Welcome to our fourth update from Maui!
In this review: Napili Beach, Honokowai Okazuya deli, Merriman's Restaurant, Moana Bakery and Cafe in Paia, Ka'eleku Caverns, Wai'anapanapa State Park, Nahiku Marketplace Taco stand, and the Flatbread Pizza Co. in Paia.
Tuesday, May 19th
After so many travels and travails on Monday (see Maui Update III), we decided to take a full-on beach day today.
In the morning we visited West Maui's Napili Beach (up along the northern part of the island near Kapaula Bay). This sweet little bay is really beautiful and we had a great time lolling about despite the high surf (which made swimming and snorkeling a no-go zone).
For lunch, we checked out the Honokowai Okazuya deli. A tiny little hole-in-the-wall tucked into a strip mall near our condo, this place had seriously tasty take-out. The chef reportedly cut his teeth at Nick's Fish Market (see Maui Update III) and Mama's Fish House before opening his own down-to-earth spot serving local mixed plate style food.
For about $30 bucks we got more food than we could possibly eat - Korean BBQ Chicken with rice and stir-fried veggies and Mahi Mahi with lemon caper sauce and rice. The food was high on flavor (the Mahi Mahi did *not* look appealing but it tasted great. The fish was tender and fresh and the sauce was thick with mushrooms and great lemony flavor). Washed down with sodas on our lanai, this made a nice break from the pricey resort offerings.
After lunch we headed back to Ka'anapali Beach. Fast becoming our favorite all-around beach spot, Ka'anapali offers good swimming, fair to good snorkeling (at Black Rock), proximity to shops and restrooms (always key!), and accessibility to poolside bars serving up fruity drinks (essential!).
Sid snorkeled his heart out (nearly a pro after our great lesson with Evelyn of Snorkel Maui - see Maui Update III). Miranda snoozed in the sun. Perfect afternoon!
Dinner tonight was at Merrimans. Peter Merriman - whose restaurants are a staple in fine dining on some of Hawaii's other islands - has finally opened a Maui outpost. Its up in Kapalua, not far from the Ritz Carlton. We can't recommend it highly enough. The food was innovative and unbelievably good, the view is breathtaking, and the service is top notch.
For starters, Miranda had the Ahi Poke. Poke is a traditional Hawaiian seafood preparation (usually done with tuna) in which raw tuna is tossed with seaweed, onions, salt, etc. Its incredibly fresh - sort of an island version of tuna tartare. Merriman's take on this dish was stupendously good (among the very best of any dish we had while in Maui). It was served with sweet potato crisps and the presentation resembled coral - both beautiful and delicious.
Sid's starter was more innovative and, frankly, less successful. He ordered the locally caught prawns. They had been prepared sous vide with vanilla bean and then served with avocado, jalapeno, and citrus fruits. The texture of the shrimp was amazing - because of the sous vide preparation they were perfectly done, tender, and delicious. However, including the vanilla bean in the sous vide package resulted in an overwhelming (and too sweet) vanilla flavor that was just too strong for the tender prawns and the less assertive accompaniments. The dish wasn't bad, it just wasn't executed as well as it might have been. But, we give them credit for imagination!
Miranda's entree was the best: a pork chop with blue prawns. Both were cooked and flavored well, but the real winning part of this dish was the sweet potato gnocchi that served as a bed for the meat. These were from a purple sweet potato, so they were gorgeous, and they were just so tender and pillow-like. It was love.
For dessert, we enjoyed a Chocolate Purse with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (Sid was in heaven) and a Salted Caramel Cheesecake. Both were excellent and presented beautifully.
We were also extremely impressed with our server here (Colin). He was a very gracious, humorous, and fun guide through our dining experience - there when you needed or wanted him, and fading away when you did not. Really top notch service.
Merriman's was also in a lovely location - perched out on the jutting cliffs of northwest Maui and perfectly situated to watch the sun sink behind the offshore islands. When it got chilly after sunset, they had house shawls on offer. Every touch was perfect. This place was one of the few we ate at that seemed worth the high price tag.
Wednesday, May 20th
Today we decided to brave the fabled Road to Hana. We got up with the sun (not that hard to do when you are used to East Coast time) and drove to the funky, quirky town of Paia (at the start of the long winding road up to Hana). Breakfast here at the Moana Bakery and Cafe may well have been one of the best parts of our day.
This funny little place (part French pastry shop, part diner, and decorated with Roman columns) has a far better breakfast than the vast majority of New York city's myriad brunch spots.
We chowed down on Banana Pancakes and Eggs Sunnyside up with Portuguese sausage, and awesome crispy potatoes.
A great start to the day!
Then we began the long drive up the Hana Highway (its about 40 miles to Hana, but all on seriously narrow, windy roads).
We passed plenty of pretty waterfalls, pools, and coastline vistas, but...in the end...I think we concluded that we are not car-trip people. Give us a destination and an activity!
A few cool things worth mentioning, though:
1. The Ka'eleku Caverns: a massive lava tube that bored its way out to the sea during a long-ago volcanic eruption. A lucky landowner found a passage into the tube on his property and set up a nice underground tour. For $11 a person you get a high powered flashlight and unlimited time to explore this crazy underground world. Highly worthwhile (and SUCH a welcome relief after the long road).
2. Wai'anapanapa State Park (otherwise known as the Black Sand Beach). Really it would be more accurate to describe this place as the Black Rock Beach, as it is not especially sandy, but this coastline is spectacularly beautiful. After checking out the tiny beach (crawling with tourists), take a hike up along the coast for sweeping, stark vistas.
If you get hungry along the way, stop at the Nahiku Marketplace for Kahula pork tacos. While not gourmet eats, these big hearty soft tacos ($6 each) are dripping with slow-cooked pork, tons of different salsas, and lots of black beans. Also, this is a good excuse to get out of the car!
After finally making it back down to Paia (this is essentially a one-way trip, so you have to turn around drive all the way back - holding your breath as you whip around hairpin turns on a one-lane bridge), we stopped for dinner at the Flatbread Pizza Company. A definite hippy-heaven, this pizza spot has a full-on wood burning oven and uses all natural, organic ingredients. Much as we wanted to like their pizza, it was pretty sparse on toppings and a little dry. Oh well.
With the sun setting before us, we zipped the rest of the way back to the Mahana for a little time in the pool and spa.
Aloha until our next post!