Makawao, the Cowboy Capital of Upcountry Maui

By Kyle Ellison
makawao

Makawao “welcome” sign. Photo: Dana.

Maui only has a handful of towns that don’t have any stoplights, and one of those is Makawao—the cowboy capital of Upcountry.

Here in this two street, one stop sign town, life continues to drift along as it has for generations, where ranchers, farmers, artists, and yogis all form an eclectic, tight-knit community that’s unlike anywhere on Maui.

Get a Taste of Makawao’s Old School Charm

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Crossroad @ Makawao Town. Photo: Prayitno.

To get a taste of this old school charm, grab a coffee at Casanova deli and sit on the street-facing porch, where Upcountry locals have quaffed caffeine since 1986. Over the course of your morning brew, you’re likely to overhear conversations between clusters of New Age townsfolk, who discuss the benefits of harnessing our energies and the power of positive thinking. The vibe continues at Dragon’s Den, where locals shop for holistic medicine, herbs, and natural remedies, as well as in Makawao’s colorful shops full of global, exotic imports.

Annual Makawao Parade and Rodeo

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Makawao Rodeo. Photo: Kent Buckingham.

Aside from the artisan shops and lifestyles, the other side of Makawao is gruff and classically country, where ranchers still gather around the bar after long days out in the pasture, and wild chickens casually cluck and strut their way across town.

While paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboys, no longer tie up their horses to hitching posts that line the length of downtown, horses in trailers hitched firmly to trucks still rattle their way down the road. Visit around the 4th of July, and the town comes alive with the clop of hooves during the popular Makawao Parade, before the party moves to Oskie Rice arena for the bull-riding, calf-wrangling, barrel racing spectacle that’s the annual Makawao Rodeo.

Komoda Store and Bakery

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Komoda’s. Photo: Mark Faviell.

Even when it isn’t rodeo time, however, visitors will still get that old country feel when casually strolling through Makawao, despite the fact that trendy boutiques now inhabit the wood-shingled storefronts. If Komoda bakery is open when you visit, grab a perfectly glazed “Stick” donut from the family-run establishment, which in 2016 celebrated 100 years of satisfying Makawao’s sweet tooth. Or, for a classic Makawao happy hour, belly up to the bar at Polli’s, a favorite Mexican restaurant, where locals have sipped on margaritas since 1981.

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