The district has traditionally been one where kama'aina (local residents) have preferred to live, as distinct from the generally hotter and busier tourist spots nearer to sea level (e.g., Kihei and Lahaina). Kula has a strong agricultural and (on the lands above the residential areas) ranching tradition. Indeed there is frequent reference in Makawao (meaning "edge of the forest") to a paniolo (cowboy) flavor that derives from this ranching.
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 east to north east. Yet there are many micro-climates created by the combined effects of elevation, rain shadow, and land contour. At the higher elevations and at night, especially in winter, it can be cool with temperatures dipping into the 40's or high 30's, although frosts are virtually unknown except at much higher elevations on Haleakala. In the sky above parts of Kula there is a distinctive weather feature known as the Maui vortex, whereby there tends to be an area of clear sky caused by a vortex formed as the Trades swirl into the central valley of Maui after passing around Haleakala.