Maui sometimes feels like my home away from home. Every year, my family and I spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Maui where we lounge, eat, and relax for two weeks of Hawaiian vacation bliss. We always stay somewhere on the water in Kihei, eat at the same restaurants, explore the same shops, and do a lot of the same-old-same-old. We have done pretty much everything there is to do on the East side of the island, from hiking into the Haleakala creator to enjoying quite a few Luaus at the Grand Wailea.
While I love the East side of Maui, I’ve been eager to explore more of the island and was excited to get the chance when my close friend Jennifer invited me to join her family vacation. When Jen’s family goes to Maui, they almost always stay on the West side of the island near Lahaina, a place I have visited many times but never spent more than an afternoon exploring. I couldn’t wait to see more of the Lahaina area and experience new beaches, shops, and restaurants. A really fun part of Jen’s family vacation is that this was a birthday trip for her dad and everything on our eight day itinerary was a complete surprise to him. Typically he wouldn’t find out what we had planned that day until we got there – even to the airport for a one-day turnaround trip to Pearl Harbor! This trip was so stress-free with equal parts lounging and exploring – the perfect recipe for the ultimate Maui vacation! Now, let me show you a new side of the Maui island!
Roadside Fruit Stand
Right off the Honoapi’ilani highway, we spotted a fruit stand, shaded under gorgeous overhanging trees. I love Hawaiian fruit stands and always get excited when I spot a unique and unfamiliar tropical produce item! While digging through the freshly picked produce boxes, we found four different avocado varieties, fresh sugar cane sticks, papaya, and baby pineapples. While we shopped, chickens wandered in and out of nearby bushes and kittens napped in the shade. After shopping at the fruit stand, we headed next door to Leoda’s pie shop for more bites to take back to the hotel. I ordered a mini key lime pie and it was zesty, creamy, and perfectly sweet. Let’s just say that for the next few days, we had the best snacks!
Old Lahaina Luau
Luaus are one of my favorite things to do in Maui! You get an amazing show (usually involving fire!), tasty drinks, and enjoy a spread of Hawaiian dishes. I’ve been to quite a few hotel luaus and always heard the Old Lahaina Luau was one of the best. Almost every year we would talk about making the drive out to Lahaina for a luau but it was too far away. This time, staying on the other side of the island meant that the Old Lahaina Luau was so close and I was so excited when I found out we were going!
The Old Lahaina Luau is not part of a resort, so the entire outdoor venue is designed for the ultimate dinner and show. The food was amazing and included traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi, Kālua slow roasted pig, and Mahi Mahi. One of my favorite dinner items was a pink guava honey butter, which we spread on purple sweet potato rolls. I was so inspired by their guava honey butter that I decided to play around in the kitchen at home, coming up with my own creation. Look for that recipe coming soon! After dinner we caught a breathtaking sunset and shortly after enjoyed incredible desserts like smoky kiawe bean tarts, passion fruit cake, and salted chili pepper brownies. The show was also incredible with so many costume changes and great story telling. It was the perfect way to end the delicious evening!
Sunset Dinner Cruise
About half way through our trip, we went on an incredible sunset dinner cruise with Alii Nui! Being my first dinner cruise, I was blown away by the whole experience. There was something so magical about being on the water with the warm air surrounding you. The food was incredible, the drinks were fantastic and we caught a killer sunset. We were told by the Captain that on a clear night you can sometimes see a green burst of light right as the sun disappears into the water (just like in the Pirates of the Caribbean!) While we didn’t see the green burst, we did have crystal blue skies and incredible island views from the sea.
Day Trip to Pearl Harbor
This was our longest, yet most exciting day of the trip! We woke up at 3am to make an early morning flight to O’ahu where we caught a tour bus and spent the day learning about historic military landmarks and monuments. I had a lot of apprehension before this day trip because I have a weird fear of big ships, specifically large metal military and cargo ships. Submarines, buoys, and deep water all fit into that category as well, so I had to really prepare myself and face my fears to experience something that I would have otherwise never had the chance to experience. What better time than now to get over this ridiculous phobia, right?! I honestly have to say that I had such a great time and despite my fears, felt so lucky to be able to experience such a historic, tragic, and symbolic site. I am so happy I concurred my fear and was able to fully immerse myself in the Pearl Harbor monument experience.
We first started with a submarine tour, then took a boat out to the sunken USS Arizona, and ended with the USS Missouri Battleship Monument museum. We unfortunately were not able to walk out onto the floating USS Arizona Monument because of a foundation crack but we were able to boat around the ship and see a little below. I got chills thinking about all the history below the water, it was an incredible, humbling experience.
The USS Missouri was one of my favorite parts of the trip because we were free to explore the entire ship. I ended up spending a lot of time in the battleship kitchen and dining hall where they had a menu posted along with some recipes. We ended the day with a trip to the Ford Island Aviation Museum and Punchbowl Crater National Cemetery.
Mama’s Fish House
I can’t believe I had never been to Mama’s! I had always heard it was a must but never ventured out to actually go. My family is not very into the food scene, so to them Mama’s was never on the list because it wasn’t close to where we usually stay. I am so happy that Jen’s family loves food and made reservations! It was everything I imagined and so much more. The ambiance, the service, the food, everything was like a dream. I ordered the mahi mahi stuffed with crab and lobster, baked in a macadamia nut crust and it was fantastic!! Someone at our table ordered the traditional Hawaiian plate which had little bites of traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi, poke, purple potatoes, mahi mahi, and slow roasted pork. That beautiful dessert below is the Polynesian black pearl with chocolate mouse with a cookie shell. It was incredible! After finally experiencing Mama’s, I totally get the hype and think it’s the best restaurant on Maui.
On one of the last few days we checked out the Whalers Village and grabbed one last dinner before having to go back and pack our bags. I had one last piña colada and enjoyed a bite of Pono pie, which is made out of sweet potato and topped with bread fruit. It was the perfect way to end our vacation!
When we wen’t exploring the island and our itinerary was wide open, we enjoyed lounging and eating, and lounging some more. It was such a relaxing vacation and I was so lucky to have been able to join such a fun and perfectly planned vacation. If you want to experience more of Maui with me, I have a highlights page on my Instagram account @Champagneandpaperplanes_com where you can see all my videos from the trip. Till next time Maui, I am sure I will see you again sometime soon!