Money Doesn't Buy Deliciousness
It's not that it's hard to eat cheap on Maui, it's that it's so easy to overspend. Truth is, you don't have to spend your life savings just to get an ocean view and the fancy restaurants don't have a lock on all the fresh seafood. With a bit of planning you can have a no-compromise dining vacation for about the same price as eating back home - maybe even less. And even if you're not on a budget, there's something authentic about getting away from the resort and fancy restaurants and dining with the locals. Follow me to the Best Maui Dining on a Budget.
Best Cheap Eats Ocean View
Aloha Mixed Plate
1285 front st, Lahaina
Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina wins the Best Cheap Ocean View Dining Award hands down. Located right on the water this casual eatery serves up local "plate lunches" and authentic Hawaiian favorites. Kalbi Ribs, Kalua Pork, Coconut Shrimp, as the locals say, this is "broke da mouth grinds" (definition: Epic Good Eats).
Aloha Mixed Plate is owned by the same people who run the Old Lahaina Luau, arguably the best luau on the island and located right next door. This means that if you come during the evening and time it just right you not only get an ocean view but free Hawaiian music as well. Aloha to you too!
$3 Mai Tai's at Happy Hour and killer breakfast makes Aloha Mixed Plate a real winner. So cheap yet so delicious, order everything you want and I bet your bill comes out to less than $50 for two.
Best Cheap Authentic Maui Dining Experience
878 Front Street, #6B, Lahaina
I have serious regrets over the night I let my best judgement get away from me and ended dining at an overpriced and over-Yelp'd restaurant instead of doing what I knew was the better choice. I should have stayed on the beach, watching the sun set as I dined on delicious prepared food from the local Foodland. Damn!
Foodland is the Hawaiian grocery store that has tons of great prepared food choices. There are a dozen or so choices for ahi poke, raw marinated fish that nearly melts in your mouth as well as rotisserie chickens and Hawaiian musubi, that delightfully odd sushi roll made with SPAM. Locals pointed me to the Ahi Spread in the deli counter, insanely addicting.
Of course, you can also get fresh fish and shrimp and find your nearest grill where you can cook up fresh seafood that's better than the resort. Toss some SPAM on the grill (you heard me right) and you're set for meal that just might be your favorite on your vacation.
TIP: For serious budget savings, bring some paper plates from home so you don't end up having to buy a stack of them when you only need a few. You can buy a very cool insulated bag at Foodland for the perishables if you need one. Steal forks and knives from the hotel buffet (don't tell them I told you to do that!)
LOCALS KNOW WHERE TO GRILL
Many of the beaches have public BBQ's for anyone to use. One of the best is Ali'i Kahekili Nui Ahumanu Beach Park, also known as Airport beach, located next to the Westin Ka'anapali Resort Villas. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and covered grills right on the beach making it the perfect spot for a cheap sunset dinner alternative. Plenty of other BBQ options around the island, ask your hotel concierge for a park near you.
Best Maui Seafood on a Budget
The Fish Market Maui
3600 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Lahaina
Back home, the words "budget" and "seafood" in the same sentence often precedes "food poisoning" but not on Maui. Sure, you don't get the ocean view or 5 star service but at The Fish Market Maui you do get some of the best fish tacos, fish burritos, poke and seafood plates on the island.
All the fish is fresh caught and it's not unusual to see someone carrying in the fish that will soon be part of your meal. This place isn't fancy, the view is your rental car, but it won't matter after you take your first bite. Locals love it and you will too.
Best Ocean View Dining with a Live Music
Hula Grill's Barefoot Bar
2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina
Let me get this out there right from the start. The food at the Barefoot Bar is just OK. It's the ambiance that brings people here, from the hula girls dancing to live acoustic music to the "sink your toes in the sand" dining experience.
An extension of the much more expensive (and much tastier) Hula Grill, The Barefoot Bar makes up for any food quality shortcomings with its ultimate Maui ambiance. Don't get me wrong - the food isn't bad here. It's just that there's a lot of competition for best fish taco or best Mai Tai on the island and the Barefoot Bar falls somewhere in the middle - decent, but not the best. Of course, all of this doesn't matter as soon as the guitarist starts singing about going to the Hukilau and the pretty girls in grass skirts swaying in the breeze. You're on vacation, baby!
Best Place to Blow Your Diet on Maui
Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop
820 Olowalu Village RD, Lahaina
You know how you've been counting calories so you look good on the beach? Forgetaboutit! You're at Leoda's, one of Maui's "hidden" restaurants that not only serves up dreamy pies but great food as well.
The pies are outstanding, from the banana cream pie to macnut chocolate praline to the handy "hand held" pies, aka fried pies. Pies sell out so get there early if pie is on your mind. Look, even if pie is NOT on your mind just get there and try this pie!
The food is standard pie shop food, meaning great sandwiches and burgers. But this is not your chain restaurant fare, this is food worthy of your Maui vacation and appetite. Location is easy to miss on the main highway but worth turning the car around if you do. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a great family spot and a great place to taste another side of Maui.
Best Happy Hour Food That Doesn't Seem Like Bar Food
2290 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina
No, I haven't gone crazy recommending Roy's of Hawaii for budget dining. Sure, Roy's is famous not only for their incredible food - a fusion of Asian and Hawaiian flavors - but their expensive price tag as well. But sit at the bar and everything changes.
Your budget Roy's experience starts with some complimentary edamame, seasoned soy beans in the pod and not only good for you but delicious as well. Their happy hour wine and beer list is budget friendly and the Roy's house wines are very good. Of course there are plenty of Happy Hour treats on the menu but don't miss a plate of their Szechuan Ribs, a fall-off-the-bone tender spare rib seasoned with Asian spices and a sticky sauce with a hint of char from the wood grill. Delicious.
If you're really on a tight budget you probably should not go to Roy's because it's so darn easy to add the molten lava cake and fancy cocktails but with a bit of restraint you can taste a bit of upper end Hawaii on a budget.