Guides

Where to Eat, Stay, and Explore in Maui

Beyond the beaches and championship golf courses, this Hawaiian island offers remarkable dining and cultural experiences.

Courtesy Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

IN THE LAND of endless ocean views obstructed only by neighboring islands; lavish resorts that cradle curvy, expansive pools; and bucket-list golf courses, there is, understandably, a deep instinct to anchor oneself in the water or on a sandy beach — and stare.

As for Maui hotels, it’s par for the course that a Mai Tai, something frozen and boozy, or a glass of bubbly is always within reach. It’s compulsory to order a poke bowl; it’s almost mandatory to walk the beaches at night. Do all of that, yes — but don’t be afraid to also leave the resort nest and explore Maui’s food and drink experiences out and about.

Here are some places to start: Enjoy craft cocktails and fresh sushi at Vana, just below the Paia Inn, in the town of Paia on the northern flank of the island. Stop for a meal at The Pint & Cork, an elevated sports pub with great food in The Shops at Wailea. Order a bowl of dreamy udon at Star Noodle in Lahaina. In Kihei, indulge in more traditional sushi presentations at 1054 Togoshi if you can snag a seat. Marlow, a wood-fired kitchen in Pukalani in Maui’s Upcountry, serves up Neapolitan-style pizza. And if you see a collection of food trucks like those in Lahaina near the Safeway off of Honoapiilani Highway, or in Pukalani on the way to the Haleakala Crater, stop and check them out. You’ll be amazed by the creative fusions of Hawaiian culture and food truck classics.

Many resorts in Maui took advantage of the pandemic months when forced closures meant that, for the first time in decades, there were no visitors. Millions of dollars have been poured into renovating pools and hotel rooms. Resort restaurants have overhauled their menus, and there are more outdoor dining experiences than ever. Kitchens all over Maui are stuffing their menus with dishes that highlight local ingredients.

For example, Hua Momona Farms, which sits on a 1,100-foot bluff overlooking the island of Molokai, grows 30 varieties of microgreens and a host of vegetables, and delivers its bounty to over 60 restaurants across Maui. Almost daily, the farm’s first delivery is to The Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, where several dishes at the resort’s Banyan Tree restaurant incorporate ingredients from Hua Momona. And the farm is building a commercial kitchen in a mobile shipping container with an adjacent pavilion, with plans to offer multicourse meals and chef collaborations throughout Maui.

When the waters are too choppy for snorkeling or sportfishing, and you’ve done the nature hikes, national parks, and volcano visits, traipse through a cacao farm, visit a winery, or tour the sugarcane fields at a distillery. This guide showcases those very experiences, a mix of mainstay and off-the-beaten path dining options, and how to live it up at two renovated resorts and one hidden valley retreat.

Many properties on the island invested in renovations during the pandemic and reopened with updated pools, restaurants, and hotel rooms. (Courtesy Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui)

Where to Stay

From resorts tailor-made for foodies to small inns in special valleys, Maui has something for everyone.

Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

An oasis designed with families in mind
With 413 one-bedroom suites and 37 two-story luxury villas (two and three bedrooms) that have their own private lanai and plunge pools, this is the place for that home-away-from-home feel when traveling with family or friends. The newly renovated accommodations offer elegant lighting balanced by... With 413 one-bedroom suites and 37 two-story luxury villas (two and three bedrooms) that have their own private lanai and plunge pools, this is the place for that home-away-from-home feel when traveling with family or friends. The newly renovated accommodations offer elegant lighting balanced by a cool, calming color palette inspired by the ocean and native Hawaiian plants. But three large pools (one is adult's only) with cabanas continue to be the main draw — plus pool and beach chairs are complementary on the property’s stunning beach. The big news on the dining front is that award-winning chef Michael Lofaro, who was previously at Grand Wailea, is now the resort’s executive chef, overseeing the property’s five restaurants.

The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

A destination resort with a local philosophy
Home to the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival each June, The Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua is a serious destination for food and wine lovers (and golf lovers, too, for its two bucket-list golf courses). A multimillion-dollar transformation of 466 spacious rooms and suites was just completed, with upgrades... Home to the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival each June, The Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua is a serious destination for food and wine lovers (and golf lovers, too, for its two bucket-list golf courses). A multimillion-dollar transformation of 466 spacious rooms and suites was just completed, with upgrades including new dark-wood floors, modern kitchenette islands, lavish marble bathrooms, and dimmable lighting. That design ethos — melding the Hawaiian outdoors with the indoors — is evident in the newly refreshed lobby, with its expansive veranda and comfy seating nooks. It’s all centered around the Alaloa Lounge, the place to order fresh sushi and sashimi or a dynamite Wagyu beef smash burger to accompany your smoked Old-Fashioned. Grab lunch (and over-the-top milkshakes) at the oceanside Burger Shack, a short walk from the resort's pools.

Iao Valley Inn

A jungle hideaway with cultural roots
Located 20 minutes from the Kahului Airport and equidistant to the West Side (Lahaina-Kaanapali), South Side (Kihei-Wailea), and North Shore (Paia-Haiku), this charming bed-and-breakfast is a perfect base camp for exploring the island outside of a resort setting. Best of all, the Iao Valley is... Located 20 minutes from the Kahului Airport and equidistant to the West Side (Lahaina-Kaanapali), South Side (Kihei-Wailea), and North Shore (Paia-Haiku), this charming bed-and-breakfast is a perfect base camp for exploring the island outside of a resort setting. Best of all, the Iao Valley is centrally located, with easy access to restaurants and shops, but the property is tucked into the jungle, away from the bustle. The property resides within the family-run Mahina Farms, which is developing cultural workshops, farm tours, and ways to connect people to the land and Hawaiian culture. Rent its cottage for privacy or stay in one of the main house’s two quaint rooms.
The Fairmont’s new executive chef is a master of innovative, haute Hawaiian cuisine. (Courtesy Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui)

Where to Eat and Drink

A bounty of locally sourced ingredients and island specialties characterize this culinary paradise.

Banyan Tree at The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

A farm-fresh menu paired with dramatic ocean views
Whether or not you’re staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Banyan Tree is a must-visit for food lovers who seek local, fresh ingredients. The kitchen is stocked with microgreens and vegetables grown at the 25-acre Hua Momona Farms, just a short drive away. Highlighting coastal cuisine, the Fresh Catch of... Whether or not you’re staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Banyan Tree is a must-visit for food lovers who seek local, fresh ingredients. The kitchen is stocked with microgreens and vegetables grown at the 25-acre Hua Momona Farms, just a short drive away. Highlighting coastal cuisine, the Fresh Catch of the Day is always a great bet, so is the Coconut Red Curry Seafood dish. Infused with Thai red curry, it’s overflowing with plump shrimp, tender white fish, mussels, clams, and juicy lobster. An excellent wine list includes a number of staples from Californian producers and the occasional Oregonian heavy hitter, like Gran Moraine. Ample outdoor seating provides ocean views and at night the entire space glows with the flicker of romantic torchlights.

Kō at Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

A storied chef builds upon a culinary legacy
Kō has long been the talk of Maui. But now that Michael Lofaro — a master of innovative, locally sourced, culturally focused haute Hawaiian cuisine — is the executive chef of the entire Fairmont resort, expect this restaurant to become the talk of the Hawaiian Islands. Lofaro joins Chef Aris... Kō has long been the talk of Maui. But now that Michael Lofaro — a master of innovative, locally sourced, culturally focused haute Hawaiian cuisine — is the executive chef of the entire Fairmont resort, expect this restaurant to become the talk of the Hawaiian Islands. Lofaro joins Chef Aris Aurelio, who has been with Fairmont Kea Lani since 1994 — starting as a dishwasher — and was named executive chef of Kō in 2022. Longtime guests will discover that Lofaro and Aurelio, along with the resort’s executive sous chef Jonathan Pasion, are not only carrying on the legacy established by the late chef Tylun Pang (affectionately known as “Papa Pang”) but also building upon it. They’re working to recapture the cultural connection and local wisdom of Hawaii’s Indigenous people, which Lofaro says is a driving force behind an annually evolving menu.

Ocean Organic Farm and Distillery

Where locals love to lunch and sip
Let the organically produced spirits draw you in, but be prepared to enjoy one of the best lunches on the entire island. This gathering place is a favorite among locals and the most Maui-feeling restaurant around. Simple, yet flavorful cuisine turned out by a very talented kitchen crew (including... Let the organically produced spirits draw you in, but be prepared to enjoy one of the best lunches on the entire island. This gathering place is a favorite among locals and the most Maui-feeling restaurant around. Simple, yet flavorful cuisine turned out by a very talented kitchen crew (including some former Morimoto Maui chefs) includes ingredients from the property’s raised beds and neighboring farms. The main attraction, however, is unquestionably a tour and tasting of Hawaii Sea Spirits’ Ocean Organic Vodka, Fy Gin, and Kula Rum. All are produced with a base spirit made from distilled organic sugarcane by master distiller Bill Scott, blended with deep-sea ocean mineral water, which lends a unique weighty, silken texture.

Advertisement
Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. capable of growing cacao, and Maui Kui’ia Estate Chocolate provides an up-close look at the crop during a tasting tour. (Courtesy Maui Kui’ia Estate Chocolate)

Where to Explore

Culinary adventures, panoramic drives, and community activities highlight the many sides of Maui.

MauiWine

A day-trip worthy winery steeped in history
To genuinely experience Upcountry, where everything slows down, go to MauiWine, established in 1974 and situated on an old cattle ranch called Ulupalakua. The winery is about 40 minutes from the Kahului Airport, less than an hour from Wailea’s resorts, and just over an hour from Kapalua. The... To genuinely experience Upcountry, where everything slows down, go to MauiWine, established in 1974 and situated on an old cattle ranch called Ulupalakua. The winery is about 40 minutes from the Kahului Airport, less than an hour from Wailea’s resorts, and just over an hour from Kapalua. The journey climbs from sea level, passing small towns and the Haleakala Crater turnoff, rising to an elevation of over 1,800 feet. The last few miles before the winery are studded with dirt turnoffs, so pull over and take in the stunning panoramic views. But be warned: This is no hidden gem. The winery gets busy, so be sure to call and reserve a spot.

Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate

Taste the fruits of a working cacao farm
This 20-acre cacao tree plantation growing on Maui, a short drive from Kapalua’s resorts, is worth the trek from anywhere on the island. The chocolate factory itself, with a retail space and chocolate bar, sits in a quasi-industrial park, but you can also enjoy the estate’s guided Cacao Farm Tour... This 20-acre cacao tree plantation growing on Maui, a short drive from Kapalua’s resorts, is worth the trek from anywhere on the island. The chocolate factory itself, with a retail space and chocolate bar, sits in a quasi-industrial park, but you can also enjoy the estate’s guided Cacao Farm Tour and Chocolate Tasting. Cacao can only be grown 20 degrees north and south of the equator, making Hawaii the only state in the U.S. capable of growing it. But because cacao is native to the Amazon basin, the trees don’t fare well in harsh, windy, and rainy conditions or in direct sunlight. The estate’s solution was to grow an “agroforest” by introducing a canopy of trees to shade the cacao trees from the sun and wind. If you take the tour, you’ll see (and taste) the literal fruits of their success.

Mālama Hawaiʻi Program

Giving back to the island
Whether you’re a frequent island visitor or a first timer, the island is generous in its offerings, so consider engaging in mālama (giving back) in return. Many hotels and resorts give special discounts, even a free night, for participating in a Mālama Hawaiʻi Program activity. The program was... Whether you’re a frequent island visitor or a first timer, the island is generous in its offerings, so consider engaging in mālama (giving back) in return. Many hotels and resorts give special discounts, even a free night, for participating in a Mālama Hawaiʻi Program activity. The program was created to forge relationships between travelers who come to Hawaii and community members through volunteer opportunities, like beach cleanups and restoration programs. There are a host of mālama partners throughout the island, with several of them featured on MauiTourism.org. Pro tip: The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua has a mālama beach cleanup option (that affords you a free fifth night), as do Grand Wailea and Fairmont Kea Lani.

AMERICAN EXPRESS® CARD MEMBER ACCESS

Book Travel with American Express

Whether you’re planning a weekend staycation or the trip of a lifetime, you can plan your entire trip through American Express Travel. Plus, make the most of your journey with travel benefits and more. Learn more.

Explore More
Our Contributors

Jonathan Cristaldi Writer

Jonathan Cristaldi is an established wine writer with more than a decade of professional experience. His articles on wine, spirits, and beer appear in both local and national print and digital platforms, including Decanter, Food & Wine, Departures, the SOMM Journal, Tasting Panel Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Thrillist, and Time Out Los Angeles. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Amanda, and daughter, Penelope. When Cristaldi isn’t visiting vineyards in the Bay Area, he’s on the hunt for a great McIntosh apple.

Jump To
',
Newsletter

Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.