Back to Maui

We've visited Maui regularly through the years. On each trip we revisit some of our favorite sites and activities, and try a few new ones, too. It's time to add to earlier journals!

Back to Maui

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on November 25, 2003

The musts on Maui: Rent a snorkel and see the incredible fish just a few feet offshore. Drive to the top of Haleakala... better still, take a bike ride down. If you have good weather, drive to Hana - be sure to wear a bathing suit and pull over for a quick dip under a waterfall or two. Get to Lahaina to see the early show at Warren and Annabelle's, followed by dinner at one of the island's finer restaurants... or at Cheeseburgers in Paradise. Get a shave ice from Lorraine in Honokohau (July and August only) or Island Shave Ice in Paia (anytime). Stop at random shoreline access signs and explore.${QuickSuggestions} Other journals touch on a lot of these highlights. "Back to Maui" adds a few things we uncovered on our most recent trip and gives our slant on some of the things other people have already written about.${BestWay} You must have a car to take advantage of all Maui has to offer.

Maui Seaside Hotel

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on December 3, 2003

There's only one reason to stay at the Maui Seaside: it's close to the airport. The Maui Seaside Hotel is on the Kahului waterfront, but it's not a beach by any means. Kahului harbor is a working port with good sided cargo and container ships moving in and out. There's a small pool in the hotel courtyard, but no one should ever use this hotel as their Maui destination.

Rooms are good sized, but oddly empty. They cry out for accessories like a sofa and a couple of wing chairs, but only have small round table and a pair of chairs.

So why stay here? If you have a flight that gets you into Maui late in the evening after a big time change, you might prefer to stop here rather than driving cross-island to Kihei or Kaanapali in a jet-lagged stupor. If you have an early morning flight out, do you really want to get up at 5am, drive cross-island, return the rental car, and get into line at the airport the recommended 90 minutes before departure, or would you rather take the hotel shuttle over? This hotel is recommended ONLY for those special cases.

Maui Seaside Hotel
100 West Kaahumanu Ave
Maui, Hawaii

Mama's Fish House

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on November 25, 2003

With a name like Mama's Fish House, when we pulled in for lunch we expected fresh fish served in a bit of a ramshackle building with casual service... maybe even a counter with outdoor seating at picnic tables. The first sign we were wrong was the valet parking, much beloved by folks from Southern California, Houston, and Dallas, but an unnecessary time-waster for people from the Northeast used to walking occasionally. The short walk from the parking lot to the restaurant itself was through pleasant, well-tended grounds, but the big surprise occurred when we entered the building. Tablecloths! Rugs - some Orientals? - on the floors! Lunch entrees for $28 to $34, sandwiches for $24 to $28! Clearly, we had to adjust our mindset... this wan't just a fish shack.

Mama's prides itself on having the freshest fish. The menu information includes, not just the type of fish, but the name of the ship or fisherman who caught it. It's all artfully prepared with fresh local ingredients... no fried fish in this fish house! Presentation is impressive, and the dishes look as good as they taste. The view from the dining room, a small cove with dramatic black rocks on either side for waves to crash into, seen through a grove of palm trees, is a pleasant diversion while you sip a drink waiting for the meal to arrive.

All in all, a nice, somewhat overpriced place... perhaps due to the lack of nearby competition? We'll come back, but not often. Recommended, as long as you know what to expect!

Mama's Fish House
799 Poho Place
Maui, Hawaii, 96779
(808) 579-8488

Cafe Mambo

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on November 25, 2003

Cafe Mambo replaces the late, lamented PicNic's. For years, PicNic's was the place to stop to pick up - what else? - a picnic lunch for the trip to Hana. The good news is that although the restaurant has changed hands and the menu has changed, the picnic lunches haven't!

Cafe Mambo opens at 8am... sort of. We slipped in about 8:20 and the staff still hadn't got their act together. It took awile before we could walk out with lunch. For $8, we got an apple, small bag of cookies, small bag of chips, can of soda, and a good-sized chicken sandwich. The shrimp sandwich, not a shrimp salad but full of a dozen mid-sized shrimp jammed into the roll, was $10. If coming back through Paia, they'll even let you borrow a cooler for the day.

Sorry, we can't report on the restaurant menu. On the morning we stopped by, no one was ordering from the breakfast menu, but a slow stream of people wandered in to pick up picnic lunch. You will need to take food along on the trip to Hana... options along the way are limited at best.

Cafe Mambo
30 Baldwin Avenue
Maui, Hawaii

Old Lahaina Luau

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on November 27, 2003

All luaus in Maui are basically the same: all-you-can-eat buffets, open bars and Hawaiian entertainment. Old Lahaina Luau is more traditional with its entertainment, as it tries for a more meaningful and culturally correct presentation, with no cheesy MC cracking newlywed jokes, but it's not all that different.

The evening starts around sundown as you are escorted to your seats at a communal table seating eight or nine. Get to know your tablemates over drinks brought to you from the open bar while a four-piece band plays Hawaiian music. About an hour after opening, you are escorted to one of the buffet stations for an all-you-can-eat meal. Second visits are encouraged. After an hour for eating, entertainment begins in earnest with performers in colorful costumes explaining the Polynesian migration, Hawaii's discovery and history through song and dance. Three hours after the event starts, it's over and the crowd files out.

The food? It's good. Don't worry if traditional foods like poi, roast pork, ahi poke (a raw salmon dish) and sweet potato aren't your favorites. There's plenty of non-traditional food: salmon (cooked this time!), chicken, mahi mahi and steak, with plenty of salads, rice and fruit to pick from. After you've attacked the buffet, a small tray of desserts is brought to the table. Service throughout is excellent.

However, at the going rate, $80 per person, it really doesn't seem worth it. The evening meal is, after all, just a buffet. People don't drink as much as they used to, so the open bar is not the attraction it may have been years ago. The entertainment, while colorful, does get redundant after awhile. The luau seats about 350 people at tables are arranged in three banked levels - people in the third level don't have a great view. All tables are arranged so that the short end faces the stage. At all levels people at that end have a good view; people at the other end of the table are blocked by their table mates.

People often feel compelled to see a luau in Hawaii. Most people leaving the luau were talking about how great this one was and how much they enjoyed it. We'd have liked it a lot better for $40 each than we did for $80!

Old Lahaina Luau
1251 Front St.
Maui, Hawaii, 96761
(808) 667-1998

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on December 1, 2003

We always start our Maui trips with a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise. It's on the waterside of Front Street in Lahaina, a two-story wooden building open to the tropical breezes. Evenings, there's always entertainment, someone strumming and singing up on the second floor.

The food? It's pretty basic...despite the menu, everyone seems to order the same thing - cheeseburgers. Eight bucks for the burger, $3.50 for a basket of fries to split between two or three, and $4.50 for a local Kona beer or $2 for an iced tea.

Sit back, watch the waves come in across Lahaina Harbor or watch people walk by on Front Street. Sip a cool drink, listen to the music, and pretty soon you're enjoying a cheeseburger in paradise!

Cheeseburger in Paradise
811 Front Street
Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761
(808) 661-4855


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on December 4, 2003

Leave the touristy hustle and bustle of Lahaina behind and walk down Front Street to the complex of shops and restaurants at 505 Front Street, which would dearly love to become part of the touristy hustle and bustle of Lahaina. Wind through the shops until you reach Chef James McDonald's empire by the shore. To your right: Pacific'o. To your left: I'o. Further left: the Feast at Lele. All three have menus developed by Chef McDonald . . . not that there's anything wrong with that! He also owns the O'o Farm, Pacific'o's source of fresh salad fixings.

Pacific'o overlooks Lahaina harbor and the island of Lanai. Seating is either outdoors, on a patio with flaming torches, or inside overlooking the patio. Inside is a bit of a misnomer. Actually, with the amount of open wall space, it's more like sitting on a covered deck. We felt that tables inside had a better view of the sunset, but no one outside was complaining!

Pacific'o specializes in 'contemporary Pacific cuisine.' When I asked our server what that meant, she looked around conspiratorially, then said quietly, "Chef likes his curry." Hmmm . . . this wasn't great praise in our book, but the menu sounded so good. Two examples --"Kona Winds: Fresh fish seared with house spices, served over wilted O'o Farm grown argula and bean sprouts. Topped with warm avocado, Maui onion salsa, goat cheese, macadamia nuts and soy bacon vinaigrette. Painted Fish: Fresh fish painted with Indonesian soy, grilled and served with ginger, pineapple and red pepper salsa with ginger sweet and sour sauce." Sorry, I'm drooling on the keyboard!

Note that the type of fish isn't specified. That's because it depends on what's been caught that day. These dishes are offered with a choice of three or more types of fish, each of which will be lovingly described by your server.

The food was outstanding. Appetisers range from $8 to 14, entrees from $22 to 29 and desserts from $6.50 to $8.50. Pacific'o also offers a specially prepared five- or six-course dinner, each course complimented by a 3 oz. glass of wine selected to match the food, for $99.

505 Front St
Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761
+1 808 667 4341

Warren and Annabelle's

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on December 1, 2003

Warren and Annabelle's is outstanding! Warren Gibson performs close-up magic in a gem of a small theatre for only 78 people each show. No disappearing tigers, ladies sawed in half, or floating assistants in a big show... just Warren and silver dollars appearing and disappearing only a few feet away from your seat. A rabbit out of a hat? Nope... how 'bout a bowling ball? Anyone who's been to a magic show has probably seen the linking rings... three solid metal rings that magically come together like the Olympic rings, then come apart. Warren does essentially the same trick, but uses wedding rings from people in the audience. The man is incredible.

We arrived at 5pm, but there's no need to get here too early. We were brought into Annabelle's, an upscale lounge with a ghostly piano player. Entertainment started at 5:30 as Annabelle "appeared" and began taking requests. Drinks, appetizers, and desserts were available until about 6:30, when we were brought into the theatre. Seating was free-form: our entrance tickets told us to enter through the right-hand door or the left-hand door. Those using the right-hand door took seats in the first three rows; those assigned to the left-hand door sat in the back two rows. This wasn't a big hardship, since the entire theatre is only five rows deep! Eight volunteers sat at the counter separating Warren from the audience.

Warren performed for close to two hours, doing his magic and bantering with the crowd. Besides being amazing, Warren was hilarious responding to comments - "This isn't TV... I can HEAR what you're saying!" - and getting a real back and forth going with a few people.

All in all, one of the best evenings of entertainment we've had anywhere.

Warren doesn't advertise much, relying on word of mouth to fill the house. With only 78 seats for each performance and a maximum of two shows a night, it's tough to get a seat on short notice, even using the various ticket services available on Maui. Recently, he set up a website,, that you can use to get tickets in advance of your trip.

Warren & Annabelle's Magic
900 Front Street
Maui, Hawaii, 96761
(808) 667-6244

A secret beach south of Makena...

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on November 26, 2003

We love to explore shoreline access points in Maui. In Hawaii, the shoreline is open to everyone, but access is frequently impossible. Blue signs posted alongside the road highlight access points. In some cases, the signs direct you to a parking spot; in others, to a path or gap between fences.

South of Makena, there's a beautiful little cove with a sand beach that can't be any more than 25 yards wide. Drive south on Wailea Avenue past the huge hotels - past Grand Wailea, Four Seasons and Maui Price - and soon, on the right, you'll see signs for the state park at Makena Big Beach. While Big Beach is worth a stop in its own right, keep going. Shortly after the second Big Beach parking lot entrance, watch for a 10-foot-high stone wall on your right and a lunch/snack wagon on your left. There's a 5-foot gap in the stone wall and a blue shoreline access sign partially hidden in the brush. Pull to the side and stop here.

The beach is just through the gap. It's a little gem with black lava rock outcrops on both sides of the cove. The sand - soft, golden and warm - extends into the water on both sides of a black rock outcrop in the center of the cove. At the right time of year, the vines along one side are a mass of color.

It's a great place to stop for a bit, either before or after viewing the lava moonscape around LaPeruse Bay.

Don't be put off if there are cars parked here or if there are formally dressed people walking about, because this little beach is being used more and more often for weddings and by wedding photographers. Go ahead in, be respectful, quiet, and above all, stay out of camera range!

Nakalele Blowhole

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on December 1, 2003

Past Lahaina, Kanapaali and Kapalua, west Maui takes on a rugged look. The coast gets rocky - don't look for many shoreline access points here! - and conditions invariably turn windy. At its northernmost point, Nakalele Point juts into the Pacific unprotected by Molokai, Lanai or any other island. High winds, crashing surf, and a hole in the lava rock create a blowhole. When conditions are right, each big wave forces water through the lava gap, sometimes shooting 30 feet into the air.

Take route 30 north from Lahaina. After Kapalua, it quickly changes to route 340. Go 1/2 mile past mile marker 38 and park on the left side of the road beside the round rocks. Be sure to lock up and remove valuables: from the broken glass on the ground, it appears break-ins are common.

You can watch the geyser-like show from close to the cars, but hike down closer. Be careful: observe where the ground is wet and which way the water is blowing. Most times you can safely get to the flat area around the blowhole for a saltwater shower! Feeling adventurous? Want to get away from those other people? Then climb around the desolate lava to the left of the blowhole to watch some more big wave action.

An Evening Beach Walk at Kaanapali

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on December 2, 2003

Looking for a place for a sunset stroll? Try the beach walk at Kaanapali.

Park in the Whalers Village garage and wander through the shops to the shore. If you're there a bit before sunset, turn right and head toward Black Rock. Every night at sunset, the Sheraton has a little torch-lighting ceremony. The highlight is when a young man jogs across the beach to the Black Rock lava outcrop with his flaming torch. He climbs up the rock, lights a few torches along the way, and pauses dramatically at the top of the rock. He tosses his lit torch into the water, then his lei. As a finale, he makes the 30-foot dive into the sea.

All right, if you've been here during the day, you've seen local kids, out-of-shape tourists, and everything in between make this jump. But you have to admit, the torch lighter does it with style!

If the torches on Black Rock are already lit when you get to the beach, turn left and follow the paved path. A few minutes away from Whalers Village, there aren't as many people on the path and you can listen to the waves while soft tropical breezes bring you the smells of plumeria, hibiscus and occasional barbecue grills. The path winds between the shore on one side and the Kaanapali hotels and condos on the other. You might find a place you want to be sure to try on your next trip to Maui!

If you walk far enough in this direction, eventually you pass three hotel luaus - the Marriott's, the Hyatt's, and Drums of the Pacific. Until recently, the luaus were screened off. People would stop to peek through gaps in the bushes to catch a bit of the shows, but now there's no attempt to block the view. You can stop and watch as long as you care to... but without the proper colored plastic bracelet, you won't be able to sneak in for a drink!

┬ę LP 2000-2009