Top 20 Favorite Maui Restaurants
When I travel, I like to know where “the locals” eat, don’t you? When you see a restaurant full of local residents, you know it’s got to be good! So, as a Maui resident, I’m sharing my “go to” favorite Maui restaurants list. These are places where I (and my local friends) love to eat. Places I can confidently recommend to my visiting friends and family.
- These 20 restaurants are categorized by region, and the order does not indicate any particular ranking.
- Many of these places are VERY busy, so reservations are recommended. But you also might get lucky with a walk-in, so don’t give up hope.
- This is not a definitive list of every good restaurant on Maui. There are many more. In fact, a few of my favorite Maui restaurants have gotten so popular, I can’t even get in anymore—so over time they have dropped off my “favorites” list. I find myself migrating to the following restaurants over and over again because they are consistently good. So, try some of these, but don’t neglect Maui’s other dining options, as well. There’s a LOT of great food on this island!
FAVORITE MAUI RESTAURANTS
THE MILL HOUSE: There is nothing else quite like this on Maui. Farm to fork–with the farm literally right outside the door–and the menu changes daily depending on what fresh ingredients are available. Everything is made from scratch (they even grind their own flour), and the dishes are an extraordinarily creative mix of flavors and textures by Maui’s 2015 Chef of the Year, Jeff Scheer. A gorgeous dining room, trendy bar, and outdoor patio overlooking serene mountains and lagoons. The Mill House is an adventure in contemporary, cutting-edge island cuisine. Maui Tropical Plantation, Waikapu More Info
DA KITCHEN: For great local and Hawaiian food (those are two different things, explanation here), Da Kitchen is da place! This is one of the few restaurants on Maui that serves authentic Hawaiian food, and the portions are ultra-generous. But if you don’t have a taste for lau lau, kalua pork, loco moco, or poi, the menu offers more standard fare, as well, like fresh fish, burgers, and sandwiches. Something for everyone. You will see LOTS of locals eating at Da Kitchen. (There is a “fast food” Da Kitchen in Kihei. See Fast Food list below). Kahului
CAFE O’ LEI: This restaurant, set on a golf course, has a solid reputation for good food, a comfortable setting, and excellent value—most entrees are priced under $20 on the all-day menu. At lunch (which is very busy), you’ll see a mix of business people, golfers, visitors, and locals lunching with friends. The menu of salads, sandwiches, and island-style entrees suits everyone. I am hooked on the Shrimp & Papaya Salad. (Cafe O’Lei also has a restaurant in Kihei.) The Dunes Golf Course, Kahului
SEASCAPE: Love the serene ambiance and view (pictured) from this comfy open-air restaurant overlooking Maalaea boat harbor. Located adjacent to–and operated by–the Maui Ocean Center aquarium, Seascape is open daily for lunch and weekends for dinner. Awesome view, friendly staff, good food, plus Seascape gets bonus points for being a Platinum Certified “Ocean Friendly Restaurant,” serving a menu that is healthy, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Maalaea Harbor Shops, Central/South Maui
5 PALMS BEACH GRILL: The view from the beachfront 5 Palms restaurant is stunning, with an ocean reef panorama (pictured) on one side and Keawakapu Beach on the other. Consistently good food and service, but this place really shines for its location. If you are looking to dine ON THE BEACH in Kihei, this is the place. For breakfast, try the Oatmeal Crème Brulee. Unique and delicious! Mana Kai Resort, Kihei More Info
MONKEYPOD KITCHEN BY MERRIMAN: Fun, trendy vibe, with excellent food and dozens of craft brews on tap from around the world. Great appetizers and small plates to share, kiawe wood oven pizza, fresh fish perfectly prepared, burgers, steaks…and Monkeypod’s cream pies are legendary. This is the place to order a Mai Tai (pictured)—they top it with honey lilikoi (passion fruit) foam. Wailea Gateway Center
KO: A shining example of “Hawaii Regional Cuisine,” this restaurant is one of my favorite fine dining choices. An exquisite open-air pool-side setting is combined with a truly unique menu. The cuisine is “plantation-inspired,” meaning the chef has taken traditional multi-ethnic dishes from Hawaii’s sugar plantation days and added a sophisticated twist for modern-day diners. Locals love this restaurant for its sense of nostalgia–familiar favorites are reinvented and rediscovered. It’s “local food” gone fancy! Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea
NALU’S SOUTH SHORE GRILL: Let me just start with 3 words: Apple Brie Burger. It is delicious and served with homemade truffle chips. Nalu’s is a good choice for a casual breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For breakfast, try the Cornflake Crusted French Toast (made with Hawaiian sweet bread) or the Fried Chicken & Waffle (served all day). And order the Malasadas for dessert—five or six fat little malasadas in a buttery caramel sauce. Azeka Makai Shopping Center, Kihei
SANSEI: Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar has, since it opened in 1996, set the gold standard for sushi on the island. The original restaurant is still in Kapalua (see West Maui below), with a second Maui location now in Kihei. Featuring a vast menu of Asian-inspired dishes and contemporary sushi, Sansei goes way beyond a ho-hum California Roll with creative combinations of fresh ingredients and delicious seasonings and sauces. Sansei ranks in the top 10 of pretty much everyone’s list of great sushi restaurants in Hawaii. Kihei Town Center
Note: don’t forget Cafe O’ Lei Kihei, the South Maui counterpart to the Central Maui restaurant (see above). Some menu items are the same at both locations, but the Kihei restaurant has a more expanded dinner menu. Good food, good value, plenty of free parking. Rainbow Mall, Kihei
THE SEA HOUSE: Okay, just take a moment to look at that setting. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will anyway. Directly-on-the-beach restaurants are a rarity on Maui—but when you step out of the Sea House your feet are literally in the sand. This landmark restaurant has been on Napili Bay for over 50 years, but it keeps renewing and reinventing itself. Best known for its great breakfasts and sunset dining (no surprise there!) people forget the Sea House is open all day for other meals, as well. Good food, easygoing ambiance, incredible setting. My breakfast favorites: Molokai Sweet Potato Frittata, Homemade Macadamia Nut Cinnamon Roll (made with a flaky pastry crust), Pele’s Potatoes, and the fabulous Haleakala Pancake. Napili Kai Beach Resort More Info (Photo by David Watersun; courtesy of Napili Kai Beach Resort)
LAHAINA GRILL: One of the most acclaimed restaurants on Maui, and rightly so. Lahaina Grill does not offer a view, but the restaurant makes up for that by consistently serving up a truly extraordinary dining experience. Every time I have dined here, the food and service have been absolute perfection from start to finish. Fine dining at its best on Maui. Pricey, but worth every penny. Open for dinner nightly. Lahaina (Photo by Polihane Photography)
HULA GRILL: Love the beach vibe at this restaurant overlooking Kaanapali Beach. You can dine in the open-air dining room or the Barefoot Bar (with your feet in the sand). Salads, sandwiches, pizzas (my favorite is the goat cheese version), and fresh fish preparations (“dock to dish”). Leave room for dessert. They are famous for their Hula Pie, a massive slab of ice cream pie with chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted macadamia nuts, and whipped cream. Whalers Village Shopping Center
MALA, HONU & FRIDA’S: I’m giving you three-for-one here. These three restaurants are located all in a row, oceanfront in Lahaina. They all offer good food and AWESOME direct ocean and sunset views (pictured, a table at Honu).
Each of these restaurants has its own character:
Mala has an eclectic menu emphasizing local island ingredients.
Honu features seafood and brick oven pizzas.
Frida’s offers unique Mexican/South American cuisine. Try the cactus fries! Yes. Cactus. Fries.
All good, so take your pick!
SALE PEPE: This cozy little Italian restaurant is tucked away off-the-beaten-path in Lahaina, but it is a gem and well worth seeking out. Great traditional Italian food and pizzas (the owner/chef is from Italy, so you can’t get more authentic than that). Menus change often to take advantage of seasonal fresh local ingredients. Awesome cheesecakes, too, but they are not always available so consider yourself lucky if you get to sample one! Open for dinner nightly, except Sundays. Lahaina
TEDDY’S BIGGER BURGERS: These are not your typical fast-food burgers; a great deal of care goes into these delicious flame-broiled burgers, made to order exactly to your specifications. Teddy’s offers a comfortable old-fashioned diner atmosphere and awesome burgers, sandwiches, and extra thick shakes. Choose the size of your burger (“Big,” “Bigger,” or “Biggest”), sauces, toppings, and type of bun. You’ll get your own custom-made burger. Lahaina Gateway Shopping Center
Note: Remember Sansei in Kapalua, the West Maui counterpart to the Kihei restaurant (mentioned above). Sushi doesn’t get any better than this!
MAMA’S FISH HOUSE: An institution on Maui’s north shore since 1973, this is truly a one-of-a-kind restaurant. Set on idyllic Kuau Cove (pictured), Mama’s Polynesian-style ambiance is incredibly peaceful and beautiful. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a more gracious era of hospitality. You are never rushed, the food is delicious, the service impeccable, and everything is beautifully presented. Mama’s is not for those on a shoestring budget…it is unquestionably one of the most expensive restaurants on the island, for lunch OR dinner. But well worth the splurge. It’s not just a meal, it’s a truly memorable experience. North of Paia
CAFE DES AMIS: This charming cafe specializes in crepes and wraps, as well as curries, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. The combination of Mediterranean flavors and Indian curries provide plenty of choices to suit all tastes. Try the Ham and Gruyere Cheese crepe or the Brie & Avocado crepe with Apple and Black Pepper. Or the Shrimp and Coconut Curry wrap. And of course the dessert crepes are scrumptious! Paia Town
THE FLATBREAD COMPANY: Wood-fired flatbread pizzas and organic salads. The flatbreads boast all natural ingredients (nitrate-fee, hormone-free, sulfate-free, free-range…you get the gist. It’s Paia.), with or without tomato sauce. Good stuff! Try Mopsy’s Kalua Pork, Punctuated Equilibrium, or create your own ingredient combination. Paia Town
KULA BISTRO: Yummy food, reeaaally large servings, and a tantalizing array of pastries, pies, and cheesecakes for dessert. Oh, and reasonably priced, too. No wonder this unassuming cafe is so popular with the local crowd. My favorites: Crab Cake Benedict for breakfast, Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Pesto Aioli on Focaccia for lunch, Chicken Parmesan for dinner…but really everything is good here. (Photo: No view from the restaurant, but this is the view from Kula Bistro’s parking lot! Wow.)
Honorable Mentions for Upcountry dining:
La Provence in Kula is delightful. A small bakery with classic French pastries, and an outdoor garden cafe featuring a variety of crepes, eggs benedicts, and sandwiches on fresh-baked bread. Closed Monday/Tuesday
Kula Lodge is a favorite of mine, simply due to its fabulous view of the island! In all honesty, the food is just average (although the wood-fired oven pizzas are great), but the view is unbeatable. And wander downstairs to the cozy little Curtis Wilson Cost gallery – spectacular artwork capturing Upcountry Maui scenes.
BONUS LISTS: SPECIALTY DINING
FAVORITE SUNDAY BRUNCH
KAANAPALI BEACH HOTEL’S SUNDAY BRUNCH: The hands-down local favorite for a Hawaiian-style Sunday Champagne Brunch. This Brunch is an institution on Maui. Local residents love it for its great selection of popular local foods, plus more traditional brunch fare. Moderately priced, all you can eat, table after table of food choices, and live Hawaiian entertainment. This awesome buffet has been named Best Sunday Brunch on Maui numerous times by local publications, and rightly so. (Photo courtesy Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel)
FAVORITE PLACES FOR SWEET TREATS
Komoda Bakery (Makawao) The melt-in-your-mouth cream puffs (pictured) at 100-year-old Komoda Bakery are legendary on Maui, and they offer other delicious baked goods, too. Go early and just hope they don’t run out of cream puffs before you get there! Check their hours before heading up there — hours are limited.
Maui Pie (Kihei) – Featuring savory pies (chicken pot pie, quiche), cookies, turnovers, and dessert pies galore. Try the Mango Strawberry, Mountain Berry, or Chocolate Haupia (coconut).
Cinnamon Roll Fair (Kihei, Kamaole Shopping Center) – Scrumptious fresh cinnamon rolls. ‘Nuf said.
Paia Gelato (Paia) – 24 flavors of house-made gelato (Italian-style ice cream) made with fresh island ingredients. Lots of luscious local fruit flavors, plus more decadent choices like my favorite Big Island Macadamia Nut Coffee Crunch.
FAVORITE LOCAL “FAST FOOD” & SUPER-CASUAL EATERIES
Zippy’s (Wailuku) – Zippy’s is an icon in the islands, serving up local food for some 50 years. The restaurant has both a sit-down coffee shop and a fast-food/take-out operation. I prefer the fast-food menu. Zippy’s is best known for its chili (traditionally eaten with steamed white rice in Hawaii). I also like their Fried Noodles. And their bakery items are wonderful—the flakey Napple pastries, in particular.
Maui Tacos (Napili, Lahaina, Kihei, Kahului) – Mexican fast food with an island twist. Tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and huge burritos, with or without sauce. Love this place.
Da Kitchen Express (Rainbow Mall, Kihei) – Same great local food as Da Kitchen (see above), same huge servings, but a menu designed for take-out.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (Wailuku, Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina, Honokowai) – A landmark Hawaiian fast food chain, decades old, specializing in local food and plate lunches.
Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina) – Popular place for good local food (and authentic Hawaiian food) in West Maui. Outdoor patio seating. Casual, fun atmosphere.
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Happy Travels and Good Eats!
Candy Aluli, Publisher
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