Updated: Jun 9
Maui has a ton of amazing places to eat. From street food to fine dining, there is something amazing for every palate, budget, and preference. When Fat Papa, Itsy Bitsy, and I visit Maui, there are a handful of places that we make sure to visit every time. This is a list of our favorite places, why we love to visit and why you will want to eat here too!
Along the Road to Hana there are many twists and turns. So many, in fact, that as you drive by Mile Marker 16 you will most likely miss the left turn onto Keanae Road, which leads you down to the Keanae Peninsula (we missed this turn the first 2 times we drove by it). The Keanae Peninsula is an absolute hidden gem of the Hana Highway. In addition to beautiful coastal views, accessible tide pools, public bathrooms, and a quaint colonial era church (all of which make this a MUST stop on the Road to Hana), Keanae Road is also where you will find Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread Stand.
From the outside, this cinder block and wood building with its large garishly painted roadside signs, might not look like much … but as any seasoned traveler knows, it is often such humble exteriors that are bursting with the best stories and food! A woman-owned-and-operated family business, Aunty Sandy’s offers a small selection of local favorites from convenience items like bags of chips to locally made confections like fruit butters and coconut candies. Our favorite is making Aunty Sandy’s our lunch stop so we can order her delightfully indulgent fully loaded chili-dog while Itsy Bitsy usually opts for a plain hotdog.
These hot dogs are so good that when friends have seen the pictures (these pictures, the ones right here in this blog) they have stopped scrolling through my phone and demanded to learn more about where they, too, can eat an awesome dog in a tropical hat alongside a dirt road. But let me tell you, the only reason we ever got hotdogs in the first place was because we didn’t order our banana bread ahead of time, and it was going to be a 30-minute wait and a local told us it was going to be worth it. So we doubled our banana bread order, enjoyed what turned out to be freaking fantastic franks, and were in no way disappointed by our choice to wait for the next batch.
I don’t know if it is the coconut oil Aunty Sandy is rumored to use, or something in the Keanae Peninsula air, but OH MY QUACKING RUBBER DUCK is that the best banana bread I have ever eaten! Even if you don’t make it to Hana, you have to at least make it to Aunty Sandy’s. And don’t even think about sharing one of the mini-loafs with anyone. Just buy a load for everyone who wants to try some, then buy an extra loaf for everyone, plus another loaf for breakfast the next morning. It really is that good! I can’t sing this bread's praises highly enough. I mean, it is so delicious I don’t even have a picture to share because I didn’t think to take a photo, I just ate it. I promise, next time we go to Maui, I will take a photo and update this post.
As a bonus, just beyond Aunty Sandy’s are fantastic, very accessible tide pools. So eat your lunch at Aunty Sandys, stock up on banana bread, then go enjoy a fun afternoon at the tide pools. Hana will be waiting when you get back to your drive.
Fat Mama Tip: You can check Aunty Sandy’s website to order ahead or to purchase items and have them shipped to your home. Sadly, the banana bread doesn’t always seem to be available for shipping.
Whether you are in Maui for 5 days or 2 weeks, there is going to be a night when everyone in your group is just too tired to go out. When that night comes, Prison Street Pizza is your place … especially if you are staying around Lahaina. As you may have guessed, Fat Papa, Itsy Bitsy, and I are big fans of pizza … but really who isn’t? Prison Street Pizza is nothing fancy, and that is exactly what we want in a good pizza. So how did Fat Papa and I stumble upon this Jersey-style pizzeria gem in Maui? The best way possible, by asking locals.
Now, there is nothing, I mean NOTHING Hawaiian about Prison Street Pizza. Pineapple is the only remotely Hawaiian ingredient on their menu. But, when we come back to our hotel from a day of adventuring tired and hungry, Fat Papa and I ALWAYS ask the bell hops and valets for their favorite pizza places that delivers. When we asked them in Maui, they all, in unison answered Prison Street Pizza. So, with that kind of ringing endorsement from locals, there was NO WAY we were not going to try this place. And yes, the pizza was that good! In fact, we were so thankful for the find, the next night we ordered a couple of pizzas for the guys who had recommended it to us the night before. And what Prison Street specialty pizzas did they recommend? Their favorites were the Buffalo and the Windmills, and I cannot agree more. Truly, this is the best pizza in Maui, a must have for those nights when you just want something simple and delicious.
Fat Papa and I are not big on breakfast. Mostly, it's the fact that I am not much of a morning person and that if we are eating out for breakfast, we are big fans of greasy fast food breakfasts (its a big guilty pleasure of ours). But when we do decide to go out for breakfast, we want to make sure it is super family friendly because let's be honest ... if we are going out for breakfast it's early, I haven't had coffee yet, Itsy Bitsy is hungry and everyone is over-excited. So it better be really good to be worth the effort. But one year in Maui, we figured since Itsy Bitsy gets up at the duck crack of dawn anyways, we should find a breakfast place to go to at least one morning. It just so happened there was an awesome place across the street from our resort.
Slappy Cakes is and is not what the name suggests. If you figured the cooks are slapping down some awesome pancakes, then you, dear reader, are correct. Along with other great breakfast classics, pancakes top the menu at Slappy Cakes. But what really takes the cake here is the "do it yourself" feature at every table. That's right, you too can feel the glory of every line-cook by pouring, cooking, and flipping your own pancakes for your family's delight just like you do on the occasional weekend at home. Okay, I know my description isn't doing it justice, but it was awesome! We had so much fun making silly face cakes, heart shaped cakes, squiggly cakes. Even 3-year old Itsy Bitsy was able to get in on the action. You should definitely check out their Instagram to see the crazy-talented pancakes people have designed. Way better than anything we could even imagine.
If you like pancakes, are traveling with kids or are a kid at heart, and are looking for a good breakfast place, then Slappy Cakes is an absolute must eat for your next trip to Maui.
Fat Mama Tip: The only drawback to Slappy Cakes is that Slappy doesn't take reservations, and they are popular. So, you may want to send someone ahead while the little ones finish getting their shoes on.
This place we found using good old Yelp. The reviews were great, and it was close to where we were staying; but Yelp couldn’t have prepared us for just how good it was. Star Noodle is AMAZING for so much more than its food. First, it is located along Front Street in Lahaina and has the most amazing views of the water. Second, their open concept, outdoor dining is so comfortable and welcoming that we ended up eating here 3 times in our 10-day stay. Third, and maybe best (aside from the food) Star Noodle is right next door to the Old Lahaina Luau. When I say right next door, I mean a shrub wall separates the 2 venues, so in the evening you totally hear the music from the luau, a BIG selling point in my family’s opinion! That said…
ORDER THE NUOC CHAM CHICKEN … this stuff is like mother clucking chicken crack it is so delicious. Crunchy, tangy, with a little kick of heat. Yum-a-licious. Overall, Star Noodle is a fun Asian-inspired eatery with great local flare and fresh ingredients served family style. They have a great assortment of flavors like miso salmon, adobo ribs, or steamed pork buns (I tried them all, my mouth is watering just remembering it, did I mention we ate here 3 times in 10 days) but their real specialty is, as their name would suggest, noodles. With noodle dishes making up nearly half their menu, it’s hard to choose just one unique combination for your meal … so if you like the people you are dining with, maybe consider sharing plates. Oh … did I mention the noodles are all handmade, daily, in-house? But get there early, because Star Noodle focuses on small and fresh, so menu items do change, and popular items sometimes run out early. But at least you always know that you will never be served something from the back of a freezer or bottom of a week-old soup pot.
Fat Mama Tip: Ask if they have the pineapple upside down cake as a special. If they do, it’s a mini cake, and order one for every person in your party. You will thank me!
For whatever reason, Front Street, right behind Safeway and next to the Old Lahaina Luau, is the best place to find amazing local restaurants that are not too overrun by tourists. Mala Tavern is the first local restaurant that was ever recommended to me as a great place to go for good food and an awesome waterfront dining experience. Now, when I say waterfront, I mean that a good half of the tables outside sit against a half-wall that keeps guests from stepping into the ocean. Sitting on the patio at Mala Tavern kind of feels like you could get swept away if one big wave came by. But the area doesn’t get waves and the water just laps quietly at the rocks and the half-wall separating you, your salad, and the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful.
If you go for Happy Hour, the menu is limited, offering a couple salads, a burger, fish sandwich, variety of appetizers and plenty of booze. But the prices are really reasonable ($18 for a 1/2lb Maui beef burger with bacon, yum) and the view really can’t be beat. We almost always go for brunch or Happy Hour and are ALWAYS happy with the experience. It’s really just a nice ambience, good food, and a chance at seeing sea turtles if you are there the right time of year. Fat Papa swears he saw them once, I don’t remember, take it or leave it. This is one of Gigi's favorite places to go for a girls lunch while we leave Fat Papa and Itsy Bitsy to enjoy an afternoon in the pool.
Mala Tavern does offer a full diner menu as well, but that concept is more fine dining. I have not been there for dinner yet, but it's on my list for next time.
I am a sucker for a good burger. But add sweet potato fries and a ducking good milkshake and I really can’t refuse. Well, the Burger Shack in Kapalua at D. T. Fleming Beach is doing all that and WAY MORE.
Now I first discovered this place because I was browsing a tourist magazine in the hotel and saw a photo of their burgers and milkshakes, then I realized it was at the Ritz Carlton, then I saw it was oceanside … Instantly I figured, this place is going to suck. Sure, the food will be good but its going to be overpriced, overcrowded, total tourist trap, yuppie paradise, we should probably just skip it. But secretly in my heart I was screaming but OMG those milkshakes, and look at those burgers, and ahh the palm tress … I want to be one of those yuppies.
I really need to stop second guessing that I don’t belong places, it only stops me from experiencing the best life has to offer, and yes, the Burger Shack is the best life has to offer.
I hate burgers that are just too big to actually wrap your mouth around. If you can’t get every layer in one bite, then what’s the point? These burgers are almost too big. You definitely need to smash them down a bit, but the balance of meat, cheese, veggies, and Hawaiian sweet bread bun is perfect. But the real story is their bar menu. Whether you are going for a boozed up adult milkshake or a candy bar topped confectioners dream, you can’t go wrong with your shake order from the Burger Shack. Not only are these shakes MASSIVE (and they are massive), but they are delicious, too, with a great balance of flavors that combine tropical elements with childhood favorites. You just have to try one.
To top it all off though is the atmosphere. Set on the edge of the Ritz Carlton property and D. T. Fleming Beach, there is no better place to enjoy a burger. All the seating is outside at nice tables under a small grove of manicured palm trees, the beach sits just behind the restaurant, every table has a great view, and there is a large open green lawn next to the dinning area in case (like me) you travel with kids who need to run around a bit while waiting on food to come out. Additionally, there are usually a few chickens and roosters running around that Itsy Bitsy loves to chase and feed. There really couldn’t be a more idyllic place to eat burgers and enjoy the sun and surf.
Fat Mama Tip: D. T. Fleming Beach is a swimmable public beach and there is a lifeguard station so you may want to consider making a day trip out of your Burger Shack visit. For more info about D. T. Fleming Beach check out: http://mauiguidebook.com/beaches/d-t-fleming-beach-park/.
The Kula Lodge in Maui’s upcountry might be one of Fat Papa’s and my more random finds. We have always said that serendipity must be a friend of ours because things just work out. Now, I don’t remember why we stopped here, it was either because I had to pee or because the Kula Lodge had a fruit market out front, or maybe both. Fat Papa thinks maybe the fruit stand was down the road. I don't know. But for whatever reason, we stopped, I peed, and we discovered there was this restaurant at the top of (what we didn’t even realize was) a hill with a view, and it turned out to have really great food.
Fat Papa and I love to have driving adventures, especially in places where we have never been. We will just hop in the car and star driving in a random direction. Luckily thus far, this hasn’t gotten us into any trouble, but it has taken us on some wild adventures. Like stopping at what we thought was a roadside fruit market, to discover it was actually a restaurant, but wait no, it’s a lodge and maybe a spa and wedding venue too, and is that a wood fire pizza oven I smell, wait what are those brick and wood hut things I see? OMG too many questions to have answered at night when we couldn’t even fully see the grounds. But the fine dining experience and exceptional food were so good we came back with Gigi and Itsy Bitsy the next day for their more casual Garden Terrace experience (that’s where the brick and wood gazebos are).
Let me cut through the fat here… You should absolutely eat at the Kula Lodge; they have both fine dining and casual options. But what makes this place so special, in my eyes, is the freaking crazy eclectic Garden Terrace (and the wood fire pizza, get the kalua pulled pork with pineapple, its delicious, you can’t go wrong). But this Garden Terrace is the craziest cool thing. The hillside has been all bricked up following the curve of the land with umbrella-topped gazebo things (look at the photos and you will see why I’m having trouble describing them) placed higgledy-piggledy along a path with a stone-lined waterfall and creek running through the terrace. All of this sits below the Kula Lodge proper and overlooks western Maui for some of the most breathtaking views of the island you will ever see. It is seriously one of the best kept secrets of the island, and I still can’t figure out why we actually stopped or why I keep associating some sort of farmers market with it but don’t see anything about a fruit stand on their website! Let me know if you see anything.
Just go check it out, the drive is beautiful, the Lodge is a hoot, and you wont regret it!
Say it with me … Woo Woo … come on, you know you want to (like a train) Woo Woo! This just might be my favorite part of going to the Hula Grill. Only at the Hula Grill can I order the (supposedly) WORLD FAMOUS WOO WOO! What is a Woo Woo you ask, dear reader? Well, let me tell you: it’s a mix of Tito’s vodka, peach schnapps, and cranberry with fresh muddled pineapple, lemon, and lime. Sure, any bartender could make it. But only a Hula Grill server is going to know what the hell I’m talking about when I cup my hands around my mouth like a megaphone a shout “WOO WOO” to order my third one of the night. Yes, it is that good (I also recommend trying it with Sapphire gin; I call that a Fat Mama Woo Woo).
The Hula Grill is all the wonderful touristy types of Hawaiian cuisine that you order stateside to remind you of your Hawaiian vacation … only here they do them right, with local products, and oh are they yum-yum-yummy. Their menu is full of fresh fish, tropical flavors, and warm weather preparations. While they are part of a restaurant conglomerate that includes Dukes, Kimo’s, Jake’s and others, Fat Papa, Itsy Bitsy and I much prefer Hula Grill to her sister restaurants. Yes, Hula Grill is in a shopping center. But it is a very nice shopping center. Yes, Hula Grill is pricy and maybe a little pretentious. But that doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying the ocean views and nice tiki décor. Basically, what I’m saying is this … if you are going to eat at a corporate chain while on vacation, this is a good choice. Oh, and hula pie slices bigger than any other place I’ve seen … so there’s that.
Fat Mama Tip: Definitely make a reservation in advance, as this place is popular; and if you want a view, request it; otherwise, you may get a table inside. You can check their website for availability or call ahead. Also, self-parking can be difficult, so either give yourself extra time to find parking, consider using valet, or use the trolley.
It doesn’t matter how many times we go to the Hawaiian Islands, every time we visit, we love to go to a luau. In fact, the only time we didn’t go to a luau was our Kauai April 2021 trip because they were all closed due to COVID. The Old Lahaina Luau is hands down my favorite luau. Full disclosure … I’ve only been to 2 luaus, this one and the one at our resort on the Big Island. Why? Because the Old Lahaina Luau is so good in every way that I can’t imagine anything better. I have looked into booking other luaus or different cultural dinner experiences. Next time we visit Maui there is a luau featuring fire dancing that I hope to attend. But for quality and consistency, the Old Lahaina is just great.
Not only is the food yum-scrumbly-dumbly and never ending, but the servers are all incredibly friendly, the performances are mind-blowing, the dancers are award winning (literally they go and compete every year, sounds like so much fun). If you are looking to attend a luau in Maui, and really you should, then this is the one to go to.
We always like getting to the luau early because at the Old Lahaina there is a lot to do. Before dinner starts, there are dancers teaching traditional hula moves, instruments for guests to try out, artisans with hand crafted jewelry and art, and recreated Hawaiian artifacts including huts, tikis, and boats. There are multiple photography stations with professionals available to take your party’s photo. Is this a typical tourist trap? Yes? Is this whole experience designed to get you to spend more money? Yes? Is it hokey and a little corny? No, the Old Lahaina has done a good job creating a high value experience. Is there more that can be done to honor and teach about the Hawaiian culture, history, and people? Sure, but I think on the balance, this is a very well-done production that does not demean the people, modern or ancient. But, you should check it out and judge for yourself.