous and inquiring minds.

One of the island's best-loved Italian restaurants shares the town's only crossroads with a Mexican tavern and a wholesome food cafe with many vegetarian dishes. Here, too, you will find some of the island's most romantic residences nestled between eucalyptus trees or overlooking a picturesque horse pasture. If you take the time to mingle with local folks, they might tell you where to find that magic trail in the forest or that hidden waterfall.

Spend some time sipping cappuccino on the porch of the local deli, overlooking the town's traffic. That's what everybody else does when they want to know the latest gossip in the community. Only a mile and a half off the highway to Haleakala and six miles from the road to Hana, Makawao is a good place to discover the pulse of Maui.

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