Maui suggestions for Xmas to New Years

The partner and I have decided NOT to do the family thing this year for any of the holidays. Thanksgiving will be out in Ft. Bragg and Mendocino w/ friends. For Xmas, we will be in Maui, at the Ka’anapali Sheraton resort.

We’re arriving Xmas eve and flying out New Year’s eve.

We already have The Feast of Lele booked for my partner’s Dec 30 bday. Star Noodle will be visited (if you’re familiar, are reservations needed?) We also have a visit to the Surfing Goat dairy for a tour and a cheese sampler scheduled, as well as the sunrise bike ride from the top of the island down into town.

Other suggestions, both food-focused and otherwise, are welcome. There will be no snorkeling, as I am a terrible swimmer and the partner prefers fish on her plate rather than underfoot. The Feast of Lele is approx. $150/pp and that’s PROBABLY the top of the range, expense-wise, but if something else truly extraordinary is more, well, I’m happy to look.

For the record, I was told Mama’s Fish House was amazing (and $$$$), but it according to Open Table, they’re fully booked that week.

Help me Hungry Onion- You’re my only hope.


I don’t think we had reservations for Star Noodle.

I enjoyed Lineage. We had the tasting menu.

I enjoyed both Leoda’s and Maui Pie.

For a casual lunch, we liked Nalu’s.

We also had a nice quick lunch at Coconut’s.


Aloha. Reservations at Star Noodle are essential. You should book ASAP. Sheldon Simeon (from Top Chef) has a casual restaurant near the airport called Tin Roof that we like a lot. The food is great but it’s take out only.


How wonderful. I’ll go back and look at my trip notes but yes definitely reservation at star noodle and seconded the Tin Roof recommendation. I’ll be back with more recommendations!


Hi, so here were some spots we went that I’d recommend. We stayed in Kaanapali too.

-Tin Roof (as mentioned), loved the mochiko chicken and poke especially
-Farmers Market Maui- amazing acai bowls, fresh fruit (we were addicted to the strawberry mangoes), great snacks, lovely staff
-Castaway Cafe- we had breakfast here numerous times as it was our hotel’s on site restaurant - recommended for breakfast, everything we had was great and the view is incredible
-Leilanis- had a great first dinner here- beautiful views, bustling, fun, friendly service and enjoyed the meal
-Ululani’s- iconic shave ice- we went three times and tried as many flavors as possible - expect long lines
-Donut Dynamite (en route to upcountry) one woman donut extraordinare- lilikoi malasada was ridiculously good
-Makawao farmers market- I love farmers markets and this did not disappoint - we gawked at the rows of fruits we’d never seen or heard of before and picked up some nice food souvenirs
-Mahalo Brewing- great views, nice beers, sausage truck on site. Friendly place with lots of locals
-Surfing Goat- got some fabulous cheese to enjoy the rest of our vacation
-Ocean Vodka Distillery - recommended by a local we met at Mahalo - he said our kid would love it as much as we did- beautiful views, great cocktails, and decent food- but highly recommended
-StarNoodle (as mentioned)- more beautiful views, everything we ate was delicious, more great cocktails. My daughter threw an epic tantrum so details are fuzzy :crazy_face:
-Joeys- one of our favorite meals- strip mall location ( but still caught a beautiful sunset) with phenomenal food- even the kids Mac and cheese was great- we especially loved the garlic shrimp.
-Tamuras- Highly highly recommend - liquor store with a great snack selection but the draw is the ridiculous poke selection - fresh and one of the best things we ate the entire trip- friendly guys at the counter and such a cool unique experience
-Leodas- another must visit- we went specifically for pie and ordered four mini pies that we noshed on the rest of the trip- chocolate Mac nut was a family favorite
-Cafe o’lei- can’t speak to a meal but for a snack and cocktail after the tram ride this was wonderful - beautiful scenery and a cool story to the grounds
-Old Lahaina Luau- our family’s #1 favorite meal, experience, etc, this was absolutely incredible - both food and entertainment. Price is high yes but the food was not only plentiful but delicious - from the cocktails to the purple rolls to all the various meats and sides and desserts. They treated my four year old like royalty.

Hope this helps! This was a once in a lifetime bucket list trip for us and we all fell in love with Maui!


This is a fabulous list. Tin Roof looks fabulous, but just the pictures of the lines… yeesh.

Tamuras is def. on the list.

Joeys sounds like an ideal lunch spot.

Thank you SO much.


Boy you weren’t kidding on the reservation front. There are NO dinner tables available the entire WEEK.

I managed to snag us a late (2pm) lunch one day.

Thanks for the heads up.


If I remember correctly I pre-ordered from Tin Roof while waiting for our rental car and it was ready when we arrived. There’s only a couple benches so we ate in our car.


That is a pro tip if ever I heard one.

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Tim Roof. The caveat is that i have never been there. BUT…Sheldon Simeon is currently is one of the most popular chefs in Hawaii. Like Sam Choy, he’s famous for taking local Hawaii dishes, and polishing them a bit… Hawaii folks are proud of their cuisine, and chefs like Simeon do us proud. Dont get me wrong, there are some great places in Hawaii making great food…but do yourself a favor, step outside of the hotel culture, and try some local food. Star Noodle and Tim Roof will introduce you to Hawaii cuisine, but want to get real local? Find and go to a family owned plate lunch place. Dont buy poke at Foodland…go to a locally owned poke place where the owners buy from local fisherman and make up the poke several times daily… Ask the valets, or the people working the front desk, or the rental car person…ask them where THEY go for plate lunch. You can discover the world of local Hawaii cuisine, which is this rich multicultural mash up…and you may be pleasantly surprised.


A rec and and anti-rec. Rec: google or yelp for the best shave ice near where you are staying or touring. If you haven’t been to HI, shave ice is a treat you can’t miss. Anti-rec: stay away from Roy’s of any kind. At best, the food will be passable and overpriced. At worst, the food will be awful and still overpriced.

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Looking forward to your report!!!

Well, at long last… the trip is complete, and it brought up some unexpectedly complicated feelings about the US history with the islands, the commodification of culture and a whole lot of other “not very vacationy” thoughts. It also showed me, as a first time visitor to the islands, just how unbelievably gorgeous they are, and the HUGE resource we have at our disposal in them, and left me with wishes to return soon, but in a very different way.

I got suggestions from folks on HO, FTC, as well as just gleaning info from past threads. If I hit upon your suggestions and don’t credit you, please know the oversight isn’t personal. I simply didn’t keep track of who pointed out what.

The trip did not start auspiciously. Our 4am Lyft ride became a 4:10, a 4:15, and a 4:20am ride as driver after driver cancelled on us, and when one finally accepted and began to make his way towards us, he made a wrong turn on a route that would have delayed him to a point we were no longer comfortable with. So, cancel one Lyft and decide to just eat the airport parking charges.

Thankfully, the flight was NOT Southwest, and didn’t depend on a plane from anyplace that was weather affected, so arrival was as pleasant and uneventful as possible. And the macadamia nuts Hawaiian airlines gives you get a hearty thumbs up from me. My partner was also quite happy with the mai-tais. The tram to the rental car depot at Kahului airport is Disneyland levels of ‘charming’’

It was about noon once we got the rental car. The initial plan was to hit up Tin Roof for lunch, but as it was Xmas day, they were closed, so we stopped at Tamura’s Fine Wines for some poke!

Spoiled for choice, we went for the fried garlic and the 'sweet ‘n spicy’ along with some furikake rice.

(not pictured, a Tamura's tshirt with a cool octopus logo I liked that I bought, and octopus flip-flops purchased by my partner. 2 of the 3 non-food souvenirs from this trip)

Dollar for dollar, this was probably the best meal we had all trip. I could have gone back here 3 different times just to try the different varieties (salmon, crawfish, all kinds of goodies and variations) We ate on the bench outside in the lovely weather. How nice.

We stayed at the Sheraton Ka’anapali resort. If the resort vacation is your goal, this seems like a darn good one. The beach is stunning, pools are plentiful, towels, cabanas, lounges, etc all ready and waiting. If sun, sand, and beachside food and drink are the entirety of your priorities, one could happily set up camp here for a week and never leave the grounds. There are 3 restaurants on premises: The Cliffside Grill (casual beachside dining), Coral Reef (still on the beach, moderately more ‘indoor’ and formal), and Teppan Dan, a teppanyaki japanese grill that we neglected to make reservations for, so were unable to sample. But, eh, I’ve been to a Benihana’s before.

Xmas dinner was at the Coral Reef, for lack of better options, and the menu, being Xmas, was a prix fixe of hawaiian rolls (natch), mixed green or kale caesar, 8oz filet mignon w/ lobster newberg sauce and some green beans as a main (there was a veg option too. Neither of us do that), and a red velvet with pandan pannacotta as dessert. I neglected to take pictures, and that’s fine. This meal was… fine. The steaks were well prepared, the rolls were soft and sweet, the caesar had fried tomatoes rather than traditional croutons which was interesting, and the dessert was forgettable, but it was good enough and we were tired from traveling and just happy to have a nice dinner and a comfy bed. The meal itself was around $100/pp not including some pointedly “not weak” drinks, and was good enough at that price when you consider the ‘resort restaurant’ markup plus the ‘holiday dinner’ surcharge.

The next day was the Road to Hana, which had us driving around the eastern half of the island over the course of the day on narrow, twist-back roads that make some spots in Big Sur look like 8 lane interstates. The scenery is AMAZING, going from plains and cane fields to tropical mountain rainforest with an unbelievable spectacular waterfall seemingly every 1/4 mile. Then down to arid, rocky coast that seem lightyears from the sandy, accessible beach strips that are scattered up and down the island’s western coast.

Food on the road is somewhat of a crapshoot. Lots of places that look like they might be great, if only they were open. Tiny shacks slinging burgers and dogs, bbq pork ribs, the occasional poke bowl, and for some reaons, a number of thai food carts with the usual pad thai, pad see ew, selection of curries.
We went for the ribs. Not cheap ($25 for a plate with the gummiest rice and limpest veggies you ever did see) but substantial, smokey, and stayed in the hotel fridge for the next couple days as impromptu snacks.)

The next day was a visit to The Surfing Goat Dairy. The goats do not, as far as I know, actually surf. They DO make delicious cheese, though, as well as truffles with goat-cheese based ganache fillings.

A sampler. The small balls in the cup are goat mozzarella soaked in garlic olive oil to ripen. We ended up taking home a jar of the ‘rolling green’ (garlic chive), and ate the entirety of the ‘garden delight’ while we were there (That, the leftover ribs, and some hawaiian rolls made a pretty good sandwich.)

The aforementioned truffles: The ganache is made w/ goat cheese. Very smooth. very slightly tangy. Delightful.

And one of the lovely providers of the raw material:

The next day was pool and beach time. Mai Tai’s were plentiful, beach noshes were had, and very little was accomplished, capping off absolutely randomly (mostly because we liked the name) Macadangdang, a sort of upscale Japanese/Filipino fusion as they bill themselves. They are exactly the type of place their website makes them out to be. Upscale. Well-versed bar-staff. We had a Sisig appetizer that was served lettuce-wrap style, and the sisig was enveloped in a fois-grois butter / lemon aoli sauce that made the whole dish SO DAMNED RICH. The lettuce was actually pretty welcome. We followed that up with some standard sushi which was perfectly fine but nothing to write home about. I will say the uni that night was EXCELLENT, so points for that. If one is in/around Ka’anapali and wants what they have on offer, it’s not a bad choice. Reservations recommended, esp if you want the sushi bar.

The next day turned out to be one of the highlights, both food-wise and just, well… you’ll see.

A last minute google search suddenly showed a Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolates, and they hold both tastings and tours, as well as a shop and bar. We went for the tasting, which was fun, informative, and absolutely delicious. And hey! I like guava! Who knew? They ship domestically and will wave shipping fees for orders over $100. They pack in non-condensing cold packs so they promise your chocolate won’t be out of temper when you receive it.

A late lunch at Star Noodle meant a bowl of Star Udon (a lighter pork broth than tonkotsu) for me and the Lahaina Fried Soup (great charred flavor on the house made rice noodles) for Lady Lectroid. The drink is a ‘Ginja Ninja’ which she pronounced ‘tasty and refreshing’. (It should be noted, I took half my soup back to the room. It gelled solid in the fridge and reheated the next day with almost zero noodle degradation. Still springy and chewy! )

After lunch came what was probably the highlight of the trip, a sunset cruise through the Maui Channel which, this time of year, is full of migrating Humpback whales. We booked through Sail Maui and had a teriffic experience. The price includes about a 2-3 hour cruise, plus a perfectly satisfactory dinner (‘island teriyaki’ chicken, slaw, mac salad, Hawaiian rolls and butter) and a reasonably stocked open bar. A few hours, relatively calm seas, and, well, just look. The sunset off the Lanai coast:

There’s also video of whales breeching, blowing, and tail and fluke slapping, but I don’t have the bandwidth at the moment to pull stills. Take my word for it. It’s spectacular.

The last meal of note was at Tin Roof, a great local lunch takeout only place up near the airport. Simple, SUPER tasty. We got the Mochiko chicken (Animal style!) and an order of garlic noodles and what was probably the best QPR meal we had.

That was capped off by a visit to the aquarium, which packs a lot of sophistication and information into a small footprint. It also has a 3D cine-sphere show featuring Humpbacks which is really quite good if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am. It also provided a whole plethora of information about Hawaiian history and in particular, the ruination of Kahoʻolawe, and how the US military used it for target practice for 4+ decades.

Which, unfortunately, brings me to the two biggest misses on the trip, food wise, on our last two days. The days, thankfully, were spent lounging and beaching and otherwise acting like folks on vacation, which was lovely and much needed. One of our dinners was a place called Leilani’s on the Beach. I booked this when I failed to get a res. at Mama’s Fish House, and grabbed this because it was available.

Leilani’s is essentially a resort hotel restaurant that happens to be at the back of an adjoining mall. Walking to dinner felt like being in Santa Monica or Glendale. My own fault for not investigating more thoroughly. Yes, it’s on the beach, and we watched the sunset from our table, but the atmosphere just felt cheap and tacky. It committed what I think might be the worst sin that sort of place can commit: it made me feel like the WORST kind of tourist. As for the food: I had sesame crusted ahi, cooked properly, but the crust felt like it was composed of 50% salt. The partner’s oven roasted snapper ALSO had an herb ‘crust’ that largely seemed to be salt, and worse still, they bungled her order so it arrived a full 15 MINUTES(!!) after mine. Her entre’ was comped, but it didn’t help the gross feeling I had at patronizing the place.

And that leads us to the Feast at Lele, a ‘luau’ style show which I assumed was mandatory for anyone visiting the state for the first time, and which I had been primed for ever since Greg Brady stole that cursed idol way back when on the teevee. If Leilani’s made me feel like a tourist, this dinner theater made me feel like an outright colonizer, nodding appreciatively at ‘quaint native dances’ and displays that had been stripped of any context. Along about the third course, my partner leaned in and said “I feel like a character from The Menu. Like I should be punished for contributing to this.” The food itself was… fine? I guess? Some pork, some salmon, a few dregs of poi (lest the customers be too challenged). The Samoan Taro buns with coconut syrup were quite nice. And the drinks (various rum/pineapple combinations) were partner approved. And that’s all I have to say about that.

All told, I had a FABULOUS time, and what DIDN’T work about the trip probably says a lot more about myself and my partner than about the place. If you try new experiences, you are bound to find some that are not your thing. So valuable (if somewhat expensive) information was learned. We both agree, our next visit to the islands will probably be staying at a friend’s place on Kaua’i, which sounds like more our speed.

Many thanks for all who contributed suggestions and advice, both on HO and FTC (this post will be in both places)

As a final pic, this showed up from our hotel balcony one day, despite no rain, because Hawaii just has this stuff lying around and every corner you turn is another postcard:


Such an interesting and thought-provoking report! And lovely photos. Thank you so much for taking the time to post it.


Thanks for your report! Glad you enjoyed Tamura’s, Star Noodle, Tin Roof and surfing goat. Macadangdang had been a dinner option one night but we worried it’d be too formal for my daughter so we ended up at a casual sushi place instead.

Ah yes, the mall like atmosphere of Leilanis. I can totally see that being a turnoff as it was packed. We went to that shopping center twice because of the play area in the middle and it gave us an excuse to ride the trolley with my daughter. Our meal there was more enjoyable than yours food wise, sorry it was a miss for you.

I can totally see how a luau could turn out the way you described it. I found Old Lahaina Luau to be really exemplary in how it gave context and historical background to each part of the performance. I had not so high expectations for the food (was expecting wedding banquet type food) and was really pleasantly surprised with how delicious everything was- and I didn’t feel like the food was tailored specifically to the (perhaps) typical tourist palate. Also the service and hospitality was truly extraordinary - we were made to feel like family and our server Devin was personable while also sharing local knowledge with us. Looking back at the bill for this, it was well over $500 including tip for the 3 of us but considering the experience we had it was worth every penny. Perhaps a different option for other visitors to Maui to consider.

Glad you had agreat time overall. It is a special place!