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Paia Fish Market
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The best restaurants in Maui

The best restaurants in Maui are one giant tasty love letter to delicious local produce and traditional recipes

Written by
Lori A May
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For whatever reason (possibly the whole ‘tropical paradise’ thing), the many flavors of Hawaii often get overlooked. Plans to visit the islands revolve around excitement and serenity in equal measure, not restaurants or traditional recipes. Of course, delicious local produce and culinary delights are another reason why Hawaii is such a dream destination.

The best restaurants in Maui are, in many ways, a microcosm of what makes Hawaiian food so spectacular. Freshly-caught seafood and eco-conscious practices dominate, and the proof is in the, erm, opakapaka (crimson snapper served in several ways). You can quite literally taste the culinary heritage in these dishes. Eating until you can eat no more is one of the best things to do in Maui. These are the joints to seek out.

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Best restaurants in Maui

Reserve a table at this family-oriented restaurant, which has achieved legendary status over its 40 years. Mama’s Fish House is a romantic oceanfront oasis where the service leaves you feeling like a valued guest. Share a crispy whole fish or savor a decadent bowl of bouillabaisse packed with fresh island flavor. Not to be missed is the house-made ice cream and a signature cocktail with guava, lime, and ginger.

Chef Joey Macadangdang’s creative comfort food is the order of the day at this Hawaiian-Filipino fusion eatery. Opt for island favorites like a bountiful breakfast burrito or classic loco moco (white rice topped with a hamburger, a fried egg and brown gravy). For dinner, fill up on mouthwatering butter garlic shrimp, or beef short ribs. Plates are artfully presented but the vibe is casual and family-oriented. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available as well.

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Find this vibrant red food truck and you’ll come across award-winning plates served by chef Kyle Kawakami. The Maui-born cook grew up surrounded by the farms of Upcountry, so it’s no surprise his menu highlights only the best local ingredients. Think fresh-baked focaccia sandwiches, calamari salads with a delightful papaya twist and seared ahi tuna on a bed of local organic greens.

If you’ve heard of chef Masaharu Morimoto, it’s for good reason: his iconic Japanese creations are crowd-pleasers. Want to sample the very best? Opt for the chef’s choice tasting menu, where each item is carefully selected. You can also go for the à la carte menu, showcasing food from the raw bar, apps like savory rock shrimp tempura, and surf and turf entrées. Reservations are recommended as this open-air beachfront dining room is extremely popular, especially during sunset hours.

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Craving the feast found at a luau but it’s only midday? Head to Poi by the Pound in Kahului for a filling plate of Kalua pork, pork laulau, rice, poi and mac salad. It’s a hefty serving, so you can share it with a pal or keep leftovers for later. If you’d rather devour everything in one sitting, opt for a solo pork plate and close your eyes. You’ll practically hear the luau music in the background.

Head to the Maui Brewing Co headquarters in Kihei to experience hearty dining paired with 36 craft and specialty beers on tap. First, take a brewery tour to acquaint yourself with this indie venue, then dig into classic pub fare, island-style. Think lager-infused artisan pizzas, fish tacos featuring the latest catch and veggie burgers with macadamia nuts and avocado. Like any great pub, you’ll find live entertainment and happy hour specials aplenty.

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After a morning on the beach, reward yourself by strolling over to Kihei Caffe for a satisfying plate of all-day breakfast. Power up with a papaya filled with yogurt and granola, or dig into a handsome serving of homemade corned beef hash. To cool down, opt for fresh-squeezed juices or a blended frozen coffee. Your flip-flops are more than welcome at this walk-up eatery, which is perfect for refueling between beach activities.

Huihui is a Beachfront Restaurant is a gorgeous venue for a meal set along the calm Kaanapali shoreline. Traditional Hawaiian cuisine with modern flair is featured on executive chef Tom Muromoto’s menu with sticky spareribs, lobster dumplings, traditional lāwalu fish starring alongside signature cocktails created with hibiscus, lavender and other island ingredients. Huihui translates to “star constellation” or “to join, intermingle, mix,” and that’s exactly the mood at this inviting new venue where every inch of decor reflects Hawaii’s culture and environment.

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The Paia Fishmarket Front Street Restaurant is a seafood lover’s dream where you take a role in designing your own fresh catch plate. Select one of several fresh catches like ono, snapper or mahi-mahi, then decide on how the fish is prepared. Classic options include grilled or sauteed, while extra flavor boosts are guaranteed with blackened or Cajun style prep. Then add your choice of sides and dig in for a mouthful of joy. Want a quick lunch? Go for the shrimp quesadilla with homemade salsa.

So you’ve driven through scenic Upcountry and enjoyed a tasting at Maui Wine. Now hunger has struck, you need only cross the road to Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill for a surprising and delicious meal. Sure, it looks like a small shop with souvenirs and soda machines, but you’ll soon pick up the aroma of burgers on a grill. The open-air venue focuses on only using Maui-grown produce alongside local ranch beef. Pull up a patio chair and enjoy one of the island’s hidden gems.

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Follow the sweet sounds of the ukulele and you’ll stumble upon the casual island vibe of Leilani’s on the Beach. Start with a Maui fresh salad with island greens and toasted macadamia nuts, then sample a fresh catch of sustainable seafood or opt for pork ribs sourced from Maui farms. Leilani’s is a popular spot where locals gather for special events, but you’ll find just as many visitors embracing ‘aloha hour‘ food and drink specials.

Life is simply better with pie – and chef Ed Morita delivers both sweet and savory temptations at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. You can pick up a burger or a salad here but it’s when it runs out of pies that you’ll see just how hot a spot it remains for locals and visitors alike. You could go for classics like an apple crumble, but there’s nothing like the macadamia nut chocolate praline pie. Want something tart and sweet? Dig into pineapple lemon pie for the best of both worlds.

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13. Huli Huli Chicken

The road to Hana is via an amazingly scenic coastal drive. Upon arrival, you’ll want to seek out a great spot to refuel. While you won’t find Huli Huli listed in the phone book and neither does the venue have a website, follow locals’ lead and get in line. You’ll find this modest eatery at Koki Beach Park for as long as ingredients are on hand: if it’s a busy beach day, you’ll want to get here pretty early. This is a cash-only establishment, so bring bills to pick up a freshly-made plate of Hawaiian barbeque.

Hula Grill serves a fresh catch every day and is big on spotlighting different farmers. That means guests will always taste the freshest selections available when getting acquainted with the island’s bountiful produce and seafood. Plus, it’s a beautiful setting: the Kaanapali beachfront is just steps from the tables, providing a dreamy combination of lapping waves and sunset colors as a view.

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If you miss the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, make sure to stop by the Lahaina-based Star Noodle, where you can sample chef Abby Ferrer’s creations year-round. This cozy eatery fuses Filipino, French and Asian flavors, which combine into a gorgeous menu featuring house-made noodles and surprising sauces. Bring your besties to sample shared plates like scallop shots or steamed pork buns, then tempt your taste buds with fried soup or Singapore noodles. Pair your selections with sake or a lychee martini.

Want to explore Maui like a local?

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