By Tovin Lapan
Marilyn Jansen Lopes’ white van
slowly climbed the two-lane road
up the mountain as she spoke
about the view and prepped the
group for the next stop.
Lopes, who runs farm and food
tours around Maui every day of
the week, moves through the day
as if hooked up to a hidden intravenous caffeine drip. She has
spent years getting to know the
farms and farmers in Maui’s upcountry and brims with enthusiasm and love for the island.
We were halfway through our
daylong tour, and lunch would
be 2,000 feet above sea level at the
Ulupalakua Ranch Store, followed
by a tasting at Maui’s only winery.
At this elevation, even on a clear
day with the sun shining down,
the intense heat at our oceanside
hotel was well behind us.
By the warmest part of the day
we were roaming Maui’s upcountry on a tour sponsored by the
Maui Visitors and Convention
Bureau, shaving 5 to 10 degrees
off the temperature in the valley.
As a tropical destination, some
travelers might be wary of sweating through their Hawaiian shirts
during the summer months. The
average August temperature is
80 degrees, 7 degrees higher than
the average for January, and highs
creep into the 90s during the
summer. However, July and August have the least precipitation,
making it less likely that any outdoor activities will be rained out.
Hawaii Tourism Authority data
shows December and January are
the busiest months in the Islands
as measured by total visitor days.
But July and June are third and
fourth, respectively, so travelers
are still choosing Hawaii for their
summer vacations. Water activities, from surfing and kiteboard-ing to kayaking and snorkeling,
are the first thought when looking
for ways to cool off.
But instead of turning to the
ocean, visitors can head to higher
elevations to find cooler tempera-
tures and activities out of the sun.
Hawaii Island and Maui have
the highest peaks among the islands and afford the most opportunities to escape the heat among
For the Maui upcountry farm
tour, Lopes picked us up in Kahu-
lui, and we immediately headed
into the foothills of Haleakala.
The first stop was the Ocean
Vodka Organic Farm and Distill-
ery, where they make vodka from
sugar cane and desalinated deep
On a clear day at the 80-acre,
sustainable farm, where the distillery operations are powered by a
large solar array, visitors are greeted with an expansive view of western Maui and the ocean flanking
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both sides of the narrower middle
section of the island.
More than 40 varieties of sugar
cane are grown on the farm, and
rum is now produced at the distillery in addition to the vodka
that won a triple gold medal at the
The Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery
makes vodka and rum from sugar cane and
desalinated water from the ocean.