It’s a warm Saturday afternoon on the island of Maui and the local football team is doing what Hawaiian football players do – cooking and selling huli huli chicken. The best football fundraisers in Hawaii involve food and there’s a long lineup of people waiting to get their barbecue chicken. “In Hawaii we love football and we love food,” says Ikaika Manaku, former high school football player and executive chef at Mauka Makai restaurant in Lahaina. “Food is an important part of our culture and something visitors come here to experience. There are plenty of places with warm weather and beautiful beaches. It’s the people, culture and local cuisine that make Maui special.”
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Related: If you like local food, check out our article about The Best Tacos in Puerto Vallarta.
Fortunately, you don’t need to find a football fundraiser to enjoy delicious local food on Maui. Here are some Kāʻanapali restaurants that provide a real taste of the culture of the islands. And every year in October, the annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival brings some of the world’s top chefs together with the best chefs on the island for exclusive culinary events in partnership with several Kāʻanapali restaurants. If you’re a foodie, here are a just a few of the places you should check out.
Kāʻanapali Restaurants for Breakfast
For a fun breakfast near Kāʻanapali, check out Slappy Cakes. You can purchase vanilla and chocolate pancake mix and create pancake art. I stuck with Mickey Mouse, but some young men at a table near us created a Donald Trump pancake. In this case, eating at Slappy Cakes is less about the food and more about the fun.
If you want to go a little further afoot, we loved 808 Grindz Café in Old Lahaina. The 9-table restaurant is open from 7 am until 2 pm daily and it has an $8.08 menu. You can order the usual American-style breakfast foods, but for a real taste of the islands, try a loco moco. Everyone has their own favourite version of this Hawaiian comfort food, but we liked the shredded pork moco made with slow roasted shredded pork on white rice smothered in brown gravy and topped with two eggs any style. The fluffy pancakes are another great pick on the menu. A short stack of macadamia nut pancakes with signature homemade mac-nilla sauce is just $7. This no-frills café is right beside the Foodland parking lot. Get there early or you’ll have to wait.
Kāʻanapali Restaurants for Lunch
You don’t expect to find great food in the food court of a shopping mall, but Joey’s Kitchen in Ka’anapali’s Whalers Village is an exception. Chef Joey Macadangdang has mastered the art of Hawaii’s regional cuisine and makes dining out at his unpretentious Kāʻanapali restaurant affordable. Fresh caught fish, ahi poke bowls, huli huli chicken, kalua pork, fish tacos and loco moco, are always on the menu. You’ll also find several vegetarian and Filipino specialties as well as a kids’ menu. Most meals are less than $20.
Another option we like outside Kāʻanapali is the Flatbread Company in Paia. This pizza spot is a great place to stop on your way to the airport. We like their Mopsy’s Kalua Pork flatbread with pulled pork, Maui pineapple, red onions, mango bbq sauce, goat cheese, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Yummm!
What to Pack for Maui
At the very least, you’re going to need your swimsuit, sunglasses, flip flops, water shoes, a beach blanket, nice clothes for an evening out, a beach bag and sunscreen. If you want to do some snorkeling (we recommend a snorkel trip to Molokini), you should also take a good underwater camera with a float strap. We like the one below, because it’s way less costly than a GoPro and it basically does the same job.
Kāʻanapali Restaurants for Dinner – Mauka Makai
In Hawaiian, the word “mauka” means “toward the mountain” and “makai” means “toward the sea.” The two words are combined in the name of the signature restaurant at the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas in Kāʻanapali to signify a commitment to using local ingredients sourced from the mountain to the sea. At Mauka Makai, Kauai-born executive chef Ikaika Manaku has created a menu that celebrates the farming and fishing culture of the islands. Enjoy Kona lobster and Hawaiian-grown beef served alongside island favourites like taro, sweet potato and breadfruit. There’s a Pa’ina buffet every Friday with a poke bar, fresh fish of the day, slow roasted Kalua pork and more. They also offer a Sunday Brunch that features prime rib, a poke station, fresh catch and king crab legs.
The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival
Serious foodies should consider attending some of the events at the ninth annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival on Maui October 18 -20. It’s a charity event, so it’s not cheap, but it is delicious. My husband and I attended this festival in 2018 and had the chance to sample incredible cuisine and meet local and international culinary talent. Many of the Maui events are located at Kāʻanapali resorts and restaurants.
Roy’s 22nd Annual Golf Classic – This event combines two loves – great golf and good food. There’s something good to eat or drink at every hole.
Wicked Cocktails, Wicked Plates – This Wizard of Oz-themed event features tasting dishes from 13 culinary wizards, choice vintages from local winemakers and craft cocktails.
Keiki in the Kitchen – This children’s cooking event at Whaler’s Village will feature Duff Goldman from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes cooking show. For a small fee, kids can sign up in advance to learn cupcake decorating from a pro. There will also be celebrity chef autograph sessions, fun activities and entertainment.
Pasta la Vista – This six-course Italian dinner at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is the culmination of the food and wine festival on Maui. The meal will be prepared by multiple chefs and feature dishes and perfectly paired wines from different regions of Italy.
More info on Maui
For more information about visiting “The Valley Island,” check out the official tourism website for the Hawaiian Islands.