How to Eat Like a Local at these Kāʻanapali Restaurants and the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

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.”

An image of Kāʻanapali Beach.
Kāʻanapali is one of the nicest areas on the island of Maui and it’s home to some good restaurants as well as the events of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

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Related: If you like local food, check out our article about The Best Tacos in Puerto Vallarta.

An image of a woman golfing at Kāʻanapali Golf Course.
You can build up an appetite on Kāʻanapali Golf Course and then find a local restaurant for lunch or dinner. Photo by Greg Olsen.

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.

An image of pancake art at the Slappy Cakes Restaurant in Maui.
On weekends, you can watch a pancake artist at work at the Slappy Cakes restaurant. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of the grill tables at the Slappy Cakes restaurant in Maui - Kāʻanapali restaurants.
There’s a grill in almost every table at the Slappy Cakes restaurant near Kāʻanapali.
An image of a pancake artist at the Slappy Cakes restaurant in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
The pancake artist making a SpongeBob pancake at the Slappy Cakes restaurant near Kāʻanapali, Maui.
An image of a man with the pancake art he created at Slappy Cakes Restaurant in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
Our pancake artistry needs a little work, but we have a solution – more visits to Slappy Cakes. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

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.

An image of the pancakes at 808 Grindz Cafe in Lahaina, Maui.
There’s nothing fancy about 808 Grindz Cafe in Lahaina, Maui. But if you love pancakes, you’ve got to try the Macadamia nut pancakes with homemade mac-nilla sauce. Oh Wow! It’s worth the drive from Kāʻanapali. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

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.  

An image of the sign for Joey's restaurant in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
There’s nothing at all pretentious about Joey’s Kitchen. If you want good classic Hawaiian food, check it out. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of the fish taco from Joey's Kitchen in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
It’s a hard to resist a good fish taco. The one from Joey’s Kitchen is made with fresh caught fish. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of the ribs and coconut shrimp from Joey's Kitchen in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
It’s also hard to resist coconut shrimp and slow cooked ribs. Delicious – even when served in a cardboard to go container. Photo by Greg Olsen.

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.    

An image of the pizza oven at Flatbread Company restaurant in Paia, Maui.
The wood-fired pizza oven at Flatbread Company in Paia, Maui makes delicious thin crust pizza. It’s a good stop on your way back to the airport. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of the Hawaiian pizza at the Flatbread Company in Paia, Maui.
You have to eat some Hawaiian pizza when you’re in Hawaii. We like the version from the Flatbread Company in Paia, Maui. Photo by Greg Olsen.

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!

An image of the shave ice at Ululani's in Paia, Maui.
You also have to eat shave ice when you’re in Hawaii. It’s a rule. We particularly like the shave ice from Ululani’s in Paia, Maui. A good stop on your way back to the airport. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

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.

An image of the pork belly appetizer at the Mauka Makai restaurant in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
The Mauka Makai is a great place to try some local flavors of Hawaii. We particularly enjoyed this pork belly appetizer. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of a local ccktail at Mauka Makai restaurant in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
Local food and drink are the specialty at Mauka Makai restaurant in Kāʻanapali, Maui.

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.

An image of Joey Macadangdang at Roy's Golf Classic at the Kāʻanapali Golf Course - Hawaii Food and Wine Festival.
If you like food and golf, Roy’s Golf Classic is a charity event for you. Local chefs like Joey Macadangdang serve food and drinks at almost every hole as part of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. Photo by Debbie Olsen.
An image of two women handing out drinks at Roy's Golf Classic at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in Maui.
There’s plenty to eat and drink at Roy’s Golf Classic, an annual event of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival.

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.

An image of a woman standing next to Robert Irvine at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in 2018.
The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival is a great opportunity to meet and speak with celebrity chefs. We met Robert Irvine in 2018. Photo by Greg Olsen.

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.

An image of a chef at a booth at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in 2018.
The small plates event at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival is always a big hit. It’s a chance to taste the food from many different chefs and meet them and talk to them. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of a fresh fish bowl served at the hawaii Food and Wine Festival in Maui.
Each chef prepares a small serving of a local food made with local ingredients. This fresh fish was delish! Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of a pulled pork malasada at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
These pulled pork malasadas were our favorite small plate at the hawaii Food and Wine Festival in Kāʻanapali, Maui. Pulled pork on a donut is pretty amazing. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

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.  

An image of children making flower leis at the Keiki in the Kitchen event of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in Kāʻanapali, Maui.
There are fun free crafts, entertainment and cooking demos at the Keiki in the Kitchen events of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in Kāʻanapali, Maui.

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.

An image of a main course beef dish at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival event at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort in Kāʻanapali.
The final dining event of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival is a multi-course meal prepared with the best local ingredients. It’s held at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort in Kāʻanapali.

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.  

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