Story by Paul Wood
Maui’s Chinatown is hardly a tourist mecca. But a Sunday drive can include‚—along with farm-country attractions and sensational views—some reflections on the island’s Chinese history.
To get there, drive up Haleakala Highway (Hwy. 37), continuing as it becomes Kula Highway and narrows its way though Kula District. At mile marker 13 you’ll see steeply sloped Rice Park on the left and the popular Kula Country Farms on the right—with local produce for sale every afternoon except Mondays. Just .1 mile farther turn left onto Kekaulike Road (Hwy. 377) as though headed to Haleakala National Park. After .3 mile turn right on Waipoli Road and drive .5 mile to Oo Farm (farm and tasting tours by appointment; 808-667-4341; www.oofarm.com). Another .7 mile gets you to the popular Alii Kula Lavender (open daily, 808-3004; www.aklmaui.com). Returning to Hwy. 377, turn right to find Kula Botanical Gardens (open daily, 808-878-1715; www.kulabotanicalgarden.com) clearly signed on the right.
Doubling back to Hwy. 37, turn left and drive about three miles to the tiny town of Keokea. The Chinese history here is evidenced in two store names, Ching and Fong, and in the presence of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Also here are a large county park, a tiny art gallery, Grandma’s Coffee House (breakfast and lunch daily), and Kula Hospital, an architectural gem dating to 1910.
Past Keokea town, the road narrows even more and winds about five miles to the headquarters of Ulupalakua Ranch, the site of thrilling vistas, a small ranch store and deli, and the Maui Winery (808-878-6058; www.mauiwine.com), with its wine-tasting and history rooms in a cottage built for Kalakaua, Hawaii’s last king. Even if you don’t go all the way out to the ranch, do drive 1.8 miles to Sun Yat-sen Park. The great statesman’s older brother, Sun Mei, lived near here and owned this entire sweep of mountainside right down to the sea.
Drive back (north) on Hwy. 37 from Sun Park 2.1 miles to Cross Road, an acute right turn. At this corner you’ll notice roofless Haleakala Hawaiian Church, an 1853 missionary structure that includes some old Chinese burials. From here travel .5 mile up Cross Road, following as it bends to the left and becomes Middle Road. You’ll find the Kwock Hing Society Building on the right. Doors will be locked, and yet the site itself is emotionally rewarding. During half the year (February through July) you can book very engaging coffee-farm tours at Shim Farm (808-876-0055; www.shimfarmtour.com), located another half mile up Middle Road. If you make the trek this winter, your best move is to turn around at this point and return via Cross Road. The reason: the road ahead needs serious repair, and the County of Maui says that the work will be under way at this time.