After 5 days on Kauai, we finished our Hawaiian vacation with four days on Maui. Maui is a bit larger and much more populated than Kauai, with about 145,000 inhabitants. We spent all four nights of our stay in Kihei, a coastal town in central Maui--it's a great base due to its location, and I found Kihei to have a more laid-back feel than other coastal areas of central and northwestern Maui (especially Lahaina). We first visited Maui in 2012, and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with the beautiful beaches, diverse topography, and our bed and breakfast.
Where to Eat
Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina) is probably the best dining value in Maui--this beachside restaurant serves large portions of Hawaiian favorites like teriyaki beef and kalua pork plate lunch-style, with two scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. There are also lighter and vegetarian options, like a tofu stir fry loaded with shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, and sweet Maui onions. Time your dinner for sunset and be sure to sit on the patio.
If you're looking for fish--and on Maui, you should be--Eskimo Candy (Kihei) has you covered. This counter-service eatery serves up seafood in all forms, from coconut shrimp and fish-n-chips to chowder and poke (raw marinated fish). I recommend the poke bowl, an assortment of pokes ranging from mild to spicy served with seaweed salad and rice. But if you like your fish cooked, the fish-n-chips are ethereally battered and are made with delectable freshly caught Hawaiian fish.
Though it's located in a generic strip mall, the food at Da Kitchen (Kahului) could only be found in Hawaii. The lengthy menu offers plate lunch classics like kalua pork and chicken katsu; creative riffs on loco moco; saimin; and American-style salads, sandwiches, and burgers. The Hawaiian plate--kalua pork, lau lau, lomi salmon, chicken long rice, two scoops of white rice and the obligatory scoop of macaroni salad--is the perfect way to taste traditional specialties, and is big enough to split. Mike loved the tender shreds of kalua pork and the rich chicken broth of the chicken long rice (a soup made with glass noodles). I'm partial to lau lau: packets of tender pork, supple butterfish, and bitter, spinach-like taro greens, wrapped in a sturdy leaves and steamed. If you still have room for dessert, try the chocolate haupia pie--chocolate pudding layered with coconut custard and whipped cream to create a tropical variation on French silk.
The good news is that shave ice, a refreshing Hawaiian dessert of shaved ice flavored with syrup, is ubiquitous on Maui. The bad news is that much of it is sub-par, stingily dressed with garish artificial syrups. Ululani's Shave Ice (locations in Lahaina, Kahului, Kihei, and Wailuku) stands out for their careful application of naturally flavored syrups made with fruit puree. You can pick your own flavor combination, or try one of the recommended versions--my favorites were the fruity Lahaina (pineapple, coconut, and banana) and Sunset Beach (guava, mango, and passion orange). For a creamier treat, try the Haleakala, which is flavored with coconut and leche and then topped with sweetened condensed cream.
It's not worth a special trip, but Wow-Wee Maui's Kava Bar and Grill (Kahului) is a handy American grill/sushi bar near the airport. The avocado-bacon cheeseburger is giant and delicious, the sushi is decent, and service was snappy.
Things to Do
Watch the surfers off Ho'okipa Beach, one of the top spots for ocean sports in Maui. There's a convenient parking lot at the top of the hill that gives you the perfect vantage point for watching the surfers' awe-inspiring displays of grace and athleticism.
Spend a day on the Road to Hana, a winding and narrow rainforest drive that's a highway only in the technical sense of the term. Distance-wise, it's only about 60 miles to Hana, but your journey will take all day: there's a 25 mph speed limit for much of the route, dozens of one-lane bridges, frequent photo stops, detours for hikes, and multiple swimming opportunities. There's no conceivable way to see every stop along the way in one day, so pick the sights that look most interesting, relax, and enjoy the drive. Also, note that some of the best stops--Hamoa Beach, 'O'heo Gulch, and Wailua Falls--are actually after Hana, so keep going! (for more tips, see my post on the Road to Hana)
Admire a sunset from Makena Beach. Also known as Big Beach, it offers excellent body surfing and sunbathing, plus stunning views of the Molokini Crater and Kaho'olawe (the smallest Hawaiian island).
Drive the Kahekili Highway (CR 340) in West Maui for some amazing views. The narrow, winding road has a somewhat similar feel to the Road to Hana, although the rugged, windswept landscape is completely different from the lush rainforest of Maui's more famous drive. Since the distance is shorter and there aren't as many stops as the Road to Hana, we were able to easily complete the drive in an afternoon.
Snorkel in Honolua Bay, with its colorful coral formations and diverse and plentiful fish populations--the snorkeling is among the best on Maui. We saw several varieties of butterfly fish, cornetfish, parrotfish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaii's state fish), and even an eel. Note that the beach is very rocky, and facilities are limited to portable toilets.
Check out the free hula show at Lahaina Cannery Mall for a budget-friendly way to experience Hawaiian culture. The show we attended included live music and was about 45 minutes long. It helps to have some background information about hula before you go--our enthusiastic guide at the Kaua'i Museum did a great job of providing some historical and cultural context (this article includes much of what we learned on our tour).
If you want to wear the aloha spirit home, buy a Hawaiian shirt at Hilo Hattie's (located in Lahaina at the Outlets of Maui, plus locations on Oahu and Kauai). Their shirts are actually made in Hawaii, and Mike found an earth-toned version subtle enough for his Minnesota workplace.
Shop for souvenirs at Long's Drug (stores in Lahaina, Wailuku, Kahului, Kihei, and Pukalani, plus locations on Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island). Although the chain is owned by CVS, Long's has a great selection of made-in-Hawaii food products at reasonable prices, from macadamia nuts and Kona coffee to papaya syrup and passionfruit jam.
Listen to KPOA (93.5 FM)--"Hawaiian music, Maui style". If the mellow music and good-natured DJs don't put you in a Hawaii frame of mind, nothing will. There's also an online live stream that I am fast becoming addicted to now that I'm home.
If you have to check out at 10:30 a.m. but your flight isn't until 9:50 p.m., buy a day pass to the Maui Family YMCA (located in Kahului) and take a shower before heading to the airport. Washing off a day's worth of sweat, saltwater, and sunscreen before embarking on 14 hours of travel was the best $20 Mike and I spent on the entire vacation.
Where to Stay
As mentioned above, this was our second trip to Maui and our second stay at the Ocean Breeze Hideaway in Kihei. This reasonably-priced little B&B is a gem, with welcoming, knowledgeable hosts Bob and Sandee and delicious breakfasts of fresh fruit and bread with tropical jam. We stayed in the Coral Room, which has a queen-size bed, private entrance, and an outdoor seating area with table and chairs; the larger Ocean room has a king-size bed. Both rooms include thoughtful extras for your stay on Maui, from beach chairs and a cooler for long days at the beach to a mini refrigerator and cork screw for a romantic evening in with a bottle of wine.