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We all (hopefully) have our travel “happy spots”, and as I shared in this post and video, I am head over heels in love with Hawaii. There are so many things I love about Hawaii that it is worth the long trek every time we make it, and one of those many things that I love about Hawaii is the food. In truth, food is one of my favorite things about travel.
When I travel with my youngest daughter who is currently a toddling one-year-old, sometimes enjoying food gets lost in the shuffle and eating becomes means to an end rather than experience. However, she didn’t make this trip with us, so we were more easily able to be purposeful about when and where we ate to be sure and not miss many of our new and old favorites.
Hawaiian cuisine is very interesting as it is a mix of not only what naturally grows in Hawaii and that originally came from the Polynesian influence, but also carries with it the influence of those who later came to work and live on the islands from other parts of the globe like China, Japan, and much more.
I describe most my favorite foods in Hawaii as fresh Polynesian/Asian inspired plates of amazingness. To be fair though, Hawaii also does a mean burger which I wouldn’t beg as Polynesian or Asian.
Like everything else in Hawaii, food is not inexpensive, though many places do offer a happy hour or sorts in the late afternoon, which can actually work well for dinner the first few days of your vacation when your body clock is several hours ahead of Hawaiian time. Our family of two adults and a seven year old was able to eat at all of these places for no more than about $100, though Morimoto specifically can easily cost more than that if you aren’t careful. Some of these spots were only $50-ish for a meal, but none were really less than that for a meal for three…which is why we made multiple meals out of the “free” Maui Regency Club offerings to balance out things.
Just as I had done on a previous trip to Maui, on our first full day on the island we walked the 15 minutes from the Hyatt Regency Maui up the beach towards Black Rock and ate at Leilani’s on the Beach. This is a casual restaurant where you can sit on the patio and watch for whales off in the distance…and we saw several!
They are known for their fish tacos, which we again enjoyed, though I think the poke bowl is my favorite item.
My daughter was clearly most impressed with her smoothie!
I loved whale watching out into the ocean from Leilani’s, though I didn’t love the food and service here quite as much on this visit as I did my first a few years ago. The location is fantastic for the Hyatt Regency Maui, and I would visit again on a future stay in the area if I wanted a restaurant within pretty easy walking distance. They offer an “Aloha Hour” from 3-5PM where drinks and appetizers like sliders start at $5 each.
For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of enjoying shave ice in Hawaii, know that shave ice is not a snow cone, it is a whole different food category. The shave ice in Hawaii can be truly outstanding. It is more like eating fluffy snow flavored by angels than some crunchy ice with watery sugar via a snow cone. Ululani’s is generally thought of as one of the best shave companies in Maui, and lucky for those staying at the Hyatt Regency Maui, there is one set-up right by the pool area from about 10AM – 5:30PM!
Expect prices to start around $5 for one of their specialties like “Hawaiian Rainbow” or any three flavors of your choosing.
We visited each afternoon we were at the Hyatt Regency Maui and completely loved this place. They even have handy little cut outs for the shave ice bowls in the picnic tables!
One of the secrets of Ululani’s is that they poke holes in the shave ice before adding the flavoring to ensure it drains down all the way to the bottom.
And of course eventually the whole thing melts to the point that you start drinking from the bottom.
If you want to eat at the Hyatt Regency Maui, a great onsite option is Japengo at sunset. They offer a happy hour from 5PM – 6PM that includes several appetizers priced at $5 – $10 each and drinks for $6 – $7 each. Not only that, but Japengo has a beautiful outdoor setting with live music and epic sunset views.
You could either make a meal out of the happy hour offerings, or do what we did and fill up a bit on those and then order a little sushi off the main menu to top it off.
No matter what you do, head to the back of Japengo and look at the sunset towards the end of happy hour!
We have heard great things about Star Noodle from Gary Leff and others, so it was a “must try” on this visit to Maui. Star Noodle is located a couple blocks off the main road in Lahaina, and it was roughly a ten minute drive from the Hyatt Regency Maui. I think theoretically you could take a public bus to within a couple blocks of Star Noodle if you were so inclined.
They are open for lunch and dinner and I highly recommend making online reservations regardless of when you want to visit as they can get pretty busy and don’t have a ton of tables. We sat at the bar and let the bartender/waiter make selections for us and that proved to be a wise choice as he was on point with his selections.
You can order your own things here of course, but they seem to excel at shared plates so you can try lots of things. We had scallop shots, Ahi Avo, Singapore Noodles, and a salad I forgot to take a picture of before we inhaled it.
My personal favorites from the bunch were the Ahi and the Singapore Noodles. If you wanted to fill up here for as little cash as possible obviously noodles are the way to go at about $12 a plate, but if you are willing to spend a little more their fresh seafood dishes like the scallops and ahi were very, very good.
Another recommended joint we finally tried on this visit to Maui was Aloha Mixed Plate. I love Hawaiian mixed plate joints where you get scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and meat. All of them I have tried have been affordable and unassuming. On top of that, this one was in a great beachside location and the food was really good. Aloha Mixed Plate is pretty close to Star Noodle and also about a ten minute drive from the Hyatt Regency Maui, if not a bit less than that.
Because we are poke-bowl fanatics we enjoyed that here and then moved onto the mixed plates. I got the namesake Aloha Mixed Plate with chicken, beef, and fish though I personally liked the chicken best and next time would just go for chicken with the rice and mac.
My seven year old went for a cheeseburger, and it is worth a mention as everything from the onion to the patty to the sweet bread was local and amazing. It was just as good as the mixed plate and I would not hesitate to skip the mixed plate and go for the burger at least once if I was visiting here several times during my trip!
I had heard from many people that Surfing Goat Dairy is worth a visit, so we detoured a bit when we made the move from Lahaina over to the Andaz Maui in Wailea and stopped in for a tour. Personally, we did not really enjoy the tour for a variety of reasons, but because so many others have enjoyed it I am including it and chalking our experience off to an off day for either us or or maybe our tour guide.
However, before the tour started we had some strawberry goat milk gelato that I thought was great! Surfing Goat Dairy also provides many of the local restaurants with their feta and similar cheeses.
Morimoto Maui was still under construction on our first visit to the Andaz Maui five years ago, so we were excited to try it out on this return visit since it is right on the hotel’s property next to the pools. This is a joint you will want to make online reservations at least for dinner, though it wasn’t necessary the day we went in for lunch. Just a note that tables for three or more here seem to be much harder to get than tables for two.
From their lunch menu we had six oysters as well as a small chef’s sushi combo platter.
Our server was a delight and we very much enjoyed the fresh sushi and oysters. This place probably has a very different vibe in the evening than it did for our lunch visit, but lunch was a reasonably priced way to try out the restaurant without investing too much time or money. Since this place is a bit of a time or financial investment, I would not personally bring little kids here if you are afraid they will require you to rush through dinner and not enjoy each bite, at least not for dinner. Lunch seems to be much less crowded and more laid back.
We didn’t make it to Monkeypod in Wailea on this visit, but it is another spot near the Andaz Maui that we have enjoyed and recommend for families visiting Maui. Like almost everywhere else to eat in Maui, unless you are going at an off hour, reservations are recommended at Monkeypod as the night we tried to go without reservations the wait was well over an hour.
We still haven’t made it to Mama’s Fish House, but hope to on a future “date night in Maui” as I hear nothing but fantastic things!
Where do you love to eat while you are in Maui?
Know before you go.
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