Protea are large flowers that grow in a variety of colors from dark brown to brilliant orange, bright yellow, and pale pink. Natural or hybridized, some have pincushion-like heads, others have tops that resemble a bunch of wispy feathers, while others look like bottlebrushes.
Originally from South Africa, these beautiful flowers have been grown on Maui since the mid-1960s and are now big business as the state’s showiest of flowers. Dozens of hybrids have been created for their long stems, colors, or size and shape of petals. Kula and its environs at about 3,000-foot elevation make a perfect place to grow protea as they need sunny days, cool crisp nights, and moderate, even temperatures that don’t usually go above 80°F. Upcountry boasts numerous protea growers, some with shops, many of whom ship.
Right next to the Kula Lodge is the Proteas of Hawaii Gift Shop (15200 Healakala Hwy., 808/878-2533, 8am-4pm daily) where you can pick up a bouquet of freshly cut protea ($75-140) grown only a half mile away. In addition to the flowers this small store also sells a number of other locally made crafts, artwork, and gifts.
Down the driveway and between the Kula Lodge and the Proteas of Hawaii Gift Shop, tucked just out of sight, is the larger Kula Marketplace (808/878-2135, 8am-7pm daily) where you could easily spend half an hour browsing all the various local offerings. Everything from locally made jam to clothing to Hawaiian music to photography and bamboo cutting boards is on display in this store. It’s a great place to wander through while digesting a Kula Lodge breakfast or making your way down from the crater.