From the moment you step off the plane in Hawaii,
you just can feel that you are in a special place.
It truly is paradise...
and man, the food is heavenly, too.
Find all my Hawaii posts here.
HYATT REGENCY KAANAPALI: We booked this hotel based off points, so didn't have huge expectations other than "free" before we arrived. I have to say- the experience we had here was really wonderful. The staff was so kind, the amenities- while not overtly luxury- gave us all we wanted to relax, and we loved having access to the concierge club which has a really great (free!) breakfast each morning. Pools were good, beach access was great. All around a solid place to stay.
WESTIN KAANAPALI: I have a love/hate relationship for this hotel. I loved our rooms- they were huge and had kitchens which helped offset the expenses of being in Hawaii. I loved the pools. I hated the service, the 15 minute walk from the lobby to our room, and the lack of beach in front of the property. But, what can I say, you can still have a pretty awesome vacation if you're there. (Speaking from experience.)
ANDAZ MAUI AT WAILEA: This resort opened in fall of 2013. My friend, Amber, was married here and it was stunning. The rooms are crisp, the staff is attentive... and hey, Harrison Ford was staying there when we were there. You know it's gotta be good. Think modern & crisp with fantastic pools... and don't miss the legendary ice cream cookie sandwiches served poolside.
MAMA'S FISH HOUSE: I had at least 25 people tell me to eat here. They all told me the right advice. This place serves amazing food and the atmosphere is stunning. If you are expecting a shack on the beach, you'll be wrong. Dress up. This place is nice. My full review is here.
MERRIMAN'S: Honestly, the best fish I've ever eaten: the macadamia-crusted monchong with garlic broccoli. The best thing about Merriman's other than the view? The fact you can order two entrees for just a bit more than the price of one. You'll get two smaller portions and, oh man, count your blessings. The chocolate purse for dessert is fantastic, too.
KIMO'S: This Lahaina eatery is home of the Hula Pie: oreo crust, macadamia nut ice cream, cold hot fudge on top with hot fudge poured on top. Oh man, if that isn't reason enough to go- get the coconut-crusted fish or the Sloppy Jack sandwich. Those delicious eats paired with a MaiTai and the ocean view will have you re-evaluating your retirement plans.
ALOHA MIXED PLATE: This low maintenance restaurant is another great spot in Lahaina. With some of the best prices to get a meal out in Maui, Aloha Mixed Plate offers give you a chance to sample the authentic "plate lunch" that so many Hawaiians regularly eat. While these started as the lunch served at plantations way back when, today you can sample your choice of meat with the traditional accompaniments of two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad. The Aloha Mixed Plate is the most popular dish- with a trio of marinated steak, chicken thigh and local fish on the plate. Drinks, casual beach front view and coconut shrimp are also worth going for.
DUKE'S BEACH HOUSE: Spend a night out at Duke's for great food, perfect views of the beach, delicious food (they serve Hula Pie, too!) and great MaiTais. Not too fancy- this is a great place to spend a casual night out.
PAIA FLATBREAD COMPANY: This casual place in Paia only serves salads and pizza. But don't worry- their limited menu deliveries big return. Try the popular Kahlua Pork pizza for a real treat, and feel free to customise your orders as you like. The waitstaff is very relaxed and easy to work with. This is definitely a great spot to spend a lunch or dinner while in Paia. (Or you could also grab a pizza to go and take it to the nearby beach at Ho'Okipa to watch amazing surfing and see seat turtles arrive for some sunbathing.
CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE: To be honest, not my favorite place to eat- but there are perks. The biggest being the view... the food is mediocre, but it's a fun stop when you're in Lahaina. It's currently (as of Feb 2017) undergoing a total renovation. Read my post about it here.
BETTY'S BEACH CAFE: If you came to Hawaii and wanted delicious food in a great place, go here. Especially for breakfast. Get the huevos rancheros and the macadamia-nut + banana pancakes. Don't forget the coconut syrup, it's a game-changer. Read my full post here.
KOA'S SEASIDE GRILL: If the weather is nice, which it almost always in Hawaii, you can head to Front Street on Lahaina and sit on the deck of Koa's for breakfast. You'll see turtles swimming below you, paddle boarders waving hello as they pass by, and- if you're lucky- a whale or two. But the view isn't the only good part about Koa's- the food is great, too. Try the biscuits and gravy for a shake up to your week of Hawaiian fare for something really delicious, and you'll need someone at the table to try the berry pancakes with orange whipped cream, as they are terrific.
CASTAWAY CAFE: Another favorite breakfast spot in Ka'anapali, this beachfront classic has great views and pretty good food. The food is a bit greasy and diner-like, but hey- it's Hawaii, it's beautiful... and there's coconut syrup to drown your pancakes in. You'll have a wonderful time.
FARMERS MARKET: If you're in Hawaii and in search of a sweet treat, indulge your sweet tooth with a harmless treat from the Farmers Market in Napili by Honokawai. Get a Acai Bowl (frozen Acai puree), topped with granola, tropical fruit and coconut. Holy moly. It's a treat. (Apparently Choice Health Bar in Lahaina gives it some pretty tough competition.)
There are loads of places that can tell you all about the Road to Hana, Haleakala and snorkling... but here a few things that you may not find in the guidebooks and travel sites.
NAPILI BAY: This was, for sure, the best sunset spot we found near us. In this little bay, surrounded by kitschy resorts from a day gone by, you'll get a glowing view of the sunset that is hard to beat. To get there, head towards Merriman's. Just by Merriman's, there is a beach access parking lot. Park there and head through the resort on your left. (Don't head toward the "Beach Access" signs, as that takes you to another bay where the view is slightly less magical.) Work your way down to the tiny pool there, where you can either watch the sunset (from the best angle) or hop down to the restaurant next door for a drink and patio view of the experience.
NAPILI BAY SEA TURTLES: Go to Napili Bay and check out the turtles swimming by... but go where the locals go. Head to the bay, but if you can find it via Google Maps- go to the residential street "Hui E." Park your cars at the end of the cup-de-sac and follow the signs for beach access. The view there is a local favorite and truly a gorgeous spot. (Thanks to Amber for the tip!)
KIDDIE BEACH, HONOKAWAI: Okay, so this technically isn't a beach for kids... but it's perfect for them! A sweet waitress slipped me the name of this tiny spot one day and said she loved to take her daughter there. Apparently, the reef around the coast makes is a little protected shelf- perfect for tots & kids to play in. We went and couldn't believe our luck. It was just the best place! Another local gem complete with grass to play in, swings and some other park features.
WHALE WATCHING: The prime whale-watching month is February. Literally, you can spend the day sitting and watching them swim by the west side of the island near Lanai. It's astounding.
HALEAKALA: Whether you go for sunrise or sunset (which we did), expect a several hour adventure up through the clouds to get there. You'll drive, literally, above the clouds to reach the summit of this inactive volcano. Snag a blanket from your hotel room closet and a few towels to sit on. It is really chilly up there, and you'll need extra layers to survive the wait for the glowing sky. I'd pair this activity with an afternoon in Paia beforehand... and probably a visit to Mama's Fish House after.
*Please note: As of February 2017, if you do go for sunrise, you'll now need to make a reservation as the park is needing to limit the amount of cars/visitors. The cost is only $1.50 per car, so you won't be too put out by the expense.
DRIVE: It may seem like the only thing to do is sit by the pool in Hawaii, but you're really selling yourself short if you don't see the island. We drove around the northwest coast and it was such an adventure. Also, if you take the drive up the north end of the island, there are also great spots to pull over and get great views of whales playing in the water below.
*image via tamiz photography