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Makawao Town


With its wooden storefronts, tin roofs, hitching posts from bye-gone days, and generations-old family stores, Makawao town, pronounced MAH-kah- WOW, is the definition of charming. Situated on the slopes of Haleakala, where Baldwin Avenue and Makawao Avenue meet, this quaint town of about 7000 inhabitants has maintained its rustic and unique atmosphere.

Makawao’s roots are held in the paniolo or Hawaiian cowboy. Paniolo first arrived here in 1838, by order of King Kamehameha III, with the intention of training Hawaiians how to manage wild cattle. His predecessor, King Kamehameha I, first brought cattle over to Maui in 1793, placing a “kapu” (taboo) on killing the animal, so they could propagate. As years progressed, many colorful Portuguese paniolo began to populate the area; and a visit to Makawao Town will still prompt a tip of the hat from one of these rustic gentlemen.

Through the years, Plantation workers and immigrants from Japan, Korea, and China opened storefronts selling their wares, which included groceries, horse tackle, kerosene, crack seed, and dried squid. In the 1940s, some 34,000 servicemen from the 4th Marine Division made camp nearby, flooding the town with commerce. When the marines were sent home, many stores closed; and, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that new life started invigorating the town again, creating the eclectic mix that we know and love.

Komoda Store and Bakery is one establishment that has persevered through the changes. Opening their doors back in 1916, this bakery is a local tradition. Patrons get there early and form a line to pick up the infamous coco puffs, pies, or the kids favorite, doughnut on a stick.

But make no mistake, there is a touch of cosmopolitan here. Fine art galleries, cafes, and fine Italian cuisine are tucked back into all of the nooks and crannies of this little town. In fact, there are so many art galleries, with work from painters, glassblowers, wood sculptors, and jewelers, that Makawao has been dubbed the “Sedona of Maui”. Shoppers can also find a plethora of locally made products like Hawaiian quilts, soaps, mustards, and spice rubs to satisfy any craving. And, a number of high-end boutiques also reside, veiled in folksy ambiance. Meander through one afternoon and explore the many treasures of Makawao.

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