Even as Hawaii’s second largest island, Maui is relatively small – just 48 miles long and 28 miles across at its widest point. But once you arrive, you realize that the food on this tiny island is some of the most diverse that you’ll find in the States, and that you don’t even know where to start. That’s where we come in.
First, if you can, you’re going to want to rent a car to see, eat, and experience what the island has to offer. It’ll allow you to venture further than the resort areas of South and West Maui, and into the smaller neighborhoods, like Paia, where slippahs (flip-flops) are the preferred footwear and the food is influenced by everywhere from Polynesia, Japan, and China to Europe and the mainland.
Second, if you came to Maui with a plan to eat as much fish, poke, and sushi as possible – you’re on the right track. But there’s a whole lot more than seafood, shave ice, and spam here (though you’re definitely going to want to try those, too). Listing every place worth visiting would be impossible, but this guide is a good starting point, with everything from the divey, cash-only spots to the beachfront resort restaurants that will make you the envy of your landlocked friends.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The Maui Guide is presented by The Hawaiian Islands. Click here to learn more about Maui.
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Paia packs about 20 restaurants into three city blocks – and while you could set up a color-coded spreadsheet to map out where to eat in this small beachside town, save that energy for shopping in the area’s boutiques and just head to Vana. The Hawaiian-Japanese restaurant is located in a small, secret-garden-like space on the ground floor of the Paia Inn, so while it’s not great for large groups, come here with one or two people and pick a few dishes to share alongside cocktails. Just make sure you each get your own Vana Spoon, their signature dish that’s a combination of sea urchin and caviar in a thickened dashi sauce with yuzu, wasabi, and lime because it’s one of the best single bites you’ll ever eat. Vana also has steaks and pastas, and serves brunch daily with a pork belly benedict that will have you voluntarily waking up early on vacation.
After a day made up of equal parts chasing the kids and protecting the family from wind-blown umbrella javelins at the beach, you’re probably going to want a beer. Maui Brewing Company’s flagship restaurant is a large, open-air, and family-friendly space where you can unwind while your offspring entertain themselves with oversized Jenga and Connect4. This is the largest craft brewery in Hawaii and as dedicated to sourcing local ingredients for their beers as they are for their restaurants. Come here for the daily live music and quality bar food, and to try any of their 35 beers on tap.
Lineage was founded on three of Hawaii’s most important traditions: eating, drinking, and “talking story” – basically, hanging out with friends and family while sharing copious amounts of food. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing meal with a group or to celebrate standing up on your first wave over family-style, locally-sourced dishes. There’s a traveling dim-sum cart, and you should grab things like a chicharron with adobo spice, served with a chili-pepper water back (a traditional Hawaiian-style condiment that can be poured over food like hot sauce or sipped straight from the take-home flask). After, share a few pupus (appetizers) and entrees like the lauya, a Filipino soup with beef shank, short rib, and XO-doused bone marrow. Then pick a drink like the Everybody Chow Fun Tonight, served in a Chinese takeout container or Tutu’s Dime Bag, which arrives in a Capri-Sun-style pouch with a smiling cat on the front.
There aren’t that many times we’ve thought about going vegetarian, but if all non-meat food tasted as good as it does at Moku Roots, we’d at least start considering it more seriously. This Lahaina Gateway Plaza restaurant’s menu is almost entirely vegan and changes often based on what’s being harvested from the co-owner’s nearby farm. It usually includes things like their famous taro burgers, seitan-based chikn n’ waffles, zoodle pad thai, and marinated coconut-meat imitation bacon.
You won’t find this spot on the “resort rows” of Wailea or Ka’anapali, but it’s worth the 20-30 minute trip from your hotel to Central Maui for dinner at The Mill House. Not only is the menu farm-driven, but it’s also farm-located, right in the middle of the Maui Tropical Plantation. Get here early to wander the property and take in the views of the Central Valley over Happy Hour cocktails and wood-fired sourdough pizzas. Dinner is definitely more upscale and expensive (though, this is still Maui, so flip-flops are always welcome), but if only one big night out is in the budget, The Mill House is where you should spend it.
If you planned your trip to Maui for your honeymoon, anniversary, or fake engagement that you’re hoping will get you free stuff, Morimoto Maui should be on your fancy-dinner list. This restaurant is located at the Andaz Resort Maui, just off the shoreline of the insanely beautiful Mokapu Beach, which is why you should pay extra attention to the raw bar, and also why almost everyone has their phone out. After taking in the scenery, order the tuna pizza with fresh-caught raw ahi and anchovy aioli for the table because it’s one of the best things here, then focus on the sushi – though there’s also an impressive wagyu beef selection. And if you want a really big night – and have a good deal of money to spend – then the Morimoto Omakase, a $140 per person seven-course chef’s choice tasting menu, is the way to go. There’s also an extensive sake list to sip from while you figure out the best angle for a sunset picture.
Named after Hawaii’s state fish, this open-air restaurant is right on the water at the Grand Wailea Resort. Expect at least two surprise marriage proposals per meal and some of the best sunset views on the island under the Polynesian-style thatched roofs. Like most resort restaurants, it’s pricey, but the food and the atmosphere at Humuhumu make it worthwhile. The menu is made up of upscale takes on traditional Hawaiian dishes, like the glazed octopus – a twist on classic luau food – and a Kona lobster ramen that’s probably the fanciest bowl of noodles on the island.
A true Maui landmark, Mama’s Fish House has been serving seafood in this same location since 1973. Their menu is so local that it’s updated daily with the name of the fisherman, the location where the fish was caught, and what the fish likes to do on the weekends (OK, maybe not that last one). This place is about as beachfront as it gets, located steps from the sand at the Kuau Cove, though, while the kitschy bamboo walls and thatched roof may make you think otherwise, Mama’s Fish House is actually a pretty upscale place – so expect to spend some money here.
You’ve always wanted to crash a wedding, but the fear of knocking over the cake while hiding from the father-of-the-bride has kept you away. Since Merriman’s doubles as one of Maui’s most popular wedding venues, dinner here might be your best chance. Overlooking Kapalua Bay on Maui’s west side, Merriman’s is perfectly positioned for sunset views and gazing out over the water to seem like you’re contemplating life when really you just can’t decide what to order. They use almost exclusively local ingredients in their farm-to-table dishes, though if you’re not looking to spend quite as much, you can still enjoy the views at their outdoor lounge, The Point, which has daily live music and Happy Hour specials from 3-5pm.
Once you’ve eaten enough raw fish that you’re starting to wonder how you would look with gills, it’s time to take a break from seafood. That’s when you should head to Taverna. Our go-to at this Italian restaurant at the Kapalua Resort is the Taverna lasagna with a side of beef and bacon meatballs, though it’s pretty hard to go wrong on their menu. Just make sure you pair something with one of their specialty cocktails like the smoky Burning Man-Hattan or one of the three variations on the negroni. They also have two daily Happy Hours (2:30-5:30pm and 9pm-midnight) and a Wine Wednesdays special with half off select bottles.
The Hali’imaile General Store building is a piece of Hawaiian history, dating back to the 1920s, and while the restaurant opened in 1988, it holds onto the original name and old-timey exterior. Like many places in Hawaii, the menu is a bit all over the place, but our favorite dishes are Bev’s Famous Crab Pizza and the crispy roast half-duck. The restaurant is in Makawao, a historically “paniolo” (cowboy) town that’s now a small artist community full of unique shops and boutiques, so come here for lunch or dinner after an afternoon spent buying blown-glass whale tails and diagramming out how you’ll fit them into your suitcase.
Located on Front Street in Lahaina, this Pacific Rim/Mediterranean bistro is so close to the shoreline it almost feels like you’re floating on the water. Mala is perfect for a lively night out with people who like to share, since you’re going to want to order all the tapas-style starters on the menu. Start with a round of oyster shooters before splitting plates like the spicy lamb pita, whole wok-fried fresh fish, and charred octopus with house-made chorizo, which all pair perfectly with a cocktail, like the Makai Tai topped with fruity foam. It’s a great spot to go before heading to the bars that run down Front Street or to come back to after for a nightcap and a snack since their late-night Happy Hour with food and drink specials goes from 10pm-12am.
As the crowd of pro surfers and North Shore hippies inside indicates, this is where the locals go – and for good reason: everything at Baked On Maui is made on site. Stop in for a nitro coffee and croissant before starting out on the two-hour Road to Hana drive, or plan to walk off their face-sized, lilikoi-icing-glazed cinnamon rolls in the nearby beachside town of Paia. Our favorite dishes are the pepper goat cheese breakfast sandwich on house-made focaccia and the puputeine skillet (fries topped with homemade pepper gravy and cheddar cheese in a cast iron pan). There’s also a solid smoothie, sandwich, and salad selection for lunch before or after a hike and swim at Twin Falls, just up the road.
The best noodle house on Maui is hidden away at the top of the Lahaina Business Park, up the hill past a self-storage warehouse. Star Noodle serves house-made noodle bowls and specialty dishes that are designed to be shared, like steamed pork buns, pohole salad (for a taste of the island’s local fiddlehead-style ferns), and, if it hasn’t sold out for the day, the ika mazemen, which has squid ink noodles, chilled blue crab, ikura, and seaweed. Star Noodle also has a full sake bar and specialty cocktails like their lemonade drink made with sparkling blueberry sake.
After a day swallowing sand and saltwater while trying to boogie board at Baldwin Beach, you’re going to be hungry for something that doesn’t come from the sea. Make the short walk from the beach to Flatbread. The massive clay oven is a good sign that this is the place to go, as is the simple menu of salads and flatbreads. We like the Pele Pesto, which features homemade basil macadamia nut pesto. Check the chalkboard at the entrance for the day’s specials, and if you see that the loaded baked potato flatbread is available, please call us immediately. And if you’re still feeling too shaken from battling the shore break to make any decisions, they’ll half-and-half any flatbread for you.
Located in The Shops at Wailea, under a half-mile away from most of South Maui’s beach resorts, Longhi’s is our number one brunch pick on the island. They bake all of their bread and pastries on-site and have an entire section of their menu dedicated to benedicts, which includes lobster, crab cake, and lox varieties – though we tend to order the off-menu bacon one so we don’t miss out on the thick-cut, maple-cured slices. They serve brunch every day of the week, but if you find yourself back here for dinner, the family-style lobster Longhi will have you wondering why there aren’t always two one-pound Kona lobsters on top of your seafood pasta.
If you spent the morning hiking and swimming at Iao Valley State Park, it really means you spent the morning wondering how much more time you had to spend doing physical activity before you could have lunch at Sam Sato’s. This family-owned restaurant, about a 10-minute drive from the park, opened in 1933. Only open for breakfast and lunch, Sam Sato’s serves classic Hawaii plate lunches – a main with scoops of rice and potato-mac salad on the side – and a wide variety of noodle dishes. Try the dry mein: a combination of al dente noodles, char siu pork, and bean sprouts, served with a side of dashi for dipping. And make sure you finish with a homemade manju, a traditional Japanese pastry filled with sweetened bean and starch pastes made from the same original recipe created by Sam Sato’s wife in the 1930s.
Most of our friends stress about packing before a trip, but our main source of anxiety is how to fit 30 different restaurants into seven days. However, we’d very happily eat at Nalu’s three times a day, which is saying something. It’s a perfect spot to bring a group or a family that includes kids because of the casual open-air setting, the large tables inside and on the patio, and the fact that you order at the counter. There’s also a full bar with one of our favorite drinks on the island, their kimchi Bloody Mary (served all day). And if your morning beach walk turned into a morning beach nap, breakfast items are available until 2:30pm, with some, like the loco moco and the chicken and waffles, on the menu all day.
Paia Fish Market has become so popular that they’ve recently expanded to locations in the concentrated tourist areas of Kihei and Lahaina, but our favorite is still the original space that opened 30 years ago in Paia. They’re committed to using sustainable seafood and Hawaii-grown produce, so while we’re big fans of the Mahi fish and chips and charbroiled fish burger, this is the place to go to get fish tacos on Maui. Especially during their late-lunch Happy Hour from 3-5pm daily, when you can get a fish taco and cold beer for $6.
Nutcharee’s used to be an ocean-side food stand in a secluded town over two hours away, but it’s now conveniently located in South Kihei’s Akeza Shopping Center – which means you can get some of the best Thai cuisine in the middle of the Pacific without the treacherous drive along the Hana Highway. Sip your Thai tea slowly to tone down the heat from their drunken noodles, or pair one of their many curry dishes with a local beer. There are also fresh catch specials that change daily and mango sticky rice for dessert (when it’s in season). Stop in for lunch or dinner, or order for pick up to eat while you take in the sunset view from Waipuilani Beach Park just down the road.
When you envision what you might discover in a parking lot behind a gas station, the best poke on Maui probably isn’t at the top of the list. But somehow the South Maui Fish Company food truck pulls it off. They partner with local fisherman to source fresh, sustainable seafood, which means menu items change daily, but typically include poke, tacos, grilled fish plates, and ceviche. There are tables and chairs set up under umbrellas or you can walk across the street to eat at Kalama Beach Park. You can also get freshly-caught fish fillets to take with you and hopefully not ruin on the grill of your vacation rental.
One person needs to buy souvenirs for their entire extended family, someone else really wants to watch sports on TV, and you’re just looking for good food. The Pint & Cork, inside The Shops at Wailea, is the best way to make everyone happy. They have tons of TVs and serve upscale bar food – like a four-cheese mac and cheese with bechamel sauce that you can add black truffle, bacon, jalapeño, and even lobster to. If that’s not enough cheese, there’s also a short rib grilled cheese that you can pair with one of the 16 beers on tap. Plus, The Pint & Cork is open daily until 2am and is one of the few late-night spots on the south side of the island, so it’s a good spot to know about.
You might not expect to find one of Maui’s best lunch counters in a strip mall next to a Payday Loans, but that’s sort of how Hawaii works. Tin Roof’s “Kau Kau Tins” are a nod to traditional Hawaiian lunch boxes, and come with options like pork belly, garlic shrimp, and Mochiko chicken (Hawaiian fried chicken made with sweet rice flour batter) on top of rice, kale, or garlic noodles. Order online to skip the line or, since it’s located close to the Kahului Airport, skip the airline food and make everyone jealous on your flight by picking up something to eat on the plane.
If you’re awake and hungry at 5am from jet lag or general vacation excitement, use that as an excuse to head to Kihei Caffe before it gets mobbed. It’s open daily from 5am-3pm and around 7am you’ll start to notice a line snaking out the door of this cash-only spot. It’s full of people waiting for breakfast dishes like banana-coconut pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and pork fried rice, as well as omelets and scrambles. Kihei Caffe is in the Kalama Village Shopping Center, and offers outdoor seating just across the street from Kalama Beach Park, which is the perfect place to walk off the overly generous portions after.
The owners of Miso Phat, a sushi bar in Kihei, are so committed to serving fresh fish that they bought their own fishing boat, the Shiso Phat. Respectable commitment to puns aside, we love their menu of nigiri and sashimi, as well as temaki hand rolls and specialty rolls. And their combination platters are the perfect size for sharing with a group after a long day spent avoiding spray-sunscreen inhalation and chasing around sea turtles while snorkeling at South Kihei’s nearby beaches.
It’s pretty easy to spend a lot of money on Maui eating in places exclusively for the sunset. So when you want somewhere that’s more affordable, head to 808 On Main, one of our favorite lunch spots on the island. All their sandwiches and paninis, like the Red Rooster with turkey, bacon and Sriracha aioli, are under $15 and you can get them with a margarita or one of their “beer and a shot” combos. The one thing you can’t miss here is their freshly-made pudding – with options like banana, chocolate peanut butter, Snickers, and pistachio. Plus, Happy Hour specials like Margarita Monday and Wing Wednesday will help save room in the vacation budget for that zipline tour or snuba adventure you’ve been eyeing.
If we could only eat one burger in Maui for the rest of our lives, it would be from Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. Look past the brightly-colored interior and multi-colored booths that look like a chain where you might find a play-place, because the patties here are made from high-quality meat that’s hand-pattied daily, charbroiled to order, and served on freshly toasted potato buns from a local bakery. Teddy’s burgers come in three sizes – from Big (third of a pound) to Bigger (half-pound) to Biggest (a one-pound double behemoth) – and they also have hand-cut fries, crispy chicken sandwiches, and salads, as well as milkshakes and root beer floats like we expect from any classic burger spot.
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