Eating and Exploring in Maui

If you like beaches and nature, then Maui is the island for you. There’s a small beach town feel compared to Honolulu. And what’s not to love about waterfalls, black sand beaches and whale watching? On the food side of things, it didn’t quite compare to Honolulu, but that didn’t deter us from enjoying many great meals.

What To Eat

The first thing we eat when we get to Maui is a couple of burgers. We head to Cool Cat Cafe on the main strip of Lahaina Town. We’re not disappointed. My burger has a cheeky strip of bacon just hangin’ out of it. And good god, bacon is so much better in America than in Australia. It’s so thin, so crispy, and so friggin tasty. The huge serving of onion rings is erring on the side of over-ordering. We even found a coupon and got a free sundae out of it. Completely unnecessary, but worth it. It was pretty much a mountain of whipped cream.

In general, the food in Honolulu is better than in Maui, but we find a few gems. Maui Fish & Pasta is a standout for a more refined meal. The pasta is freshly made, and there are some solid salads and side dishes. The Brussels sprouts with capers and sunny side up egg are great, as is the housemade fettuccine with blackened monchong. The wedge salad with gorgonzola is a good representation of what American salads are all about – creamy, cheesy things on a bit of greenery.

There’s a short wait with people lining up outside 808 Grindz Cafe, and every person who steps out exclaims how good the food is. We share the loco moco: A Kalua pork patty (made with pulled pork) lies on a bed of spam fried rice, then doused in brown gravy and topped with a sunny side up egg. It’s tasty beyond belief. We also order a side of the hash brown because I just can never have enough carbs in my life.

Prison Street Pizza has legit New Jersey-style pizzas (I’m not sure what that means because I’ve never been to New Jersey, but this is what Yelp tells me). I’m a fan. The pizza is gigantic and we have trouble finishing it, despite the fact that we shared it.

Lahaina Luna Cafe is ace for the tacos plus the fries smothered in aioli and furikake. The mahi mahi taco with mango salsa is excellent, but the Korean beef taco wasn’t up to scratch. And next door is some awesome Ululani’s shaved ice – I go for the passion fruit and mango. The syrup isn’t fake, the ice is finely shaved, and you can even add condensed milk. Though I think it was a bit watered down.

Ono Gelato has creamy gelato and out the back you can sit by the water while enjoying your gelato; I try the Sandy Beach (peanut butter & graham crackers) and Gianduia (chocolate & hazelnut)

CJ’s Deli has a heart attack of cheese fries and onion rings the size of my fist – I think I wouldn’t come back here though; it was pretty full on. Hula Grill, though highly rated on TripAdvisor, is only okay in my books. Star Noodle has some decent dishes, but I probably wouldn’t rush back.

Finally, I had heard SO many good things about the Shark Pit food truck. It was voted #6 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2015. Naturally, I was pretty keen. We went there twice, and both times it was closed. Let the record show that Eric and I don’t drive, so we walked to Shark Pit from the Outrigger (30 minutes each way) twice; ie. we lost 2 hours of our lives to the friggin Shark Pit, and then didn’t even get to try it. It was pretty devastating. End rant. Supposedly the tacos are good, so you should try them if you get the chance and they’re not freaking closed.

Stuff To Do

The Road to Hana is a must-do, whether you drive it yourself or go on a tour. As non-drivers went obviously went on a bus for it. And even for those who drive I would recommend a bus tour because it’s legit scary at times. Especially the parts where it’s cliff on one side and then rock on the other. And there’s no gosh-darn (I learned many strange Americanisms while I was in Hawaii) railing. Hahlp.

With black sand beaches, waterfalls, and sacred pools, it was a worthwhile experience. The unpaved road after Hana circling back to our resort is arguably even more beautiful than the road leading to Hana. This part is often not travelled with rental cars because you’re not insured for it. The landscape is breathtakingly like a postcard.

We chose a terrible day to go on a snorkeling and sailing trip. It was cold, miserable and rainy. The trip made two snorkeling stops including a drop-off at Lanai. To get our money’s worth we plunged into the cold waters anyway. Seeing a cool, calm, collected sea turtle was one of the highlights. Plus the sailing trip turned into a bit of a whale watching cruise (check if it’s whale watching season when you go). They were EVERYWHERE. Witnessing whales breach and tail flip was fascinating. And the staff were uber-friendly, concocting mai tais on the way back.

A bit further up north from Lahaina there’s Kapalua Beach which has widely been recognized as one of the best beaches on Maui. The sand is a golden hue and the water is clear and turquoise. Having said that, many beaches are like that in Hawaii.

Accommodation

For the first few nights we stayed at Outrigger Aina Nalu. Beware of the cleaning fee here (from memory it was over 100 USD). We found out about it after booking, but by then it was too late to rebook elsewhere because hotel prices had increased astronomically.

Regardless, the apartment was nice. It was quite lovely that we were able to lounge in a living area. There’s a kitchen, too, so if on a budget and you want to prepare your own meals, it’s pretty useful. We spent one evening trialing random frozen meals that we picked up at a grocery store nearby. Although walking distance from Lahaina Town, there’s no beach here.

Royal Lahaina Resort, though not as nice, is a beach-side resort at Kaanapali. The cottage-style rooms are basic but comfortable. I think every night we hung out at the bar for happy hour, sipping on cocktails and admiring the sunset.

Luna burger at Cool Cat Cafe: bacon, Jack cheese, avocado, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions & thousand island dressing
The Duke at Cool Cat Cafe: bacon, cheese, onions rings, BBQ sauce
Frings at Cool Cat Cafe: basket of fries and onion rings
Brownie sundae at Cool Cat Cafe
Loco moco with Kalua pork patty at 808 Grindz
Prison Street Pizza
Eric’s head for comparison
Brussels sprouts, fettuccine with monchong, wedge salad at Maui Fish & Pasta
Tacos and fries at Lahaina Luna Cafe
Ululani’s shave ice
Ono Gelato
Pork buns at Star Noodle
Hapa ramen at Star Noodle
Lahaina fried ‘soup’ at Star Noodle
Malasadas at Star Noodle
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Musubi (spam sushi) for breakfast at Outrigger
Musubi close up
Takeaway slices from Nikki’s Pizza at Whalers Village, Kaanapali
My giddy face with pizza
Cheese fries and onion rings at CJ’s
Breakfast at Royal Lahaina Resort
Happy hour at Royal Lahaina Resort
The pool at Outrigger Aina Nalu
One of the first stops on The Road to Hana
Wai’anapanapa black sand beach stop on The Road to Hana
Still at the black sand beach
Being a poser at the black sand beach
Love the blue and black contrast
Beautiful water on The Road to Hana
Seven Sacred Pools
A pool on the Road to Hana
Waterfall on The Road to Hana
This is the unpaved road after Hana
Another photo on the unpaved road after Hana
Pit stop on The Road to Hana tour
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Kapalua Beach
Sunset at Lahaina Harbor
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Sunset at Royal Lahaina Resort
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The pool at Royal Lahaina Resort at sunset
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Sorkeling and sailing trip: Eric swimming with a turtle
Turtle!
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Whale tale!
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