Hawaii. It was a place that I honestly wasn’t that excited to visit at first, it’s probably because there was a daunting 14 hour plane ride ahead of me and I’m not that into beach vacations usually. Why? Primarily because the food can be hit or miss and I’m not about that #suntan life, skin cancer is real people stop baking yourselves!
But, Mrs. Unmanly Chef who has a knack for making trips great, found some awesome places for us to stay so by the time I stepped foot in Hawaii I was really excited to take in the sights and sounds that this magical place had to offer. When you enter Hawaii you kind of feel like you’re in a different country, the airports are both open to the environment so you have birds flying in and out of them constantly. Also the signs being in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese lent to the international vibe you get while entering Hawaii. Both airports don’t really compare to some of the airports we have here on mainland, but who really cares? Nobody is going to Hawaii for their airports.
*Quick editors note. There usually are not too many direct flights to the various islands from the mainland (there are some), but we connected in Oahu and flew to Maui on a Hawaiian Airlines plane, which by the way has very nice flight attendants.*
When we first reached Maui I was blown away by the majesty and size of Hawaii’s environment, the mountains tower over you on one side while breathtaking coastlines with clear blue water greet you on the other end. There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to truly describe how perfect a place Hawaii is when it comes to its landscape and scenery.
Hawaii is a state where the effects of tourism are rather stark, tourist and tourism is everywhere. Sometimes the locals are friendly to the tourists and sometimes they’re not (more on that later). All I have to say is, Hawaii knows where its bread is buttered and they are overall very friendly to out-of-towners. I will say this, I recommend visiting Maui over Oahu, Maui has a slightly less saturated touristy vibe over Oahu (especially Honolulu), just my opinion, but then again what do I know I only visited Hawaii for a week.
When it comes to food, Hawaii has just about everything you could want, they have amazing seafood (obviously), incredible fruits & veggies, and my favorite thing of all: a fusion of all Asian cuisine. You have bits of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisine sprinkled throughout Hawaiian cuisine, simply put Hawaiian food is awesome and I already miss it.
If you’re wondering how I was sent to fat boy prison, this Hawaii trip was a main culprit (although I was already down the path via fat boy broken window theory). The food in Hawaii is amazing and I just couldn’t say no to all its deliciousness, I mean how many times am I going to visit Hawaii?! On my deathbed, (probably caused by all this eating) I wont say, man I wish I opted for salad in Hawaii.
Rather than trudge along into a long form description of the entire food journey, I’m going to give you a quick hit list of all the best things about my food journey through Hawaii. Because who doesn’t love a good list/recap anyways right? Enjoy.
Andaz Resort – If you stay in Maui and you can afford (or if you’re like me and you used your credit card points) to stay at a resort, you should definitely think about staying at the Andaz. This is a modern style hotel that goes the extra mile to make sure you have a great stay, the Andaz like many other resorts in Maui is situated right on the water. As a result you have breathtaking views at almost every turn and your mind simply can’t comprehend the beautiful sceneries. What your mind can comprehend is their AMAZING breakfast buffet. The buffet is pricey (about 55 bucks a person), it was included in our resort package so we didn’t have to worry about paying for it. The buffet is incredible, they have literally anything you could ever want, while also providing you with some Hawaiian inspired dishes. From the coconut syrup french toast to the unreal fried rice, this breakfast buffet has it all. Everything is well made too so you don’t have to worry about the quality, you just have to worry about eating too much and gaining some extra pounds (like me.)
*Also there’s a good chance that you’re going to see a famous person or two while you’re there, I saw Wayne Simmonds, of Flyers fame. Needless to say I was starstruck and every bit a 12 year old boy after I said hello.
Morimoto Sushi – On the Andaz resort in Maui sits an amazing sushi restaurant which is Chef Morimoto’s Sushi restaurant (yes that Morimoto from Iron Chef). The restaurant was empty when we entered for lunch, it’s usually fairly busy for dinner though, so make sure you make a reservation. The staff is very kind and didn’t care that we were walking in with flip flops and wet bathing suits. We ordered the toro tartare which is smooth and flavorful, the presentation was very imaginative as it was plated in what appeared to be a indented piece of ice. The tartare was presented with other sauce pairings that made it a pleasant dining experience. We then moved onto the eel & tuna rolls which were amazing, the rolls were prepared to perfection and the entire dish tasted exactly how an eel & tuna roll should taste. We finished things off with a sushi and sashimi platter, this dish personified sushi perfection. Morimoto is exactly how great sushi should taste, it’s so good that anyone’s first sushi experience should be here.
Poke Bowl – Eskimo Candy – Hawaii is well known for its excellent seafood and Maui is home to some of the best seafood you can find. When you’re in Hawaii you MUST have poke bowl, what is a poke bowl? Poke is made from Ahi Tuna that is cut up into tiny delicious cubes. It’s then seasoned with a variety of sauces (or just soy sauce) and served over a bed of rice. Poke bowls got their start in Hawaii with the fishermen who would gut the fresh catch and then eat it with rice. Poke bowl is also very similar to chirashi which is loose sushi served with rice or veggies. The best place to get authentic Hawaiian poke bowl that’s affordable in my opinion in Hawaii is Eskimo Candy (I’ve also heard you can find great sushi at grocery stores too). Eskimo Candy has amazing food that is affordable, you can get perfect poke for 12 dollars or delicious fish tacos. If neither of those are your jam, you can get delicious galbi plate lunches with onion rings, basically I loved this place so much that I went here multiple times for dinner when I was in Maui. It’s a small restaurant so if you cant find parking, there’s a spot around the corner that as extra parking. Come early for the Poke bowl because they run out before dinner usually hits. This is a perfect lunch spot.
Road to Hana -The Road to Hana or the “Road to Divorce” as some call it because so many newlyweds go on it, is a scenic coastal drive that is one part beautiful and two parts terrifying. The road is over 50 miles long, it has over 59 bridges (most of which are a little terrifying), and lots of one way roads. First let me just talk about the driving, to put it lightly, the drive sucks. Once you get in the thick of it, you’re constantly harrassed by locals who hate you and what you gone, if you don’t move out of their way they’ll honk at you or just swerve around you like maniacs. If somehow you manage to avoid both of those, you’ll still need to be on your toes the entire time as these are NARROW roads and a car accident is just one mistake away. *Didn’t mean to bum you out, but all this beauty comes at a steep cost*
The scenery though is some of the best sites to see in all of Hawaii, like much of the other parts of Maui, everything is breathtaking. This is also where you’ll find the famous black sand beaches, but beware those black “sand” beaches are really rocky and will F up your feet. Mrs. Unmanly Chef couldn’t bare the pain and opted out of swimming in those locations, because of said rocks.
When driving on this road, be mindful of a few things: 1) Bathrooms, they are few and far between so make sure you go when you can. 2) Water is hard to come by so either bring lots of cold drinking water or make a pit stop, there are not too many places to stop. 3) Bring snacks! There’s only a few places to eat, but there are lots of fruit stands in the very beginning that sell you amazing fresh cut fruit that’s already prepared and put in a bag for you. We bought fresh sugar cane, apple bananas, and pineapples for the trip. Raw sugar cane by the way is amazing and I can’t believe I never go to try it until now, it has a very chewy consistency because it’s so fibrous. Think of chewing on really sweet soft wood (Without the splinters). It’s so refreshing and amazing, I wish we had it here because it’s the BEST! 4)Bring bug spray and sun-tan lotion, because there are a ton of bugs, especially mosquitoes.
Rustbucket BBQ – Stop for food, especially the Rust Bucket Shack, this is literally one guy in the back of his truck, it looks like it’s abandoned. But it’s AMAZING, for 20 bucks you get a humongous meal that was may be one of the best I had in all of Hawaii.
Aunt Sandy’s Fruit Stand on the Road to Hana – Stop at Aunt Sandy’s stand, it’s on the road to Hana and they have AMAZING banana bread, quick sandwiches, and delicious shave ice. This place is like an oasis and does not stay open for very long (plus their banana bread runs out, I bought the last one =) ).
I didn’t finish the road because we are on the road to insanity enduring all the annoying traffic and pit stops, the road can literally take you all day if you stop the entire time. If you really want to make a day out of this place, start early and finish before dark.
Mama’s Fish House– This is a local landmark in Maui and it’s on the road to or the road back from Hana. Make a reservation ( as it gets packed) and dine here. The food is very good (albeit pricey), the service is very friendly, and the view is incredible. You can’t really go wrong with their menu items, I ordered the Mahimahi which was encrusted in macadamia nuts and stuffed with lobster and crab.
Leoda’s – Pies , mac and cheese, waffles and chicken – On your way to or from Lahaina in Maui, you must stop at a Maui favorite, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. It’s easy to miss as it literally sits alongside a highway rode, but this place is worth stopping. Leoda’s was amazing and relatively affordable, it’s a pie shop that also serves up classic Americana dishes that are mouthwatering.
I tried a bunch of their pies (from savory to sweet) and they were all equal parts DELICIOUS! They have mini pies which are essentially empanadas, I had their carnitas mini pie and it was divine.
Their chicken pot pie is really really good, but there’s no crust on the bottom which I’m not quite sure how I feel about that (a little bit of a missed opportunity for deliciousness if you ask me). They’re famous for their banana cream pie which was everything you could want, the graham cracker crust is flavorful and the creme is accented with fresh vanilla bean.
Their chicken and waffles are amazing, the waffle is amazing and the chicken is juicy and crispy. This is a must get. The mac and cheese that they have is also amazing, basically anything you get here is amazing and you have to try it.
Lahaina – When you’re in Maui you’ll quickly realize that there are only so many places that have a lot of people living there. Much of it is sparsley populated. Lahaina is a great place to visit if you want to get your fix of Hawaiian tourism. When you visit Lahaina, make sure you stop and see the Banyan trees which are a marvel of science.
It’s chock full of stores and restaurants that play up their Hawaii location, but it also has some fun places to eat and people watch. Lahaina is one of the oldest towns in Hawaii and it was once considered the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The city population swells with tourism during peak tourism season which seems to be all the time if you ask me.
Dried Fruit- For some reason Hawaii has access to some AMAZING dried fruit, like dried cantaloupe and dried mandarin oranges, both are amazing and need to be in your life. You can find them at gift shops or probably at an ABC store, which leads me to my next thing.
ABC Stores– These stores are ubiquitous and are key to you not breaking the bank when you go to Hawaii. Think of them as a CVS and Radio Shack combined into one amazing store. When I say they’re everywhere, I mean they’re EVERYWHERE. They also sell everything you could need, so don’t buy sunscreen, cheap souvenirs or snacks at your hotel or the airport, just go here and buy everything and anything you could ever possibly need.
Maui Style Chips– These are chips made by Lays, but they are soooo tasty, especially their Maui Onion flavored chips. You can find these at any convenience store and they are so damn delicious. Hotel gift shop was selling these for 10 dollars! Meanwhile your friendly ABC store will sell them for about 1.50, so when I say use your ABC store, use the ABC store.
Shaved Ice – Shaved Ice is a thing in Hawaii that I wish we had mainland side, instead of stupid snowballs like we have Hawaiians do shaved ice and it’s amazing. They take blocks of ice and literally shave them with a blade, the end result is a smooth soft ice mixture. They then flavor it with syrups and pour it over the ice for a creation that is one part refreshing and another part heavenly. There are a bunch of excellent shaved ice places in Maui, Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice has four locations, and the quality of their stuff is really really good.
If you’re on the Road to Hana there are a few shave ice stands that are equally awesome (especially Aunt Sandy’s). If you’re in Oahu near the North Shore, there is Matsumoto Shave Ice which has long lines but it’s worth the wait.
Dole Whip Float – Hawaii is home to the magical creation known as the Dole Whip. Basically it’s pineapple ice cream and it tastes amazing, but it truly becomes something out of this world when you get the Dole Whip Float. Basically they take pineapple juice at the bottom of your cup, then they add fresh chunks of pineapple, a heaping serving of soft serve Dole Whip ice cream, and some whipped cream for good measure. The end result is this sensational treat that is everything you could ever want in a pineapple dessert, in fact it’s kind of what you have always wanted pineapple to taste like. Which leads me to also say that pineapple in Hawaii is completely different than pineapple back on the mainland, especially Maui pineapples, they’re sweeter, more yellowy in color, and less acidic.
Oahu – Honolulu- Honolulu is a huge city and it’s very very touristy. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but you need to go off the beaten path to not get run over by tourists. Honolulu has great food, but it can be tough to find. Stay way from the touristy spots that await you on Waikiki beach, and go more inland in town to find great places to eat. If you venture out of Honolulu you’ll find the pace to be more to your liking, rather than Honolulu which is sort of just like any other city.
Goofy’s in Honolulu – If you’re looking for something less traditional or you really value organic food, you ought to go to Goofy’s which is right near the Waikiki strip in a tiny building with several other shops, it’s easy to miss. Everything at Goofy’s is local and organic, the wait seems to move along relatively quickly and the quality of the food is great.
We came here twice because it was so close to our hotel, once for breakfast and once for dinner, both times the food was really good. Highly recommend their Acai bowl for breakfast if you’re into lighter fare, but they have some amazing looking Egg’s Benedict as well.
Their lunch/dinner menu is good, we tried the fried rice for a starter (it’s huge order it as a meal, but it’s really good) and I ordered a Hawaiian classic which is garlic shrimp, they fry the whole shrimp with the skin on so if biting through shrimp skin is not your thing, get something else. I recommend getting the tacos or the Ahi bowl instead of the Garlic Shrimp.
Liliha Bakery – Liliha Bakery is a sweet little bakery that sits away from the Waikiki strip (you’ll notice that’s a trend in Honolulu), it’s a full service diner & bakery , walking in is like walking into carb heaven.The sweet aroma of fresh baked goods seduces your nose into wanting to buy everything in sight, but since I had no kitchen or fridge to store all these tasty treats, I kept my purchases to what I could hold in one box. A must get when you go to Liliha is their Cocoa Puffs, these are freshly made cream puffs with cocoa flavored cream.
They’re SO good. You wont be able to eat just one. No visit to Hawaii is complete without eating malasadas either, and luckily Liliha has incredible malasadas. What are malasadas? Basically filled donuts, and their perfect.
Luibueno’s Mexican & Seafood Restaurant – When you visit the North Shore (and you will if you’re in Oahu), you’re going to be bombarded with places to eat, the North Shore is filled with different shops and restaurants to attract your attention. If you love good Mexican (Tex-Mex), go to Luibueno’s. They have good service, the fish tacos are insane and the guac is really good too.
The Dole Plantation Farm – I don’t recommend going here, it’s very touristy and it will kind of just depress you. But if you do go there, just go to the gift shop and split, the North Shore awaits you.
Rainbow Drive In – Rainbow Drive In is situated away from the hustle and bustle of tourist hell that is Waikiki Beach, you walk up to the window order your food and then find a place to sit or you can eat in your car. The food is really tasty, it’s serving up classic Hawaiian fare like plates (these are common throughout Hawaii, where you get a heaping plate of food). The plates come in a variety of different food items, I highly recommend ordering the Mix Plate which is fried Mahi Mahi, Fried Chicken, and BBQ Beef, it’s soooo good (also ridiculously filling). The prices are very reasonable, especially for Honolulu standards. You can’t go wrong here.
The Side Street Inn – I visted Side Street as we were leaving Hawaii and I was sad I didn’t come here more often, the service here is super friendly (come for lunch there’s no wait), the portion sizes are HUGE and the quality is great. We shared a fried rice and fried pork chop (which is their house specialty), it was so much that we had enough for 2 more meals afterwards. They have all sorts of classic Hawaiian meat dishes, but one of the best things to get there are the pan fried island pork chops, this is enough for two people and it’s amazing. It’s pan fried to perfection, so you’re left with this juicy cut of pork that’s crunchy and it melts in your mouth. Also it doesn’t hurt that this place was featured on one of Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows.
Henry’s Place – This place is really easy to miss and I advise walking there, because parking is not really a viable option. The fruit ice cream here is AMAZING, plus you get fresh fruit cut. Try the mango ice cream, the prices are super reasonable and you’ll be in heaven once you try the ice cream.
Hank’s Haute Dogs – I didn’t get to visit this place, but it was on Man Vs. Food and it looks awesome, please visit and laugh in my face that I didn’t realize to go here. =(
Helena’s Hawaiian Food – This was another place that I didn’t get to visit, but it’s universally loved it seems and it was also on Anthony Bourdain’s show. So go here and once again laugh at me.