Top 5 Dive Restaurants In Maui And What To Order There (As Seen On TV)

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Maui has sooooo many good food options…seriously, we’ve been to Maui 8 times and I can only think of one epically bad meal in all of those 8 trips.  It was Beach Bums…don’t go there…it’s bad!  But, like I said there are so many good choices that it can often be hard to narrow down your options when it comes meal time.  So, in my next few blogs I will try to break them down into categories.  I do love a fancy meal…I am part time foodie…married to a foodie…and Thing 2 is an aspiring chef and full-on foodie…so there is that.  But my favorite types of restaurants are more casual and dive-like, with dishes I can try to recreate at home!  So, without further ado…in order…here’s my

Top 5 Dive Restaurants In Maui

  1.  Da Kitchen.  This place has been featured on Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This is down-home cooking done island style in monstrous proportions!  It’s located just a mile or two from the airport and is a regular stop for us, usually as a last meal before we head to the airport on our way back home.  It’s a greasy little spoon with no view, but OMG I can not even begin to describe how amazing the food is here!  If it were sitting in a location with a view…you’d never be able to get a table…like ever!  We have ordered lots of different items from here, but hubs and Things 1-3 swear that the Saimin is possibly one of the greatest things to eat on the island.  Thing 4 is picky and always orders a burger because that’s a safe bet for him.  But for me it’s this…IMG_E2824the Loco Moco!  So, Loco Moco is available on lots of menu’s on the island…it’s a local favorite.  It’s basically a hamburger topped with a fried egg and then smothered with gravy, served on or with rice.  Yes, I know that may not sound appetizing to some of you…but I promise, it is HEAVEN!!!!  At Da Kitchen that onion and mushroom gravy is to die for and it’s served with potato-macaroni salad, another island treat that can not be missed!  This meal is so epically big…I’m pretty sure 3 grown adults could be satisfied from it…so feel free to split this one with whoever your dining with or box it up and take it back to your room for leftovers if you’re still staying on the island after this meal.  No matter what you do while you’re on your Maui vacation…DO NOT MISS DA KITCHEN!!!!
  2. Down The Hatch.  Down The Hatch has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Booze Traveler…small side note, if you are not watching this show…you are missing out….even if you are not a Booze kind of girl or guy!  It’s also been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This is easily Thing 4’s favorite place to eat, and it’s a favorite of mine and my parents as well!  It’s become a bit of a ritual to swing by Down The Hatch after playing golf on the south side of the island.  It’s Lava Lava Shrimp (kind of like Bang Bang Shrimp if you’ve had that), grown up grilled cheese sandwiches, like a lobster and crab stuffed grilled cheese or a spicy chicken grilled cheese, shrimp po boys, and Ahi sandwiches.  Quick easy food with a touch of a gourmet twist!  So good!  Anything you order from here is really yummy!  The bonus to eating here is that Breakwall Shave Ice is right inside, or next door???  Kind of hard to explain…so let’s see if these will help…photo (1)IMG_2755 (1)So, Down The Hatch is a block away from the Harbor in Lahaina…you walk down some stairs and it opens up to a large patio/courtyard type area.  You walk up to the counter…order your food…take a number and someone brings you what you ordered.   Well, right next door to where you order your food for Down The Hatch is Breakwall Shave Ice…you can kind of tell that’s what’s going on in the top picture.  The bottom pic and the pic at the very top of this post are of the BEST SHAVE ICE on Maui from Breakwall! Trip Advisor has this one wrong in my opinion.  Breakwall makes their natural flavors in house…so they are a tad bit healthier and taste so much better than any of the other shave ice places we’ve been on the island.  And for the record, shave ice is not a snow cone…do not go there!  Shave ice is so much better!  Plus, you can add ice cream in the bottom of it…mind blowing!  The consensus favorite in our family is the strawberry guava shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream in the bottom.  This place makes me want to buy one of those machines and open up a little place here in Oklahoma, just so that I can have one whenever I want!  I believe Breakwall is the only place on the island where you can add some adult beverages to your shave ice…we haven’t ever excersized our option to do that…but I can see the appeal for it, if that’s your thing.  Down The Hatch and Breakwall are local favorites, and Down The Hatch offers one of the longest happy hours on the island.
  3. Captain Jack’s Island Grill.  This restaurant was new to me on my last trip, and came as a recommendation from Thing 1, now a Maui resident!  We’ve always kind of steered clear of this place because it’s super theme-y (is that a word?) and felt a little cheesy.  I mean it’s as Pirate’s Of The Caribbean as it gets in there.  But, when I tried their Ono fish and chips and one of their signature drinks, I quickly got over it!  They probably have the best fish and chips I’ve tasted on Maui!  Hubs and I went during happy hour…which was a great value, and they had excellent live music, and a much cooler vibe than I would have ever imaged!  This place pleasantly surprised me!
  4. South Maui Fish Co.  South Maui Fish Co. is actually a food truck with a courtyard.  With the owner at the grill, this place truly felt like a backyard barbecue at a friend’s house.The owner of this place has my physician husband’s dream job!  Ha!  Hubs is an epic grill master in his own right!  But, this place was phenomenal!  The fish is fresh caught…you can even charter a fishing excursion with the fisherman that they get their fish from…his number was plastered on a cooler that held all the drinks that was in front of the food truck!  Doesn’t get much more dive-y than that!  But, like I was saying…fish is fresh, and grilled to order…hubs had the blackened catch of the day and I opted for the fish of the day curry style with rice…oh man was it good!  South Maui Fish Co. is in Kehei in a parking lot with several other food trucks…this was by far the busiest of all them out there…for good reason!  They open at 11am and close when they run out of fish for the day…so come early and come hungry!
  5. Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop.  This is a family favorite.  It sits right off the highway that takes you from the airport into Lahaina.  There is nothing but this restaurant, a general store and a fruit stand on a little stretch of highway after the public beaches, but before you get into Lahaina.  Do not get your fresh fruit from this fruit stand…it’s terrible! I’ve never see good looking produce there. But, Leoda’s is an amazing little breakfast and sandwich shop that also has a small bakery with the best and most beautiful little individual pies!  So, yummy!

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It looks like a cute little country kitchen from the south that they just plopped right down on the island!  The breakfast here is super yummy!  We usually do sandwiches at lunchtime…and grab pies for dessert for after dinner back at our condo!  DO NOT MISS the MAC NUT CHOCOLATE PIE!  The crust is so light and flakey…so good!!!  For sandwiches…the boys love the rueben and the pork, pork, mmmm pork!  Everything from here has been really good…I’d venture to say anything you ordered would hit the spot!

Honorable Mention

Without getting into much detail…there are a couple of restaurants that also need to be noted.  Top Chef contestant Sheldon Simeon has opened Tin Roof…we have not yet been there, but it looks amazing…I think that it’s just a pick up lunch kind of place, so that generally doesn’t work well for us…especially when we have all of the boys and my parents with us on our travels.  Sheldon also started Star Noodle, which is very popular.  It’s excellent…it’s a hard restaurant for Thing 4, but the noodle bowls and kimchi are amazing, and Thing 4 does love the pork buns, which are heavenly, but it’s literally the only thing we could find on the menu that he was willing to try. And lastly Aloha Mixed Plate…it’s been featured on the Food Network.  It’s tiny, but the food is good and it’s a great place to be able to try lots of local dishes.  It can be hard to get into because of it’s size!

So, that’s it!  Hope this helps you in your culinary endeavors on your trip to Maui!  Did I miss anything?  What are some of your favorite dive restaurants on the island???

10 Must Have Items From The Grocery Store While On Your Hawaiian Vacation

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As my last post suggested, the best way to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation is in a condo, villa, house, apartment…something with access to a kitchen.  If your family is anything like mine, we love to grill out…so extra bonus if you have a place to stay that has grilling accommodations as well.  I’ve mentioned before that I have weird food allergies…I have some of the more normal ones like wheat and dairy, but then I also have things like pineapple and coffee that I don’t do well with either…it’s stupid, I know!  But, it is what it is.  At any rate, cooking for ourselves makes life a little easier for me.   We don’t do it every night…I mean who wants to be cooking and cleaning every night of their vacation, right?  However, I am super lucky that I married a good cook, and in a couple of years when Thing 2 graduates from Culinary School I will likely be kicked out of the kitchen all together!

Having a kitchen and being able to create your own meals not only saves you a little money, but it also gives you the opportunity to live like the locals a little.  I love a good grocery store or farmer’s market!  I highly suggest that you go to a local market for your produce and meats…you don’t want to miss out on that local goodness.  We often go to Wal-Mart to get some of our staples like bottled water for the room, bread, cereal, coffee filters, clorox wipes, and even toiletries because it is much cheaper there.  But, you definitely want to buy your produce and meats at either a farmer’s market like Kumu Farms on Maui, or a local grocery store.   I also highly recommend going to visit the Maui Farmers Market in the Upcountry on Saturdays, it’s a feast for your eyes in every way possible…some of the biggest and weirdest and prettiest produce I’ve ever seen…and the Upcountry Farmers Market tops my hippy list!  Ok, back to groceries…sometimes it’s hard to know which brands are good and which aren’t and food is too expensive in Hawaii to be playing that guessing game!  Maui has a variety of grocery stores…Foodland and Safeway are the ones we frequent most…and on Kauai, it’s only Foodland that we frequent.  So, without further ado…here is my ten must have grocery items from the Hawaiian grocery stores…in no particular order!

  1. Big Island Bees Honey.  Big Island Bees is the brand of honey.  They have several varieties, which come from the type of flower that the bees pollenated.  Macadamia Nut is our favorite flavor!
  2. Honey Cream Pineapples.  I have only found these at Foodland on Maui.  This is a varietal of pineapple.  It is much smaller than a regular pineapple and they have cut the leafy tops off.  The flavor is less acidic and more sweet than normal pineapples.  Also, if given the option on normal pineapples…Maui Gold over Dole…and generally speaking the smaller the pineapple, the sweeter.  If you need to learn how to pick a ripe pineapple, head over to my Girl You Tripping Facebook page and watch a video from a Maui farmer on how to do just that!
  3. Coconut Macaroons from the  Foodland Bakery Department.  You do not even have to be a fan of coconut to love these little macaroon cookies!  We love the chocolate dipped ones the best!
  4. Fresh Fish.  Please, please, please try local fish when you are on the Islands!  Try Ono, Wahoo, MongChung, Opakapaka…do not miss out on the stuff you can not get anywhere else in the world!  My very best tip for buying fish in Hawaii is to talk to the person you are buying your fish from…they know us mainlanders are clueless and they want to teach you about their fish and their food!!!  They will tell you about the fish and the best way to prepare it!  For fresh fish on Maui…this will probably only apply to the west side visitors…Lahaina, Ka’anapali, Kapalua…Safeway in Lahaina gets their fish in daily at around 8AM and most of the good stuff is gone by 2pm. There is also the Maui Fish Market in Kahana.  On Kauai, you’ve got to go to the Dolphin in Princeville!  It’s a restaurant, but they also run a fish market on the back side of it!
  5. Hawaiian Kettle Stlye Chips.  Orange bag…Luau BBQ Flavor!  I’ll throw Maui StyleMaui Onion Potato Chips in here as well…but they are not as good as the BBQ ones and you can almost pick those up anywhere in the states now…I saw them at Sam’s in Oklahoma last week.
  6. Hawaiian Sun Teas & Juices.  These come in 6-pack cans.  The boys favorites are Lilikoi Passion and both the Island and Tropical Teas.  I can not keep these stocked while we are there!
  7. Roselani Tropics Ice Cream.  Do yourself a favor and try any of the Hawaiian-y flavors…they are all delicious!
  8. Aloha Spice Company Sea Salt.  I swear by this stuff!  I promise it makes a difference in the taste of your food!  Lots of varieties…black, red, grey…all are fantastic!  I like this brand because of the packaging….I can take what I do not use home with me because it’s in a ziplock type container…no glass…and no spilling.
  9. Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts.  This is a no brainer…they are everywhere.  I’m gonna get a little specific with you though…if you like these with caramel…Hawaiian Host is your brand.  If you just like them covered in regular or dark chocolate I like Mauna Loa for the same reason I like that Aloha Spice salt…more packaging options and you can take home anything you don’t eat while you are there!
  10. POG.  My boys are POG hounds, and it is yummy!  For those of you that don’t know what POG is, it’s Passion-Orange-Guave juice.  Meadow Gold is as good a brand as any for POG.

Well, that’s it…my 10 Hawaiian grocery store must haves!  You can actually save a little bit more money if you enroll in the reward programs at the grocery stores.  Foodland rewards program will even let you link back to your Hawaiian Airlines account…meaning you can earn flight miles by shopping there.  Most stores have in-store specials and coupons that are available online…so you can print them out from the comfort of your own home before you even leave!  Hope this has been helpful!

What are some of your grocery store must have’s that I have been missing out on all this time?

Hawai’i for the Have’s and the Have Not’so

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That got your attention didn’t it!  And I mean every word of it…just not how you think.  This post is for the two types of people out there in the world, those who have been to Hawai’i, and those who have not.  You see, if you have only dreamed about going to Hawai’i but haven’t been there yet, there are some things you need to know beforehand.  And, if you have been to one of the Hawaiian Islands, there is not a chance in the world that you do not want to go back…but when you do go back, you want to do it better!

Have Not’s

First, let me get these have not babies up to speed.  Hawai’i is not just Hawai’i.  Hawai’i is a group of islands.  To be super specific, the Hawaiian Islands are part of the Hawaiian Archipelago that is made up of 130 islands that stretch 1,600 miles.   That little tidbit was a trivia question that Thing 3 answered correctly when we were on a snorkeling excursion this summer.  This kid knows geography like nobody’s business.  Anyway, The Hawaiian Islands are made up of 8 islands…most people visit 1 of the 4 major ones.  I’m gonna try to educate you at least a tad on each, and I’ll go into more detail on the big 4.  Let’s do the big 4 first.  One last tidbit before we dive in…there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet and every vowel makes the long sound and every vowel is pronounced…if you thought towns and cities that are of Native American decent were hard to pronounce, wait until you try to start pronouncing town and street names in Hawai’i. It can be done, but…Ok, back to islands.

Oahu.  Pronounced Oh-ah-who.  Oahu is the most populated and probably what you have seen the most of on TV and movies.  Oahu is where Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor are.  It is easily the most over crowded of all the islands.  And, I like to refer to it as the concrete jungle.  It’s my least favorite, although I tell everyone that Pearl Harbor is a must!  You can work a Pearl Harbor day or day trip into any visit you make to Hawai’i without actually staying on Oahu for more than one day.

Maui.  Pronounced Mow-wee.  Maui is my favorite island, and the one that I recommend for people to visit the first time they “go to Hawai’i”.  Maui is populated without being over crowded.  However, there are a couple of crowded spots on the island.  Maui offers the best of all worlds, rugged beauty, amazing food, good shopping, and is consistently rated the #1 island to visit…not just of the Hawaiian Islands…of all islands…anywhere in the world.  You have the English language,  American currency, and American infrastructure…it’s just hard to beat!  Maui is home to Haleakala, the dormant volcano and National Park, and Maui has two very popular resort areas on the island…Ka’anapali and Kihei.  Both are spectacular in their own right, and both offer the same types of amenities and each offers something different as well.  I’ll have several posts devoted to all things Maui coming out soon!

Kauai.  Pronounce Ka-Why-Ee.  Kauai is the most northern of the Hawaiian Islands.  Of the big 4 it is the smallest and least populated.  It’s easily the most rugged and it is home to what I believe is the most beautiful place ever…Hanalei.  Now, that is just my opinion, but it has to rank on some list somewhere…it’s pretty spectacular.  Kauai is best known for hiking, outdoor activities, and just enjoying the beauty and the wander that is Hawai’i.  It’s a sleepy little island that basically shuts down at 9pm, has very few national chains, and is perfect for the outdoorsman or couple that just wants to relax and take in the good life!  Two separate resort areas on this island as well…they are on opposite sides of the island and are completely different.  On the north side of the island is Princeville…think sea cliffs, rainforest jungle, and glorious green mountains galore, and on the south side is Poipu.  Poipu has been under a lot of development in the last few years and is growing as a vacation destination.  More shopping and restaurants are in the Poipu area than Princeville, and Poipu is on the dry side of the island with more beach access.

Hawai’i.  Proper pronunciation…Ha-Vi-Ee.  That’s right…that W makes the V sound.  Hawai’i is also known as The Big Island.  It is still growing in size, as it is the island with the active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  I have not yet visited the Big Island. It is the largest and most southern of the islands.  It is home to Kona (think coffee) and Volcanoes National Park.  I hope to visit one day…there are only two things that I really know about the Big Island.  One, real estate is the cheapest on this island, and Maui locals gripe when vog (volcanic fog) drifts over and settles on their island.

Ok, now for the other 4 lesser known or visited islands in the group.  Lanai is probably the most visited of the 4 in this group.  You can take a ferry ride over to Lanai from Maui.  There is one hotel on the island…it’s a Four Seasons.  You can golf, rent a jeep to go off-roading, and snorkel there.  Molokai is also visible from Maui.  Lots of people take helicopter rides over to Molokai to see it’s dramatic sea cliffs.  Kahoolawe is also visible from Maui…no one lives there as this island used to be a target practice island for the military.  And lastly, Niihau.  It’s visible from the south side of Kauai.  This island is off limits to all but the descendants of the original owner Elizabeth Sinclair.

So, there you have it “Hawai’i” in a nut shell.  Hopefully that shed some light for my Have Not followers.

Have’s

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Ok Have’s, y’all know the real deal.  Now that you know that the flight is crazy expensive, crazy long, and that the time change is a formidable enemy of your vacation (at least it is if your from the midwest or east coast)…let me try to give you some ideas to make your next trip even more enjoyable..and shed some light on how we make the trip from Oklahoma to either Maui or Kauai once or twice a year.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m a fan of points, both airline points and hotel points!   Because the flight is soooo long, often we buy a coach airline ticket and just use points to upgrade to first class.  This flight is one of the few times that having a first class seat can make a huge difference in your vacation.  Most of the planes that fly to Hawai’i have the new first class seats that lay out completely flat…giving you the ability to actually sleep or at least nap and get you ready for being on Hawai’i Standard Time.  We started doing this a few years back and it has made a huge difference in adjusting quicker to the time change once you are there.  And, if you buy the actual coach ticket, you accumulate those miles on the trip as opposed to using all of your points and not collecting one mile of the 3, 757-ish mile trip.  Also, we get picky about our actual flight plan.  We often try to fly through Houston or Denver to get a direct flight from one of those 2 locations, as opposed to having a flight plan that might be a tad cheaper, but has you switching planes at 3 or more locations.  Not everyone has this goal, but our goal is to get there in comfort and with as much ease as possible…it just sets you up for a smoother transition into the first couple of days of your vacation.

The other big thing that we do when we go to Hawai’i is that we stay in condos…also known as villas.  I’m briefly going to use the word timeshare, and just use it to give you a sort of frame of reference…but then it will be vanished from my lips.  We own condos in a handful of locations, in a network that is now called Vistana, it used to be called Starwood.  Some of you will be more familiar with Starwood Properties…as The Westin, The Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridian, The W, Aloft, Element…I’m sure I’m missing a few more, but you get my point…all of those hotel properties are Starwood properties.  The villas that we own are Westin Villas…they are 1 or 2 bedroom condos with full kitchens, huge bathrooms, and washers and dryers are in every unit.  Now, these villas are timeshare like in nature, but they are not traditional timeshares.   We own them…we have mortgaged them, as you would mortgage a house…therefore, we have written off the mortgage insurance on our taxes…when hubs and I kick the bucket, Things 1-4 will have oceanfront property on Maui, which is no longer being built on by the way, they will have a ski-in/ski-out properly in Colorado…out list goes on and on quite a ways, but I think you catch the concept.   IMG_2283

When hubs and I first started visiting Maui 8 years ago…the average price of a hotel room was about $300 a night.  When we went just last week (Jan 2018) the average price was $700 a night and occupancy of rooms on the island was sitting at about 80% full.  These were statistics that I heard on the morning news while on our trip.  Hubs and I have our Maui property paid off.  We paid $0 for our stay in a 1 bedroom villa (condo) with a full kitchen, washer and dryer and way more room than we needed, plus we had amazing views.  Now we did pay on this property for I think seven years before it was paid off…think of it like a car payment…but in that time…the amount that we paid never went up!  We paid the same rate every year, got the same value every year…the same value as someone who would have easily paid around $1000 a night at our home resort.  Is this making sense to anyone?  Any bells going off in your head right now?   The reason that we can do this year in/year out is because it’s already paid for…or, for some of those years we paid as we went, as an investment…an investment in family time…an investment in time to relax and be together without all the busyness of life.  Now, I will be totally transparent and tell you that if you don’t have or do not want to have a lifestyle of travel, then this way of travel is not for you…you’ll be paying on something that you will never use and that will be a total waste!  But this fully works for us!  The vacation ownership program that we bought into years ago…is more fun for us to use now than ever…most of our properties are paid off and now we just get to use the system.  Our particular system has the most flexibility of anything that we have looked at.

So, that is what has been working for us…for my Have’s…just make sure you book a condo somewhere with a kitchen and washer and dryer!  Everything in Hawai’i is expensive no matter what island you go to.  Having a kitchen can really cut those food costs way down.  We grocery shop and grill out or cook in our room more than half of the nights that we stay on the island.  And, having laundry access in your room, means you can pack less, pack more efficiently and maybe save on baggage fees by bringing one less piece of luggage with you!

Lastly, you should rent a car. Get with one car rental company and stick with it.  All car rental companies have loyalty programs and you’ll start accumulating status and/or points immediately.  Often times we book a particular car online, and when we get to our destination we have been automatically upgraded to a bigger or better car at no extra charge.  Perks are good!

I will have several more posts coming out on Hawai’i in the coming days.  If you have specific questions you would like answered or are curious about the vacation ownership stuff I’m happy to talk about it…I’m not sponsored and I do not receive any promotions from any companies at this time.  I’m just passionate about my favorite vacation spot and always happy to share a good product that adds value and works!  Leave me a comment and tell me which island is your favorite and what your favorite thing about it is!