Explore Makawao’s Arts

By Hawaii.com Team

Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center, Maui. Photo: Terry Feuerborn.

Located on the road to Haleakala National Park, the town of Makawao is a fine destination unto itself. One of several small Upcountry Maui communities sprinkled throughout the area, Makawao has gone from being a sleepy ranch town to … well, a slightly more awake (and occasionally eccentric) artists’ community. Even so, the town retains much of its “paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town” flair, with its assortment of coffee shops, galleries, bookstores and eateries still housed in the wooden, false-front buildings that not so long ago served patrons arriving in town on horseback.

One of Maui’s best-kept secrets is actually located about five minutes outside of the Makawao proper, on scenic Baldwin Avenue (which connects the oceanfront town of Pa’ia with the Upcountry region). The Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center (2841 Baldwin Avenue) traces its history back to 1917, when the huge, Mediterranean-style mansion that houses it was built as the residence of Harry and Ethel Baldwin. Ethel, herself an artist, originally formed the “Hui No’eau” (that is, “artistic club”) in 1934. More than four decades later, her grandson, Colin Cameron, arranged for the Baldwin property to become home for the non-profit arts center. Today, the center offers something for everyone: Some of Maui’s best artists are often exhibited in the mansion’s airy gallery; classes are taught in other buildings sprinkled across the estate; there is an excellent gift shop and, what’s more, the public is welcome to wander the grounds — an excellent opportunity for a picnic with stunning views of Haleakala and the Puʻu Kukui (a.k.a. West Maui Mountains).

From Hui Noʻeau, it’s just a stone’s throw to Makawao proper, where there are plenty of low-key food and shopping options. The best known of the restaurants here is undoubtedly Casanova Italian Restaurant and Deli, which serves a mid-priced lunch and dinner and becomes a nightspot with live music in the later part of the evening. Meanwhile, a browse through any of the dozen or so galleries will turn up art for all tastes — much of it produced by the friendly cadre of artists who also mind the stores. Visit, for instance, Hot Island Glass (3620 Baldwin Avenue, suite 101-A), which is run by glass artists Chris Lowry and Chris Richards — either one of whom can be found here blowing glass every day of the week.

And of course, if you happen to be in town on July 4 and want a taste of Makawao’s paniolo past, be sure to check out the annual rodeo, which is one of the largest in the Islands.

To get to Makawao, simply head uphill on Baldwin Avenue from Paʻia town, or do the same on the Haleakala Highway, a five-minute drive east of the Kahului airport.

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