Eating and Sleeping on the Island of Maui, Hawaii: Part I

Many of you have asked about hotels and dining on the island of Maui.  As for hotels, there are, of course, the usual suspects, including the luxurious Four Seasons in Wailea, The Ritz Carlton Kapalua, and The Fairmont Kea Lani (more on the Fairmont soon, including an interview and amazing dinner by Chef Tylun Pang of Ko Restaurant).

If you don’t want to spend a fortune and like the B and B concept, there’s the wonderful Pineapple Inn (photo above) tucked into the hillside of Kihei on the South Shore.  I usually avoid B&Bs mainly because, often, I find a lack of privacy, but The Pineapple Inn is an exception.  Steve and Mark, who spend their time between Michigan and Maui, own and tend to the Inn, which offers four private rooms with balconies that look out onto the pool and hot tub area and beyond, the Pacific Ocean.  There’s also a two-bedroom cottage, set in the back of the property.

The prices are very reasonable ($139-$255), both for the island as well as the space. The rooms are simple yet comfortable; it might feel like you’re staying in your great aunt’s cozy guest room–well, maybe not mine who has lived in the New Orleans French Quarter for over 40 years, befriends everyone from drag queens to politicians, and at the fearless age of 89 doesn’t mind telling security detail for Brangelina (who have bought the house across the street) that they are parked in her space, all with a smile and a batch of irresistible brownies.  Back to the Inn: The landscaping is gorgeous and meticulously cared for.  Ornamental pineapple, ginger, bird of paradise, bougainvillea, banana trees with their drooping mauve blossoms, and happy geckos abound.  Steve and Mark are welcoming and on hand to help as needed while respecting your space and desire to relax.

I always make a special trip to the beach town of Pa’ia on the North Shore to eat at my favorite restaurant on the island, Mama’s Fish House.  Set in a coconut grove overlooking the North Shore, with Tiki torches and an exceptional staff, this family-run operation is a uniquely Polynesian experience.  Chef Perry Bateman works with over 30 local fishermen on a daily basis and prepares his dishes according to the catch.  This part of the menu reads like a poem: “Broadbill swordfish caught during the moonlit night by Billy Wakefield; Grilled octopus caught by Guy Singson free-diving near Pa’ia, etc.”  Some of my favorite offerings are the lobster guacamole, Tahitian ceviche, the grilled kama, seared tenderloin in a Hana papaya and the butterflied local Kauai prawns with Taha’a Island vanilla and coconut milk.  They also offer beachfront and garden cottages at the Inn at Mama’s.

For a more casual meal in Pa’ia, I like Flatbread Company for the copious organic salad of Kula Farm mesclun and organic sweet leaf lettuces with organic green papaya and carrots from Hale Akua Farm, toasted sesame seeds, and organic Arame seaweed. The pizza crusts are also made daily from 100% organic wheat and topped with everything from macadamia pesto to kalua pork and local haiku tomatoes.

Bev Gannon’s upcountry restaurant, Hali’imaile General Store, is great for lunch.  Start with a delicious jalapeño and cilantro infused margarita (with fresh squeezed juices of orange, lemon, and lime), complete with plastic monkey. I love the Kalua Pork Enchilada Pie and, if there’s room, don’t miss the the individual upside down pineapple cakes.


More eats:

Take a break at Big Beach near Wailea, and then stop at one of the local food trucks, like Jawz Fish Tacos and Kinaole Grill (look for the painted lady on the side) for Hawaiian lunch plates of crispy coconut fried shrimp or smoked and crispy pork buns complete with rice, vegetable slaw, and macaroni salad.

Sushi lovers are in for a treat at both Koiso Sushi in Dolphin Plaza (2395 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI 96753) and Sushi Paradise (next to Long’s in Kihei Center). Note that both have very limited seating and only one sushi chef creates all the dishes, so be patient and definitely make reservations.

Stir-fried Brussels sprouts at Mala Ocean Tavern

Mark Ellman’s Mala Ocean Tavern (1307 Front Street) at the Mala Wharf in Lahaina is a perfect spot to sit back and sip a margarita while watching the sun set.  I love to start with the stir-fried Brussels sprouts with fresh mint and sesame, then move on the Island Fish sandwich.  They also make a juicy Snake River Farms Cheeseburger and copious local greens salads.

Star Noodle’s Chef Sheldon Simeon of Top Chef Season 10 fame turns out excellent noodle dishes, Momofuku-style steam pork belly buns, a smoky and interesting take on Hot and Sour Soup, and Filipino Bacon and Eggs, among other dishes. It’s always packed, but worth the wait.


Roy’s has reopened in Lahaina to the joy of many of his fans.

The Great Alan Wong has opened Amasia in the Grand Wailea.  One of the many valuable lessons I learned from the One and Only Dr. John Floyd, who was my boss and mentor as Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living magazine, was this: (said with proper Selma, Alabama lilt): “We are not in the business of making people feel bad.”  With that said, I will wait to see how Amasia evolves.  My first dining experience there left much to be desired, but I wish them the best and look forward to a better dining experience next time.


What are some of your favorite bites in Maui?



4 comments... read them below or add one


  1. January 26, 2013 11:55 am by Shelley Reply

    I love Mala, too! I used to work with Mark Ellman when he had a place here in the bay area called Avalon. The first time I had lilikoi was when I had one of his desserts! He’s awesome. Thanks for posting all of this great info! I’m very excited about my upcoming trip to Maui in June and I’m still looking for a place to stay. God knows I’ll never be able to eat all of the fabulous restaurants I want to go to in just one week, but we always make the trip to Mama’s! Its heaven on earth. xoxo

    • January 29, 2013 3:53 pm by kim Reply

      Do you remember what the lillikoi dessert was that you tried? I’m with you–I love lillikoi everything.
      Have a great trip! Have you looked into the Pineapple Inn? It’s really lovely and I usually stay there but it was booked. Check it out and let them know I sent you.

  2. March 4, 2013 10:12 pm by Shelley Reply

    Hi Kim! I am just now seeing your response! :( I’m still doing research at the last minute and came to refresh my memory of what you posted.

    I can’t remember the name of Marks desert, but it was a decadent vanilla ice cream with a caramel sauce, lilikoi, kiwi, strawberries and coquitos! To die for!! When we wen to see him at Mala, he scarcely remembered me ( I was the accountant, afterall! lol) but he sent over the Brussels Sprouts appetizer and I think a cheese plate that he comped. It was a beautiful night at sunset! I did look into the Pineapple Inn, but we kind of want to stay closer to Lahaina. Did you find that staying in Wailea was a bit far from all of the great restaurants? It seemed like you got a lot in! If we do go to the Pineapple Inn, I will for sure let them know that you sent us! Mahalo!

    • March 5, 2013 10:32 am by kim Reply

      Hey Shelley,

      It’s nice to be in Wailea because I love Big Beach, which isn’t far. And, going to Lahaina for dinner is a nice outing. We love Mala, too, and also Star Noodle. And Roy just reopened in Lahaina. In Wailea and Kihei, Ko at The Fairmont is excellent–try the passion fruit margarita! I also stop at Whole Foods on my way from the airport for fruit and juices, etc. And if you love sushi, make a res at Koiso in Kihei.
      Keep me posted.

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