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Hawaii Trip Report -- Oahu and Maui

Just back from a week - 2 days in Oahu and 5 in Maui, staying at the Sheraton on Ka'anapali Beach. My parents, who hadn't been to Hawaii in 20 years, told me the food was nothing to write home about, but we ate very well. Some highlights:

Upon our arrival in Honolulu, 5+ hours late, we wanted something easily accessible from our hotel, so we went to Singha Thai on Ala Moana, which ended up being a great choice. The best Mai Tai and Pina Colada we had the entire trip, plus Thai dancers and interesting appetizers (we skipped mains because of aforementioned lateness and tiredness).

We spent our full day in Oahu driving around the island, which allowed us to partake in two famed delicacies -- shave ice and North Shore Shrimp Trucks. We got shave ice at Aoki's next to Matsumoto's, because the line was shorter and we heard it was just as good. I can't vouch for that, not having tried Matsumoto's, but the shave ice was FANTASTIC. No chunks of ice, azuki beans add just enough interesting texture, terrific syrups. I got Li Hing Mui (salted plum), Lychee and coconut, and the husband got guava and passionfruit. All the flavors were terrific, though the li hing mui really stood out and the coconut was the weakest.

After shave ice, we headed up along the North Shore, and stopped at Romy's for lunch. There was a long line here, but the garlic butter prawns were possibly the best shrimp I have ever had in my life. Delicious. And the sweet and hot shrimp were also great, with fantastic shrimp flavor, but not like that garlic.

Dinner that night (after good cocktails at the House Without a Key in the Halekulani) was at Alan Wong's. Everything we had was excellent (though the multiple cheesecakes we had for dessert were too sweet for me), but due to jetlag we crashed halfway through the meal, sadly. Still, a good experience, though not the best meal I've had.

In Maui, we ate all over the map, but we generally ate well. Highlights for me were the taco shack on the Road to Hana, serving Kalua pig and marlin tacos made in the smoker with baked breadfruit, the banana bread at the Halfway to Hana stand, and a Hawaiian Plate lunch at Aloha Mixed Plate (terrific kalua pig but skip the lau lau, which was fatty and bland. Also, if you're having a late lunch, happy hour starts at 2 pm, and the $2.50 mai tais may be the best bang for your buck we found on the island. Plus the setting at Aloha is really wonderful.)

We also had fantastic dinners at Sansei, which had great and creative food (loved the Rock Shrimp cake and the calamari salad in particular. It reminded me of Japanese French fusion I used to have at a restaurant in South Pasadena -- I bought the cookbook) but only so-so atmosphere.

Ate our last night at Pacific'O, which was wonderful -- beautiful setting right on the beach in Lahaina, terrific, innovative food using great local ingredients, great service. A really good experience. I had macadamia nut crusted soft shell crab and spinach salad with strawberries and gorgonzola, and my husband had this terrific dish with scallops and yuzu. For mains, he had a special ahi (caught that morning) which was terrific, and I had the "Hapa Hapa" -- ahi and ono wrapped in nori and quickly tempura'ed so it's very rare, served with a lime basil sauce. The fish was very fresh and flavorful, and not overwhelmed by the preparation. Pineapple lumpia for dessert was also good, and the banana ice cream it was served with tasted more like banana bread, with a faint hint of cinnamon. Would recommend this as a special dinner in West Maui.

A lowlight was the mai tais at the Sheraton -- after mistakenly trying the excessively tart and lemony drink our first night there, we bought our own rum and made our own. A must-skip.

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  1. That sounds excellent. Do you recall roughly where the taco shack on the road to Hana was? I usually grab lunch and take it down to the Keanae Peninsula, where the waves crash spectacularly on the black lava outcroppings. It would be awfully convenient if the taco place were within a few miles either way. :-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jefferson

      Unfortunately it's not super close -- I think Ke'anae was around mile marker 12, and the taco stand was just past mile marker 28. We drove through Kahului at about 7 or 7:30 in the morning and were at the taco stand by 12:30 or 1.

    2. Thank you for your post! I will be taking a similar vacation in October (5 days in Maui/4.5 days in Oahu for a wedding). I also plan to dine at Mama's Fishhouse (after taking the road to Hana).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Foodrat

        I wanted to try Mama's but it wasn't convenient -- we continued around the southern part of the island (and were filthy from hiking) so ate at a pupu place in Kihei after Hana.

      2. Pacific O' is one of my favourites in Maui...and now you know why! =)

        1. Thanks for the trip report. Great info.

          On Maui, I really liked Pacific O's and David Paul's Lahania Kitchen of all of the "top" names, but that was a few years back. Glad that Pacific O's is still doing a good job.

          This upcoming trip will be Oahu (North Shore & Waikiki) and Kaua`i, mostly Poipu Area, so maybe I can add a few comments to your great post, revolving around those areas.

          Hunt

          1. I was at David Paul's recently and it was still quite excellent. I had the seared ahi with caramelized onions and vanilla bean rice. It was amazing, even though the recipe has been on the menu over a decade. Deserts were not the highlight, however. I'd also reccomend lunch at Mala. Great setting, very casual, nice mix of locals and visitors, not opressively expensive.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ASalkever

              Thanks for the update. As for desserts, I usually go with a Port (maybe share whatever my wife is having), and David Paul's had a very fairly priced Port "flight." IIRC, they poured a Vintage, a Single-Quinta Vintage, an LBV and a Tawny (light pours) for ~US$25. Though these were essentially by-the-glass, from opened bottles, all were very fresh and none seemed to have suffered from being open. I'd guess that they move enough, so that they open quite a few bottles. I found this all a bit surprising, as most folk don't think of Hawai`i as a place to consume Port.

              Hunt

            2. How did you like the Sheraton? We're going next month and staying there.
              We have a reservation for Pacific O, so I'm very excited about that.
              We arrive on a Thursday, and Sensei has happy hour at 10pm...half price sushi and karaoke, on Thursdays....so we are definetely going there at 10pm!