Seek and You Shall Find
"Hidden Maui" Dining
With the bulk of the big name restaurants in either Kaanapali or Lahaina it's understandable if you never leave those two areas for dinner. But travel you must if you want to taste some of the hidden gems on Maui.
All of these restaurants are good but most are too far to drive just to try. That's why I recommend you plan your daily adventure to include one of the restaurants in the same area. You don't want to drive across the island for a SPAM Masubi bit if you're already there then you'd be crazy not to stop in. Genius.
Not So Obvious Maui Restaurants
Mama's Fish House
799 Poho Pl, Paia, HI 96779 | (808) 579-8488 $$$$$+
Combine with your road trip to Hana
Considered one of the best, if not the best restaurant on Maui, Mama's Fish House lives up to its hype. Don't be swayed by the goofy boat along the roadside, this is an elegant restaurant serving upscale food. The grounds alone along a picturesque beach are worth a stop but make sure you have a reservation and get there before the sun sets to enjoy it.
Every restaurant on Maui seems to claim "fresh caught" and "local" but Mama's Fish House takes this to a new level - they even tell you the name of the fisherman and where it was caught. Start with the appetizer of sashimi, three different fish with different preparations, and be prepared to enlightened. And don't miss their signature dessert, the Black Pearl, an impressive chocolate mousse that looks like a giant chocolate coated tennis ball. Well, better than that, get it and see for yourself.
Located along the Road to Hana, bring an extra change of clothes and a hand towel from the hotel to do a quick clean up in the restroom and then head into the beautiful bar for a top notch tropical drink that tastes all the better after the long drive. The entire restaurant feels like a tropical fantasy land, it's essential dining when you come to Maui. Ultra expensive, expect to pay $300 for dinner for two. I know, that's a lot of money but this is one restaurant where it's worth it.
1 Bay Club Place, Lahaina, HI 96761 | (808) 669-6400
Combine with a lazy afternoon sipping cocktails in kapalua $$$$$+
Located on the tip of Kapalua Bay, Merriman's delights the senses by combining a breathtaking view of Kapalua Bay with upscale "farm to table" cuisine. The sunset view is what brings most people here the first time but it's the food that keeps them coming back. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced and the food is creative and expertly prepared - this is a no-compromise dining experience. Come early and make an event of it, this should be on your list for that last sunset dinner before flying back home, the dining event to cap off your vacation.
Of course, Merriman's Kapalua doesn't come cheap - entrees are in the $40+ range - so those on a tighter budget should make their way to the Point Bar, a beautiful outdoor deck area with comfy seating, a fire pit, and incredible hand-crafted cocktails using fresh Maui ingredients. Add the pupu platter (Hawaiian ahi poke, crispy Hawaii Island goat cheese, Keahole lobster, avocado & tomato salad, Kalua pork & sweet onion quesadilla) and you've got Merriman's on a budget.
Hali'imaile General Store
900 Haliimaile Road, Makawao, HI 96768 | (808) 572-2666
Combine with a trip to upcountry $$$$$
A quick bit of history. Back in the 1920's during the pineapple boom, The Hali'imaile General Store was built for the field workers as a real grocery store featuring a butcher shop, fish market, post office, and even offered clothing and household appliances. Since then it's evolved into one of the top restaurants on Maui, the perfect dining spot for lunch or dinner when you're visiting the Haleakala volcano or day tripping to Upcountry.
There are upscale twists on island food (excellent poke bowl, kalua pork enchilada pie) as well as fun presentations (tempura shrimp served in a Chinese "to go" box). Everything from the creative cocktails to the perfectly prepared seafood is first rate, think "trendy dining" in a casual Maui plantation house setting. Don't think you can just pop in on the way to the volcano - this place gets busy so call ahead for reservations.
Paia Fish Market
combine with your road to hana trip $$
Nothing fancy here, just a long line where the rewards are giant plates of fresh seafood. Locals love it here for the simple food and large portions. Deep fried fish, shrimp and calamari, grilled catch of the day and sashimi plates, there's even a pretty decent burger with fries, all at prices that might make you think you're back on the mainland. But one bite of the fresh fish will reel you back in to Maui, making Paia Fish Market one of the best dining bargains on the island. How much of a bargain? How about $15 for dinner portions? You kidding me?
Order at the counter and then squeeze into one of the communal picnic tables. Makes a great stop on the way back from the Road to Hana.
Get Away From the Resort
Most tourists leave Maui commenting about how expensive the food was but that doesn't have to be the case. There's a lot of great food to be found if you just follow the locals. Below are a few of my favorites but if you see a line of locals at a strip mall there's a good chance you're close to some good local eats.
Maui Shrimp Shack
Honolua Bay pull out area: Kahului Beach Road, Kahului, HI 96732
Combine with your snorkel trip at honolua bay
LOOK, THERE IT IS! Try not to cause a 5 car pile up when you slam on your brakes to get to the Maui Shrimp Shack, a small food trailer serving up fish and shrimp tacos at the Honolua Bay turnout. Of course, Honolua Bay is one of the prime snorkeling spots in the northwest area of Maui. Come for the snorkeling but get a couple of tacos first as this place sells out and when they do, they're gone and you will be very, very sad.
Cooked to order, go it crunchy panko breaded or sauteed, both using whatever the freshest catch of the day might be. Grab a folding chair overlooking the bay and take a bite of one of the best tacos you might taste on Maui. Banana bread for dessert, get it to go for a snack after that snorkeling. What? Now you don't want to snorkel, you just want to eat tacos? Totally understandable.
425 Koloa St. Suite 104, Kahului, HI 96732 | (808) 871-7782
combine with a trip to the airport $$
I really hope you did not eat that terrible food on the airplane because once you land you are just minutes away from some of the tastiest food on Maui. Da' Kitchen is located in a strip mall right outside the Kahului airport, making it a perfect place to start or end your Maui Vacation.
The main attraction is the fried Musubi, a big hunk of SPAM in-between rice and seaweed that's breaded and deep fried to a crisp. All the usual Hawaiian food suspects are here as well, from noodles to plate lunch to luau favorites as well as some surprises like seafood that's better than some resorts. If you're getting on a plane to go home this is your last chance to order everything you missed.
Geste Shrimp Truck
Kahului Beach Road, Kahului, HI 96732 | (808) 298-7109
Combine with a trip to Haleakala volcano $$
Get 12 shrimp with crab mac salad and a scoop of rice, $14 - and these are not just any old shrimp, these are bursting with flavor, smothered in sauce, peel and eat shrimp served out of a food truck. Hijack that trip to the volcano with a stop at Geste Shrimp Truck and prepare to be knocked out by the flavors - hot and spicy, Hawaiian scampi, spicy pineapple, there's even one with cut up hot dogs. It's messy but haven't you had enough of that fancy resort food? You want local, this is it.
There are no restrooms or facilities there so bring some towels from the resort for an impromptu picnic on the dock or dine in that rental car, it's an experience you can't get back home. Cash only, closed Sundays and Mondays, they close at 5:30 or when they run out of shrimp so get there early.
Lahaina Gateway, 345 Keawe Street, Lahaina, HI 96761 | (808) 662-7088
Tons of delicious prepared foods $$
Ahhhh, ahi poke, that delicious blend of raw fish with soy and sesame oil, it's the taste of the islands and the best place to get it is not at that expensive restaurant but at a local supermarket called Foodland. There are two locations in Lahaina but the newer one in Lahaina Gateway is a touch nicer and has a row of different types of poke. Ask for the fresh caught ahi and pay a bit more - it's well worth it.
They also have lots of prepared food to go, standards like rotisserie chicken to more Hawaiian options like SPAM Musubi or Chinese food. Here's the plan - take your goodies back to the resort and kickback on the beach for a sunset dinner. Now that's living 'da island life.
They also stock local beer and don't miss picking up one of their fun shopping bags to take back home. I know, you're thinking you don't want to eat prepared food from a supermarket when you are on vacation but trust me, this is really good stuff! Tip: Go to the deli and ask for a taste of their smoked ahi spread and I defy you not to leave with a container.