Where to Eat, Stay and Play in Maui
Surfing may be fun, but the real star of Maui right now is the food scene. So feed yourself well, then hit the water to work up an appetite for the next amazing meal.
Though “Hawaiian cuisine” may conjure images of coconut shrimp and mai tais, a new generation of Maui chefs have done well to challenge the culinary cliché. Ka’ana Kitchen focuses on the local with island-to-table family-style dishes that take simple ingredients to wildly inventive heights (the ahi tuna tataki with burrata sounds insane, but trust us: it’s life-changing).
That’s not the only Asian-influence to be found here. The waterfront Japengo specializes in fresh seafood with a (surprise) Japanese bent. Order a flight of sake alongside blackened tuna rolls, curry-dusted calamari and sashimi-style hamachi watermelon salad.
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, while not necessarily locally minded, is a local favourite, serving up coconut-crusted French toast (made with house-baked bread) and mini macadamia nut pies—it’s an essential brunch stop while you’re on the island.
Pulehu skews Italian, but still embraces an island vibe, topping seared scallops with baby squash and kabocha purée and tossing fresh pappardelle with Bolognese made from Maui beef. For something more authentic, Sale Pepe imports specialty ingredients directly from Italy (flour, San Marzano tomatoes, fennel-and-Chianti-infused Tuscan salami and fresh mozzarella) and pairs them with seasonal produce and some solid pasta-making technique: the hand-twisted strozzapreti tossed with kale and sausage is a fine example.
You could choose one of Mark Ellman’s restaurants to dig into on your trip, but a crawl of all three is your best bet. Luckily, Mala Ocean Tavern, Honu and Fridas are located on the same block, so you’ve got a world of choice in three distinct spaces that share one stellar view. Mala leans towards Hawaiian classics—ceviche, ahi tartare and plenty of coconut—but the small plates are elegantly executed with quality ingredients (organic whenever possible). Down the street, the bright and airy Honu makes seafood the focus (try the grilled Spanish octopus, served alongside edamame hummus and tomato beurre blanc), while the newest of the lot, Fridas, is an exploration of South American tastes in a tropical-cool setting; we love the palm-print wallpaper almost as much as the decadent grilled panela cheese and warm tortillas we gobbled down.
The farmers’ market at Whaler’s Village in Ka’anapali is a great opportunity to source local produce (find avocadoes the size of a human head), or you can hop in the car and spend an afternoon exploring Upcountry, an agricultural region with plenty of opportunities to sample Maui’s finest. Tour the Maui Pineapple fields and try freshly harvested fruit, sweet and rich right from the plant; taste-test your way through offerings from the Surfing Goat Dairy—like the award-winning Mandalay cheese, blended with apples and curry—and meet the makers, four-legged and otherwise. Cap it all off with a tasting at Hali’imaile Distillery, where the Paniolo whisky is blended with pineapple spirit.
There’s no shortage of activities here that take advantage of the warm, crystal-blue ocean. Snorkel with sea turtles on a Trilogy Excursion cruise, or drift along the breeze above it all on a UFO Parasail tour. Looking for something a little more extreme? Give jet-skiing a try—the Maui Watersports barge lives just off Ka’anapali Beach and the operators are surprisingly liberal: a few test loops around the barge, and you’re off to chase thrills across the rollicking waves at your own risk.
After your heart rate has returned to normal, hit up the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Kea Lani. Show up early for your appointment—whatever treatment you choose (the tension-relieving ‘Awa Remedy involves a Hawaiian salt scrub and pressure-point massage), the spa’s mud bar is a must-do: slather up in soothing island clay, sweat it off in the steam room, then hop in the high-tech rain shower designed to mimic warm, tropical Maui storms…complete with thunderclaps and twittering birds, of course.
If you’re there in October, hit up the Hawaiʻi Food and Wine Festival Maui. Hosted by James Beard Award-winning chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, the fest is a delicious weekend celebrating the continuing evolution of the Hawaiian food scene, with dining events—from sunset, open-air tasting nights to multi-course meals from visiting culinary masters—and seminars abound.
The Andaz Maui is a Hyatt property that still manages to nail the boutique vibe. Check into a pretty white-and-wood oceanview suite, or splurge on a private villa. The modern interiors and cascade of infinity pools outside are the epitome of laid-back luxury.
But if surf and sand are key for you, Ka’anapali Beach is the place to set up camp. A very strollable seaside walkway hits a dozen solid accommodation options—but the Westin Maui Resort and Spa has the best waterslide.