Kula, Hawaii

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Kula is a district of Maui, Hawaii, that stretches across the "up-country", the western-facing slopes of Haleakalā, from Makawao to Ulupalakua. Most of the residential areas lie between about 500 to 1,100 m (1,600 to 3,600 ft) in elevation. The district has traditionally been where full-time residents prefer to live, as distinct from the generally hotter and busier, more tourism-oriented towns near sea level, such as Kihei and Lahaina. The population of the census-designated place (CDP) at the 2010 Census was 6,452.

Maui Island of the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean

The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles (1,883 km2) and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the State of Hawaii and is the largest of Maui County's four islands, which include Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, and unpopulated Kahoʻolawe. In 2010, Maui had a population of 144,444, third-highest of the Hawaiian Islands, behind that of Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island. Kahului is the largest census-designated place (CDP) on the island with a population of 26,337 as of 2010 and is the commercial and financial hub of the island. Wailuku is the seat of Maui County and is the third-largest CDP as of 2010. Other significant places include Kīhei, Lahaina, Makawao, Pukalani, Pāʻia, Kula, Haʻikū, and Hāna.

Hawaii U.S. state in the United States

Hawaii is a state in the Pacific United States. It is the most recent state to join the United States, on August 21, 1959. Hawaii is the only U.S. state geographically located in Oceania, although it is governed as a part of North America, and the only one composed entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean.

Haleakalā House of the Sun

Haleakalā, or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The western 25% of the island is formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai, also referred to as the West Maui Mountains.



The ancient district of Kula. Historic Mokus of Maui Map (Kula).svg
The ancient district of Kula.

Kula roughly extends from Haleakala Highway (Hawaii Route 37) in the north to Keokea in the southa distance of about 16 miles around 20°47′32″N156°19′37″W / 20.79222°N 156.32694°W / 20.79222; -156.32694 Coordinates: 20°47′32″N156°19′37″W / 20.79222°N 156.32694°W / 20.79222; -156.32694 . [1] The largely rural area known as Upper Kula includes the region up-slope from Lower Kula, the more densely populated area spread along the Kula Highway.

Hawaii Route 37 is a 24.1-mile (38.79 km) road on the island of Maui in Maui County, Hawaii, United States.

Keokea, Maui County, Hawaii Unincorporated community in Hawaii, United States

Kēōkea is an unincorporated community on the island of Maui in Maui County, Hawaii, United States. It is situated on Hawaii State Highway 37 at North Latitude 20.71 degrees, West Longitude 156.36 degrees. Its elevation is 2,860 feet above sea level. Agriculture, forestry and ranching—supported by the area's fertile though often rocky volcanic loams —are important around this settlement, which has a temperate climate because of its elevation. Tourism also contributes to the local economy. The area around Keokea is characterized by a steep precipitation gradient: lowlands just 5 miles (8.0 km) to the northwest have mean annual precipitation of less than 16 inches (410 mm), while higher elevations ten miles (16 km) to the northeast see 140 inches (3,600 mm). Keokea has a mean annual precipitation of about 32 inches (810 mm). The population was 1,612 at the 2010 Census.

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.

The word Kula means "open meadows" in the Hawaiian language. [2] On Maui, Kula is one of the island's 12 foundation districts of ancient Hawaii called moku. [3] Generally, Kula is a zone of arid earth with open country slopes between the inhabited and productive shoreline areas and the densely forested zone higher on the mountain.

The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaiʻi, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the State of Hawaii. King Kamehameha III established the first Hawaiian-language constitution in 1839 and 1840.

Ancient Hawaii culture in the Hawaiian Islands preceding the unification of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810

Ancient Hawaiʻi is the period of Hawaiian human history preceding the unification in 1810 of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi by Kamehameha the Great. Traditionally researchers estimated the first settlement of the Hawaiian islands by Polynesian long-distance navigators from French Polynesia, Tahiti, the Tuamotus and the Samoan Islands as having occurred sporadically between 300 and 800 CE. In 2010, a study was published based on radiocarbon dating of more reliable samples which suggests that the islands were settled much later, within a short timeframe, in about 1219 to 1266.

The Kula district is the island's largest, extending from dry coastal areas to the wetter high pasture lands of three major ranches (Haleakala, Erewhon, and Ulupalakua) that cap the region about halfway up the slopes of Haleakala. It laterally extends from Keokea to near Makawao where the rainforest of East Maui once began.

Makawao, Hawaii Census-designated place in Hawaii, United States

Makawao is a census-designated place (CDP) in Maui County, Hawaiʻi, United States. The population was 7,184 at the 2010 census. Located on the rural northwest slope of Haleakala on East Maui, the community is known for being the hub of the "Upcountry", a part of the island dominated by mostly agriculture and ranch land. Makawao Forest Reserve is to the east-northeast.

Hawaiian tropical rainforests

The Hawaiian tropical rainforests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion in the Hawaiian Islands. They cover an area of 6,700 km2 (2,600 sq mi) in the windward lowlands and montane regions of the islands. Coastal mesic forests are found at elevations from sea level to 300 m (980 ft). Mixed mesic forests occur at elevations of 750 to 1,250 m, while wet forests are found from 1,250 to 1,700 m. Moist bogs and shrublands exist on montane plateaus and depressions. For the 28 million years of existence of the Hawaiian Islands, they have been isolated from the rest of the world by vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean, and this isolation has resulted in the evolution of an incredible diversity of endemic species, including fungi, mosses, snails, birds, and other wildlife. In the lush, moist forests high in the mountains, trees are draped with vines, orchids, ferns, and mosses. This ecoregion includes one of the world's wettest places, the slopes of Mount Waiʻaleʻale, which average 373 in (9,500 mm) of rainfall per year.

In leeward areas, away from the prevailing moist tradewinds—called the rain shadow of Haleakalathe lower portion of Maui consists of a broad, arid expanse where little cultivation of the earth is possible. This zone consists of dry, desert-like open range just inland from the sea in artificially irrigated Kihei, and is covered with kiawe trees to an elevation of about 1,000 feet on the volcano's slopes.

Windward and leeward

Windward is the direction upwind from the point of reference, alternatively the direction from which the wind is coming. Leeward is the direction downwind from the point of reference. The leeward region of mountains generally remains dry as compared to the windward. The side of a ship that is towards the leeward is its lee side. If the vessel is heeling under the pressure of the wind, this will be the "lower side". During the age of sail, the term weather was used as a synonym for windward in some contexts, as in the weather gage.

Kihei, Hawaii Census-designated place in Hawaii, United States

Kīhei is a census-designated place (CDP) in Maui County, Hawaiʻi, United States. The population was 20,881 at the 2010 census.

<i>Prosopis pallida</i>

Prosopis pallida is a species of mesquite tree. It has the common names kiawe, huarango and American carob, as well as "bayahonda", "algarrobo pálido", and "algarrobo blanco". It is a thorny legume, native to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, particularly drier areas near the coast. While threatened in its native habitat, it is considered an invasive species in many other places.

Between this zone and the upper reaches of the hillsides, especially up steep Waipoli and Poli Poli Roads, broad, are open areas for vegetable and fruit crops. The moderate climate often yields as many as three or four harvests per year.

When the territorial legislature first set up the political design in 1906, they decreed only two levels of government: state and county. Consequently, Hawaii's towns do not have specific boundaries or "city limits." There are also no official district boundaries for Maui County elections. [4]

Upper Kula

The twisty Haleakala Highway, from its junction with Kula Highway in Pukalani, loosely defines the northern edge of Upper Kula. The upper road (Kekaulike Avenue), also known as State Highway 377, leads up through usually green pastures, silver eucalyptus tree groves (and blue jacaranda trees in late spring), contrasting to the sugarcane below. Where the road beyond Kula Lodge makes an abrupt upward tack to Haleakala National Park, the area known as Upper Kula surrounds Kekaulike Avenue. In less than five miles it descends the slope to rejoin the Kula Highway near Rice Park and heads south to Keokea.

There is little commercial development along Kekaulike except Kula Botanical Garden and Aliʻi Kula Lavender Farm. Vegetable and flower gardens surround the meandering highway as farmers take advantage of the area's unique combination of open space, good soil, moisture-laden clouds and filtered tropical sun.

New homes dot the area, taking advantage of the moderate weather and bi-coastal views of the isthmus below.

In Keokea, the Kula Hospital sits on the hillside above the road. Originally a tuberculosis treatment sanatorium built in 1909, Kula Hospital now serves the community as a critical access hospital.

The southern edge of Kula had a once-flourishing Chinese community that numbered over 700 immigrant workers and farmers. While the area is now more mixed, Keokea is still home to a pair of Chinese family-owned stores and a service station as well as a boutique coffee-shop.

At 2,400 feet (730 m), a mile or so beyond Keokea, between mile markers 18 and 19 on the Kula highway (aka Highway 37), is the county park dedicated to Maui's former resident, Sun Yat-sen, called the "father of modern China." He grew up in the area in the late 19th century living with his brother Sun Mei (孫眉). He led the revolution that ended China’s last dynasty and established the Republic of China in 1912. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Just as upcountry residents visit the seashore, residents near the shore sometimes visit Upper Kula to enjoy cooler temperatures that may require a fireplace in winter. A popular saying is "It's cooler in Kula". [10]

Lower Kula

Lower Kula lies between about 1,200 and 2,800 feet of elevation along the western flank of Haleakalā, the dormant volcano that dominates the island's landscape and is the foundation of Kula’s backdrop.

Communities along the old Lower Kula Road with names like Pulehu, Waiakoa, Omaopio and Keokea each have unique history of ethnic settlement. In the late 19th century, Portuguese and Chinese immigrants, who fulfilled labor contracts with the sugarcane plantations, moved to this area. Later, Japanese farmers moved into the area for its fertile earth.

These farmers have been producing vegetables ever since. In fact, during the California gold rush the farmers in Kula shipped so many potatoes that it was nicknamed "Nu Kaleponi," a Hawaiian pronunciation of "New California."

That farming tradition continues today, even among the gentlemen farmers and their farms that have sprung up in the past two decades. Kula grows its well-known onions, lettuce, potatoes, jicama, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower and cabbage. It is also a major source of cut flowers for the state. Most of Hawaii's proteas, as well as nearly all the carnations used in leis, come from Kula.

Lower Kula encompasses the areas around Lower Kula Road, the old county road that once spanned the region before Kula Highway was finished in 1964. The old meandering road crosses the straight modern highway several times between Pukalani and Keokea.

Even after nearly 50 years, there are few businesses along the highway, while the old road has the usual establishments that serve rural communities, including historic churches. Holy Ghost Catholic Church has a unique octagonal shape and hand-carved altar. Its turret is a landmark on the slopes of Haleakala, visible from much of Central Maui below. It was constructed in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants.

In the past decade, the lush views and cooler climate of Lower Kula have drawn a new type of resident. Agricultural lands are carved up for "gentleman estates" with large homes. Clusters of homes around old Lower Kula Road are becoming denser.

The major limit on the further development in the whole Kula area is the significant lack of water. This basic resource is key to the sustainability of the area. The Upcountry Community Plan gives highest priority to the water supply of agriculture and the Hawaiian Homelands project. [11]


There are many micro-climates created by the combined effects of elevation, rain shadow, and land contour. Much of the west slopes of East Maui are dry or semi-desert due to a rain shadow effect: the prevailing trade-winds are from the north-east and east and Kula is in the "shadow" of these winds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Kula is the coolest place in Hawai'i, as defined by having the lowest average annual temperatures (average low temperature: 55.7° F and average low temperature during coldest month, February: 52.6° F). [12] At the higher elevations and at night, especially in winter, temperatures dip into the 40s or high 30s (°F). Frosts are virtually unknown except at much higher elevations (7,000 ft or 2,100 m) on Haleakala.

There is a distinctive weather feature known as the "Maui vortex". A wind vortex forms as the trade-winds pass around the north-west corner of Haleakala (over Pukalani) and blow southward down the central valley of Maui over Maalaea Bay and then circle back up-slope over Kihei bringing a "lei of clouds" late most mornings over Kula. Around sunset, the downward breezes from the summit wipe out these clouds.

Kula displays a warm summer Mediterranean Climate (Köppen climate classification Csb)

Climate data for Kula
Average high °F (°C)68.6
Average low °F (°C)53.2
Average rainfall inches (mm)3.40
Source: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?hi5000

Land use

Kula has a strong agricultural and ranching tradition, the latter on the lands above the residential areas. Indeed, there is frequent reference in Makawao (which means "edge of the forest") to a paniolo (cowboy) ambiance that derives from this ranching activity.

The Maui onion mostly grows at the lower levels of Kula (below Highway 37). It is also known for its persimmons that ripen during the fall; many are located in the Pulehuiki area. Other produce grown in Kula includes lettuce, cabbage, and herbs. Kula is also known for the many varieties of protea grown for commercial sale.

Notable residents

Points of interest

Related Research Articles

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Pukalani, Hawaii Census-designated place in Hawaii, United States

Pukalani is a census-designated place (CDP) in Maui County, Hawaiʻi, United States. The population was 7,574 at the 2010 census. The general volcano-slope region, including nearby Makawao and Kula, is referred to as upcountry by locals, and is one of the four major population centers on Maui, the other three being Kahului, Lahaina and Kīhei, all of which are at sea level.

Haleakalā National Park national park of the United States

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Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area

The Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area is a state park of Hawaiʻi in the United States. It is on the island of Maui about ten miles from Kula up the slope of Haleakalā.

Kula Botanical Garden is a 8-acre (32,000 m2) botanical garden located on Kekaulike Highway near the Kula Highway junction in Maui, Hawaii. It is open daily. An admission fee of $10.00 for adults and $3 for children ages 6–12 is charged. Children under six are admitted free.

Omaopio is a farming area on the slopes of the volcano Haleakala on the island of Maui. The western side of Haleakala is commonly known as Kula. In Kula ridges of land run up the slopes of the volcano. Omaopio refers to a ridge of land that contains the road named Omaopio Road. It is north of another ridge of land commonly known as Pulehu.

King Kekaulike High School (KKHS), home of the Na Ali'i, was established in 1995 and is located in Pukalani, Hawaii. It serves the communities of Haiku, Kula, Makawao, Paia, and Pukalani.

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Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

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Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is located in the small sugarcane growing and milling community of Puʻunene, Hawaii, Kahului, Maui. The museum exhibits the history of Hawaiian sugarcane plantations and Alexander & Baldwin and its role in the sugarcane industry in Hawaii. The company itself continues in business and though it has diversified, it continues to produce sugarcane. The museum itself in the former mill manager's house.


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  9. "Sun Yet Sen Park". County of Maui . Retrieved August 21, 2017.[ permanent dead link ]
  10. Wayne Smith (September 27, 2007). "Upper Kula Really is Cool". Maui Weekly. Archived from the original on December 30, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
  11. Wayne Smith (August 23, 2007). "Lower Kula". Maui Weekly. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
  12. "The coldest town in every state". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
  13. "Hannibal Tavares services Friday". Honolulu Star-Bulletin . 1998-01-21. Retrieved 2013-08-26.