Things to do in Makawao 2023 [Approved by the Locals]

Must-visit places of Makawao! Top 5 activities approved by the locals!

The honest, firsthand experience!

Are you looking to experience Maui as a local? Are you less interested in tourist attractions and more interested in the authentic Hawaiian spirit? You have come to the right place.

The small town of Makawao is the hidden gem of the entire island!

My boyfriend and I wanted an authentic summer vacation. We were looking for unique parts of Hawaii with beautiful beaches without tourists. We wanted quaint family-owned restaurants, local shops, and local history. After asking around our travel community, we found Makawao!

Let me tell you; this trip did not disappoint! We spent 7 days in this quaint town and still did not see everything. I loved that everything was local and original. They had a thriving art scene that reflected in all that they did. Not to mention the beautiful trails and natural beauty were unparalleled.

If you are looking for the same experience, there is no need to look further. I have done my homework!

I have made a list of the 5 best of the best things to do while visiting Makawao! This list won’t break your wallet!

So let’s get started….

#1. Makawao Forest Reserve – The Best Place to Hike

Makawao Forest Reserve - The Best Place to Hike

I loved making this hike (and I’m no hiker!) The reserve has five or six trails that you can take. We did the largest (6-mile round-trip) trail, and it won me over! It is my number one pick because there is so much to see. It’s a real jungle experience.

For me, this was a wonderful walk through the forest, more than a hike. The trail is easy to walk. Tall trees shield you from the sun as you walk along the trail. It is perfect for families looking to spend the day out in nature. Also, there is a bike trail, but it doesn’t interfere with those choosing to hike. Makawao Forest Reserve is free and open to the public.

We spent over three hours at the reserve. My boyfriend enjoyed the much cooler temperatures in the forest, and we both welcomed a change from the beaches.

We took some lunch with us and lots of water. There are great peaceful spots to take a break. I recommend bringing a blanket for a picnic. The trail is not crowded, and we met maybe two more groups hiking. The most appealing part, however, is the plush and beautiful foliage. There are so many beautiful plants. I even recognized some tropical ferns and Ginger Flowers.

Here is why it’s my favorite place to visit:

  • There are many short and long hikes to choose from.
  • The forest is very tropical and fun to observe.
  • You can take a break from the sun and beach with a cooler shady walk through the forest.
  • This is a family-friendly hike and appropriate for all skill levels.

#2. The Sacred Garden of Maliko – A Plant Nursery Combined with an Art Installation

The Sacred Garden of Maliko - A Plant Nursery Combined with an Art Installation

What a fun and eclectic place to visit! Perfect place to check out the local art scene even if you are not so into art! Along with the eclectic nursery, there are unique art installations from local artists. The Hindu culture influences everything here, and I loved it. 

This is another free and open-to-the-public activity for all ages. You can get lost in this lovely greenhouse nursery that measures 10,000 square feet. It’s full of tropical plants, spices, and flowers. The people are super friendly and will answer all your questions.

We spent about an hour and a half here after lunch. But there is also a picnic area for those wishing to spend some time observing and eating. I especially liked the Koi pond with water lilies and meditation garden. My boyfriend did the two walking labyrinths (judging by his pass time, he got lost!)

They also had fun animals, including parrots, bunnies, and chickens. It would be a super fun place to bring the kids! Buying small pots or plants is a great way to support this free project. I got some super resistant succulents to take home.

This place made the number two spot because:

  • It is a fun and authentic local experience.
  • There is a lot to see and learn about native plants.
  • You will love the meditation garden and Hindu artwork.
  • It is a safe place for kids and offers cute animals to observe.

#3. Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center – Historic Art Community with the Best Exhibitions

Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center – Historic Art Community with the Best Exhibitions

Beautiful art exhibition! It was recommended to us by a local family.

It is a large estate full of authentic Maui history. The wonderful curators know a lot about the area and are happy to share the history of the estate. Asides from the wonderful well-groomed grounds, this is also an art school, gallery, and studio area.

We called ahead and scheduled one of their art classes during our visit! I enjoyed this much more than my boyfriend (but I am more artistic). The teacher was friendly, and all the supplies were prepared for us when we arrived. I also enjoyed visiting the jewelry and print studios. They had some beautiful displays. There is also a children’s studio.

It is free to the public, so we try to support local projects. If you are not interested in the artwork, there is a cheap guidebook that makes the perfect souvenir.

Some of the great reasons to visit here are:

  • This is an interesting 1-hour walk through the art studios and garden.
  • You have the chance to meet a lot of local artists.
  • You or your children can take an art class outside.
  • It is free to explore without the crowds of the city.

#4. Makai Glass Maui – Best Fine Art Gallery & Glassblowing Studio

Makai Glass Maui – Best Fine Art Gallery & Glassblowing Studio

Come here for an authentic experience! The sea and Hawaiian spirit completely inspired the artists here. There is also a glass-blowing gallery you can visit. The artists are super friendly, and everyone is informative. You are not under obligation to buy anything, so relax and enjoy.

Then we called ahead to make sure we could see some glass blowing. There is a really impressive working studio in the back, and it is incredible to see glass blown so close up. The artists are very talented. The glass is beautiful. We decided to get a custom-made piece (got to choose the glass and colors), which was shipped to us after our trip.

I spent a lot of time looking at the art gallery display. The shop is close to several nice restaurants, so we had dinner afterward.

It is a worthwhile place to visit (and re-visit) because:

  • There is always a fascinating display of glasswork and artwork.
  • You can watch some cool glass blowing while visiting.
  • They make and ship custom-made glass pieces.
  • They are friendly and informative about the art and local culture.

#5. Makawao History Project – The Must-Visit History Museum

Makawao History Project – The Must-Visit History Museum

This small but delightful museum is right on the main street! It’s a well-curated space about the history of the town. I loved that the locals own most of the artifacts displayed. The docent is friendly and willing to go above and beyond with local stories and traditions.

We spent about 45 minutes here. My boyfriend is a history buff, so he enjoyed the older displays. There are a lot of cool news articles too. The display helps you understand why things are the way they are now.

Since this pleasant museum is right on the main street and close to other shops and restaurants, I recommend making it an afternoon walk. Makawao History Project is important for the local community and is run by volunteers, so buy a souvenir to support them. I got some neat fridge magnets.

This museum made the list because:

  • You can learn about local history at the source.
  • The display is interesting and beautifully arranged.
  • The volunteers are friendly.
  • It is conveniently located so you can spend an afternoon walking around.


Makawao is a great town to visit for a few nights’ stay. The small community is friendly and caring. It is not overrun with tourists. Besides the picturesque beaches (four nearby), Makawao has a unique local art culture. It is filled with small shops, galleries, and handmade local goods. Makawao is a place to take the whole family or visit as a couple.

Your visit to Maui would be incomplete without visiting some fantastic places in this small town. Here you can visit a gorgeous forest reserve, some beautiful gardens, art galleries, exhibits, and history museums.

This small town truly has it all.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Is Makawao worth visiting?

Yes. Makawao is known as a cowboy town. There are many traditional ranches and farms nearby. It is filled with small shops and art galleries run by the locals. There are also great beaches to visit here.

What is Makawao known for?

The small town is known for its eclectic “cowboy” style and quaint, old-fashioned downtown. It has a vibrant local art scene with many shops offering antiques and handmade items. There are also great beaches for swimming and snorkeling at the town’s edge.

What is the meaning of Makawao?

Makawao is a small town on the island of Maui. The name Makawao means THE EYE OF THE FOREST. It could be that the name was given due to the wonderful hiking trails, gardens, and forests around the town. This is a place full of natural beauty. 

Last Updated on January 10, 2023 by Brigitte