Aloha! 48 hours might not seem like long enough for a trip to Hawaii but when you do your research, plan accordingly, and make the most of every second, 48 hours is plenty of time to relax, recharge, and indulge in some of the best food on the island.
Since American Airlines offers non-stop flights to Maui for as low as $318….yes, you heard me right, a tropical vacay is way more reasonable than you may think. The trick is to be flexible with your dates and times and play around on google flights until you can get a reasonable fare. I checked again today before I posted this story and it looks like all the $318 flights are gone but there are plenty around $400 which is still a great deal for direct to Maui. We left AZ on a Sunday afternoon which put us into Maui around 6:30PM island time. From there we checked in to one of the most gorgeous properties I’ve ever stayed at.
The trick is getting home- the only nonstop flight from Maui to Phoenix leaves after 10pm. It worked out great, we hung around the hotel, ate a few superb meals, and went to the spa. After boarding the giant plane headed back to the main land we closed our eyes and woke up the sun rising over Sky Harbor. Tip: pay the extra $30 for premium economy or splurge for first class on the return flight to make the journey home even more comfortable.
Enjoy reading about my highlights of Maui and if you end up visiting any of my recommendations, I’d love to hear your thoughts so keep in touch!
STAY AT THE GRAND WAILEA
The Grand Wailea is a gorgeous ocean front property located about half an hour from the airport. Our suite was chic and featured 2 bathrooms, a huge master bedroom, and a living room that doubled as a second bedroom. The marbled master bathroom and tub was like something out of a Sex and the City movie. The property itself is situated amongst waterfalls, lush gardens, and too many pools to count. I loved finding fresh herbs like mint, basil, and lemongrass as we strolled throughout the property.
RELAX AT SPA GRANDE:
Spa Grande at Grand Wailea is hands-down the best spa on Maui, and has been voted one of the “Top 10 Spas in the United States” by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure magazines. With a wide array of treatments that reflect a balance between ancient Hawaii and the West and East cultures, you’ll leave feeling renewed, inside and out. I indulged in the macadamia nut massage and scrub. It was phenomenal from the full body loofah and bees wax massage to the brown sugar scalp treatment and crushed macadamia food scrub. Spa highlights include the 5 soaking tubs each filled with various herbs to reflect a different Hawaiian element and the half a dozen unique hot tubs to use pre and post service. Seriously, the pictures don’t even do this spa justice, you must experience it to know what I’m talking about.
EAT AT KO
If you’re looking for a taste of the islands with a picture perfect view, look no further than KO at the Fairmont Kea Lani. Kō features award-winning cuisine inspired by the vast collection of ethnicities brought together during Maui’s sugarcane plantation era including Japanese and Portuguese influences. We visited during lunchtime which was perfect for light and colorful options complimented by strong and creative daytime cocktails. The plates were perfect for sharing so we were able to try a variety of regional favorites including the recommended and highly popular on Yelp starter, Lumpia Filipino Spring Rolls. I can see why this is the chef’s family recipe filled with chicken, mushroom, green papaya and a spicy dipping sauce. From there we moved on to Oishi Sushi which literally translates as ‘good sushi’, but I would change the name to reflect ‘great sushi’ because the mix of fresh spicy tuna perfectly tempura battered is divine.
As far as entrees go, we opted for a buckwheat noodle and shrimp lettuce wrap salad and the fresh catch of the day prepared with a crunchy macadamia nut crust. Caught by a local fisherman in the Hawaiian waters, the tomato-ginger butter sauce and mashed purple molokai sweet potato side dish brought the Island flavors all together in this favorite dish- we may or may not have licked the plate. As much as I would love to try more creations at KO, I would likely order the exact same dishes as we had during this trip, they were that good!
Now you know your girl could not skip dessert! Especially when it comes served in a young coconut. Hey, I have a sweet tooth what can I say? Since our waiter advised that the coconut tapioca was not overly sweet, we indulged in the Waialua Estate Chocolate Baked Custard served on top of a macadamia nut praline crust and aside kula strawberry gelato. The fudge like custard was rich and velvety and as if two desserts weren’t enough, we added a plantation pineapple cake in for good measure. The caramelized pineapple and buttermilk cake were the perfect ending to such a lovely and delicious oceanfront meal.
If you find yourself on the island of Maui, make sure to secure a reservation at KO. You won’t be disappointed by the local sourced menu and equally beautiful and tasty libations!
EAT: The Mill House
Where to begin when talking about the Mill House restaurant… I’ll start with the atmosphere then share the dining details. Set in a Hawaiian valley on the active Maui Tropical Plantation and nestled between numerous farms on property, the Mill House looks like something out of a tropical romance movie. I don’t know about you but when I picture the breathtaking Maui “views” I tend to assume there is an ocean involved. Not true at The Mill House. Every bit as breathtaking if not more so, the Mill House setting is part shabby chic farm house and part Jurassic park worthy lush landscaping…minus the T-rex. Instead there is an on property lake home to exotic birds, giant koi fish, and ducks of every color, that you can feed pre or post dining. There is also a plantation tour I highly suggest, and get a reservation to watch the sunset over the mountains…you will thank me! Have I painted the picture for you? Ok, on to the food.
Here are my highlights from the 1 page simple but flavorful menu highlighting the main ingredient in each dish:
Marinated olives: So simple but so good. I don’t know what it is but whatever the olive trees are producing in Maui is spectacular.
Beets: with cambozola, puffed grain, green marmalade, citrus vinaigrette. Served with a chunk of blue veined cheese, this starter is great to share, and let’s be honest- the presentation is extremely Instagram worthy.
Bone Marrow: with taro leaf risotto, pickled shallot. Vegetarians look away. My dining companion and I agreed this was the BEST dish of the entire trip. The taste and presentation are equally impressive. Diners are encouraged to scoop out the marrow into a sea of green risotto for a flavorful combination that is unlike I’ve ever tasted….in the best way possible.
Chicken Bao Buns: with kimchi, Korean spiced aioli. Served in pillow like buns, the crispy chicken skin and kimchi combination deserves some sort of award. Trust me, these were a runner up to the bone marrow for BEST dish of the trip.
Cioppino: fish, shrimp, clam, garlic baguette. I’m a sucker for Cioppino so when I see it on the menu at a location with access to fresh seafood you bet I’m going to order it! Full of shrimp, fish, clams and mussels- the fresh caught seafood is of course delicious but the broth was my favorite part. Theres just something about a wine and butter based broth and crusty piece of bread that gets me every time. bottom line: order this too and ask for extra bread.
Burger: bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized onion, house sauce, fries. This is not your ordinary burger. From the locally raised beef on property to the house made sauce, this gives any burger you’ve had on the mainland a run for it’s money. Insiders tip: Order it with a fresh slab of brie cheese!
Beignet: mango cream, cinnamon, sugar, goat’s milk caramel. I consider myself some sort of beignet connoisseur since I’ve been to New Orleans so take it from me when I tell you, this dessert is a fun twist on the traditional fried dough. Stuffed with a sweet almost custard like filling and dipped in a not-t00-sweet goat milk caramel, they are the perfect way to end your meal with some local flavors.
Citrus Curd: shortbread glaze, honey, candied lemon. I would consider this The Mill House’s spin on a lemon pie but way more beautiful (and tasty!) The not too dense dessert is ideal for a warm breezy day and best enjoyed with a house made citrus cocktail.
It’s no wonder Gannon’s was voted one of the Top 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in America. After talking to a few locals about Maui gems located off the beaten path, we found ourselves at Gannon’s. The contemporary dishes inspired by the fresh local ingredients of Hawaii are what makes chef and owner Bev Gannon’s restaurant a local favorite.
Talk about views, the outdoor lanai features panoramic ocean views and spectacular sunsets which we were privy to during our visit. The sunset event warranted a round of applause from diners when the sun ducked behind the ocean horizon. Truly spectacular to say the least! The Red Bar at Gannon’s serves as a lively gathering spot for locals to enjoy drinks, appetizers, and live music on the weekends.
When it comes to the food, it doesn’t get much more home made than this. Imagine iconic Hawaiian comfort food made in your grandmother’s kitchen. The kind of food that you can taste the love. Highlights included the secret recipe crab dip, Ahi poke, and the impressive ocean seafood bounty. The regulars at the table next to us suggested we order the wedge salad which was fantastic and the catch of the day was simply prepared to showcase the natural flavors of the fish.
The scallop risotto was cooked just right and if you know me, you know I’m a risotto snob so the fact that Gannon’s nailed this dish gives them major credibility. Not to mention, the flavor profile and perfect sear on the scallops made this dish one of our favorites. Although we didn’t have time or stomach real estate to indulge in the steaks, our new friends at the table next to us swear by the pork chop and strip steak.
We ended things at Gannon’s on a pretty sweet note. The entirely edible chocolate mousse cup was nearly too pretty to eat but we had it come within a few minutes. I highly recommend a visit to Gannon’s if you’re visiting the island just be sure to check the sunset time and make your reservation accordingly.