Thai food trucks
Some of the best food in Maui comes from the Thai food trucks that are sprinkled all over the island. Most are run by different people, but every one we have tried is spectacular. Which is to say: When you see a Thai food truck in Maui, pull over. Then order the pad Thai and spring rolls—you won’t be sorry. Most Thai food trucks are parked on or very near the coast, and if you have time to sample a few over the course of a trip, selecting the best is one of the most delicious road trip games you could ever imagine.
Hanalei Farmers Market
Malolo Rd., Hanalei
There are great health foods stores on the north shore and in Kapa’a, but nothing beats a Saturday morning at the farmers’ market in Hanalei. This is where you can get the most incredible fruit maybe in the world—including fruits and vegetables from the only biodynamic farm on the island and one of the best breakfast burritos we’ve ever had. Plan on staying a few hours.
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop
820 Olowalu Village Rd., Lahaina
One of our first stops after landing on Maui is always Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop on the west coast. Everything is fresh and expertly prepared, and there’s a range of lunch options, whether healthy (mixed hydroponic greens with local herbs and tomatoes) or marginally gluttonous (a silky, rich coconut cream pie). The height of lunch hour can get crushingly busy, so come on the later or earlier side to avoid crowds. If you do have to wait in line (which sometimes stretches out the door), we promise that it’ll be well worth it.
Da Poke Shack
76-6246 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona
This tiny and long-standing Kailua-Kona joint offers endless poke varietals—sweet, spicy, shoyu, Hawaiian, mixed with avocado—all delicious, all incredibly fresh. which are all surpre hit all the high notes at this long-standing Kailua-Kona joint. The sides are also stand-out, including a traditional wakame seaweed salad, kimchee mussels, and a standard Hawaiian potato salad. It's a perfect lunch for a picnic at the beach.
Two Ladies Kitchen
274 Kilauea Ave., Hilo
People drive from all over the Big Island for the now world famous mochi that have been made here for the past 25 years (keep in mind that they're not open on Sundays or Mondays). Helmed by Nora Uchida and her aunt, Tomi Tokeshi, they make mochi as Uchida's grandmother did, preserving not only the recipe but the culture of the Japanese in Hawaii, too. The treats are delicious and beautiful, and as one would expect, the flavors are a mix of local and far-flung: You'll find lilikoi (passionfruit), pineapple, persimmons, ginger, etc.; they also stuff the traditional white rice flour with fresh strawberries, which sadly can't be transported to the mainland.
Umeke’s Fish Market Bar & Grill
74-5563 Kaiwi St., Kailua-Kona
There is an on-island rivalry between Umeke's and Da Poke Shack, the two poke mainstays in Kailua-Kona. Umeke's has an expanded restaurant, and also an expanded menu, offering more than sashimi-style fish for pickier eaters (chicken katsu, grilled cheese, and other eclectic offerings). But the takeout counter is the main thing: White or brown rice, a seaweed or edamame side, plus a scoop of poke of your choice to go.
45-690 Pakalana St., Honokaa
For about 50-odd years, Tex Drive-In has been serving traditional Hawaiian food (loco moco's abound on the menu, which are typically rice, hamburger, fried egg, and gravy), but that's not why tourists flock to this joint. They are famous for their malasadas, the island version of the donut, typically dusted in sugar and filled with anything from coconut cream to guava to Bavarian cream. You can even watch the malasada production through a big window in the cafe.
3617 Baldwin Ave., Paia
Now three locations strong, this Paia stronghold is the place to go on the island when you not only want a really good latte, but you want it to be matcha. The menu of teas and coffees is massive—if not overwhelming—but it's all good, as are the pastries. (Get the coffee cake.) As one would expect, there's also an ample smoothie and juice offering.
49 Baldwin Ave., Paia
In search of organic almond milk or gluten-free pasta? This health-centric grocery store—open since the '80s—offers an extensive array of pantry items that you'll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere on the island, plus really beautiful produce that's been sourced from more than 400 local purveyors. What's more? They use compostable and biodegradable packaging at all their counters, including the deli and butcher shop.
Wailua Shave Ice
4-1306 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa
Now with locations in San Diego and Portland, the OG Wailua is still in Kapaa. There you'll find the inventive combinations that they're now known for, like an Almond Joy (Nutella, coconut milk, almonds coconut flakes) and Lava Flow, which includes strawberry puree, coconut foam, and pineapple juice.