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Exploring: Island Tours > Maui > Upcountry
Haleakala, the massive volcano that is at the heart of Maui's torso, offers a spectacular experience of varied landscapes and panoramic views. The lush western slopes of the mountain are called upcountry, a name that expresses both an area and a way of life. To the north of the town of Makawao, people live a bit differently than those down below. They stoke their fireplaces at night to ward off the chill; they grow cool weather crops such as lettuce, tomatoes, sweet onions, and even potatoes. There are flower farms growing carnations and exotic protea, ranches manned by modern-day paniolo, and even a winery.
It's best to see Haleakala, the House of the Sun, early in the morning before the clouds that usually gather before mid-morning. If you can lug yourself out of bed in the dark, a favorite way to experience the crater is to watch the sunrise over the rim. Bring some breakfast and a thermos of coffee if you want to stay and explore. Also, be sure to dress warmly (the morning air is quite cold at 10,000 feet), and check the weather so you don't spend your visit wrapped in clouds.
You may want to spend more than a day on the majestic mountain, as seeing Haleakala may not leave you enough time to visit other upcountry sites. But here's an itinerary, beginning with the House of the Sun and then driving down through upcountry Maui:
Haleakala National Park: The park encompasses more than 27,000 acres of the mountain with terrain that includes the crater moonscape, forests, desert, and tropical valleys. The 7-mile long crater is actually a valley created by erosion of wind and rain and pocked with small volcanic cinder cones formed during volcanic eruptions. It is home to the famous yet endangered silversword plant, a yucca-like plant with a huge flowering stalk. Many visitors come to see Haleakala's flora, fauna, and fabulous views, but others come just to experience the unique energy of the place. In ancient times, only kahuna lived here, drawing from the volcano's power.
Now, many modern spiritual types do the same, finding a sojourn on the mountain an encounter with cosmic energy. Whatever you seek or find there, don't miss out on a visit.
Kula Botanical Gardens offers a nice hike through five acres of trees and flowering bushes including native koa and kukui trees. Picnic facilities are provided.
Polipoli State Park features groves of imported trees, eucalyptus, cypress, sugi pines, and redwoods. The 1.7 mile Redwood Trail is a quiet, serene walk in the woods.
Tedeschi Vineyards and Winery is the island's only winery offering various wines made from local grapes and from pineapple. You can tour the winery and have a tasting -- but beware, the drive down hill is still long and winding.
There are a number of gardens and flower farms in Kula, where you can tour and also ship gift boxes of protea and other flowers fresh or dried.
Makawao is one of the few places on Maui that hasn't changed too much, although its old buildings now house some rather fashionable shops and galleries and a number of good restaurants. Despite this gentrification, cowboys still tie their horses to the hitching posts, and there are saddleries, feed stores and several rodeos during the year, the most popular held on the Fourth of July.
Olinda Road is a lovely drive through some of Maui's most beautiful country. It won't take you anywhere but up and down, but its scenery will make you wonder where you are, in Hawaii or New England?
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