The best places
to go for local
food on Maui
Local food in Hawaii has a long and rich history. The diverse history of this culinary passion comes from all of the people who traveled to the islands to live, work, play, and put down roots. “Local food,” typically refers to an assortment of fare from various cultures that migrated to the Hawaiian Islands.
People from various cultures have moved to Hawaii over time. The people you would find here today come from Polynesian, American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese origins.
Taro, the root from which Poi is made, is an indigenous Polynesian plant. The delicious Pohole Fern is too! The Tahitians introduced baking bananas, and the Marquesans brought breadfruit. Korean immigrants introduced kimchi and barbecued meats. Sashimi and bento were brought by the Japanese. The Chinese introduced rice, and the Americans later brought Mac Salad.
Over time, more settlers came to Hawaii, bringing with them even more culinary offerings. The Portuguese brought sweet bread and malasadas, the Spanish added pasteles and some exotic spices, and the Filipino people introduced adobo-style garlic dishes, peas, and beans. With all of this rich food culture history, it’s easy to see how Hawaiian-style local fare has been created and how it has evolved.
Local Hawaiian food is made to be enjoyed to the fullest! If you ever hear a local say, “Shoots cuz, this is da grindz,” or, “Aunty’s Saimin broke da mouth!” or, “That is da ono kine chopped steak!” then stay where you are, get in line, and put in your plate lunch order!
The flavors and recipes of Hawaii’s local food evoke the history of each culture from which they originated. Hawaiian food tells a story about its past through its flavors. It shows how all of the people who have settled in Hawaii have contributed to it, making it what it is today. When you try the local food on Maui, make sure to geevum a shaka and say Mahalo to Aunty!
The next time you find yourself in Maui, do not miss out on the chance to eat some of the best Maui local food at Sam Sato’s. Found in Wailuku, this little hidden gem has been owned and operated by the Sato family since 1933. Now run by the 3rd generation, this place is known best by locals and less frequented by visitors, but it should not be missed.
Make sure to arrive at Sam Sato’s early as they are only open for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast menu consists of your usual eggs and meats, hash browns, omelets, and local favorites. Lunchtime is quite popular too thanks to some ono plate lunches. Everyone can find something to enjoy here with meals like chicken, beef, or pork with rice and mac salad. There is also a wide variety of noodle and saimin bowls, sandwiches, and burgers.
Since 1916, the Komoda Store & Bakery has been the best donut shop in Maui, hands down. Both locals and visitors in Historic Makawao Town come here to enjoy some delicious and timeless Hawaiian-style baked goods. If you plan to head Upcountry to the Haleakala Crater or the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, make sure that you do not miss out on this rare Maui local food opportunity!
Geste Shrimp Truck is one of the best shrimp trucks in all of Hawaii, for sure. Yes, they even rival the best-of-the-best shrimp spots on the North Shore of Oahu. Both residents and visitors alike love Geste for the delicious shrimp, sweet aloha vibes, and their contagious smiles.
Upon arriving at Geste, guests will start their order off by choosing a flavor for their shrimp. They have Hawaiian Scampi, Hot & Spicy, Spicy Pineapple, Pineapple, or Lemon Pepper. All of the shrimp plates are served with 12 pieces of shrimp, two scoops of rice, and a crab mac salad. So ono!
“Enjoy a Cup From the End of the Rainbow…” (Alfred J. Franco, Proprietor)
Since 1918, “Grandma” has been roasting and blending organic Maui coffee in this Upcountry locale. Set in Keokea, Grandma’s quickly became one of the only Upcountry pit-stops for locals to grab a good ole cuppa-joe and talk story with their friends. Four generations later, Grandma’s is still family-run and holding strong.
A Saigon Cafe in Wailuku is one of Maui’s best-disguised foodie gems. They are a consistent winner of the annual Maui Aipono Restaurant Award. On the outside, it looks a bit like a late 1970s Hawaiian-style roadhouse. On the inside, it is like a flavor dynasty of local-style, authentic Vietnamese dishes.
“We’re becoming a food destination,” says Will Munder, Executive Chef of Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill. “Before, it was ‘there’s the winery,’ or ‘it’s a nice drive,’ but now people are coming here from the West Side just to have lunch. They love our food!” (www.ulupalakuaranch.com)
The Ulupalakua Ranch has deep roots in Maui’s agricultural history, and has been operated by multiple families since 1856. Since 1963, the Erdman family has owned and operated Ulupalakua Ranch, which sits on approx. 18,000 acres and includes the historic ranch store. We suggest that you take a drive Upcountry to see some of the breathtaking views. From here you can take in sights of the outer islands, Mt. Haleakala, and the rolling hills and pastures of Kula, Keokea, and Ulupalakua.
Tasty Crust has been serving their “World Famous Pancakes” to the folks on Maui for over 50 years! With a charming old-school location, reasonable prices, and a staff full of aloha, Tasty Crust has something for everyone in Wailuku to enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
For breakfast, make sure that you don’t miss out on the Banana Hotcakes, T. Bone Steak, Opakapaka, and Eggs, or the Local Style Omelet with Spam, linguica, cheese, and green onion.
Owned by Top Chef finalist Chef Sheldon Simeon and his wife Janice, Tin Roof is a hot spot on Maui for some delicious local grinds. You will find Tin Roof just off of Dairy Road in Kahului. It’s a great place to stop for a bite right off the plane or on your way to the airport before heading out. Be prepared to have to wait at this tiny, packed restaurant, but keep in mind that the food will be worth it!
In 2013, Coconut’s Fish Cafe was featured on CNN and Travel & Leisure’s list of “Top 10 Places to Eat Like a Local.” This wasn’t a top 10 list for Maui or even Hawaii, but a top 10 list for the whole United States! They are still just as popular today as they were then, too!
Founded on Maui by Mike Philips, Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kihei features a simple menu of tasty and reasonably priced seafood. Although that was more than 10 years ago, they are still holding strong as one of Maui’s best local food spots. Now they have three locations here on Maui!
Joey Macadangdang, the former head chef at Roy’s, left to open up Joey’s Kitchen at the Whalers Village Food Court back in 2015. Boy, are we glad he did! Now visitors can enjoy Joey’s amazing cooking at much more affordable prices.
The menu here is Joey’s take on Filipino-Hawaiian fusion food. It’s laid-back and super casual here with counter ordering, and the staff is so friendly and helpful. After you order, find a seat, and they will bring your food out to you at your table.
Sansei has received many culinary awards, including “Favorite Asian Restaurant,” and one of “America’s Best Sushi Bars,” by Bon Appetit Magazine. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar isn’t just a traditional Japanese sushi bar. Their menu features Asian-inspired dishes and some truly innovative creations. They have two great locations on Maui, one in Kihei and one at the Kapalua Resort. Sansei is a Maui must for some top-notch local food.
The Fish Market in Honokowai is a wonderful spot for local food in West Maui! It is sometimes confused with the Honokowai Deli, which can be found later on in this list. The Fish Market serves local Maui fish for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. They also sell fresh-caught Maui seafood and fish filets, so it’s a great place to grab some seafood for dinner or a BBQ on the beach.
Ba-Le restaurants are not exclusive to the Island of Maui. One of their 12 locations throughout Hawaii is on Maui though, so we just could not skip them in this Maui local food list.
Ba-Le has so much good food on their menu that it’s always so hard to choose. This menu is dominated by delicious Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and local style fare. Everything here is great, and they have the best sandwiches of all time!
No trip to Maui is quite complete without a stop at Leoda’s! It’s a top spot on Maui for some great home-style comfort food. With its warm, country chic décor and their delectable mini pies, Leoda’s never disappoints.
Located just near Mile Marker 14 at Olowalu Village, Leoda’s is a great pit stop on your way in or out of Lahaina. You can place a to-go or dine in at their pie counter. Don’t worry about the line. It will go quickly but will still give you just enough time to figure out which pie to choose. Maybe you should try a few just in case and take them to go!
Kihei Caffe is one of the most popular places for breakfast in Maui. They have been voted “Best Breakfast” for over six years in a row by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, Maui News‘ Readers Poll, and the acclaimed MauiTimes. With over 40 breakfast options from which to choose, Kihei Caffe is sure to satisfy each and every guest.
Kalei’s Lunch Box is one of the best food spots on Maui for local fare. That’s why it’s known as “Da Big Kahuna of Island Grinds!”
Due to its popularity, Kalei’s Lunch Box now has three locations. They have a food truck in Kahului, a restaurant at Maui Lani, and a restaurant in Pukalani.
Kuau Store has been a North Shore Maui institution for many years. Since 2014, the store has offered Maui’s community and guests a place to grab breakfast and lunch, some snacks for the beach, beer and wine, coffee drinks, kombucha, and much more.
Located in Wailuku, Tiffany’s Bar & Grill is a Maui institution. This is a place where you can enjoy tasty local food plates, sing some karaoke, watch the game, or just have a beer with your buddy at noon. This place is laid-back with its low-key vibes and its unquestionable Wailuku flare.
Everyone loves Tobi’s Shave Ice! Don’t let the name fool you though. This place has way more to offer than just delicious shave ice. Tobi’s also has one of the best Poke Bowls on Maui, hands down!
How can you go wrong with tender and super fresh Ahi? They offer a variety of flavors here, from ginger (sweet) to wasabi (spicy), and some with a mayo base.
Found in West Maui, Honokowai Okazuya & Deli is the perfect spot for some delicious local food on Maui. Their menu is extensive, the portions are generous, and the food is always so fresh and flavorful. We love Hawaii’s mom-and-pop places, and this one is just fantastic.
Honokowai Okazuya & Deli is legendary with the locals on Maui. The menu here offers up local fare that blends traditional Hawaiian and Asian foods. If you would like to grab-and-go on your way to the beach, they have a wide range of quick bites. They also have a gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly section on their menu.
Although L&L Hawaiian BBQ is not unique to Maui, we just had to have them on this list. It’s perhaps one of the most recognizable names for local food spots in the Hawaiian Islands and the rest of the world.
Due to their popularity, they now have 200 franchised locations in the U.S. Of course there are some in Hawaii, but they also have places in 12 more states. You can stop in to L&L in California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Texas, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. They even have locations in Japan! L&L Hawaiian BBQ has helped to literally put Hawaii’s local food on the map.
At L&L, guests can find all of their favorite Hawaii comfort food. It may feel a bit like a Hawaiian fast-food chain upon entering, but you’ll still find those generous portions and great island flavors.
Right at the end of the Napili Plaza strip mall in West Maui is Mama’s Ribs & Rotisserie. Here, owners Alec and Donna Probst have been cooking up the best BBQ dishes in all of West Maui since 1999.
Suppose you love fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, or moist and tender juicy rotisserie chicken. How about tasty Portuguese bean soup, hearty chili, wraps, salads, and yummy desserts? If so, you will adore this Maui local spot.
The Boba Bar is next to Paia Fish Market on Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue right in Historic Paia Town. It’s one of Maui’s newest local spots and it definitely deserves to be on this list. Here, both guests and locals can enjoy some delicious coffee drinks, boba tea, local snacks, and quick bites.
If you know Paia Town well, you may remember Anthony’s Coffee Shop. Though they are now closed, Anthony’s was one of the most epic North Shore Maui spots for coffee and breakfast. Boba Bar Paia are partners of the folks from Anthony’s, so you know this place is the real deal.