With its bountiful microclimates generating abundant proteins and produce, Maui is the perfect place for visitors to get a true taste of Hawaii.
The “Valley Isle” is unlike any other island in the state. It is one of the few Hawaiian Islands with local venison available, not to mention the acres and acres of land allotted to the cattle industry. As the third-most-populated island, many foodies, farmers and ranchers attracted to the slower lifestyle that Maui offers have chosen to make it their home. With that in mind, here are 15 Maui restaurants that can't be missed on trip to the island.
Right in the middle of the action on Front Street, Lahaina, Kimo's has been a local favorite since it first opened in 1977. Unbeatable views only add to the fantastic menu; it’s filled with the best seafood and steak, including their signature prime rib (tip: get there early before it sells out). Perhaps the best park of this beachy establishment? It is the home of the original Hula Pie, the decadent dessert you may have come across at Kimo's sister restaurants, Dukes and Hula Grill. With Hawaii-made macadamia nut ice cream pie with a cookie crust, topped with hot fudge, whipped cream and more mac nuts, make sure to save some room for Kimo’s famous Hula Pie.
Kō is located at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, and prides itself on attributing 90 percent of its menu to locally-sourced fish, beef and produce. “Kō” is the Hawaiian word for “sugarcane,” and the restaurant is committed to honoring Hawaii's sugar plantation days by taking traditional local dishes from that time— multi-ethnic recipes first introduced by plantation workers—and elevating them. The menu, colors, textures and tastes include Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese.
Namesake restaurant of owner and musician Mick Fleetwood, this Lahaina restaurant is known island-wide for its rooftop bar. Views of the Pacific Ocean and the West Maui mountain range can be enjoyed from up there, along with a friendly, cozy atmosphere and unique island-style décor. The whole restaurant can hold around 400 people, so there are often large parties and gatherings taking place at Fleetwood's. If you can’t score a spot on the roof, the main dining room offers a more intimate experience with a fine-dining feel. No matter where you sit, the service is top-notch and the menu has some great takes on local favorites.
There’s a good reason why Mama's Fish House on the north shore of Maui has been celebrated since 1973. Residents of the island typically hit this spot for special occasions, as there are few restaurants on the island that combine a spectacular view with impeccable fine-dining atmosphere quite like Mama’s.
Make no mistake—this is not a budget-friendly restaurant, especially by Maui’s standards. But the incredible service, quality food and unbeatable ambiance is worth every penny. Don’t miss out on the Hawaiian fish at Mama's Fish House, the catches are so fresh that the menu recognizes the name of the specific fisherman who brought it in that morning. While you may be lucky enough to nab a seat in the bar without prior notice (it's open seating), a table in the dining room will most-definitely require a reservation.
Since Star Noodle opened in Lahaina in 2010, its instant success and popularity has been unrivaled, and quite frankly, well-deserved. Sharing is the way to go at this spot. You'll want to order a few different plates to sample and share with friends to get the full effect of the menu's eclectic flavors. Start with the Vietnamese crepes filled with shrimp and steamed pork buns. Follow that up with ramen with slow-cooked broth made in-house and end with a sugary malasada and craft cocktail. This place is slightly hard to find; head down Kupuohi Street to find it tucked away in North Lahaina.
With locations in both Makawao and Kihei, Café O'Lei offers restaurant dining and catering on Maui. It started as a tiny five-table café in central Maui serving a modest menu of sandwiches, salads and coffee, taking advantage of the unbeatable island weather with their outdoor setting. The husband-and-wife team of owners already had years of restaurant management and cooking knowledge under their belts prior to opening Café O'Lei. This combination of experience and humble upbringings have kept this family-run establishment going since 1997.
One of the most elegant and admired restaurants on the island, Lahaina Grill has won the Hale 'Aina Award for best Maui restaurant 26 years in a row. The romantic ambiance paired with the thoughtful decoration makes it an impressive venue for date night, and the menu features signature items that celebrate Maui's impressive supply of local ingredients. If you are going to treat yourself on a Maui vacation, this is the place to do it.
What started as a go-to hangout for local fishermen and workers in 1989 has since become a famous establishment frequented by the likes of celebrities and surfers. Known for fresh Hawaiian fish, this north shore establishment is unique in that it serves out large portions for reasonable prices. Paia Fish Market is a must-visit for travelers coming to Paia, a charming town famous for its proximity to some of Maui’s best waves. Today, there are three locations on Maui and one in Waikiki on Oahu.
Inside the gardens at Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel in Wailea, Nick's Fishmarket is known for its immaculate service, stunning ocean views and extensive wine list. As the name implies, seafood lovers won't want to miss out on the fresh fish menu. The wine list will grab the attention of any diner who appreciates pairing the perfect wine with their meal, and the southwestern location on the island provides for some pretty spectacular sunsets. Don’t forget to make a reservation to avoid long waits for a table, as this is one of the most popular eateries on the island.
There is no better introduction to local and Hawaiian food for travelers to the island than Da Kitchen in Kahului—especially considering there's a location less than 10 minutes from the airport. The airport location has a lot more to offers in terms of selection. It offers a full-service restaurant and takes on the traditional plate-lunch-style fare from the original location in Kihei, as well as menu items like burgers and sandwiches. Since opening, Da Kitchen has racked up numerous awards (such as the Ilima Award, the Hale 'Aina Award and the Aipono Award) and been featured on several cooking shows such as "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives" and "Man vs. Food."
With restaurant locations all over the state, Peter Merriman certainly has a good reputation for incredible food, and Merriman's on Maui is no exception. Set at the Kapalua Resort with ocean views between Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay, the farm-to-table concept is the name of the game here. Only the freshest ingredients will do, and 90 percent are grown or caught locally using sustainable methods. Both the bar and the restaurant are great spots to catch the sunset and enjoy Chef Merriman's unique menu, and a place near the outdoor fire pit offers the perfect setting to end your day.
Located inside the Azeka Shopping Center in central Kihei, Nalu's has a casual ambiance with open-air seats and a quality menu. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and most of the products used are grown or sourced locally. For lunch, try the ahi club sandwich and pair it with a craft beer on tap or a kombucha.
Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Maui celebrates Hawaii's love for sushi, using the freshest locally-produced ingredients. Views of the sunset over Kaanapali Beach add to the ambiance of this classy spot, and you can even see the neighboring island of Lanai across the water on a clear day. If you're not a fan of sushi, the menu also offers a selection of steaks and seafood. Those hoping for a more laid-back vibe should consider the sushi bar, where you can watch the expert sushi-makers show off their craft.
It doesn’t get more farm-to-table than The Mill House in Waikapu. Apart from the farm being literally on the same property as the restaurant, the sweeping Waikapu Valley where much of Maui's farmland is located can be seen from the outdoor dining area. Watch the cattle graze in the distance as you enjoy your meal, or overlook the hundreds of acres of crops growing across the Maui Tropical Plantation. The Mill House even grows their own coffee to be ground and sold at the restaurant.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, with locations in west Maui and Kihei, is one of Hawaii’s favorite sushi restaurants. Founder D.K. Kodama named the restaurant “sansei” meaning “third generation,” to honor his third generation-Japanese American heritage and emphasize the eatery’s focus on contemporizing traditional Asian dishes. Since the first location opened in 1996, Sansei has won plenty of awards and accolades, some of them just for their Asian shrimp cake served with ginger lime butter and cilantro pesto.