Heading to Maui? Wanna know what to eat? What you should do? Where to stay? I’ve got you covered on my Guide to Maui, including my most favorite gluten-free eats and the sights that you don’t want to miss!
What to See, Do and Eat on Maui + Where to Stay:
I felt that the perfect and fitting end to Maui Week here on TY would be just a quick roundup of some of my favorites from our time on the island. From favorite (gluten-free/paleo) eats, where to stay and what to do and see – this list is my Guide to Maui. Admittedly, we planned for our trip to Maui to be as relaxing as possible so we didn’t do ALL the things, which means that just leaves a list to do next time. We really wanted to stay at a resort that would have all the amenities and bring the classic island vibes, while giving us the opportunity to truly let go and relax, which is why we stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani, rather than grabbing an Air BnB or the like. We did of course get out to explore the island a ton and planned many activities during our week, so I wanted to share all of the highlights of our trip to Maui.
Hawaii’s state motto is: Ua mau ke ‘ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono, which translates to “the life of the land be perpetuated in righteousness” – this is beyond captured on magical Maui, every where you go, with every sight you see and every breath you take. I am certain the sacred, righteous vibes of this place will strike you, too, as it did us and I know you will fall in love with the aloha spirit of Maui. We are already counting the days until we visit again.
Things to Do
Beach Days – Definitely, absolutely head to the beach(es) as much and as often as you can on your trip to Maui and make some time to play in the beautiful, crystal blue water on any of the many number of incredible beaches on Maui. Whether you decide to play in the waves, snorkel, kayak, paddle board, surf, bodysurf, boogie board or just sunbathe in the beautiful sand – beach time on Maui is a must. We personally enjoyed some hidden beach coves near Po’olenalena Beach in the Wailea-Makena area. Quiet, secluded and peaceful. There is certainly no shortage of epic beaches from shore to shore on Maui.
Walk around Paia – a visit to this historical plantation town on the north shore of the island offers a great afternoon outing with lots of cute shops, boutiques and galleries, restaurants and cafes. Be sure to check out the amazing natural foods grocery store called Mana Foods an amazing natural grocery store with an incredible selection and great prices (a large gluten-free and paleo selection, too). Perfect if you need to stock up, if you are doing your own cooking.
Road to Hana – this is a whole-day affair, with lots of driving, hairpin turns and epic views along the entire drive – but all absolutely worth the time and the miles. With beyond amazing waterfalls and hikes, unreal watercolor trees, coastal views of the eastern shore of the Island and so much breathtaking beauty, this was without a doubt my favorite day on Maui. If you have time at the end of your drive hit up the Red Sand Beaches before making the drive back (the same way that you came).
- Road to Hana Pro-tip: While many of the hotels and resorts offer maps with key destinations and must-sees, the road to Hana can be a tad overwhelming. You can’t stop at every beautiful view point, take every hike and do the drive in a day, so it’s hard to know which are worth. I did some research and we downloaded a driving tour app called the Gypsy Guide to Maui. It was a location based, GPS triggered tour guide of sorts, for our Road to Hana drive and it made deciding where and when to stop, a breeze. With tips on the epic views and photos ops that play automatically when appropriate on the drive, sharing which are must-stops and when to just enjoy just from the car and keep driving, etc. The commentary also included interesting tidbits about the history of the culture and traditions and legendary tales of Maui and the Islands of Hawaii. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing that drive without that. It felt like we had our own personal tour guide.
Waianapanapa State Park – If you are on the Road to Hana this is an absolute must stop. Beautiful views and stunning black sand beaches. Make sure to see the Princess Pool— dive on in and swim back into the caves. Lots of trails for hiking and taking in the breathtaking views. The colors are so vibrant here, with that black sand, it almost doesn’t seem real.
Oheo Gulch/7 Sacred Pools and take the Bamboo Forest Hike up to Kuhio Falls – unending beauty, a must stop on the road to Hana, give yourself time to explore. Stunning photos, gorgeous hikes and the perfect culmination of a day of driving.
Go to the Andaz Resort for dinner or just to walk around, this property is absolutely beautiful. A true work of art. The lobby of the hotel felt like a gallery. I am not sure what it would be like to stay there, but I can certainly say it’s worth a stop and a gander. Bring your best Instagram filters, this is social media gold.
Go to O’o Farm and take their Seed to Cup Gourmet Breakfast Tour or their Lunch Tour. Located in the misting forest of Waipoli in Upcountry Maui, this 8.5 acre diversified natural and sustainable farm that provides quality local produce for their local Maui restaurants to deliver a true “Farm to Table” experience. You will learn about the process of their coffee from the tree to your cup. It’s an amazing experience.
What to Eat on Maui
Some of the restaurants and cafes that we stopped to eat at came highly recommended by many and a few we just happened into on or own, along our travels, stopping to peruse and enjoy after being lured in by their good vibes.
Kō at the Fairmont Kea Lani – One of the best meals we had on all of Maui was our incredible anniversary dinner at Kō. This is their award winning signature restaurant, which offers plantation-inspired cuisine featuring Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese menu items. Standout dishes for me: Soondubu Jigae, Stir-fried Peppered Shrimp, Mauka Harvest Salad, Chap Chae and definitely don’t forget to finish with the flourless, chocolate decadence cake. Kō (and all the amazing restaurants at the Fairmont) are incredibly accommodating to gluten-free eaters, taking great care and concern. You can read more about Kō here along with my adapted recipe for Kimchi Stew, inspired by Chef Tyler Pang.
Maui Brick Oven – this place was a standout on the trip for me, not only because it was some of the best food, with lots of Maui inspired eats, but it is a 100% gluten-free restaurant, so there is zero cross contamination risk and absolutely everything was safe to eat! Get the Kalua Pig Pizza and while you are there, but also live a little, it’s vacation, you gotta get those gluten-free onion rings, you know you wanna, when’s the last time you had onion rings? I came home and recreated a grain-free (paleo and keto-friendly) version of that Kalua pork pizza, so if you want to recreate this and bring Maui home, I highly suggest it.
Da Kitchen – Island style food made with aloha! Basically, it’s epic, traditional Maui inspired fare, lunch plate style. This is where the locals eat. And the portions are anything but timid. There’s nothing fancy about the location, tucked away in a strip mall, of sorts and you can guarantee there will be a bit of a wait – but ooooh, it is well worth it, and then some. The fact that you wait in line with primarily locals, along with people toting their suitcases – both truly say a lot about a place. You know it’s the real deal before a single bite is taken. Da Kitchen has a dedicated gluten-free menu so I could eat in confidence and comfort and with a full menu of Hawaiian comfort foods, Mark was in heaven. I opted for the Kalua Pork plate (which I promptly came home and recreated here) and we shared a beautiful Maui garden salad. Mark went all in with Fried Spam Musabi and a Kanak Attack Combo Moco (I may have had food envy with that pile of food he was eating). We had to finish with the Dole Whip a whipped pineapple, frozen dessert, because we are Southern Californians through and through and we needed to know how it compared to the Dole Whip at Disneyland. It was good but Disneyland won that round. Truly our meal at Da Kitchen was one of the highlight meals for us. I kept scheming to figure out how we could get back there for another meal.
The Market Maui – I might have just fallen in love with this place while we were on Maui. Close to the Fairmont Resort, this quaint Chef-inspired deli makes incredible sandwiches, with locally-sourced and house-cured ingredients. They offered delicious locally-made gluten-free bread as an option and truly these were some of the best sandwiches I have ever had. I had both the Seared Ahi Melt and the You Can Count Bahn Mi sandwiches. Both were amazing, but I have truly dreamt of that gluten-free Bahn Mi sandwich ever since.
Akamai Coffee Co – Maui grown and Maui roasted beans. A great local coffee shop with amazing vibes. We snagged some coffees and a couple of gluten-free treats to-go for our Road to Hana drive here and we loved it.
Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade – this place is a perfect stop for a refreshing mid-day lemonade, a gorgeous acai bowl or an inspired avocado toast. With some of the most creative lemonade concoctions I have ever seen, served up in adorable mason jars, it’s perfect for a thirst-quenching treat. If you prefer little or no sweetener, ask which can be made without or with very little.
Cafe Mambo – we happened into this place in the afternoon after exploring Paia. We were hungry and wanted fresh, easy and delicious. The menu was uncomplicated, the service and the vibe were communal and cozy, with locally created artwork lining the walls and lovely happy hour specials, including their tasty margaritas made with a house fresh juice mixer. I had a beautiful, colorful fresh salad with beautiful cuts of ahi tuna. Bonus: Rumor has it that Cafe Mambo also offers made-to-order Road to Hana picnic lunches (cooler included), so plan ahead as you pass through Paia on your drive. Grab breakfast at the cafe and lunch to go.
Paia Bowls – An island must – acai bowls, made the way you want! Created by local surfers, this adorable joint has so much aloha! I got the Surf Bowl, without any added sweeteners and it was perfect!
Paia Gelato – I didn’t get anything here, but we wandered in after I had enjoyed a acai bowl, so Mark could get his own sweet fix (acai bowls are def not his scene). He grabbed a delicious gelato here, but even if you can’t do dairy they had a lovely assortment of sorbetto, including locally inspired Lilikoi, Maui Pineapple and Kula Strawberry. Bonus: for those passing through on the Road to Hana, they also offer picnic lunches including the option to get sandwiches made with gluten-free bagels. Next time.
Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz – with a menu of creative, conceptual and modern approaches on traditional island fare with farm-to-table, family-style eats. If you consider yourself a real “foodie” and you love unique, artistic plates, this place is an absolute must. The environment boasts a clean, modern design and the open-air style kitchen is just as tasty (if not more) than the food itself. Everything was absolutely delicious, but it was certainly on the more luxurious end, so don’t expect huge piles of kalua pig, loco moco or spam anything here. Standout dish was the grilled octopus!
Where to Stay on Maui
We spent our entire week on Maui at the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel Maui. We loved absolutely everything about this all-suite luxury resort. The Fairmont Kea Lani captures the true essence of Hawaii from culture and cuisine to activities, along with focus on wellness with health-centered menus, daily fitness classes, one-on-one personal training sessions, a juice bar and lots more. Our spacious suite had breathtaking ocean views and lots of room to make ourselves at home. The Fairmont also boasts a really great fitness center, a beach cove with complimentary chairs and umbrellas, even supplying you with unlimited eco-friendly sunscreen pool and beachside, so you can save the room in your bag.
I love that the Fairmont’s restaurants were all very conscious and careful with my gluten intolerance, taking great care, across the board and I really love their Inspire Your Energy program, that puts a focus and offers programming for the wellness-minded traveler.
Stand outs from our time at the Fairmont: Spending time in the kitchen cooking with executive Chef Tyler Pang of Ko. My one-on-one personal training session with Ty in the beautiful gardens. The outrigger canoe and snorkeling experience. Our private cabana and pool day was much needed and so relaxing. A must: order the PIYI as the perfect pool-side cocktail. This frozen, boozy treat comes served in a fresh pineapple and features two types of rum, crème de cacao, coconut and pog juice. Worth the photo op and it tastes AMAZING! (seen above)
Our Musts for Next Time on Maui and Other Places You Might Like:
Sunrise on Haleakala – Visiting this volcanic crater aka the house of the sun, that sits 10,000+ feet above sea level to watch the sunset is an iconic activity on Maui. This was tippy top on our list for this trip, but sadly since it’s become such a popular destination as of last year you now need to have a reservation see the sunrise, these have to be made 60 days in advance of your trip and when they are “sold out”, sadly there is no other option. We realized this after it was too late, and I was so disappointed that we couldn’t go. But, next time we will plan ahead.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm – located upcountry, this farm features fields and fields of lavender and it sounds like a dream come true. It was a hard sell for me to convince hubby to give up time on our first Maui trip for an outing focused on flowers, but next time it’s top of the list, with or without him.
Flatbread Company – offering wood-fired, clay oven flatbreads this place was on so many Maui must-eat lists. I learned that they offer all of their (apparently) delicious flatbreads as gluten-free, they cook them on foil, and will even prepare them in a separate room upon request to avoid cross-contamination. We will definitely be grubbing here, next time.
Star Noodle – as a self-professed noodle lover this place was high up on my list as well, as it came highly recommended by so many, but we just ran out of meals and time. Apparently there are several gluten-free options (be sure to request tamari) I really wish there were more meals in a day so I could have hit all the places I had wanted. Top of the list for next time.
Lahaina – from what we heard, while this is a historic area of Maui with lots to see and do, this is also a very touristy and highly trafficked area, so we chose to skip it, as we both generally hate the touristy areas when traveling. Seems like it would be a super fun area to check out and explore but it wasn’t high on our priority list.
Ululanis – For shaved ice. Apparently this is the best place on the island for this classic Hawaiian treat, that admittedly neither of us were interested in (I know). I’ll be honest, the photo op with those gorgeous treats was highly tempting but we decided to skip it. If you like the sweeter stuff in life, this is apparently the place!
Maui Sugar Shop – Organic & 100% gluten-free bakery. While you all know at this point I am not really one for sweets, I can take them or leave them and will rarely travel out of my way for them, but this place is apparently epic, so if you are, from what I hear it’s definitely a must.
Lumeria Maui – this beautiful property was high on my list for places to stay, but it’s less than traditional and not right on the ocean, so it didn’t feel appropriate for our first stay on Maui. Primarily an educational center, Lumeria is more of a retreat-style getaway than your typical resort. Located in upcountry Lumeria “embraces the heritage and culture of Maui’s North Shore and Upcountry regions to help you transform into your best self through education, mindful yoga, and wellness retreat programming.” While it’s not exactly hubby’s cup of tea, it sounds like the perfect place for a solo trip to Maui.
Travaasa Resort – if it were entirely up to me, we would have spent at least a night or two at this seemingly perfect (to-me) inclusive, remote, rustic-luxury resort in Hana. I would have loved to make the drive to Hana in one day, savoring every little bit of it along the way, without rush, and then spending the night in Hana, saving the drive home for the following day. Travaasa features an experiential vibe with cottages and suites, lots of adventures, culture, meditation, yoga and healthy, farm-fresh food.