Hawaiian staples includes steamed pork laulau, sweet kulolo and piles of poke. (Courtesy photo)

Hawaiian staples includes steamed pork laulau, sweet kulolo and piles of poke. (Courtesy photo)

Eat your way across Maui

Some visitors to Maui just want to go snorkeling, whereas others are all about ziplining. But there’s one activity that everyone on Maui has to do: Eat.

Sure, everyone has to eat, but in a place with as many culinary selections and ethnic flavors as Maui, eating is far from a daily chore. It’s an activity unto itself.

Because of Maui’s plantation past, where workers arrived from around the globe to help grow sugar and pineapple, Maui is blessed with a “mixed plate” cuisine of Trans-Pacific flavors. You can find them in everything from poke bowls at Foodland — where the popular meal of raw fish is prepared in dozens of ways — to Korean-Style chicken or black bean Chow Fun at a place like Honokowai Okazuya & Deli. Pop in to Home Maid Bakery in Wailuku and pick up a bag of fresh malasadas, all warm and covered in sugar, and taste how the Portuguese passed down the recipe after sailing all the way from the Azores.

When it comes to traditional Hawaiian food, for years, there were hardly any options for visitors beyond poi and pig at a luau. Lately, however, more places have started to offer Hawaiian-specific menus, and at Poi By The Pound in Kahului, visitors can try Hawaiian food staples like a plate of steamed pork laulau and a cube of sweet kulolo to take away as a snack.

If you’ve got a hankering for German food, grab a table at Brigit and Bernard’s Garden Café and order up a schnitzel stein, or try out Maui’s Mexican flare with a seafood burrito at Polli’s. Want to try out some local gourmet at a price that won’t break the bank? Order up some ulu mac salad or chop steak at Tin Roof, a restaurant just minutes from Kahului airport and opened by local boy, Sheldeon Simeon, a famous finalist on Top Chef.

Speaking of Maui’s celebrity chefs, self-professed foodies could spend an entire vacation just bouncing between restaurants, as an upper echelon of professional chefs have taken up residency on Maui. The prices are definitely higher, of course, than poke bowls and plate lunch, but when you bite into fish that was caught that morning and topped with locally raised produce, or pair some locally grass-fed beef with purple Molokai sweet potatoes, the meal is not only worth the cost, but it also helps support local ranchers, farmers, fishermen and foragers. While island classics include Roy’s, Merriman’s Fish House, and Haliimaile General Store, there are upstart newcomers like The Mill House in Wailuku and Cane and Canoe in Kapalua, where the best of Hawaii’s flavors blend in a culinary carnival on your plate.

Granted, not all visitors to Maui can afford to max out their budget on food, so whether it’s stopping for Huli-Huli chicken that’s served on the side of the road, or frequenting food trucks like Maui Fresh Streatery that specialize in gourmet to go, indulge in Maui’s flavorful food scene and try out something new. There’s a chance you could find your new favorite dish or a splurge you’ll never forget and add another dimension to your trip by eating your way across Maui.

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