What to Eat and Drink While on Maui

There are many reasons to travel to Maui. It’s arguably one of the most beloved and beautiful islands in the world. Seeing the plastered grins on the faces of arriving passengers is enough to make even the most hardened hearts happy. All are eagerly anticipating the moment when their feet finally find the brilliant blue water of the Pacific. Sandy beaches quickly seduce first timers and turn them in to repeat visitors.

Maui Hawaii Sunset

Yes, there’s much to love about Maui, including the culinary scene. The first time I visited Maui in May, I experienced the vast offerings that the island has to offer, including food and drink. Let’s just say that I didn’t go hungry or thirsty, and my bathing suit fit a little more snug after that week.

In August, I returned to Maui for Ka’anapali Fresh, a culinary event that showcases Kāʻanapali chefs and Grown-on-Maui products. Throughout the two-day event, I had the opportunity to chat with farmers, sample a host of chef-created dishes, visit a farmers’ market, and meet coffee, beer, and spirit producers. I allowed my inner glutton to take charge, and as a result, learned that Maui is more than mahi mahi and musubi. Here’s what to eat and drink when on Maui:

Coffee

Maui Hawaii Coffee

Being a coffee fiend, I won’t start my day without a cup of java. I love visiting places that either have an outstanding coffee culture {France and Italy} or grow great beans {Costa Rica and Brazil}. When most people think of Hawaiian coffee, Kona on the Big Island immediately comes to mind, but Maui produces some great java, too. Whether hot or iced, make sure to have some Maui coffee. Head to MauiGrown Coffee’s company store in Lahaina for a souvenir bag of beans. They’re grown in the hills just above the Kāʻanapali Resort and so delicious.

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

When I was in Maui in May, I got the opportunity to visit O’o Farm located in UpCountry. After a tour of the farm, a chef created a multi-course lunch in an open-air kitchen using homegrown ingredients. Talk about farm-to-table. It was there that I saw the variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown on Maui.

Maui Kaanapali Farmers Market Food

I find that one of the best ways to get to know a place is to visit the markets, thus during Kāʻanapali Fresh, I went to a farmers’ market at Whalers Village, a beachfront-shopping complex in the Kāʻanapali Beach Resort. Organic and fresh, local farmers sold their products. Asparagus, carrots, famous Maui onions, bok choy, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, kale, and broccoli were just some of the vegetables available. Fruit such as Maui Gold pineapples, giant mangoes, whole coconuts, bananas, avocados, and passion fruit were sampled and purchased. Many of the island’s farms supply the local restaurants, so even if you aren’t keen on cooking during your vacation, you’ll still have the opportunity to taste Maui’s bounty.

Pork

Maui Hawaii Pork Dishes

Perhaps it sounds silly to recommend anything but protein that comes from the ocean, but Hawaii is proud of their pork. Cooked underground in an imu, kālua pork, is a traditional part of any lū’au and can be found in a variety of other dishes such as tacos and enchiladas. I also had a lion’s share of pork belly. Crispy, fatty, and flavorful, I’m now a huge fan.

Sushi

Maui Hawaii Sushi

Given the fact that Maui is an island and has a Japanese influence, it only makes sense that the sushi is good. Good is actually an understatement. I think the only sushi I’ve had better was at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Whether sashimi, sushi, or poke {Hawaiian for diced or chopped} I devoured bite after bite. Check out Japengo in the Hyatt Regency for a vast sushi and sashimi menu. You can also take a sushi making class like I did there. Look to Relish Burger Bar in the Westin for the spicy ahi poke tostadas {and a great Kobe burger}.

Specialty Goods

Maui Kaanapali Farmers Market Food

I’m a sucker for anything that comes from a jar and could be sold at Whole Foods. Jams, jellies, marinades, syrups, dips, and spice blends, are a huge weakness for me. On my May trip to Maui, I discovered coconut syrup. I had no idea that such thing existed or that my French toast could be any better. Then while roaming the shelves of Aina Gourmet Market at Honua Kai Resort, I found coconut peanut butter. I am not responsible for your forthcoming addiction. Check out specialty and grocery stores for other made in Maui products like Kula Coffee Rub from Kula Fields and jams from Kula Country Farms.

Seafood

Maui Hawaii Seafood

Restaurant menus are filled with all sorts of seafood cooked in a variety of ways. If you’re a lover of fish, scallops, and shrimp like me then the hardest part will be making a choice. I’m a big fan of the ceviche at Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina and the spicy ahi tuna steak from Leilani’s on the Beach. It’s really hard to go wrong with such fresh seafood at your fingertips.

Booze

Maui Liquor and Drinks

I had no idea that Maui had so many makers of alcoholic beverages until Ka’anapali Fresh. Award-winning Ocean Vodka is organic, very clean tasting, and my drink of choice. Old Lahaina makes three kinds of rums–Silver, Gold, and Dark—all of which create the perfect tropical drink. For those that prefer beer to spirits, Maui Brewing Co. brews handcrafted ales and lagers. I’m a big fan of the Bikini Blonde Lager and the Big Swell IPA. Head to the tasting room, the pub, or just buy it in the grocery store for a taste of the flagship and limited edition beers.

Sweets

Maui Hawaii Deserts

I love deserts almost as much as I love coffee. In fact, dessert with coffee is ideal. I also find it very hard to pass up at least a bite of something sweet after a meal. Maui is filled with decadent deserts that will make your blood sugar level skyrocket by just looking at them. Shave ice is as much of a symbol of Hawaii as rainbows and surf boards. Uluani’s is my favorite shave ice stop, and there are four locations around the island. If chocolate is your thing, you must stop at Lahaina Fudge Company. Three words: Lava Flow Fudge. This chocolate and vanilla fudge is swirled with Kona coffee and other stuff they won’t reveal. As you would imagine, fruit is a big part of desert on Maui. Whether in ice cream, cakes, or pies, Maui-grown fruit is included. I suppose if you’re trying to be a bit healthier, satisfy your sweet tooth by simply eating a fresh Maui Gold pineapple.

 

For me, eating well is part of a great travel experience. I strive to eat locally-sourced food and dishes that are unique or specific to the region I’m visiting. I don’t think Maui gets the attention it deserves for its diverse and delicious culinary options. And the proof of how much I thoroughly enjoyed the food and drinks on Maui lies in the numbers on my bathroom scale.

 

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16 Comments
  • Kieu ~ GQ trippin
    October 5, 2013

    YUM!!! I’ll have the seafood, booze and sweets please! I’ve only ever been to Oahu.. definitely need to add Maui to the list.

    • Leah Walker
      October 6, 2013

      How about sweet booze? We’ll just cut it down to one course. Oahu and Maui have such different vibes. I was really surprised at just how much. Though, I loved both islands.

  • Erik
    October 5, 2013

    The pictures are amazing! Now I am hungry X10, Thirsty X10, and I have a strong desire to go on a foodie-adventure on the West Side of Maui. Mahalo Leah for reminding me about these tasty moments… Aloha

    • Leah Walker
      October 6, 2013

      Thank you so much, Erik. Lucky that all this great food is right at your fingertips. Lucky, lucky man!

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)
    October 6, 2013

    OK, you sold me on Maui when you showed those pork dishes! I love pork especially my Cuban pernil but those look really good. Great food photos, by the way!

    • Leah Walker
      October 6, 2013

      Ahhh…the man with Caribbean roots is a pork lover. Surprise! I love my swine, too. Thank you for the compliment on my food photography. It’s something I’ve been working on quite a bit.

  • Pola (Jetting Around)
    October 6, 2013

    Oh, my… And I’m looking at this before dinner. Let’s just say I could just live off of coffee and fresh fruit in Hawaii. Can’t wait to visit Maui someday. Great photos, Leah!

    • Leah Walker
      October 6, 2013

      I could have probably lived off of coffee and fresh fruit in Maui, but that wouldn’t be fair to all the other good stuff they have. I’m an equal opportunity eater. 😉

  • lola dimarco
    October 6, 2013

    oh the coffee! and the booze! 😉 everything looks so delicious and fresh!

  • Erin at The World Wanderer
    October 7, 2013

    Looks so yummy! Guess I’ll be making my way here soon enough!

  • Karl
    October 7, 2013

    What Lola said, I am so hungry now! I could happily survive on every item on your list for the rest of my life.

  • Laura @Travelocafe
    October 8, 2013

    I’m also a sucker for anything that comes from a jar. I love the photos, especially the ones featuring the jars, the coffee and strangely even the one with the pork, as it got me hungry.

  • Traveling Ted
    October 8, 2013

    I am one of the few people with such a heavy heart that I would not be amused by happy tourists coming to Hawaii; however, all these tasty dishes and especially booze would definitely soften my heart of stone.

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    October 9, 2013

    The sushi looks unbelievable! And wouldn’t say no to a bit of vodka tasting!

  • the lazy travelers
    October 10, 2013

    i just want to go back to hawaii and island hop from plate to plate. is that so much to ask??? IS IT??!?!

    • Leah Walker
      October 10, 2013

      Is it too much to ask that I be considered as an honorary lazy traveler for that trip? IS IT?!?

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