The Road to Kaupō

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Around the world Hawaii has a reputation as a lush, tropical paradise, but in fact low rainfall and dry conditions are typical for much of the state–which is why we're equally famous for our sunny beaches. On the main islands, many dry, leeward coasts have been developed into resorts, but on Maui development ends at Makena. Beyond lies a land of austere beauty. It's the domain of cattle ranches, a handful of homesteads, and a few nature reserves, and is best appreciated on the drive to (or from) Kaupō.

Kaupō is a little village on the "backside" of Haleakalā along Highway 31, which is the only official road in the area. Be aware that not all of it is paved.

Most Maui visitors encounter Kaupō as part of their drive to Hana, when they decide to continue on past the lush rain forest to complete a full circle of the mountain (despite prohibitions that might appear in their rental contracts). As a consequence, long lines of slow traffic are common in the afternoon. As in all scenic drives in Hawaii, if there are cars behind you, show some aloha and find a safe place to pull over and let them pass!

Note that road names and numbers are confusing. Highway 31, known as Pi`ilani Highway, is the main bypass through busy Kihei on the south shore, but it's also the name and number of the narrow, winding road to Kaupō, presumably because these roads were once intended to connect. They do not!

This area is remote. Give yourself plenty of time for the trip and make sure your gas tank is full because you won't find any gas along the way. It's also a good idea to bring some food and beverages with you. Kaupō Store might be open . . . but you never know for sure.


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