Home to about 7,000 people, Makawao is known as paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country. Makawao is considered the hub of the scenic Upcountry Maui region which also includes the towns of Pukalani, Kula, Keokea and Ulupalakua on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano.
The rustic charm of Makawao gives it a Wild West feel that is enhanced by the many cowboy-themed shops and restaurants. Makawao also offers boutique shopping as well as a thriving arts community with numerous art galleries.
Makawao town is 1,639 ft (500 m) above sea level, making the temperature a bit cooler than Maui’s coastal towns. An agriculture and ranching community, Makawao is often visited by people driving to the summit of Haleakala Volcano.
Every year on the Fourth of July weekend, the Makawao Rodeo celebrates the town’s paniolo past with horseback-riding, barrel racing, cattle wrangling, bareback bronco riding, calf roping and other rodeo competitions. The Makawao Rodeo has been held annually for more than a half century and also features a parade with many paniolos and townsfolk.
Makawao’s cattle raising history dates back to the late 1700s when the first cattle were brought to the Islands. The term paniolos comes from the Spaniards (Espaniolo) who were brought by King Kamehameha III to teach locals the skills of raising and herding cattle.
A popular attraction in Makawao is the Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center set in an old mansion on Baldwin Avenue. The Center features gallery exhibits and offers various lectures, classes and arts-related programs. Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center also has botanical gardens and a gift shop.
Another stop in Makawao is the T. Komoda Store which was established in 1916 by Japanese plantation worker Takezo Komoda. Today the small store and bakery continues a thriving business.
From its rich paniolo heritage to the variety of interesting shops and lively arts community, Makawao is an enjoyable place to spend a Maui afternoon.