Vic’s Picks For All Things Maui
Many of the following restaurants and activities are also described in the book “Maui Revealed.” There is a copy of this book in the condo for you to use. For $7.95, you can also download the “Maui Revealed” app onto your smart phone. The app is easy to use and quite good.
Kula Bistro – Located in the Upcountry at 3000 feet above sea level, this family owned restaurant is a hidden gem. I have never had anything but a great meal here. They do not have a liquor license so bring your own beer or wine which you can get from the Morihara Store across the street. They serve your wine in their own wine glasses without a corkage fee. Their homemade bakery desserts are in a display case to the right as you enter and are fantastic! Buy extras for breakfast when you leave. They do not take reservations so get there about 5pm for dinner to beat the large crowds. Approximately a 30 minute drive from the condo with incredible views along the way on Haleakala Highway.
Café O’Lei at the Dunes – Located on a golf course in the middle of the Central Valley, this is one of two Café O’Lei restaurants on Maui with the other location in Kihei. Very popular with the locals. Great food and a commanding view of the West Maui Mountains. Best French Onion Soup that you will ever have.
Mama’s Fish House – Located on the North Shore one mile past downtown Paia on the Hana Highway, Mama’s is the best restaurant in all of Hawaii and one of the best in all the United States! Extremely popular with both tourists and locals. The fish entrees are caught that day and the daily menu lists where your fish was caught and which fishing boat caught it. Always great, I like to say that it is the seafood restaurant for people who don’t like fish. Tell them when you make your reservations that you are celebrating a special event like a birthday or anniversary and they may give you a complimentary dish of their homemade ice cream which is incredible. Make your reservations 3-4 weeks in advance in order to get reservations for shortly after sunset. Very expensive but worth every penny. Go to nearby Ho’okipa Beach Park at sunset to watch the large sea turtles crawl up on the beach for the night before arriving at the restaurant.
Kula Lodge - Located in the Upcountry at 3200 feet above sea level, I recommend this restaurant for lunch for the commanding view of the Central Valley through the large glass wall that runs the entire length of the restaurant. The oil painting that hangs over the condo couch was commissioned by me and inspired from a sunset photograph that I took from here. The food is good but not great except the wood fired pizza from their outdoor pizza ovens which is very good.
Paia Fish Market - They have 3 locations which are in Paia, Lahaina and Kihei. The original restaurant is in Paia but I believe the best one is now in Kihei. Great place for fresh fish platters, sandwiches and tacos. Order at the counter and take a number. Take a seat at the first open picnic table and they will shout out your number when your order is ready. Outside seating is available in Kihei plus they will bring your food to you. Available for lunch or dinner and beer and wine are available.
Sarento’s On The Beach – Located in Kihei on Keawakapu Beach, this place can be a little hard to find but it is tucked behind the Days Inn at 2980 S Kihei Road, Kihei, HI 96753. This is a great place to have breakfast then kick off your shoes and walk the beach before the heat of the day kicks in.
Fred’s – Located in Kihei, come here on Tuesday for “Taco Tuesday.” Arrive at 4 pm to beat the crowds. They offer various types of tacos on that day but I recommend their Baja Fish Taco which is outstanding! They have 9 specialty margaritas. I can vouch for their Fred’s Classic Rita.
Mulligan’s On The Blue – Located on the Wailea Blue Golf Course, this Irish pub has great Irish food such as shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, corned beef and Irish stew. Only on Wednesdays and contingent on if he is in town, book the dinner show to see Willie K. It is $70 for the 3-course dinner but the show alone is worth it. Great music and comedy. Try to get an indoor table close to the performance area and book a few of weeks in advance of arriving on the island.
Charley’s – Located in downtown Paia on the Hana Hwy, this restaurant is a good choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner but I really like breakfast. The pancake is as big as the plate and is fantastic. Part-time Maui resident Willie Nelson has a home in nearby Spreckelsville Beach and comes here when he is on the island. Willie’s gold and platinum records are on the wall.
Cool Cat Café – Located on the top floor of the Wharf Cinema overlooking Banyan Tree Park on Front Street in Lahaina, Cool Cat Café consistently wins the prestigious “Best Cheeseburger on Maui” award. This establishment is a nice place to have lunch when visiting Lahaina. Their onion rings are a good choice for a side and their made the old-fashioned way shakes and malts are also very good.
Fleetwoods – This Lahaina Restaurant is owned by Legendary Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood who is at the restaurant frequently. Make reservations before you leave the mainland for the rooftop dining area for the nightly sunset ceremony and be sure to pick an evening when the bagpiper will be performing. Occasionally, Mick Fleetwood will perform here with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (who has a home in Makena) and Willie K.
Brigit & Bernard’s Garden Café – Who would have guessed that you could find great authentic German food on Maui? Located in an industrial park at 335 Hoohana St, Kahului, HI 96732, this small family owned restaurant is a hidden treasure. Mostly known to the locals, they do not advertise because they don’t have to. Everything here is excellent but I am especially fond of the Pork “Wiener Schnitzel” and the Swiss Bratwurst Platter. With a nice selection of authentic German beers, I believe that you may have to go to Europe to find German food and drink any better than what you can get here.
Leoda’s – Located in Olowalu which is approximately halfway between Maalaea and Lahaina, this place is a great choice for lunch. They bake their own bread for their sandwiches which are fantastic. Be sure to get an order of their homemade pineapple coleslaw to go with your sandwich and get one of their homemade hand-held pies for dessert or for breakfast the next morning. They also have nice souvenir t-shirts that are very reasonably priced.
Maui Brewing Company – Located at 605 Lipoa Parkway, Kihei, HI 96753, experience brewery-to-table dining as it comes to life in the heart of paradise. Their newest restaurant, opened early 2018, features an open-air interior and family-friendly vibe that celebrates the brewery’s history, passion for the craft beer way of life, and Maui roots. Located in their brewery headquarters, their restaurant continues to build upon their innovative, independent brewer spirit through artisanal, simply prepared, island-inspired cuisine. Their bar features 36 craft and specialty beers on tap, including Maui Brewing year-round and special releases and craft beers from other small breweries.
Maalaea restaurants within walking distance of Condo:
Beach Bums – Overlooking Maalaea Harbor, this restaurant is a great place for BBQ. The pulled pork, ribs and brisket are excellent. Portion sizes are extremely large so consider sharing an entrée. I am very fond of the bake beans and corn bread. Tuesday night is “Lobster and Prime Rib Fest” and I highly recommend it. The lobster is very good and the prime rib is on the list of the best that I have ever had. Live music (usually a guy with a guitar) most nights and it is usually pretty good. They also do take out orders which we occasionally do.
Seascape – Located at the aquarium and overlooking Maalaea Harbor, this restaurant is a solid choice for lunch or dinner. They also have a pretty good happy hour between five and seven on Saturday and Sundays. Half-price appetizers, $2.50 beer and $4 glasses of wine.
Tante’s Fish Market – Relatively new to the area with a nice relaxing view of Maalaea Harbor, this restaurant has a nice selection of fresh fish, chicken and steaks on the menu as well as appetizers such as chilled fresh oysters, Oysters Rockefeller, crispy fried calamari, stuffed mushrooms and crab cakes. Prices including the wine list are reasonable.
Some Things To Do On Maui
Road To Hana – This day trip is well described in books and smart phone apps such as “Maui Revealed.” I would only add to consider during the complete trip around Haleakala after reaching Hana. Within a couple of hours you can then experience both a tropical rain forest on the North Shore of Maui and a stark desert on the leeward side of Haleakala. Nowhere else in the United States other than Hawaii will you be able to have this experience. I did this trip with no problems in a 2006 Mazda Miata MX-5 so anyone can do this trip easily in any car.
Drive To The Top Of Haleakala – This trip can be combined into a day’s event. Grab some wine glasses and binoculars from the condo and make sure your car has plenty of gas. Drive to the Ulapalakua Ranch Store in Ulapalakua in the Upcountry and have lunch. After lunch, go to the Maui Wine Winery which is across the street. At Maui Wine take the 1:30 pm tour and buy a bottle of their sparkling pineapple wine (Hula o Maui). Drive to the top of Haleakala which is at 10,023 feet above sea level and enjoy the sights along the way. The top of Haleakala is within the Haleakala National Park so you will have to pay a $25 admission fee at the ranger booth to enter. This booth is located just shy of 8000 feet above sea level. If someone inside the car is 62 years of age or older, they can purchase a lifetime pass at the booth that is good at all the national parks and will get everyone else in the car into the park for no additional fees. Be sure to bring long pants and a jacket because it will be cool. Enjoy the views and activities at the top and the Visitor Center. Stay until sunset and toast the setting sun with your bottle of wine.
Drive The West Maui Loop – I think that this drive is the prettiest on Maui. Starting from the condo, head to Lahaina on HI 30 (Honoapi’ilani Hwy) and keep going. Just before you reach Kahakuloa, HI 30 becomes Maui County 340 and the road becomes narrow. You will be on the mountain side of the road instead of the cliff side for passing traffic. Stop at Lorraine’s in Kahakuloa for shave ice, banana bread and t-shirts. Lorraine makes her banana bread from bananas that she grows on the property. Before you leave on this trip, call Lorraine Kana at 808-242-7049 to make sure that she will be open and to reserve some loaves of banana bread for yourself since she frequently sells out. The Nakalele Blowhole and the Olivine Pools are on this drive and are well described in “Maui Revealed.”
Maui Ocean Center – Within walking distance of the condo, this aquarium is a good attraction to do on a bad weather day. It is relatively small compared to mainland aquariums but is extremely well-done. It has a glass tunnel that passes right through a large tank, complete with sharks. The gift shop has a good selection of quality gift items, many locally made.
Alii Nui Sailing Charters – Located in nearby Maalaea Harbor, there are several Alii Nui trip options from which to choose. Go to www.aliinuimaui.com to view all of your sailing catamaran options. Having done both, I prefer the Sunset Sail Excursion to the Royal Feast Excursion. While they serve you a full dinner on the Royal Feast Excursion, the boat is anchored while the meal is being served. On the less expensive Sunset Sail Excursion, the boat is moving the entire time and the ample pupus (appetizers) are more than enough to make a complete dinner. On a rack behind the bar, they keep four different single malt scotch whiskeys which are excellent and included in the price.
Maui Swap Meet - The Maui Swap Meet has been an institution loved by both local residents and tourists since 1981. It is held every Saturday morning from 7 AM to 1 PM, in the parking lot of University of Hawaii Maui College, just off Kahului Beach Road, across Wahinepio Road from the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Call 808-244-3100 for information. This is the place to find the only real bargains on Maui. It’s like a large flea market. T-shirts, jewelry, flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, hand-painted shirts and dresses, and an amazing variety of other STUFF, is all for sale by Maui residents. 200 vendors and thousands of customers (60% locals and 40% tourists) show up here every Saturday morning, knowing this is the place for a good deal. There’s also plenty to eat at the Maui Swap Meet. Food trucks and other vendors sell snacks, nuts, candies, drinks, shave ice, and complete lunch entrees. This is an opportunity to taste some authentic Maui foods for less money than you would pay in Maui’s restaurants.
Warren & Annabelle’s - One of the most successful productions ever to be put together in Hawaii is the magic show called Warren & Annabelle's located on Front Street in Lahaina. The owner, founder, and showman extraordinaire of this remarkably fun evening brimming with entertainment is Warren Gibson. Warren has been involved in magic shows of one kind or another for his whole life. He defied all odds in bringing a parlor magic show like this to Lahaina, and today it is almost completely sold out every night. It is extremely rare to be able to get a ticket for this performance even a couple days in advance. During high season, it is even harder to get a reservation. The reason for this is simply that the word is out, it is unbelievably "fun." During one of these performances, you literally forget about everything else in your life as you are enraptured with the event. You will have a smile on your face from the moment you walk in to the moment the show is over. Every show is different and participants are taken from the audience at great delight to everyone in attendance. There is an early show and a late show both of which you can do with or without a preshow dinner. I recommend the early show without dinner then do a late dinner after the show at one of the fine restaurants on Front Street like Kimo’s. This is not a show for children as they serve alcohol, and you have to be twenty-one to attend.
Whale Watching – Every winter, approximately 4,000 to 5,000 humpback whales, two-thirds of the North Pacific stock, migrate to Hawaii to mate and to bear their young. While the whales can be seen in the waters around Maui as early as September and as late as May, late December to early April is the best time for whale watching. There are many whale watching cruises during this time leaving out of the harbors of Maalaea and Lahaina. Both the Alii Nui and the Pacific Whale Foundation have whale watching cruises that leave out of Maalaea Harbor. The condo is situated 70 feet from the waters of Maalaea Bay which is a nursery for the humpback mother whales. Baby whales playing with their mothers are a common sight from the condo lanai during the heart of winter. In the entertainment center are two pair of high quality binoculars for whale watching.
Beaches – There are many great beaches on Maui that are well described in “Maui Revealed.” On the property of Maalaea Banyans, there is a small private beach to enjoy. Sea turtles frequently swim around this beach and crawl up on the beach to rest. At the end of Hauoli Street is nearby Haycraft Park which is on 3 mile long Maalaea Beach. In the closet by the front door are two beach chairs for you to enjoy. Hiking poles are also hanging in the closet for you hikers.