Everything you’ve heard about Maui’s radical beauty is true: the undulation of the mountains and the lowlands, the cream-toned beaches that yield seamlessly to sea and sky, the volcanic rocks slicing through the million shades of green. Maui is larger than O‘ahu, though the forested reserves bookending its eastern and western points mean that its more populous towns are concentrated toward the island’s center — ideal for short, scenic road trips between restaurant-hopping.
Scores of dining rooms take advantage of the natural splendor, overlooking beaches or sitting along foothills or high perches ideal for watching pyrotechnic sunsets. But just as often, seeking out the most righteous meals in Maui means venturing to a plain-faced strip mall. A concise cross section of options defines this list: a handful of tourist destinations worthy of their popularity, a few locals’ hangouts for variations on traditional Hawaiian fare, and a requisite pit stop for pineapple-macadamia nut pie.
Update, Spring 2021: Maui’s post-pandemic restaurant scene is a mixed bag. During 2020’s near-complete shutdown of tourism, many favorite spots changed hands, downsized, or permanently closed their doors. Restaurants barely stayed afloat, often thanks to owners who filled every role from host to line cook to dishwasher. But a surprising number of new places opened too, some from laid-off kitchen staff who seized the opportunity to launch their own businesses. The “eat local” trend blossomed during the shutdown as well, resulting in new relationships between restaurants and island farmers, and a plethora of Maui-made products on menus and in grocery stores.
Note: Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, restaurants are currently running at 50 percent capacity. Do yourself a favor and book far in advance, especially if you want that sunset-splashed table.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than $10
$$ = $10 - $20
$$$ = $20 - $40
$$$$ = More than $40
Shannon Wianecki writes about food, culture, and native ecosystems for publications including BBC, Smithsonian, and Hana Hou — the Hawaiian Airlines magazine. Growing up in Hawai’i her favorite snack was raw opihi (limpet) fresh off the rocks.
Part of the Eater Guide to Hawai‘iRead More