Maui, with its beautiful beaches and postcard scenery, gives travelers plenty of reasons to visit, but the Valley Isle is also known for its bustling farm-to-table scene and locally made products. Small towns bring out the best of Maui’s flavors, offering unique tours and experiences to indulge. The walkable streets of Pa‘ia and Lāhainā, for example, are lined with small cafés and aromatic restaurants that deserve an afternoon or evening to explore.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, isle entrepreneurs, farmers, tastemakers and foodies have worked hard to keep this innovative culinary destination available for kama‘āina and visitors with new health and safety measures. We encourage our guests to explore respectfully and kōkua by wearing a face mask while observing all county and business protocols.
Support Local Farmers at the Upcountry Farmers Market
Among the vast rolling hills of Haleakalā is the town of Kula, where slow, rustic vibes meet sweeping views of Lāna‘i, Kaho‘olawe, Molokini crater, and the West Maui Mountains. The area, known as Upcountry Maui, sits high on the crisp, fertile slopes of the dormant volcano and is home to communities deeply rooted in agriculture and caring for the land.
The Upcountry Farmers Market, open every Saturday, is a core hub for many of Kula’s ranchers, farmers and artisans, and is a popular stop. Shoppers can browse vendor tents filled with tropical bouquets, fresh honey, freshly harvested produce, grab-and-go meals, rustic bread, local clothing brands, and more.
When you visit, remember to wear your mask at all times and carry hand sanitizer in your reusable shopping bag as social distancing can be difficult during peak hours. While many vendors accept credit cards, we recommend also bringing cash (ATMs are available in a shopping center adjacent to the market).
Sip and Savor Maui-Grown Wines
MauiWine is among Kula’s best-known purveyors and the only winery in Hawai‘i that produces sparkling wines. Its winery rests on ʻUlupalakua Ranch, where King Kalākaua, the last reigning patriarch of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, historically re-embraced the tradition of hula. Today, MauiWine produces wines made from pineapple, raspberries, and six varieties of locally grown grapes. Visitors can sip their wines and share pūpūs (appetizers) on the lānai (balcony) of the King’s Cottage, a plantation-style home built in the 1870s to accommodate King Kalākaua and what today is the heart of MauiWine.
MauiWine only accommodates seated groups of up to six people and requires face masks at all times (until seated). Reservations are strongly encouraged, as the winery has reduced its capacity to keep customers safe and socially distanced. Tours are also temporarily suspended, but patrons can still wander the lavish property, learn more about its historic sites via self-guided maps and take photos beneath centuries-old trees. Guests can also purchase their favorite wines during their visit, and have their bottles shipped or specially packaged for airplane travel by MauiWine staff.
"We often ask ourselves, “Can we do this well?” If the answer is yes, then we’ll take a shot at it," said Paula Hegele, president of MauiWine. "The idea of spending more time with fewer guests had a lot of upsides. In many ways, the guest experience we offer now is the guest experience we’ve always sought to offer. Pivoting to a seated, reservation-based service fits who we are as a business and our space in Ulupalakua. We keep looking for silver linings throughout this pandemic. One aspect we are very grateful for was the way our local community came out to the tasting room and supported us as we worked through redesigning the MauiWine experience," she added.
Chocolate with a Purpose
Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate opened the doors to its Lāhainā factory earlier this year with a top-of-the-line facility, a mission rooted in sustainability, and chocolates uniquely created with a local flavor. The owner, a retired scientist with a passion for growing cacao, spent years developing a cacao farm on 20-plus acres of the West Maui Mountains before perfecting his first batch and opening the factory.
Today, visitors can tour the farm to learn how cacao grows, visit the factory to see how cacao is turned into chocolate, and enjoy a nine-piece chocolate tasting on a spacious, covered outdoor pavilion. All guests are required to wear masks until seated, and a staff member will walk them through each chocolate variety’s tasting notes and best practices for experiencing optimal flavor. Each table, spaced to allow social distancing, has its own hand sanitizer pump, and the furniture, made of repurposed monkeypod tree wood, is cleaned after each tasting.
“We have learned that having people taste our chocolate is the best way to convince them to buy, so we make certain our tasting experiences are memorable — not only for the quality of the chocolate but also for the information and entertainment value,” said Dr. Gunars Valkirs, CEO and founder of Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate.
A bonus: all proceeds from its Saturday chocolate tastings are donated to the Maui Food Bank to help local families affected by COVID-19’s economic impacts.