Whenever my husband and I are lucky enough to be on Maui, we become highly aware of all our senses. The sound of the waves gently rolling to shore each morning. And how, by late afternoon, that sound intensifies as the wind and waves grow stronger. We take in the smell of sunscreen lotion and the fruity taste of shaved ice after a day of swimming and sunbathing. Every time we come back home, we find ourselves craving fresh pineapples, toasted macadamia nuts and sunsets.
We visited the Wailea and Kihei areas in the southern region of Maui for the first time this year and quickly fell in love with the spectacular beaches, dramatic sunsets and elegant resorts. And yes — those intoxicating local flavors — papaya for breakfast, the fresh catch of the day for dinner and liliko’i shaved ice after a canoe ride. Whether you’re traveling as a family, adventuring with a few best pals or on a romantic couple’s getaway, we’ve gathered some great spots for you to savor the essence of the island’s southern coast.
This local spot, located across from Kalama Beach Park, is great for breakfast, offering generous portions and local flavors. It opens at 5 a.m., and it’s not uncommon to find a line outside. But don’t worry — it generally moves quickly. Menu items include a wide range of favorites — from halved papaya filled with yogurt topped with homemade granola and raisins to Loco Moco, a traditional Hawaiian breakfast of two eggs any style on a local beef patty over a bowl of rice and topped off with brown gravy.
You’ll also find a kid’s menu and lots of other choices to begin the day – huevos rancheros, eggs benedict, pancakes, Belgian waffles, omelets, fried rice and eggs and much more. For more information visit kiheicaffe.com
A Romantic Secret Garden
The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea
This secluded, intimate spot is perched on a hillside overlooking the pacific. Located inside an adults-only hotel with 15 acres of lush gardens, this restaurant is all about romantic, quiet dining under the stars. You’ll be treated to fresh local and seasonal ingredients beautifully presented and sourced from farmers and fishers throughout the region.
Seating options include either the upper lanai or amongst the trees, which feels like your own secret garden. The menu is prix fixe, with either three or five courses. Arrive a little early and stroll through the gardens before dinner and to catch the gorgeous sunset.
You can start with inspiring dishes such as kanpachi boquerone (endive, shallot, tomato jam) or ahi tataki (ogo, tomato and siso).
For the main course select from six options, which currently incude kanpachi with mushrooms, scallions and dashi; mahi-mahi with bok choy, carrot curry, eggplant and manilla clams and Wagyu rib-eye with ulu puree, mojo verde and cauliflower.
The cocktails are wonderful here, so take your time sipping and enjoying the serene environment that will make you feel like you are a world away. As you slowly make your way to dessert, selections include yuzu tapioca with butterscotch, coconut and mango, a chocolate tart with macadamia, caramel and coconut tulle or pavlova with lilikoi curd, citrus sabayon and seasonal fruit. For more information visit hotelwailea.com
A Touch of Italy
Perhaps you’ve tried different varieties of fish for a few nights and are now craving gnocchi with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, basil creamy vodka and tomato sauce. Featuring a nice wine selection and a kid’s menu, this spot located below the Marriott Residence Inn and close to The Shops at Wailea offers fresh Italian fare.
Starters include G’s meatballs with ground turkey, quinoa, chia seeds, flax seeds and kale with a side of flatbread. Entrees include the house special chicken parm and bolognese with Maui Cattle Co. beef, as well as vegetarian options that include butternut squash ravioli and melanzane alla parmigiana.
Save some room for dessert, especially the affogato (vanilla ice cream “drowned”in Maui organic expresso) and accompanied by a house-made almond biscotti, or a cannoli or tiramisu. For more information visit matteosmau.com
Casual & Family Friendly
Paia Fishmarket – South Side is a great spot for lunch with fresh catch plates and reasonable prices. Lunch plates include fish or chicken soft tacos, mahi-mahi or ono with cajun rice, home potatoes or fries. Also on hand: salads, pasta, burgers and a kid’s menu. For more information visit paiafishmarket.com
Shaved Ice, Island Style
Our favorite afternoon treat on Maui is shaved ice. After a day in the sun, it’s perfectly refreshing and captures the flavors of the island oh so sweetly. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice and Peace Love Shave Ice will definitely deliver that magical combination of tastes that you can only find here — we’re talking toasted coconut, guava, mango, pineapple, liliko’i.
Pick Up & Go
One of our favorite dining spots in Maui is right on the sand. We love to grab some food, put down a blanket and watch the sunset. If you want poke to go, Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquors is a popular spot with a fresh poke counter. You can also pick up ready-made items, fresh cut-up fruit and other alfresco favorites at Foodland Grocery Store in Kihei and Island Gourmet Market in The Shops at Wailea.