He’s a wheat farmer in Montana, and to say it’s a demanding job would be an understatement. But he’s good at it. And most importantly, he loves it.
However, if anyone deserves a vacation once a year, it’s him.
So when he and my step mom started going to Hawaii about 5 years ago, I was so thrilled for them. And when they decided to have the entire fam go for a 2015 reunion, I was even happier!
They were so generous to rent a four bedroom home in Puamana (just south of Lahaina) on the island of Maui for me, my sister, brother in law, nephew and step sister to enjoy for a week.
Mama’s Fish House, Paia
Naturally, my personal itinerary mostly revolved around food. And #1 on that list was Mama’s Fish House on the North Shore. My sister and brother in law dined there last year on Heather’s baby moon, and declared it the best meal of their lives. Obviously I had to go.
It’s by far the most expensive restaurant on the island, but it truly is a fantastic experience. We all started with a cocktail, and I highly recommend the “Coconut Refresher” and ordering it with Hendricks gin (thanks to my friend Tia for that recommendation!) For appetizers, the seared tenderloin inside a grilled papaya is NOT to be missed. Even though Mama’s is a seafood restaurant, this was one of the standouts of the entire meal for me. The macadamia nut crab cakes were also fantastic, and we enjoyed the shrimp wontons as well. For entrees, the seafood obviously shines here, but my step mom enjoyed her pork too. I tried everyone’s dishes, and I have to say that my step sister Krista ordered my favorite entrée of the meal. It was a mixture of ahi and mahi mahi prepared in a coconut curry sauce with coconut rice. Gorgeous presentation, and phenomenal flavors. Overall, a remarkable meal my family will be talking about for years to come.
If you decide to go, make reservations far in advance (at least a month), and leave time to walk around the beautiful grounds before your meal.
Star Noodle, Lahaina
If Mama’s was 1a, then Star Noodle was 1b on my foodie bucket list for our trip. At least three people mentioned this place to me separately, and it also gets rave reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor. (And as an added bonus, it’s a fraction of the cost of a dinner at Mama’s).
I guess you would call it Asian fusion, as there are a lot of different influences on the menu created by Sheldon Simeon (of Top Chef fame). Similar to the papaya at Mama’s, the steamed pork buns at Star Noodle are a must-order appetizer item. The Hapa Ramen caught my eye considering I love Hapa Ramen in San Francisco, and later found out *that* chef (Richie Nakano) is friends with Sheldon. The Pad Thai was also popular at our table (and definitely a shareable item, as we took A LOT of it home to the condo). Whatever you do, save room for the malasadas... basically little donuts accompanied by a ridiculously delicious trio of toppings (I’m looking at you caramel sauce). The drinks were also tasty and fresh, and a great compliment to the meal (mine had sake and muddled strawberries).
**Again, this is a place you’ll want to make a reservation for, as it’s a very popular spot in Lahaina.
LahainaLuna Café & Ululani’s Shave Ice, Lahaina
You can’t leave Hawaii without sampling some shave ice, which is basically like a giant snow cone except a million times better. Ululani’s is pretty widely known as the best spot for shave ice on Maui, and there are four locations. (2 of them are in Lahaina). Definitely get ice cream on the bottom (duh); Krista and I really enjoyed the coconut ice cream. You can choose up to three flavors which they make themselves with cane sugar (we went with coconut, pineapple and guava) and it comes in a variety of sizes, though I can attest to the fact that the “micro” size isn’t micro at all and perfectly fine for one or even two people to share.
It’s also conveniently located next to LahainaLuna Café, which is a great little casual spot to grab lunch or dinner. There are shared tables and benches outside both establishments, so you can get food at LahainaLuna and dessert from Ululani’s. Krista and I both ordered the taco combo, which came with one grilled mahi taco and one Korean pork taco. Both were bomb. We also shared some “crazy fries” which were tossed with spicy kochu aioli and sprinkled with furikake (seaweed + sesame seeds). Honestly, they should just call them crack fries, because those things are addictive.
Other food I loved: (from left to right)
Huli Huli Chicken: Don’t be scurrred of the street meat. This stuff is awesome. We got ours on the main highway, a few miles South of Lahaina. Just a bunch of guys BBQ’ing chickens on the side of the road near the beach. For 8 bucks, you really can’t beat the quality and flavor. (Though I skipped the rice and canned corn).
Bamboo Fresh: a great little spot for healthy and delicious wraps and smoothies, located on the southern end of Lahaina.
Koa’s: same owners as the popular Gazebo restaurant further north, but minus the long wait times. You can’t go wrong with any of the benedicts, or the fried rice with THREE types of pork in it. (Half sized order is plenty). Seriously, that rice was so good. And even better topped with some of the local pineapple hot sauce (see below). Also... fabulous ocean views from the main dining room as well as the rooftop.
Flatbread Company: This is located in the cute little hippie town of Paia, where I met up with my friend Tia from Great Falls, who has lived in Hawaii for nine years. Whatever you do, get the “Mopsy”… topped with a mango BBQ sauce, kahlua pork, red onions, goat cheese and maui pineapple. I’m not usually a proponent of fruit on pizza, but this was fab. We also got the special of the day (a loaded baked potato pizza) and the Pele Pesto.
Maui Made Lemonade & Maui Tacos 8 Wonder: My friend Susan and I stopped here on my way to the airport… there are 3 little food stands lined up in a dirt parking lot near Costco with some covered picnic benches. Here, you can get three decent sized street tacos for just 5 bucks. May have been the best deal of the trip. Loved the ceviche and the “aphrodisiac” salmon tacos. I also got a watermelon ginger lemonade from the stand next to it, and although it was almost as much as the tacos, it was a great combo and a fabulous lunch for under $10.
And finally... not to toot my own horn (OK, a little). On our final night, I made grilled fish tacos (with an assist from Shaun) accompanied by a mango salsa using fresh fish that we picked up at The Fish Market Maui. Special shout out to the guy at the counter who stayed open the extra minute to sell to me! (You can also eat there... my friend Adam tells me the tuna poke there is ridiculous).
A couple places on my list but I wasn't able to try: Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop (sis says it's the best sandwiches EVER, and also same chef as Star Noodle), Shark Pit Maui (a food truck in Lahaina), & Lahaina Grill.
Aside from enjoying the sunrises/sunsets and whale watching from our Lanai in Puamana, one of my favorite excursions was one I shared with my dad. We took the Maui Magic snorkel trip to the Molokini Crater and even tried SNUBA (sort of a mix between SCUBA and snorkeling). I loved it because we still got to explore the coral and fish with the help f oxygen, but didn't have to get certified or carry around the heavy tanks. I was bummed not to see any sea turtles on our trip, but we must have seen at least 30 whales during the 5 hour adventure. Fortunately, my friend Tia took me to Ho'okipa Beach when I visited her for the day. We saw giant turtles chillin' on the beach towards the end of the day, and I felt my trip was complete.
For some reason I did more shopping on this trip than I normally do. I think I was inspired by all the cute shops and boutiques that line Front Street and the warm Hawaiian breeze. Either way, I came home with some great finds!
1) Wings: up in Paia. A really neat place for unique hoodies, jewelry and artsy pieces.
2) Tropix: exclusive place to by "Maui Built" apparel. You can only buy it on the island. Three different locations, including Lahaina, and one on Dairy Road near the airport.
3) Pakaloha Bikinis: super cute spot to grab a bikini for your trip or as a souvenir. They are designed locally and hand made in Brazil. The girls who work there are super helpful in finding the right fit and sizes.
4) Tub & Scrub Bath Salt Company: next door to the bikini place is a cool bath store where they sell a huge variety of bath salts and candles to make you nostalgic for the islands long after you return home.
5) Ono Gelato & Espresso: not only is this a great spot to sip on a latte, but they also sell some cool foodie souvenirs like coffee beans, locally made hot sauce, gourmet sea salt and and Macadamia blossom honey.
6) Lahaina Christmas Store: I always like to try finding Christmas ornaments from my travels, and there is specifically a spot to do that right as you walk into Koa's restaurant.
Finally, a special shout out to BellaEva Photography who captured some very special images to remind of us this fabulous family time. Highly recommend if you are visiting Maui and interested in family photos.