We got back from our babymoon Wednesday evening, so in lieu of our normal Casual Friday post, I wanted to share a little bit about how we spent our 4.5 days in beautiful Maui (the other two days were mostly traveling). This isn’t an expert’s guide–we were first timers!–but I did want to make it thorough for anyone else traveling that way! We took a lot of suggestions and had the most amazing trip, even when it rained. There were also things that we would have done differently, so I wanted to include that, too!
We stayed at the Westin Resort & Spa in Kaanapali. It was gorgeous! We saved a good chunk of money by booking our hotel stay, airfare, and rental car through the Westin’s website. One thing we would have done differently is divide our trip into two, staying where we did for a couple nights and somewhere south, probably near Wailea (where we also ended up spending time) for the rest of the trip. Both areas were lovely. We rented a Jeep and enjoyed driving all over the island, but it would have been nice to group our activities and restaurants according to location and know we didn’t have an hour drive afterward. Next time.
Everywhere We Ate!
Most of the recommendations we received were for places to eat–you know us well ;) –and we also had Trip Advisor and Yelp opened constantly, seeing what was nearby. The food did not disappoint, but we definitely had favorites. Here’s everywhere we ate:
Gazebo – Almost everyone told us to go here, and it didn’t disappoint. We shared a the Macadamia nut pancakes with pineapple and banana and a half order of fried rice–which felt weird ordering for breakfast, but it was delicious! And huge! It’s located in the back of a nondescript, older resort type place, right on the beach in Napili. We got there 20 minutes before it opened and still had to wait about 40 minutes to sit down to eat–long lines! It’s that good. But the service was great and fast and the view was unbeatable.
Sunrise Cafe – We passed this little place a couple times before finally spotting its entrance down a tiny road in Lahaina. It’s very open air, hole-in-the-wall place, so the inside atmosphere was…grunge-y? (Okay, I saw a cockroach.) Even still, this was Chris’s favorite place we ate breakfast. He had their eggs benedict (the hollandaise sauce was off the charts!) and I had a croissant breakfast sandwich, topped with the freshest veggies–also good.
Relish Burger Bistro Buffet (at the Westin) – Sunday morning, we decided to stay put since we had morning massages booked, and enjoy the breakfast buffet at our resort. If you like buffets, you’d probably love this one. They had everything you could imagine! But for me, the downside is you’re constantly up and I don’t think the food at a buffet is as hot as a freshly prepared meal. This was the most expensive breakfast we had ($30 each) and our least favorite…the view however…
Island Vintage Coffee – We actually aren’t coffee drinkers (although I hear it’s amazing here), but we went for the acai bowls and, literally, have talked about them every day since. The other bonus is, they open early which is nice since it’s hard to sleep in when you’re four hours ahead of time back home.
808 Grindz Cafe – Our last morning we went here and loved it! There’s no real view (it’s in a strip mall), but there was a wait because the food is delicious and the prices are really reasonable. I had the rainbow french toast (ridiculously good) and Chris had the Kalua pork hash–we’d both eat there happily every day.
The Fish Market Maui – Go there and get the tacos (we got the Baja Fish tacos and the Kalua Pork). Get the tacos now.
Leilani’s – We heard such good things about this restaurant and it was just a few steps away from our hotel. We sat on the balcony, overlooking the ocean on a rainy afternoon and ate Poke bowls and burgers.
Mama’s Fish House – I don’t think you can mention you’re going to Maui without someone telling you to go to Mama’s Fish House. Everyone told us we had to go and now we get it. This was, hands down, the best meal we had while away. It is more expensive, so plan for that. And it’s true, you need reservations. They only had an 8:45pm for dinner, but had more slots open for lunch. And since it was farther north, lunch worked perfect. The atmosphere and scenery is absolutely delightful (we had someone take our picture right outside, see above) and the food is out of this world. We had the crab guacamole to start, a few specials for our main entrees (mahi mahi, crab, lobster, a filet!), and the black pearl dessert (a show stopper!) and the passion fruit creme brûlée for dessert. We had remembered seeing the creme brûlée on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network, and yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
MonkeyPod – If Mama’s Fish House was the best meal we had while there, MonkeyPod was just barely the second best. They have three locations on the island now, and for good reason. The food is local and fresh and bursting with flavor. We kept saying, “Oh my gosh! How is this so good!?” Their pizza (we split…as an appetizer) was maybe the best crust I’ve ever had. I ordered the strawberry and blue cheese salad with candied mac nuts for my main entree and Chris had a chicken banh mi sandwich–we ended up putting it all in the middle and taking bites from each. Although the location wasn’t overlooking the ocean or anything, the food stood on its own–a must in our book!
Da Kitchen – We stopped here on our way to the airport after reading a bunch of rave reviews and it being on Diners Drive ins and Dives. Here’s the thing, it’s REALLY heavy. The portions are so big (maybe that’s where the love is coming from?). And heavy. And I guess that makes sense since it’s “island soul food” but everywhere else we ate felt so…fresh. This one we didn’t love.
Sale Pepe – It was fun to go into an Italian restaurant and have it taste so authentic in Hawaii! Half of the menu, I swear, is in italian and they import a lot of ingredients from Italy, too. I kept telling Chris, “But…but…why can’t this be closer?!” Five stars from us!
Hula’s Grill – This restaurant has two parts, a more formal dining area and a casual outdoor area. We opted for the outdoor area (and surprise! we found ourselves walking through sand! Haha). We thought this one was just okay. Definitely don’t get the veggies and hummus appetizer–the veggies it came with were sliced canned beets and pickled cucumbers to dip. Maybe it’s a Hawaiian thing? Our entrees, some tacos and flatbread, were pretty tasty.
Miso Phat – This one was also on Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives and it was so cool! Very small and intimate, but the staff was top notch. There was a man, hand washing dishes the entire time and a single waitress taking care of the whole place. We sat at the sushi bar and watched the two chefs work their magic in record time. Chris got a plate of 21 sashimi and I ordered the TNA roll (since I’m pregnant and it was cooked) but I already can’t wait to go back and try something else!
Ono Gelato – Whoa, this was good. It was just a short walk from our hotel in Whaler’s Village (a fun shopping center) and this gelato–you must. I had mango and coconut and Chris got Sandy Beaches (a graham cracker, peanut butter, chocolate combo). It’s probably a good thing it’s all the way in Hawaii.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Ice – The softest, softest shaved ice we have ever had! Plus, all their flavorings come from real juices. Such a refreshing treat.
Everywhere We Snorkeled!
Chris and I both love snorkeling and couldn’t wait to check out a few spots we read about in Hawaii. We bought full face snorkel masks (the regular goggles don’t cling to Chris’s facial hair and the full mask is so much more enjoyable and relaxing..really!), but we both rented fins from Boss Frogs (there’s one on most corners) for the week for very cheap.
Napili Bay – We went here on our first day (it’s right next to Gazebo’s where we had breakfast!). The beach is small, but not crowded at all and the water is pretty shallow (3-8 ft). Swimming only about 30 yards out is where the most life is, however, it’s very rocky with little coral. The plus is, it’s a pretty easy snorkel and you will see fish pretty much in front of your face due to shallow depths, but it wasn’t our favorite spot.
Honolua Bay – This was our second favorite snorkel spot–we went twice! Not only is the short 1/4 mile-ish walk through the jungle amazing (a must do activity itself!), but the coral and sea life…we couldn’t believe our eyes! You do have to swim pretty far out (maybe 400 yards?) to get to the coral, but when you do–you won’t want to leave. There’s actually a snorkeling boat that brings guests to this spot, so you’ll have a general idea of where to swim to, but if you stick to the right side, you’ll get to it. I will say, the swim back to shore fully exhausted us both. The current was strong and there was a point I was starting to worry, to be honest. So keep track of the time and make sure you have enough energy to swim back against the current. We saw huge swarms of every kind of fish.
Makena Beach – We read really good things about this place, but the water was unfortunately murky when we went. We still swam out (about 250 yards) and there was a lot of coral, but it was too hard to see to give this one a true review.
Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve – If you only want to snorkel once, on the whole island, go here. It’s about two miles past Makena beach on a tight road that’s often one lane. You’ll see cars pulled over and people snorkeling all along the road but keep driving until the end when you get to a paved parking lot. There’s a yellow grate off of the lot, to walk over that will lead to a lava rock path. It’s a short walk to where you’ll see a sign with a fish on it. That’s where you’ll enter the water. There was only one other couple there when we were and you could tell they were kind of keen on keeping this place a secret. But I couldn’t not tell you. There’s no swimming involved, really. We put our fins and masks on, stepped in the water and put our faces down and were SURROUNDED by fish and eel and coral of all kinds. We swam around for a long time, pointing things out excitedly to each other. Because it’s a reserve, there’s no fishing nearby and because it’s at the end of a very narrow road, there’s not a lot of people either. They also have strict sunscreen code here to protect the sea life. We couldn’t recommend this place enough.
Everything Else We Did!
We purposefully didn’t make plans or an itinerary when we booked our trip. We wanted this to be a really relaxing getaway and I’m so glad we did that. If we felt like doing something, we did it. We went there. We tried it. A few of our favorite things we did besides eat and snorkel were:
Walked Through Honolua Bay – I wasn’t up for any real hikes at this point in my pregnancy, but this easy walk through the jungly forest was a beautiful treat. It’s a reserve so there are falling coconuts and trees and roosters everywhere, but a clear path going through the entire thing. It’s breath-taking.
Watched the Sunset on the Beach – There’s something so wonderful and simple about doing nothing but this.
Warren and Annabelle’s – This was actually the only thing we bought tickets for before going to Hawaii. It’s a dinner/comedy/magic show and it was fantastic. The dinner (appetizers and drinks) was just okay, but the entertainment was so, so enjoyable. We were chosen as one of the four couples to sit up front and “help” with some of the tricks which made it extra special. The two acts we saw were John Shryock, whose slight of hand blew our minds and Dana Daniels was the main act and a comedic magician genius that had us laughing SO hard, we almost forgot how amazing his tricks were also. If you have the opportunity to see him anywhere (I believe he travels around), you won’t regret it.
Farmer’s Market in Napili – This happens every Wednesday and Saturday and is swarming with local goods and people and music! It was fun to try a lot of local produce and some really great locally made baked goods and sauces, too.
Couple’s Massage – We splurged on a couple’s massage at our resort and it was worth every penny. Neither of us had ever got a massage before (I know, I know!) but it was so relaxing and felt truly special. We’re hooked!
Shopping – We really only shopped for souvenirs for our girls and family who helped out so much taking care of our home, dog and girls while we were away, but there are so many fun places to walk around and poke your head into! We really loved Front Street in Lahaina and Whaler’s Village. We ended up getting some cute things for the girls from Sand Kids and amazing cookies for our parents from Honolulu Cookie. For our own souvenirs, we sent ourselves a coconut postcard from a vendor! You can actually just write your address on a coconut and they’ll mail it to you. How cool is that!?
Driving up the Haleakala Crater Road – I hear this is best at sunrise or sunset, but on our rainy day, after we ate at Mama’s Fish House, we decided to take the drive. It was a beautiful drive, but also very stressful in the rain! We drove all the way up through clouds, to the 10,000 ft summit where it was cold and windy and unfortunately couldn’t see anything still (bummer!) but it was a fun activity nonetheless.
Swimming – Our resort had several amazing pools and water slides that I think we only went in once or twice, but our last morning, we spent just swimming in the ocean in Kaanapali right in front of our resort. Chris body surfed his way to shore over and over and we laughed so hard–we felt like kids again! We bobbed with the waves. The water was clear and the sand was so soft. I’m glad we left time to just be in the ocean and enjoy it.
It wasn’t the longest trip, but we felt so rejuvenated, rested and ready to come home and see our girls and welcome a new one in a couple short months! There were so many great recommendations in the comments section of this post, so if you’re planning a trip, definitely check that out! Did you have similar experiences as we had? Anything we got wrong in your opinion?