Every year my family and I visit Maui for the Christmas holidays. I wanted to share with you my favorite places to visit in Maui, and my new finds. Aloha.
Places to stay in Maui
Every year we look forward to spending Christmas and New Year's in Maui. One of our favorite places to stay is the Westin Kaanapali Villas. You can rent directly from the hotel, buy a week from an owner, or purchase your own timeshare. We buy our weeks from owners. They have studios, one bedrooms, and two bedrooms. The rooms are equipped with kitchens and washer/dryers. It is a very family friendly place with several pools. One pool has a slide, one pool has a big ship in it for the little kids to play on, and the third pool has water volleyball and a basketball hoop. This year they had new lounge chairs at the pool with comfy cushions. The exercise room in the north tower has new cardio machines, which are really nice.
Our last night we decided to stay in Paia so we could be closer to the airport and spend the day in "hippie" town. While Mama's Fishhouse is known for their wonderful food, we stayed at Mama's Fishhouse Inn which has little cottages on the property. We had a 2 bedroom cottage. The bedrooms are next to each other and the doors are sliders (think Japanese style). There is one TV in the living room so it can be difficult to watch television if the other person is sleeping. The rooms are very cozy and they provide beach chairs and towels to use on their beach, or you can take them with you and explore the other beaches in Paia. The beach at Mama's Fish House is very small, the water is rough, and there are rocks, so we went to Paia Bay where the waves were pretty big and we watched the kids body board. I would not go in the water as the waves were too big, but it was fun to watch everyone else. Paia is also a cute town to walk around and shop.
Activities to do in Maui
There are a number of fun activities to do with your family on the island of Maui.
My kids love to zipline, so this year we visited Piholo Ranch Adventures. They have 2 different types of courses. One is the regular zipline tour, and the other is the canopy zipline tour, where you zip from tree to tree through a rain forest. Because you zip from tree to tree they will only take 8 people at the most so that it does not get too crowded on the deck. This allows for a smooth and fast transition from one zipline to the next. What makes this zipline even more fun are the aerial bridges you cross to get to some of the different ziplines. There is also one "Quickjump" which gives the sensation of a "free fall" as you are lowered 40 feet below. The guides who led our group were great and were very informative about the trees and plants. Everyone had a great time. The kids all feel such an accomplishment when they complete their zipline; in fact, it was my friend's daughter's first time ziplining and after her first zipline she was so excited and said it was so exhilarating.
After we finished ziplining we drove to Haleakala. It is an hour drive from Piholo Zipline. This was my first time visiting Haleakala, and it was breathtaking. The drive was so beautiful. Once you arrive at the entrance to Haleakala National Park, you pay the $10 parking fee and then you can stop at the visitor center there or continue to the top. We drove to the top, which is another 30 minutes. Once there we visited the visitors' center, where the employee gave us a lot information about the birds and plants that live in that habitat. We then climbed to the top of the summit and upon reaching the top were in awe over the beauty. It is definitely a fun way to spend the day.
I love being on a boat in the ocean and I also love whale watching, so one morning my daughter and I went on a whale watching tour with Gemini Charters. They offer a continental breakfast in the morning, which is nice. We met the group at Whalers Village; however, due to the water conditions, they shuttled us to another area to load the boat. We then took a smaller boat to the larger boat. This just added to the adventure. The crew handled everything so professionally. They had all of us on the boat in a very short time and we were off searching for whales. The crew was very knowledgeable, and they have a marine naturalist onboard to explain everything you want to know about whales, while spotting them near and far. Within a few minutes we had our first whale sighting. There were a number of whales seen throughout the 2 hour boat ride, but what I really loved more than anything was just being on the boat in the ocean. It was so much fun as we bounced around in the water, while other times we glided across the ocean. So peaceful and relaxing, and such a beautiful way to spend the day.
My girls love adventure, so when I discovered a new activity in Maui that involves a jet boat where you get soaked, I knew my kids would love it. Kaanapali Ocean Adventures has a jet boat, appropriately called "Insane," that goes extremely fast across the ocean and does 360 spins as well as sharp turns and fast stops ... every maneuver causes water to spray into the boat. You get soaked but it is so much fun. You also get to enjoy whale watching while on this excursion and if the whales are out, he can get up close quickly. It really was a blast. The boat picks you up at Whalers Village and is an hour long. Our guide was very knowledgeable about Hawaii, so he gave a brief history while waiting for the whales and pointed out all of the other islands. It was very interesting information.
Last year my girls learned to stand up paddle board so they were excited to return to Napili where the water is nice and calm and spend the day paddle boarding after breakfast at Sea House Restaurant. There is a shop nearby called 808 Boards where you can rent stand up paddle boards. You can rent by the day or the week and they will even bring the boards to your hotel. My girls loved spending the day on the paddle board (whether they were standing or just sitting on it relaxing).
Dining in Maui
We visit Maui for 3 weeks during the holidays so we eat out at restaurants quite a bit. Below is a list of the restaurants we dined at and a little note on each one. I am going to start with a new restaurant that recently opened for breakfast that quickly became our favorite.
Slappy Cakes -- This is a new restaurant in Lahaina where you can make your own pancakes at your table. There is a built-in griddle in the table and you choose the type of batter you want: buttermilk, chocolate, gluten free/vegan, whole grain, Imo (purple sweet potato) and a variety of toppings (chocolate chips, strawberries, coconut, pineapple, blueberries, etc). You can then create your own pancakes. My girls absolutely loved it. Not only did it taste great, but it was so much fun to cook. You can even get creative and design your pancakes in unique and different ways. I created mine using chocolate batter on the inside, buttermilk batter on the outside, white and dark chocolate chips, and coconut, and topped it with their house-made coconut syrup. They have a full breakfast menu as well. I loved the candied bacon. They have a great bar as well, and their drink syrups and infusions are house-made. The pink flamingo was my drink of choice which contained orange juice, hibiscus syrup, lemon juice, and bubbly. I sure hope they open up a Slappy Cakes in LA soon. Check out their website for the creative ways guests make their pancakes.
Imu Imu BBQ in Napili -- This is a casual restaurant with ribs, brisket, chicken. Order at the counter and they bring the food to you. I love their ribs.
China Bowl -- This is a casual Chinese restaurant in a strip mall. Good food and reasonably priced. They will also deliver.
Sangrita Grill -- This is a new restaurant in the same strip mall as China Bowl. Upscale Mexican seafood restaurant. They don't take reservations, but you can call ahead. I enjoyed the Tequila Shrimp.
Pi Artisian Pizzeria -- This is a new artisian pizzeria that opened in Lahaina on Front Street. You order at the counter and they bring the food to you. The pizza is cooked in an 800 degree oven so it is made quickly and tastes delicious. They have paninis, salads, and various other menu items such as meatballs, sausages, and spinach dip. They also have a full bar.
Aloloa Lounge at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua -- We were looking for a light dinner where we could watch the game on TV. The lounge is right off of the lobby. The hotel was beautifully decorated for the holidays. You can order off of the Alaloa menu or the Kai Sushi menu, which is across the lobby. We had wonderful crisp chicken lumpia, seared filet mignon sliders, and a small sushi sampler, which was perfect. They have a great selection of after-dinner drinks that I loved (nuts and berries martini and chocolate raspberry martini). Valet parking is complimentary.
Star Noodle -- This restaurant is very good and quite different. If you look at the menu it is hard to really know what the items are, but if you look at the pictures you can get a better idea. We ordered a number of small plates, which we all shared, and also a few big plates of noodles (garlic noodles, pad thai, and the Singapore noodles), and we were all stuffed and very happy. My favorite dishes were the Ahi Avo, wings, shrimp tempura, Brussels sprouts, and miso salmon. Funnily enough the only dish I really did not care for was the special of the night, an ahi dish.
Kimos -- This is located on Front Street in Lahaina, overlooking the water. They are known for their mai tais. They bring out warm bread and soft butter to start with; heaven. We always order the prime rib and we were all very pleased with our dinners.
Flatbread Paia -- They have amazing flatbreads. They let you split your pie into 2 different creations. They are made in a stone oven; amazing! I had the cheese & herb on one half and the Jay's Heart on the other half, and both were wonderful.
Kobe Japanese Steak House and Oku's Sushi Bar -- This is a Benihana-style restaurant located in Lahaina off of Front Street. The chefs entertain as they prepare your meal in front of you on the hot grill. While the show is always entertaining, the food is also delectable.
Honu Seafood & Pizza -- This is a very popular restaurant among visitors and locals. It overlooks the water. There is a hip bar scene with TVs, and they have great food. I started out with the ahi bruschetta, which they are known for. I also enjoyed the locally grown tomato salad. The margherita pizza was wonderful, as well, and it is made in a brick oven. A side of their fresh vegetables completed my meal. The drinks were wonderful as well. Not only do they taste good, they are one of the few restaurants that uses large martini glasses and fill them to the rim.
Roy's Restaurant -- My kids love to visit Roy's for their world famous "Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé" so we went there one night after bbq'ing at our hotel.
Sansei -- This is a popular sushi restaurant. They have a sunset special where you receive 25% off your food that is ordered before 6:00. I really enjoyed my sushi combo, vegetable tempura, shrimp tempura roll, and Caesar salad.
Sea House Restaurant for breakfast in Napili This is one of my favorite restaurants to go to for breakfast, for their chocolate macadamia nut pancakes. Not only is the food great, but the scenery is incredibly beautiful. The restaurant is an open-air beachfront restaurant on Napili Bay. Such a stunning setting for breakfast.
Pepe Sale -- This is a new Italian restaurant that opened last year in Lahaina just behind Longhi's. The owner is from Brooklyn, so he know his pizza. The pizza was amazing, a thin crust and very flavorful. The pasta was also wonderful. We had the spaghetti with meatballs in an arrabiatta sauce, as well as the special of the night, rigatoni quarto formaggio=85.very flavorful. The dessert, pizza crust filled with Nutella and powdered sugar, was the perfect ending. Very warm, friendly, comfortable restaurant. Menu changes daily.
Hali'imaile General Store -- I have always wanted to visit this restaurant but because of its location, never had the opportunity. Since we were staying at Mama's Fishhouse Inn, we were finally nearby. They welcome you with warm bread with an herbed butter. I started my meal with the Maui Cheese Company Burratta and Tomato Salad, which was truly incredible, followed by the grilled rack of lamb. It was a truly wonderful meal. I would definitely return. They have a full bar, and make a great margarita. The service was wonderful (although it did take a while to get our main course).
Mama's Fish House -- My last day in Maui I had lunch at Mama's Fish House. It is in a beautiful setting overlooking the beach. They brought out warm bread and butter and a complimentary tasting of their soup of the day. I had the Beef Polynesian, which is seared tenderloin in a grilled Hana papaya, and the Haiku Farms Tomato and Maui Onion Salad. It was the perfect last meal to have on this beautiful island.
My husband and I love music so we spend many of our nights in Maui searching for live music. We love visiting Fleetwoods on Front Street. On the roof top deck they have a variety of bands playing. They have special concerts; we were lucky enough to see The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band with Rick Vito.
Another place we go to for live music is Java Jazz Java Jazz. They either have a singer playing guitar, or a small band playing different kinds of progressive rock, jazz, and blues. They stream their shows so just click on live stream on their website to check out their music. Farzad, is an incredible guitar player and a very warm human being, so if you get a chance to see him play you are really in luck. The band we really enjoyed is the one in the 12/1 video.
If you get lucky with your planning you may be able to catch some great concerts while you are on Maui. We were fortunate enough this year to be in town for the Uncle Willie K's BBQ Bluesfest, with special guests Taj Mahal, Mick Fleetwood, Billy F. Gibbons from ZZ Top, and Steven Tyler, to name a few. Here is a short clip of Steve Tyler at the concert: Steve Tyler performing at Willie K's Blues Festival. Talk about an amazing show. The festival is outdoors and just has a great vibe. I will be planning my trips around this event in the future.
Our last night we stayed in Paia, where Charleys Restaurant and Saloon is located. It turns out a friend of ours from Los Angeles was playing there that night with his band Flat Jackson Flat Jackson, so we went to hear him play. Cool scene with a lot of young kids. They make a great chocolate martini (unexpected for this type of bar).
While vacationing in Maui this past holiday with my family, I took a day for myself to visit the Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea. Spa Grande is the largest spa in Hawaii, at 50,000 square feet. Just walking into the Grand Wailea puts you at peace, as the beauty of the lobby and the artwork welcome you. Before my spa treatment I was able to spend an hour in the spa's Terme Wailea Hydrotherapy, where the spa's philosophy of East meets West in the Hawaiian Islands unfolds. The western corner has a large Roman whirlpool tub with a cold plunge pool, a dry Redwood Sauna, and a steam room. In the Eastern corner is the traditional Japanese Furo baths with hot and cold plunges. I loved how the bubbles actually came up from the floor of the Japanese Euro bath. The Hawaiian Islands corner is my favorite area in the spa. There are three cascading waterfalls that massage your neck and shoulders, two private showers where 50 water jets surround your body, and my favorite, the five Hawaiian sea salt baths. Each bath uses unique essential oil blends, organic herbs, fruits, and spices and combines this with one of Hawaii Kai's sea salts (the key element in each bath). The different salts used in the pools are Kilauea Black sea salt, Wailea White sea salt, Crystal Pink sea salt, Bamboo Green sea salt, and Lava Red sea salt. Each bath has specific benefits for your mind, body, and soul. It is very calming as you soak in the colored baths.
Before your treatment you are given a complimentary full-body, honey-mango loofah exfoliation. There are a variety of different treatments that the spa offers, including treatments for teens and children. The niu coconut muscle relief treatment sounded so interesting. You drink raw coconut milk first, and then receive your massage using coconut shells and pure coconut oils. I had the Swedish massage, which was so relaxing. My masseuse kept checking in with me to make sure I was comfortable with everything, including the temperature of the room, the head rest, and the massage pressure. When she was finished with my upper body, she laid a warm towel on my back while she continued with my lower body. After my tranquil massage, I relaxed and read on the outdoor patio overlooking the beautiful ocean and water fountain. It was the perfect day in paradise.
Hawaii can be quite expensive, so here are some ways to save money. Grocery shopping can be quite expensive, so be sure to sign up for the free memberships the stores offer to save extra money. Safeway and Foodland Farms offer this discount. (Safeway is the same parent company as Vons and Pavilions.) The Times store does not offer a discount card. Costco is located near the airport so if you can stop there when you land you can buy food, gift cards for many of the restaurants, and even a beach chair to use while in Maui. You can also rent beach chairs from different locations throughout Maui.
Once you arrive in Maui there are Maui Magazines at the airport and throughout the island with coupons for various activities and restaurants. I also found websites that have many coupons online at Maui Leisure Guide and Maui Deals. You can also search the daily online deals such asTravelzoo.com, Groupon.com, and LivingSocial.com to find deals for Hawaii. If you are renting a vehicle I would suggest checking out the rates and availability on both Hotwire and Discount Hawaii Car Rental. This year through Discount Hawaii Car Rental I rented our first vehicle through Enterprise Rent a Car, and then when the kids left I rented a convertible through Budget Rent a Car. The rental at Enterprise Car Rental went very smoothly; however, Budget Car Rental has a very long wait to check in to get your car. I first checked in by giving my name and then I had to wait around 45 minutes for them to call me so that I could stand in line. At least they don't make you stand in line for those 45 minutes, but when you first get to Maui you really don't want to spend your first hour there standing around waiting. I don't know if this was normal or not so unless you have a membership at Budget that lets you skip the line, I would think twice about renting from Budget
Maui is truly one of my favorite vacation spots. You can sit and relax all day, or you can go out and explore and be adventurous. Maui has great food and a great night life. I want to thank the following companies for hosting me and/or offering me a discount: Piholo Ranch Adventures, Genesis Charters, Kaanapali Ocean Adventures, 808 Boards, Slappy Cakes, and Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea.