Rated #1 Gardens Upcountry
In a nutshell: A relaxing escape from the heat, where you can sip lavender teas alongside fairytale gardens.
Minuses: Testosterone kryptonite.
Sound-bite: “A wedding up here would be so enchanting!”
My wife absolutely loves Ali”i Kula Lavender. Every time her girlfriends (or mother…or aunts…or cousins) come to visit Maui, it is guaranteed there will be at least one escape to AKL. What is it that that attracts women here with a gravitational force stronger than Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt combined? Is it the fragrant lavender gardens? The crafts? The shop with all manner of lavender-infused products? I believe it is simpler than that: the idea that the ladies can sip lavender teas whilst sitting in a garden gazebo nestled alongside scenery plucked straight out of fairytale land. For the ladies, this place just feels like heaven.
Okay, great for the ladies, but what about their men? Let’s face it, we’re often reluctantly dragged along simply hoping we can endure for the sake of Sunday football or some other such trade-off. Fear not, all but the most testosterone-enslaved man can find plenty to enjoy here. The views are impressive and the air is a refreshingly cool break from the heat and sun of endless days on the beach. And spending some alone-time with a loved one somewhere romantic is something I think we all appreciate. (Did I mention you can score some spectacular grill spices alongside the culinary lavender selections in the gift shop? Just sayin’…)
The first thing you’ll notice when you get to AKL is the heavenly scent of lavender. It permeates the air – and who will deny its soothing scent isn’t mood altering? You’ll also notice is that it really is cooler up here! In fact, at 4,000 ft. elevation, it is often more than 10 degrees (F) cooler than the hot resort areas. (Bring along a light sweater or an extra shirt if you’re heading here early or late in the day.)
Expansive views stretch endlessly. The mountainsides of Haleakala roll down beneath you through miles of farms and sugar cane and resorts far below, finally plunging into the ocean on either side of the Valley Isle’s isthmus. The West Maui mountains peaks are beyond, and are dwarfed by your perspective standing on the side of the immense Haleakala Volcano, now 20 miles away and close to eye-level with West Maui summits. At this elevation, often in the afternoons the clouds begin roll in, and they hang so low it feels like you could touch them as they pile up against the mountain – or often they roll right in through the gardens creating a mystical ambiance that looks like this should be home to fairies and other such mythical creatures. (Now don’t complain when it is beautiful and bathed in sun when you visit!)
You can take a $12 guided walking tour ($10 if you call ahead) or guide yourself using a free self-guided tour map they provide. They have a treasure hunt with stamps hidden about the garden (great for kids.) There are also plenty of benches, tables and gazebos along with Buddhas, arbors and other ornaments sprinkled throughout the walking paths. This is an absolutely wonderful place stroll around and have a picnic lunch on your way back form Haleakala Crater or any of the other Upcountry sites. (You don’t even need to pack your own picnic, they conveniently sell tasty lunch baskets complimented with lavender-spiked treats.)
AKL also offers crafts, such as wreath making, and they offer a golf cart tour piloted by the owner Ali’i Chang for $25. An entire article could be written about Ali’i – a man with more Aloha and love for what he does would be hard to find. He freely shares all kinds of interesting stories and facts about lavender and the many other plants and flowers in the gardens while you all cruise along on his lavender colored golf cart. A sweet, charming and entertaining fellow – this is well worth the cost of the tour. (Call ahead to reserve, they seem to have taken this off the website as of late.)
Their quaint shop also has more lavender products than you could ever imagine existed. All made in Maui, and many make great Maui-branded gifts for friends, family and cubicle-buddies back home. From scones, coffee, tea and lemonade to lip balm, bath salts and chocolates, I could go on for quite a while listing all the items – but if you can imagine it with lavender, they’ve got it (and plenty that you never would have imagined!)
Whatever you do, don’t come to AKL in a hurry. This is a peaceful place you’ll definitely want to linger.
Location: 1100 Waipoli Road, Kula
Hours: Daily 9am – 4pm
Rating source: Maui Guidebook
Price: Admission: Free; Guided Walking Tours: $10-$12 (9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 1:00, 2:30 Daily)