The Best Restaurants In MauiLife-altering fish tacos, poke by the pound, a kimchi Bloody Mary, and more of our favorite things to eat and drink in Maui.
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When it comes to food, Maui does it all. Hawai‘i’s second largest island is home to everything from some of the state’s swankiest dining rooms to its diviest bars. While the resort areas of South and West Maui feature the majority of the high-end restaurants, slippers, or flip-flops, are the preferred footwear for the casual spots in smaller neighborhoods like Paia. And in parking lots from Kihei to Kahului, you’ll find some of the island’s best poke served right out of a food truck. (Looking for a beachfront mai tai? We got you there, too.)
A note on the culture in Hawai‘i: In Hawai‘i, the term “Hawaiian” refers specifically to Native Hawaiians and indigenous culture, so “Hawaiian food” refers to an Indigenous cuisine, or one that’s directly inspired by it. “Local food” is used when talking about the mashup of cuisines influenced by the immigrants—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Puerto Rican, Portuguese—who came in the 19th and 20th century to work the sugar cane plantations.
Read on for our list of the best restaurants in Maui. And if you’re headed to Honolulu, we have a guide for that, too.
UNIQUE TO HAWAI‘I
The Kaohu Store has arguably the best poke in Maui and brings us back to the days when poke was found mostly in Hawai‘i’s grocery stores and markets. Inside this convenience store, you’ll find kids getting slushies, daily specials like hamachi kama or Japanese curry, and a refrigerated case of incredibly fresh tuna sashimi and poke by the pound. The chile pepper poke is a classic, and if they have it, try the lipoa poke, made with a less common local seaweed that tastes like cucumbers.
You might not expect to find one of Maui’s best lunch counters in a strip mall next to an auto parts store, but that’s exactly how Hawai‘i works. Tin Roof’s Kau Kau Tins are a nod to Hawai‘i’s plate lunches and come with options like pork belly, garlic shrimp, and mochiko chicken on top of rice, kale, or garlic noodles. Order online to bypass the line.
If you spent the morning hiking and swimming at Iao Valley State Park, then what you really did was spend the morning thinking about when you could have lunch at Sam Sato’s. This family-owned restaurant that’s about a 10-minute drive from the park opened in 1933 and only does breakfast and lunch. The main draw is the dry mein, a combination of wavy saimin noodles, char siu pork, and bean sprouts served with a side of dashi for dipping. Make sure you finish with some homemade manju, a traditional Japanese pastry filled with sweetened bean and starch pastes made from the same original recipe created by Sam Sato’s wife in the ‘30s.
Saimin and burgers are an old-school Hawai‘i pairing, and Havens does an excellent version of that combination. Choose between wagyu chow fun, smashburgers, and spicy tuna and garlic crab handrolls, but know the portions are hefty. We prefer the Kihei brick-and-mortar location that’s inside of a gas station convenience store, but it’s also worth checking out their food truck in Kahului that’s in a parking lot across from a Costco.
DINING WITH A VIEW
Make a reservation for an outdoor table right on the beach at Pacific’o to watch the sunset. Your best move is to order any of the locally-caught fish, like the blackened catch of the day with kimchi gribiche or the mahi mahi wellington with lobster. If you’re looking for a beachfront mai tai—which, of course you are—this is one of the best places on the island to get it.
A true Maui landmark, Mama’s Fish House has been serving seafood in this same location since 1973. Their menu is so local that it’s updated daily with the name of the fisherman, the location where the fish was caught, and what it likes to do on the weekends (OK, maybe not that last one). This place is located steps from the sand at Kuau Cove, so it’s about as beachfront as it gets. And despite the bamboo walls and thatched roof, Mama’s Fish House is a pretty upscale and intimate place—expect to spend upwards of $60 on entrees. Book early—like, three to six months early—or try your luck snagging one of the limited bar seats, which are reserved for walk-ins.
Star Noodle’s new oceanfront spot makes it the best noodle house with a view in Maui. They serve housemade noodle bowls and shareable dishes like steamed pork buns, adobo ribs, and the Hot N Sour ramen, which has a chile-lime dashi and smoked prosciutto. Star Noodle also pours sake and specialty cocktails like the Miso Buzzin’ with gin, Aperol, miso, honey, yuzu, and shiro shoyu.
HOT & NEW-ISH
For almost 20 years, Tiffany’s was a mainstay in Wailuku. The part-dive, part-sports bar had a menu of over 100 dishes that included sushi, honey walnut shrimp, and bibimbap—that’s Hawai‘i for you. New ownership recently took over and spiffed up the space slightly by adding bright murals and toning down the screaming orange walls, though they kept the TVs, black ceiling, and blue booths.
The menu’s been slimmed down to “just” 50 or so items—many of the favorites are still there, alongside new additions like the drunk-food-but-make-it-fancy crinkle-cut fries topped with truffle, parmesan, and hot dog chips. Get the classic saimin, the Just Like Oxtail Soup, which swaps the bony oxtail for brisket, and the hamachi sashimi that’s flooded with a shiso and ponzu version of finadene.
Sure, Marlow feels like a spot you could find in Northern California or Italy, but this place, located in Upcountry where the weather’s cooler, highlights some of the things that we love most about Maui, from the quiet rural setting to the fruits and vegetables grown nearby that’ll have you dreaming of buying your own place (Oprah did it).
The menu includes fantastic Neapolitan-style pizzas, local prawns roasted in their wood-fired oven, and fresh salads with greens that were plucked from nearby farms. The dinner specials, like the duck confit, are great, but we equally love Marlow for breakfast, when you can grab an espresso and pastry from the coffee bar before heading to the nearby alpaca or lavender farms.
Papa‘aina’s wide veranda that overlooks Lahaina harbor is one of the best places to have brunch in Maui. While you can feel the history of the place (the restaurant is on the ground floor of Pioneer Inn, which was built in 1901), the menu is very much in the now, with dishes like mapo tofu loco moco and breakfast ramen topped with ham and bacon, american cheese, and miso coffee butter. Order the seasonal tropical fruit plate, which might include spiky rambutan or poha berries.
You won’t find prettier dishes from a food truck than you will at Kitoko, a mobile restaurant tucked into a secret garden in Kihei. The chef used to do pastry at the Four Seasons and has channeled all that fine dining expertise into seared swordfish bento and specials like poke with a magenta dragonfruit ponzu, arranged like a floral wreath on a wooden board. Kitoko is parked in a tropical plant wonderland, so you should definitely stick around, find a table at one of the nooks tucked among the palms, and listen to the area’s live music.
This Lahaina Gateway Plaza restaurant’s menu is almost entirely vegan and changes often based on what’s being harvested from the co-owner’s nearby farm. It usually includes things like their famous taro burgers, zoodle pad thai, and marinated coconut-meat imitation bacon.
When you envision what you might discover in a parking lot behind a gas station, great poke probably isn’t at the top of the list. But somehow, the South Maui Fish Company food truck pulls it off by partnering with local fishermen to source fresh, sustainable seafood. Menu items change daily, but typically include poke, tacos, and grilled fish plates. There are tables and chairs set up under umbrellas, or you can walk across the street to eat at Kalama Beach Park. You can also get freshly-caught fish fillets to take home with you and hopefully not ruin on the grill.
We’d very happily eat at Nalu’s three times a day, which is saying quite a lot. It’s a perfect spot to bring a group or a family that includes kids because of the casual open-air setting and the large tables inside and on the patio. (And for adults, there’s a full bar with one of our favorite drinks on the island, their kimchi Bloody Mary.) And if your morning beach walk turned into a morning beach nap, breakfast items are available until 2:30pm, with some, like the loco moco and the chicken and waffles, on the menu all day.
Paia Fish Market has become so popular that they’ve recently expanded to locations in the concentrated tourist areas of Kihei and Lahaina, but our favorite is still the original space that opened in Paia 30 years ago. This is the place to get fish tacos in Maui, but we’re also big fans of the mahi fish and chips and charbroiled fish burger.
Nutcharee’s used to be an ocean-side food stand in a secluded town over two hours away, but it’s now conveniently located in South Kihei’s Akeza Shopping Center, which means you can get some of the best Thai dishes in the middle of the Pacific without the treacherous drive along the Hana Highway. Sip your Thai tea slowly to tone down the heat from their drunken noodles, or pair one of the many curry dishes with a local beer.
There are also fresh catch specials that change daily, and mango sticky rice for dessert when it’s in season. Stop in for a casual sit-down lunch or dinner, or order your food to go and eat it while you take in the sunset view from Waipuilani Beach Park just down the road.
You’ll need reservations to get into the lively and always-crowded Sale Pepe, which is in the strip mall side of Lahaina and has the best Italian food on the island. Share the prosciutto and fior di latte pizza, and always get a couple of the housemade pastas, like the strozzapreti with beef cheek ragu or squid ink spaghetti with local shrimp and spicy ‘nduja. There’s a big, ruby-red pizza oven from Italy that makes for a good conversation starter—specifically around what it would take for you to install something similar in your own apartment.
Lineage was founded on three of Hawai‘i’s most important traditions: eating, drinking, and “talking story”—basically, hanging out with friends and family while sharing copious amounts of food. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing meal to celebrate standing up on your first wave over family-style dishes. Share a few appetizers and entrees, like the lion’s mane liangban salad, Cantonese lobster noodles, or half a Korean fried chicken. Then, pick a drink like Da Musubi Man, with bacon-flavored bourbon, Byrrh, rice orgeat, lemon, and furikake, all served in a Spam can.
The owners of Miso Phat, a sushi bar in Kihei, are so committed to serving fresh fish that they bought their own fishing boat, the Shiso Phat. Respectable commitment to puns aside, we love their menu of nigiri and sashimi, as well as temaki hand rolls and specialty rolls. Their combination platters are the perfect size for sharing after a long day spent avoiding spray-sunscreen inhalation and chasing around sea turtles while snorkeling at South Kihei’s nearby beaches.
WHERE TO DRINK
For a tropical cocktail bar that doesn’t feel touristy, head to the commercial area of Wailuku and you’ll find Esters Fair Prospect, a cozy space decked out with rattan furniture and anglerfish wallpaper. There’s a short menu of oysters and ceviche, but you’re here for the tiki drinks. We’re talking about cocktails like the Mercury in Retrograde, with mezcal, Aperol, a pineapple-coconut shrub, lime, and absinthe. Naturally, you’ll also find a long list of rums.
At Hotel Wailea, you’ll find a lobby bar where literal lovebirds come to roost around sunset. So if you’re not feeling the romance, this is probably where your supervillain origin story begins. There are references to birds everywhere, including the two-tops with velvet upholstered chairs in turquoise and pink, the color of the lovebirds’ feathers. The cocktails follow suit, with names like the Crane of Happiness, which has whisky, rye, yuzu liqueur, and jaboticaba, or a lovely zero-proof spritz called The Robinette. The food menu has small bites, but for something more substantial, get the decent-sized burger with fries.
After a day made up of equal parts chasing the kids and protecting the family from wind-blown umbrella javelins at the beach, you’re probably going to want a beer. Maui Brewing Company’s flagship restaurant is a large, open-air, family-friendly space where you can unwind while your offspring entertain themselves with oversized Jenga and Connect 4. This is the largest craft brewery in Hawai‘i that’s just as dedicated to sourcing local ingredients for their beers as they are for their restaurants. Come here for the daily live music, quality bar food, and to try any of their 35 beers on tap.