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Maui with kids under 8 - Feedback on my plan please!

Hello chowhounders! I have read several Maui threads from the past 4 years and also scanned some other recs from a moms' message board I frequent and would love feedback from more current experts.

First, some background. DH and I have 2 kids who will be 4 and 7 when we go to Maui in August 2013 (yes, I'm a Type A planner who likes to research early). I recognize things may change between now and then, but I'm excited to return to Maui. DH and I went to Maui 7 years ago before our eldest was born and we loved Hali'imaile General Store. Everything else was ok (Waterfront, Mama's, a plate lunch place in Kihei whose name I've forgotten but was next door to the condo we rented, ribs from Azeka's, which I think has since closed). We also did a wild goose chase hunting down malasadas as many places were closed during that December trip and ultimately found them at a tiny drive-in place tucked in some out-of-the-way area.

This time around, we have our girls, but I'm hoping if we do an early dinner (say right at opening) we can get away with bringing them to the fancier places. Plus, since lots of Maui tourists bring kids, I'm hoping I'll feel more comfortable with having them there than in a typical high-end restaurant near our home. The girls are well-behaved and eat a wide variety of foods (other than the younger one's peanut allergy). We don't need a kids' menu as they eat fish, too.

We're from SF so we have plenty of good ethnic food here so I'd prefer to focus on what Maui does best: local seafood, Asian fusion, and the classic plate lunch. Spam musubi always tastes better in Hawaii!

This is a short trip, so we have only 4 dinners, 4 breakfasts, and 4 lunches. I imagine we will want to eat in our condo at some meals, since eating out at every meal is a bit rich. We're staying in Wailea this time, so hopefully a nicer experience than the budget condo in Kihei was. We will have a rental car and we don't mind driving for good food.

So here's my list of potential prospects.

FANCY places:

- Plantation House (maybe breakfast or lunch instead of dinner because of my kids)
- Pacific 'O (can't tell if this is kid-friendly at all--maybe not?)

Other slightly expensive options that seem very kid-friendly from website research:
- Nick's Fish Market (the keiki menu link goes to the adult menu but the fact that the have one means kids won't be as uncomfortable)
- Haili'Maile General Store (we LOVED this last trip and I see a kids' menu, too)
- Monkeypod Kitchen

"local"/casual eats:
- either Gazebo or Kihei Caffe for breakfast. Latter will be closer to us, but Gazebo has had many rave reviews here for their mac nut pancakes and fried rice.
- Tasty Crust instead of Aloha Mix Plate. Some have panned Aloha Mix Plate, but others rave so I have both on the list still.
- Sam Sato's
- Da Kitchen (maybe on the way from the airport since we arrive around noon Hawaiian time and will only have had bad airline food)
- Star Noodle for the garlic noodles (my girls love noodles)
- Paia Fish Market (on the way to/from airport?)
- Ululani's Shave Ice (we missed this on our last trip and I only faintly recall Matsumoto's from North Shore 15+ years ago)
- Malasadas from Komoda (someone here panned Homemaid Bakery--any other recs?)
- Not sure yet if we want to use a meal on fish tacos, but Jawz and Coconut's Fish Tacos have received some recs

Produce to buy for snacking at our condo: avocados, apple bananas, fresh lychee, pink dragon fruit, mangoes, guavas, local oranges, Maui Gold pineapples (not sure if it's worth going to a farmer's market or just buying from closest roadside stand?)

Any and all recs are greatly appreciated! I haven't decided the order of the meals or time of day (e.g., breakfast/lunch/dinner) but I'm going to let the food dictate our schedule and find activities nearby once we figure out the restaurant itinerary.

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  1. Plantation House at Kapalua for breakfast is one of the best kept secrets, since Maui for breakfast can be nuts in wait time of over an hour... no wait, excellent food, views and reasonable too.
    Gazebo is a must and bring the beach gear since this is one of my faves to swim...Mac nut pancakes are really good...lines move quick.
    I would add Hula Grill for lunch or happy hour with feet in the sand oceanfront..
    Sea House in Napili is a fave.
    Kimos.in Lahaina for lunch or dinner.
    General store is good and maybe Mama's for.lunch..pricey.
    Jawz food truck at Makena beach or Maui Tacos.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Beach Chick

      Awesome, thanks for your suggestions, Beach Chick. I didn't realize Gazebo was next to a good beach, as it seems a few people suggested to order it to go to bring back to a hotel/condo. Great idea! I wonder if DH can take the girls to play while I wait in line and then call him when we get a table or even as late as when our food arrives (if they don't require the whole party be there to be seated)?

      I've read about a few places that offer happy hour, but hadn't looked at the actual specials until you mentioned it. This might be a great way to get a pre-dinner snack given the time difference (6 pm Hawaii time is actually bedtime for my girls and since it's a short trip I don't want to shift them too much!). Thanks for the tip. I hadn't added Hula Grill because I read some mixed reviews on it for lunch/dinner but happy hour is more budget-friendly! I could only find an Aloha Hour menu on their website that lists some drink specials but it's definitely worth adding to my list! I also found Sea House's Happy Hour and that menu looks great. Kimo's only listed drink specials and said to ask the server re: pupu specials. Do you know if they have a good happy hour?

      Did you mean Mama's Fish House or Mama's BBQ? If the former, I've eaten there twice and found it lackluster given the high prices. I know it gets some love here, but I personally consider it a glorified tourist trap--worth going for the view but the food is only worth 1/2 the price in my opinion.

      Not sure yet if we're up for fish tacos. We don't generally order them, even out here in CA, but I may consider it for a between-meals snack.

      Thanks again!

      1. re: smiles33

        I've swam while others have waited in line..Gazebo is a great little gem.
        Hula Grill is one of my faves for HH..mai tais and the calamari are excellent.
        Dukes too for HH.
        Mamas Fish House for lunch but pricey.
        Outback has HH in the bar with some great deals and was kid friendly.
        Have a great time and report back.

    2. Go to Kihei Caffe for their cinnamon roll French toast, weekends only I think. Also very friendly service. Small, cozy, mom and pop feel.

      There are 3 Ululani's branches now, Lahaina, Kahului, and Kihei, the Kihei one will be closest to you but you could also hit the Kahului one up on the way to or from the airport and Wailea.

      Da Kitchen in Kihei has a smaller menu than the others. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for their rotating daily specials.

      If you want amazing mangoes, go to Yee's Orchard (a roadside stand) and buy Golden Glow mangoes. Closed Mon and Fri. Only open 11-5. Easy to miss as it is literally a small hut at Kihei Road and Nohokai St. It is on the east side of the street.

      I don't see Eskimo Candy in Kihei on your list for poke takeout. Closed weekends.

      1. Aloha Mixed Plate has had decidedly mixed quality food when I have visited, but the setting is very pretty and family friendly. Did you know that they recently closed for a few weeks while revamping their menu and service? The reviews I have seen since reopening this month have not been positive. I plan to keep an eye on it and see if it's worth a try again when we go back in January. I am hopeful since I believe the chef of Star Noodle is supposed to be behind the makeover. Anyway, their happy hour starts at 2:00.
        For a good happy hour in South Maui we love MonkeyPod. Apps are half price and their wonderful culinary cocktails are $8. Live music and family friendly too. Don't miss the MonkeyPod mai tai with lilikoi foam... perfect!
        We also plan to try Coconuts Fish Cafe after hearing so many raves. They do have more than fish tacos.
        Pacific'O is a place we always eat on Maui. I wouldn't hesitate to sit beach-side with your girls there, especially for lunch. We fell in love with it our first trip to Maui and it's not always quite as wonderful for us now, but still worth a stop. On our trip last year we did the O'o Farm Lunch Tour, at Pacific'O's chef James MacDonalds upcountry farm. Would your family enjoy trying those delicious Maui fruits and vegetables right where they're grown? We loved it.
        And really, don't miss Ululani's! I thought shave ice was not worth eating until trying this... so good...get the li hing mui powder on top! Have fun planning!

        1. Sam Sato's has great noodles, they'll do OK for kids as they have an american breakfast menu as well. They also have good homemade fruit turnovers. I also really enjoy breakfast at Longei's in Lahaina

          Komoda's has very good cream (actually custard filled) puffs plus they have killer dinner rolls. Believe me you'll eat the bag before you reach your condo,

          For a fun burger, Cheeseburger in Paradise in Lahina is good and Kimo's is a destination, have a piece of hula pie which one piece is enough to feed 4 people.

          Some great places in Paia, there's a good fish taco place, forgot the name.

          Haili'Maile General Store, one of Bev Gannon's places is excellent, a must. There are some good old school places in Wailuku for happy hour and reasonable prices.

          Ululani's Shave Ice, yes a must.

          I'm not a fan of Pacific O's but, that's just me.

          4 Replies
          1. re: cstr

            I am always surprised when someone recommends Cheeseburger in Paradise. Ask any local, from the captain of your snorkel cruise to your surf instructor, what restaurant to avoid and the universal answer is Cheeseburger in Paradise. If you are in Lahaina and in the mood for a burger, try Kool Cats. Penne Pasta, also in Lahaina, is a good spot for pizza and pasta. It's also very kid friendly. Local Boyz, located just a block or so from Kool Cats, gets our vote for shave ice.

            1. re: Mimi

              We plan to avoid typical fare like burgers/pasta, unless I can get a spam and egg burger. Thanks, though, for the warning re: CIP.

            2. re: cstr

              Can you tell me why you dont like Pacific O? Food is uninspired? Service poor? I've read several rave reviews for them, which is why I'm intrigued.

              1. re: smiles33

                It has been so long, that it's probably no longer relevant. Still, on our last visit there, and one before that, the food and service were very good. My wife wants to fit it back into the Maui rotation, if on the West Side.


            3. P.S. Just found a link to my TR from our 2004 trip in the archives!


              1. Hi,

                we just came back from Maui with our 6 and 8 year old (you can look for my separate trip report). I would second the idea of going to O'o farms (they are affiliated with/owned by?) the same people as Pacific O'o restaurant. My kids LOVED learning about the fruit and veggies and getting to pick their own for lunch. Our lunch prepared by Chef and eaten communally at large tables was delicious! Chef also brought my kids to feed the chickens afterwards which they enjoyed. Then you can drive down the street to the lavender farm and have the kids do the treasure hunt. it was a great day (with a stop at Kula farms for all kinds of nice fruit for the condo). Enjoy!

                3 Replies
                1. re: jacolis

                  A stop at upcountry Surfing Goat Dairy with the kids is fun too.

                  1. re: terijoy

                    Oh yes, I found them later and was so excited as my girls LOVE goat cheese. My husband has had to buy 2-3 tubs per week from Trader Joe's when they were in a "we're share a whole tub of crumbled goat cheese in one sitting" phase.

                    The sad thing is my husband is lactose-intolerant, so maybe I can take the girls on the 2 hour tour and send him to a driving range or something....

                  2. re: jacolis

                    Thanks so much for sharing! That's an awesome endorsement, since my kids will be 4 and 7 when we go and they love going to petting farms to feed the goats. I bet they'd get a kick to feed chickens (if they're lucky enough to be invited by the Chef like your kids).

                  3. We fly out in a few days so I wanted to update with the proposed itinerary and see if anyone has additional comments. We've decided we're going to try to keep the kids on PST (since it's a short trip and they have school when we return!), so early "dinners" will actually just be Happy Hour meals. We're staying in a condo so we can make our own breakfasts when they get up around 5 or 6 am Hawaii time. My plan is to hit Foodland Farms and Costco for breakfast stuff, poke, wine, and other snacks and Yee's Orchard for the famous Golden Glow mangoes.

                    1) Straight from the airport, we will head out to try Geste Shrimp Truck.

                    2) early "dinner" at Eskimo Candy

                    3) lunch at Star Noodle the next day (probably right when they open at 10:30 am)

                    4) Hang out in Lahaina and then "dinner" off Sea House's HH menu

                    4) "Breakfast" malasadas from Home Maid Bakery before going to the Maui Swap Meet (worth eating from the food trucks there?)

                    5) Lunch at Pacific 'O

                    6) Happy Hour at Monkeypod

                    7) 5 am breakfast to go from Kihei Caffe which I'll bring back to our condo

                    8) Lunch at Cuatro

                    9) HH at Amasia

                    10) last meal en route to airport at Tasty Crust (assuming we don't have any leftovers in the condo to finish up)

                    We looked at menus on-line and some places just didn't do it for us. For instance, Plantation House's breakfast didn't seem spectacular enough to drag the kids there and pay a premium, versus frying up linguica and eggs in the condo. Yet I did decide to squeeze in a trip to Kihei Caffe to try their cinnamon roll french toast. Plus it's open early and close to us, compared to Gazebo, which would be a trek and it's not open until later.

                    We loved Hailemaile last time, but the lunch menu doesn't look appealing and we don't plan to keep the kids up late to go all the way out there for dinner. Sigh. On another trip perhaps?

                    Finally, we definitely plan to get shaved ice from Ululani's and ice cream from Lappert's.

                    Any and all feedback would be welcomed! I'll definitely be back to post a TR afterward.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: smiles33

                      The Eskimo Candy poke is awesome and way better than Foodland's. Bring a cooler and take some home.

                      Kihei Caffe has cinnamon roll french toast only when they have leftover cinnamon rolls, so it's a bit hit or miss as to whether they'll have it in a certain day. I only found this out on our last trip.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Yeah, I'm super excited to try lots of poke while we're there. I think the Foodland run is mainly to get milk/eggs. I'm still debating whether it's worth going to Costco, as my kids can't finish Costco-size portions of milk and eggs. But DH and I can drink quite a bit...

                        I didn't realize Kihei Caffee only had that when there are leftovers. I thought it was a weekend treat so I had planned to go on the weekend....I will have to think about if it's worth the trek for a regular breakfast!

                        1. re: smiles33

                          When purchasing poke from a supermarket, pay attention to whether or not it's made from previously frozen fish or not. You can also tell by the price. Fresh poke will be much more expensive. I don't believe Eskimo Candy does it from previously frozen fish.

                          You could also call ahead and ask if Kihei Caffe has the cinnamon roll french toast that day.

                      2. re: smiles33

                        I didn't find the malasadas at Home Maid Bakery to be worthwile at all. I would suggest skipping it.

                        1. re: killersmile

                          Yes, I've seen a few opinions that their malasadas are lackluster, but Komoda's is a trek when we aren't planning on heading Upcountry. Can't do the Haleakala trek this trip due to DH's injury. I guess if we have time to go to Surfing Goat dairy, we could head into town to try Komoda's but I imagine they sell out early and wouldn't have much left for a mid-afternoon visit.

                          Last trip 9 years ago, we ended up getting malasadas from Treats and Sweets (at least they fried them up after we ordered them!). Fingers crossed the Home Maid ones are at least decent if we get them hot off the fryer at 7 am!

                          1. re: smiles33

                            You should go to Alii Kula Lavender Farm. They offer tours but you can walk around on your own as well. Gorgeous views. They have 33 types of lavender. You can sit on their porch and order scones, lemonade, tea and have a really nice tranquil time. I love their Lavender Citrus Hand Soap (liquid) I have it in all of my bathrooms. It is just beautiful there and you can also see the goat farm too! I love their cheese!

                      3. We're back! Here's what we ultimately ended up doing:

                        - We went straight to Geste Shrimp Truck for lunch after landing at the airport. It was good, but not something I would go out of my way for to get again. We had to wait 15 minutes and the only place to sit was a grassy knoll near a huge pile of garbage.

                        - Our first "dinner" was at Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea. We stayed on California time so it was actually closer to 3 pm and we got to take advantage of great Happy Hour specials, including a margherita pizza for the girls, jalapeno poppers and a ½ butternut squash and ½ mushroom pizza for me, and the mixed raw bar plate and a fresh fish sandwich for my husband. Had a couple of cocktails, too!

                        - All breakfasts were cooked in our condo (linguica, eggs, and potatoes) so our next meal out was "lunch" at 10:30 am right when they opened at Star Noodle in Lahaina. We ordered steamed pork buns (our favorite), garlic noodles, Filipino “bacon and eggs” (my favorite), pork udon for the girls, roasted mushrooms and miso salmon for my husband (he said they were only ok), scallop shots (a bit overly salty dashi but otherwise delicious), and malasadas with chocolate dipping sauce (obviously, the girls’ favorite!)

                        - we picked up two orders of shave ice (Keiki Rainbow flavors of Cherry, Banana and Blue Raspberry with macadamia nut ice cream at the bottom) from Ulalani’s in Lahaina for the girls to enjoy on the drive back to Wailea (this was AFTER they had the trio of mini malasadas on sticks!)

                        - I picked up dinner to go from Eskimo Candy, so the adults had poke bowls and coconut shrimp (best poke and shrimp of the whole trip!) while the girls ate leftover garlic noodles with Filipino bacon and eggs. I wish they were open on weekends, as we definitely would have headed back again! As it was, we had to be at the airport before 10:30 so we didn't get to go back to buy some for the plane!

                        - We stopped at Home Maid bakery for hot malasadas before going to the Maui Swap Meet. The kids and my husband liked them. I thought they were a bit too doughy.

                        - Instead of Pacific O, we decided to go more casual. Thus, we had an early lunch at Sea House in Napili, where I had fish tacos, my husband had seared ahi, and the kids ordered off the keiki menu (one got pasta with marinara sauce and the other had the fish-shaped cheese pizza). Delicious food--not necessarily worth the drive from Wailea, but the best food I've had a restaurant with such a gorgeous view. Usually, I'm deeply suspicious of any restaurant with such obvious tourist appeal!

                        - We ate leftovers for dinner while my husband watched a college football game.

                        - On Sunday we were going to try Kihei Caffe but we had too much linguica left so we just ate at the condo for breakfast. After the beach, we then headed to Monkeypod Kitchen again for lunch, since it was just minutes away from us and open early. Also, I discovered that Cuatro doesn't serve lunch! We started with poke tacos for the appetizer (decent but not as good as the raw bar mixed plate), and then waited for over 30 minutes for something else to arrive....The meal was so slow that they comp’ed us our entrees. My husband had the Ahi Tuna Melt (delicious!) and I had the macadamia nut and panko-crusted mahi mahi (surprisingly moist, as I usually find mahi mahi dry). The girls each got elbow macaroni with marinara sauce.

                        - Then an early dinner/happy hour at Ko at the Fairmont Kea Lani. This was an unusual last minute replacement as I failed to realize that Amasia didn't start its HH until 5 pm, which was our 4 year old's bedtime! Since it was our last night, we started off with the Double Pineapple Fusion cocktails, which we found too fruity so we ordered Caipiroskas but the waiter brought us Kea Lani Kickers (ginger flavored cocktail) at first so he comp’ed those and then brought the Caiprioskas (which were delicious and the best of the 3). Needless to say, that was quite a bit of alcohol (albeit watered-down resort cocktails!). We ordered lumpia, Korean style spicy chicken (the best of the options, which my eldest daughter loved), Tangled Tiger prawns, and spicy tuna bowl. Their keiki menu had complimentary entrees for kids under 5. Portions were huge, as both girls had spaghetti with meatballs and fresh fruit and ended up eating it again the next day for lunch. Both girls marveled at the beautiful setting, the pools, the view, etc.

                        - Our last day in the condo we just ate leftovers before heading off to the airport.

                        Thank you all for your great advice! We were so lucky to have hit some real standout restaurants.

                        4 Replies
                          1. re: smiles33

                            Smiles, sounds like you had a wonderful trip! I love to do the happy hour for dinner, and we don't even have young kids. But we only seem to need two meals a day when we are on Maui anyway. If we don't make a meal of small plates we usually order a pupus and split an entrée. The restaurants almost always plate it up separately for us at no extra charge, often with what seems like extra sides.

                            I am wondering if Star Noodle has gone downhill at all since chef Sheldon Simeon has left. Was this your first time there? Has anyone else eaten there both during and after his time?

                            KO sounds very good. It will have to go on our list for next trip.

                            Thanks for sharing your trip!

                            1. re: smiles33

                              Thanks for reporting back. We're planning a 2 week trip to Wailea in early November with our 2 and 5 year olds. We always include a trip to Ko in our family vacation because the food is awesome and the service for children is top-notch. We've also had good meals at Joe's Bar and Grill (in the tennis club) and Mala in the Marriott which both seem quite family friendly. Our last day we always have brunch at Longhi's in the Shops. I've added the Monkey Pod to our list this year and sounds like the Happy Hour is worth shooting for.
                              Any other recommendations for places to try in the area, with or without the little ones?

                              1. re: islandgirl

                                Did you scroll up and read through the other posts? Have you been to Kihei Caffe, Ululani's, Eskimo Candy?

                                Amasia is fairly new, and also the Andaz Hotel just opened in Wailea. Morimoto Maui is supposed to be opening soon in the Andaz.