THE BEST OF MAUI, HAWAII

Posted by Ashley Robustelli on

All of this information is based off our vacation to Maui from May 11 – May 18, 2019! We chose to stay in Kihei on the south side, which is full of condos (not resorts). This was a great choice for us and away from touristy Lahaina or Wailea. Below you’ll find our favorite restaurants, activities, beaches, and more!

A local resident’s front fence in Paia

FOOD

  • Flatbread Company – This place is so YUMMY! Located in Paia, it was the first place we ate on the island. A 12” pizza can feed 2. We did 16” pizza and had leftovers. Our bill was only $25.
  • Ululanis Shaved Ice – the BEST Hawaiian shaved ice on the island! There are locations all over the island. We had some in Paia because it’s right down the street from Flatbread Co.
  • Monkeypod Kitchen – Great food, but overpriced. We ate at the Wailea location (also one in Lahaina) and it was $100 for lunch with 2 drinks, 2 entrees, dessert. The drinks are $15 alone, and the entrees don’t come with sides. This is, though, the home of Maui’s best mai tai (as seen in pic above).
  • Kinaole Grill food truck – Located in Kihei, this place is fantastic! $15 plates for entree with salad and rice (see pic above). Options include seared Ahi, Mahi mahi, and several shrimp dishes. So good we ate here twice! In front of apartments near South Kihei Road (GPS it). There are no tables or places to sit & eat. Once we ate in our car and once we took it back to our condo.
  • Wow wow Hawaiian Lemonade – ALWAYS yes! I discovered this place last year on Oahu. They make fresh lemonades with fruit blends. They’re amazing! Located in Kihei and only a few dollars.
  • Maui Brewing Co – We were not impressed with this place. We love their beer, but the food was only OK. Located on the west side. They have a location in Kihei but it’s only a brewery.
  • Kihei Station food trucks (behind Azeka Shopping Center) – A collection of 6-8 food trucks. Several trucks were closed when we went for dinner. Kraken Coffee truck was really good. The Haleakalatte is awesome. Nitro cold brew is also good. But that’s only coffee… We ate at the vegan food truck which wasn’t great.
  • Down the Hatch – Located in The Wharf in Lahaina, this place serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it’s fantastic! They validate parking for 2 hours in the Wharf parking lot, which is a little difficult to find. Look on their website for a map. Breakfast is bomb and happy hour is from 2-6. Can get crowded! They also have Aloha Y’all shirts for purchase which I just love!! So good we ate here twice!
  • Threes Bar & Grill – Located in Kihei. Good appetizers, but service is slow. My husband and I got several appetizer plates to share here. In a great location right off S Kihei Rd. There are adorable open air market/shops across the parking lot (Kihei Kalama Village)
  • Kula Lodge – This is the only restaurant we ate at that is located in Upcountry. Great view with good food, but not great. We stopped here to eat on our bike ride down the Haleakala volcano. Try the Maui onion soup!
  • Akamai Coffee – Small place & popular with locals, located in Kihei. Unique coffee flavors + good cold brew. I liked the Black Bear with blackberry and honey

      ACTIVITIES

      • Bike Maui Self Guided Tour – This was such a fun activity! The ride up the volcano was boring. Our driver was silent, and I’m pretty sure they are supposed to tell you about Hawaii’s history and culture on the way up. They didn’t give too much instructions for the bikes, but they gave too many directions for the ride down. We were all confused, BUT they give you a map. We used it a few times, and we got back just fine. WAY fun overall. We loved the self-guided tour versus choosing the tour guides so we could go at our own speed and stop along the way wherever we wanted. This is the cheapest bike tour available. Our tour was for ages 12+. Not recommended for kids if they aren’t strong at riding a bike (the entire ride is downhill so you coast pretty fast and there are many sharp turns to maneuver).
      The view from Kula Lodge, where we ate during our bike ride down Haleakala
      • Mamas Fish House – Notice that I put a restaurant in the activity section… that’s because this place is so expensive that it costs just as much! Mama’s is ranked in the top 10 restaurants in nation. Entrees are $50+ each. Our bill was ~$200 for 2 drinks, 2 entrees, and dessert. They are known for their stuffed fish & black pearl dessert. Located right on the beach in Paia. Arrive before your reservation so you can take some photos by the sand and water. They offer free valet too. Dress is nicer casual: collars for men & sundresses for ladies. Despite being expensive, this was our favorite meal! But this place is popular and you’ll need to make reservations months in advance. See pics of our meal below. We also saw a sea turtle on their beach after our meal!
      • Warren & Annabelle show – This was my husband’s favorite activity! Warren and Annabelle’s is a unique magic & comedy show. I know – why see a show like this in Maui? Because Warren is known across the nation for his talents and only performs here in Maui. He previously performed monthly for Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the main act at the first Universal Studios magic theater, and assisted with magic tricks in Paramount films. I would highly recommend his show! Must be 21+ to attend. Book in advance because they always sell out! Park at the outlet mall. GPS takes you to wrong building. Walk through outlets towards the ocean (it’s in building A). Young couples seems to have the advantage here. They chose 4 young couples to get front row seats (but you WILL become part of the show) – so fun though! Highly recommend.
      • Shopping – We love to shop for souvenirs while on the islands! Our favorites are chocolate macadamia nuts, Hawaiian shirts, ornaments, Hawaiian coffee, and graphic tees. You’ll get the best deals if you shop at the swap meet: it’s Saturday’s only from 7AM-1PM. Go early as shops will close around noon due to heat & low crowds. Great deals on jewelry, clothes, art, etc. It’s $.50 per person to get in. GPS takes you to wrong spot – stay on W Kaahumanu Ave and turn into front of Maui college, then drive to the back for the swap meet. We also stop into the touristy ABC stores across the island. Our favorite local place to shop was the Kihei Kalama Village. It’s an open-air market located on S Kihei Road. Lots of local stands and unique items. Also cheap aloha shirts! There are also malls on the island: we visited the Shops at Wailea (south side) and Whaler’s Village (west side). Shopping on Front Street in Lahaina is iconic, but we were not impressed. These stores all carry the same items and cater to cruise ship patrons. Honestly, we would skip Front Street.
      • Snorkeling – Unless you want to visit the Molokini Crater (which is only accessible by boat) then don’t waste your money on a snorkeling tour! We found the best snorkeling spots on the island for FREE! First, I’ll tell you that we tried at Honolua Bay (on the west side), which is supposed to have great snorkeling. Unfortunately, that was not the case when we visited. The weather wasn’t great so the water wasn’t super clear and there weren’t many fish. It was a bummer. The shore is also made of rocks (no sand) so you can’t even relax on the shoreline! BUT then we visited Po’olenalena Beach on the south side. This place is recommended by locals. It includes a beach AND great snorkeling! My husband swam with a family of 5 sea turtles here!!! Simply amazing. To get here, park at the Makena Surf condos. There is a small parking lot (only 8-10 spaces) from the road that looks like it is for condo patrons only, but it’s actually public beach parking. Park here and take the sidewalk around the condos and down to the beach. The best snorkeling is on the left side out near the lava rocks. You’ll need to swim out to it. Be careful of strong currents and waves! Also, if you are not a good swimmer (like me) use some kind of flotation (life vest, boogie board, noodle, etc.). When I tried to go out to the rocks for the first time, I ended up turning around and going back to shore because it is a difficult swim. But I went back out later with a boogie board and was able to snorkel while holding onto it. It truly was amazing! Lots of turtles, coral, and fish. We highly recommend this location. We brought our own snorkel gear, but there are places to rent from all over the island. Try Snorkel Bob’s. And if you DO choose to book a tour, I hear Trilogy is the best company. But note – we saw the snorkel boat tours take their patrons to both the bay and beach while we were there snorkeling the same spots for free. So I’d stick to a Molokini Crater tour only. Black Rock is also a famous snorkeling beach on the island. It’s located in front of the Sheraton Resort on the west side. There is a whole string of resorts in this area, so parking is difficult and the beaches are crowded. We visited, but didn’t want to fight the crowds and swim out to the snorkeling spot.
      • Road to Hana – This is considered the most beautiful road in all of Hawaii! Along it you’ll find waterfalls, swimming holes, red sand beaches, black sand beaches, hikes, etc. The road to Hana covers the entire east coast of the island. It snakes and dips around the volcano and coast (so if anyone in your group gets motion sickness, be sure to bring medicine). Driving this road will also take you all day. Our day was 7AM – 4PM leaving and arriving from Kihei. This is a must-do in Maui, and it is also crowded so start early. The typical way to drive this road is from North to South, but we decided to drive the opposite way to avoid a long trail of cars. We don’t regret it either! I also recommend purchasing an audio tour on the Shaka app. It’s only $10 and will narrate your tour as you drive. The tour will mention the 100+ locations you can stop at along the way if you wish. It also includes history of the island, which stops to pass over, where restrooms are located, etc. Read this post to find our favorite spots on the Road to Hana.

       

      BEACHES

      Baby Beach in Paia
      • Baby Beach – Located in Paia, this is the left end of Baldwin Beach. GPS this one and it will take you into a neighborhood for parking. Then walk from there. A lava shelf provides calm waters and protected swimming here. It’s crowded, but good swimming. We saw several turtles here! We loved this beach and would recommend it.
      • Kamaole lll – This is a small beach with a nice large park attached to it. We swam here a few times because it was right across the street from our condo, but otherwise we wouldn’t recommend. Good park to watch sunset though.
      • Secret Cove – This is a great little spot! You’ll only be alone if you go really early. Lots of lava rock here, and waters can be rough so be careful. GPS this location. While driving south, look for the opening in the rock wall on your right. Park on side of the road and walk through that opening. This beach is nice but small.
      • Big beach – Large, sandy, and popular. There is a lifeguard, but no bathrooms or showers. Limited parking. Great place to chill in the afternoon, but you won’t be alone.
      • Po’olenalena beach – Mentioned above in the snorkeling section. EXCELLENT snorkeling near left side lava!

      Honolua Bay – Also mentioned above in the snorkeling section. It is hit/miss for snorkeling. All Rock beach, no sand. Arrive early to get parking on side of road. Gorgeous walk down to bay through the trees! Not many fish when we went, but right side has best snorkeling if you want to try it out. We were disappointed here.

      • D.T. Fleming Beach Park – This was recommended to us by our waiter, and it is a great beach! There are restrooms, showers, lifeguard, nice swimming, and easy parking. GPS this beach. Located on the west side of the island.
      • Olivine Pools – This place is not worth the hype. Near the Nakalele Blowhole, there is a long climb down to get to these, and they didn’t look good. We didn’t climb down. I’d skip this if I were you.
      • Nakalele blowhole – This isn’t a beach, but it’s cool! Located on the north coast of the west side. You’ll need shoes, not flip flops, because you have to climb down to it. Easy climb though – many kids did it. There is also a famous heart-shaped rock over to the right side. This is a popular place! But note that the blowhole is not always blowing.

      Popular attractions we skipped:

      • Molokini crater – Like I mentioned above, we found great snorkeling for free, so we didn’t see a need to pay for a tour to snorkel here.
      • Luau – We have already experienced a luau on a past vacation, so we decided to skip this popular attraction. If you have never been to a luau, then definitely go! I hear the Old Lahaina Luau is the best one on Maui.
      • Ioa Needle Valley – After driving the Road to Hana, we didn’t want to experience lush greenery anymore. I hear this place is beautiful though!
      • Haleakala Sunrise – This is a very popular Maui activity, but we are not ones for sunrises (and not ones for waking up at 2 AM) so we decided to skip this and just bike down the volcano instead. If you want to see the sunrise, note that you will be waking up early and you will be sleeping the rest of the day (so don’t plan to do much else that day). You also need to book tickets WAY in advance because there are limited spots and they sell out in seconds. Note: they release 80 extra tickets 48 hours prior to the date if you weren’t able to snag some. Book here.Large sea turtle in front of Mama’s (please remember to not touch any wildlife)!

      A final note:
      I used this guidebook to plan our vacation to Maui. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to visit the island! It includes information about food, beaches, activities, and more from a local.


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