Makawao, the “Old West” of Maui

Maui (1153 of 2119)
Looking down Baldwinn Ave in Makawao, on Maui, HI

This feels like an old Western movie town,” is exactly what I said staring down Olinda Road. You could almost imagine days gone by, with red dirt streets, seeing a stagecoach rolling past horses tied to the sidewalk rails, and cowboys drinking whisky in the saloon. I knew it! That’s exactly how one travel website describes it: “Makawao is famous for its Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolo. Since the late 19th century, horseback-riding paniolo have wrangled cattle in Maui’s wide-open upland fields.” An eclectic, charming, colourful—if memory serves me right, every storefront was of a different colour—and welcoming town going about its business in the midday shadows of Haleakalā.

Maui (1158 of 2119)
Looking up Baldwin Ave and Olinda Rd toward the cloud-shrouded peak of Haleakalā.

Makawao is also renowned for its thriving art community, as evidenced by the many  galleries lining the streets. We were drawn in by Hot Island Glass, with its wide-open doors through which we could see a number of art pieces on display and curious would-be-customers listening attentively to explanations about this timeless art form. Artist and glassblower Christopher  Richards was busy heating, spinning, forming with the gentle touch of a mother with a newborn baby, putting the finishing touches to a beautiful translucent multicolored jellyfish suspended in crystal-clear glass. Captivating!

At the Crossroads gallery, I met Chicago painter Mort Luby, a former publisher and AP journalist who paints with oil, and watercolours, which he proudly exhibited as the artist-in-residence on the day we visited. We chatted about art, inspiration, the difference between Chicago and Maui winters, and Mort explained some of the challenges of watercolours versus oils.

Maui (1150 of 2119)
Oil and watercolour painter, Mort Luby, at the Crossroads Gallery in Makawao (Maui).

Nestled between the many shops and art galleries are the restaurants of Makawao. We opted for the “new kid on the block” for lunch: Habibi (open for only its 5th day on our visit), the Middle Eastern cuisine creation of Michael Worrell and Lindsay Hogan. For the uninitiated, reading the menu can be a little intimidating at first with tabouli, fatoush, zaater, sambousik, shawarma, falafel, al hadiya, al souq, tahini and loukoumades. But we quickly made sense of it all with Deni’s help. Our meal overwhelmed (in a good way) our taste buds, exploding with flavours, and satisfied our appetite. Inspired by mouthwatering flavours, spices, recipes and ambiance, Habibi is its very own art gallery of the culinary type. I highly recommend stopping there next time you’re up-country, in Makawao.

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