Throughout the year in Makawao, theseason’s can be noticed by delicate shifts in the environment. These seasonal signs may be hard to notice for the visitor, but to the people who live there, the signals are loud and clear.
During the summertime, the sky is bright blue and the “gravitational pull” down Baldwin Avenue toward Pä‘ia and the beach seems especially strong. During the fall, the air is thicker, and embodies a rich aromatic blend of rain, foliage and heat. Winter nights in Makawao are sharp and crisp. Possibly the greatest indicator of winter in Makawao, though, is when the festive shops throughout town decorate their stores and the familiar star of lights is placed high atop the pine trees behind Komoda’s Bakery. In the springtime, Makawao air is sweet, and everything just has this promising glow to it.
Although Makawao’s famous jacaranda trees are barren most of the year, suddenly, miraculously, in the spring months, they burst with vibrant purple flowers and make anything seem possible. Makawao ThenMakawao was and still is a paniolo town. In fact, there are still hitching posts lining the upper portion of Baldwin Avenue in front of Rodeo General Store. Many people are surprised when they find out that Maui has had paniolo, Hawaiian for “cowboys,” longer than the “Wild, Wild West.” Paniolo have been doing their thing on Maui since the early 1800s.
During these early times, shops opened up in Makawao to cater to the needs of the paniolo who were tending cattle. The pineapple industry also took flight at around the same time, and many people settled in to work the fields. In 1916, Komoda store opened, but it was actually across the street where Polli’s Mexican Restaurant is today. In the early days, it wasn’t a bakery or a general store, but more of a restaurant. In fact, the famous Komoda cream puff wasn’t “born” until the 1960s when one of the Komoda’s came back to Maui from culinary school with the golden recipe.
During the 1940s, World War II brought a lot of Marines to Makawao, and it was a busy time for the little town. In 1946, Kitada’s opened. They sold groceries and odds and ends. It wasn’t until later that they perfected their hamburger, saimin and chop steak. Back then, on the corner of Makawao and Baldwin Avenues, there was a gas pump. Over the years it has become everything from a restaurant, a hemp store to an art gallery or a jewelry shop. Back in the day, it was a central point of town.
Although so much has changed over the years, some things are still the same.Many of the families in Makawao have lived there for generations. They are hard-working people who are in touch with the land around them. The cowboys that drive around in their muddy trucks or the cowgirls who you hear “clippityclopping” by on horseback in the evening have come from a long line of people who have done the same thing. Makawao people are proud of their history and embrace it.
Makawao Now Makawao has evolved into a “hapa-haole” town—a beautiful and exotic mixture of Hawaiian and Caucasian influence. On any given day, you’ll see ranch hands stopping into Rodeo General Store after a long day of work, musicians strumming a guitar on the corner, artists painting on the sidewalks, kids zipping by ontheir bikes after school, people chatting away in cafés and, of course, shoppers. Makawao has some of the islands most whimsical boutiques.
It’s a blast browsing through the shops on Baldwin. You can find blown glass, original art, handmade jewelry, cowboy boots, linens, lingerie and a great steak.
Nightlife in Makawao is happening!
Casanovas Italian Restaurant brings in top musicians and DJs to rock the house regularly, and has been the favorite place to have a few drinks and dance the night away for as long as I can remember. Every year, Makawao holds a number of fun, family-oriented community events—a summer fair, Christmas celebrations, and the annual 4th of July Parade and Rodeo. The rodeo is in its 50th year and the parade first began in 1965. Once you find your parking spot in bustling Makawao, you’re good to go, because everything to see is within walking distance. You can find parking along Baldwin Avenue (this is coveted parking), behind the Courtyard, or, if all else fails, in the big public parking lot up on Makawao Avenue behind the library. Have fun exploring this historic little paniolo town and don’t forget to wear your boots!
Approved by Sam Ako, Hawaiian cultural advisor for the Kä‘anapali Beach Hotel.
Although so much has changed over the years, some things are still the same. Makawao people
are proud of their history and embrace it.