I’ll admit it, as much as I was looking forward to my recent vacation in Maui, for months I was nervous about eating at restaurants for every meal, every day, for a week straight. Over the past six months that I have been gluten free, I’ve managed to, with a few exceptions, not get “glutened” while out to eat at numerous restaurants. Even with that positive track record, I was nervous. Nobody wants to feel an ounce of sickness while on vacation.
For the week long trip, I armed myself with enough LaraBars to eat two a day. The first day, mostly spent in airplane, I gobbled up 4 bars and never quite felt satisfied. Sure, they’re tasty, but lack enough protein and substance to be your only meals. In hindsight, I should have packed myself a couple sandwiches made with GF bread, and perhaps some cut up veggies to hold me over on each of the two, six hour flights.
Airport food at 4 a.m. is pretty limiting. Before our 6:30 a.m. flight out of NJ, I ate something that barely resembled eggs, somewhat decent but very greasy potatoes, and a couple pieces of mediocre bacon. Breakfast of champions! My in-flight “lunch” was an $8+ cheese box with grapes. Lesson learned, prepare things ahead of time. (And really, I should have known better.)
Fortunately, once we were in Maui, it was smooth sailing. Everything that I ate was amazing, and I never felt sick once.
Before I give my reviews I should note that I’m not a picky eater. I only have a few dislikes of certain ingredients and have no other allergies than gluten. I think while eating out at restaurants and traveling, this quality, plus having a pretty decent food knowledge base, helps me always be able to find something on the menu to eat without feeling deprived of great dish. And generally, I find that fine dining restaurants will bend over backwards to make you happy.
Also to be noted, dining in Maui is expensive. You may need to prepare yourself for some sticker shock, especially if eating at the tourist places, which we mostly did.
Capische, Hotel Wailea
Overall impression: Capische is a hidden gem of Maui. Everything about this meal was perfect, from the food, to service, to the view from the mountain side as we sat on their outdoor lanai. Their focus is local and sustainable food, with much of their produce and herbs coming straight from their gardens at Hotel Wailea. Truly, a fine dining experience.
We ate at Capische our first night in Maui. Exhausted from very little sleep and jetlag, we needed an easy choice for dinner. Hotel Wailea, where we stayed for our first night, provided an easy and incredibly delicious solution. My only regret was that we so out of it—I think we weren’t able to fully enjoy each course to the fullest. When we were given our menus I informed our waiter that I needed a gluten free meal. His immediate response was that the kitchen could absolutely accommodate my needs. He also mentioned that his girlfriend and father have gluten restrictions, so he was very helpful throughout the whole dinner in letting me know what I could and could not eat, and even let me know when I could and could not sample some of my husband’s food.
Molokini Bar & Grille, Makena Beach and Golf Resort, Wailea
Overall impression: A solid restaurant with high quality food, with a slightly more modest price point than other resort restaurants. Their seafood bouillabaisse was one of my favorite dishes from our trip. Great service, knowledgeable staff, with an interesting cocktail menu. Try the (potent) Absinthe Mojito for something different than drinking Mais Tais all week.
After our first night at Hotel Wailea, we spent the rest of the week at Makena Beach and Golf Resort, which is down the hill and right on the beach. It’s the southern most hotel in the Wailea region and a bit less flashy than other resorts in the area. The lack of flashiness results in better prices. If you can deal without the extravagant lobby, marble everywhere, and the super high-end finishes, save yourself a few bucks and stay here. In every way, the service was impeccable and we were incredibly happy during our stay.
We dined at their restaurant twice. Both times, I let the waiter know about my gluten restriction and they were happy to check with the kitchen about any dish I inquired about. The first time eating there I got their prime rib special. The second time I ordered the seafood bouillabaisse—which was amazing. I wish I could have eaten the bread that came with it to soak up and drink the broth. It was so good!
I’ll also mention that while staying at Makena, we had their buffet breakfast everyday. I was always able to find plenty to eat that was gluten free and never went hungry. It was greatly appreciated that most things were also labeled if they were gluten free. As always, if you’re super sensitive to gluten, buffets may need to be avoided because of possible cross-contamination, but I fortunately never had an issue. The lunch choices however, whether it was at the pool or room service, was very limited with gluten free options. I had the same cobb salad twice as it was basically their only option for me.
MonkeyPod Kitchen, Wailea
Overall Impression: Crowded, but lively—I’d suggest making a reservation if you do not want to wait. For those gluten-friendly people who love beer, their beer list is impressive, with 2 gluten free ciders available. Their cocktail menu is also varied and delicious. Friendly service and the staff checked with the kitchen about any gluten free questions/concerns I had. Out of all the restaurants we ate at, this was the most moderately priced place, with almost all entrees under $20.
My husband and I ate here with our family, a party of seven. I’m happy we made a reservation, or we would have been waiting awhile. They have indoor and outdoor seating, and we were seated inside. After reading the menu, I had a general idea of which entrees I was limited to, without altering the dish—like no bun on a hamburger. I ordered the fish tacos with corn tortillas, let the waitress know it needed to be gluten free and she made sure to mention it to the kitchen. I had a really refreshing cocktail, the “No Ka Oi” made of “ocean vodka, thai basil, lime, simple syrup, honey-lilikoi puree.” This restaurant is a great option for an affordable, casual, quality meal. For gluten free options you may be a little limited, but with the choices that you can have, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Old Lahaina Luau, Lahaina
Overall Impression: A fun night with great food, service and entertainment. Open bar included in ticket price. Order a gluten free meal ahead of time when you make your reservation as you cannot eat 90% of the food served at the buffet, which is how the main course is served to all guests. Be sure to let your waiter know when you sit down that you arranged your gluten free meal in advance and they will happily bring it out for you when dinner is served.
We went to the Old Lahaina Luau with the entire group who came to Maui and had a great time. As you walk in, you are given a flower lei and a Mais Tais. A perfect way to start dinner! You’re showed to your table and then told to go enjoy the scenery, the bar, and the demonstrations at the venue. As the sun sets over the ocean, you are treated to dinner and the traditional style luau of cultural dancing while learning the heritage of Hawaii.
I’d recommend making your reservations well in advance as soon as you know that you want to attend. For the best view, you’ll want to be closer to the front of the semi-circle arrangement of tables around the stage. I’d also recommend the table seating. It’s what we had and looked much more comfortable that sitting on the ground over mats.
My (reserved ahead of time) gluten free meal was the fish of the day (probably mahi mahi), plus vegetables and rice was tasty and plentiful. Was I a little jealous that I couldn’t enjoy the buffet? Yes, but at least I knew everything that was served to me would keep me feeling good all night and I was happy that they offered a very nice alternative. They had a few options for me to choose when making the reservation, and I was happy with my pick.
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Grand Wailea Hotel
Overall Impression: Nope, I did not make that name up. At the very least, it’s fun to go this restaurant just to say that you’re going there and have people be in total disbelief it’s a real place. The atmosphere almost feels like Disney World with spacious open air dining, where you sit below a thatched roof, surrounded by a lagoon. My Hawaiian Snapper was good and the coconut rice served with it possibly even better, but what I remember most was the massive bowl of multi-flavored sorbet for dessert.
We ate here with my husband’s family to celebrate his parents’ anniversary. The best part of the night was the company, but the food was really good too. This was one of the few times it was hard to choose between meat and fish entrees. What helped narrow it down was what was gluten free, which was labeled on the menu. I chose fish, but my husbands entree looked delicious too. For dessert, I initially wanted their Lemon Tyme Crème Brulee, which I assumed was gluten free, but was told I could not have it. At first I was disappointed, but when my massive bowl of a sampling of tropical flavored sorbet arrived, all regret was lost. The Lilikoi, Guava, Mango and Lychee Sorbets served with a Chilled Pomegranate Soup and Fresh Tropical Fruit was my favorite part of this meal! I really wanted to eat the whole bowl of it, but had to give up from a brain freeze and being way too full. You’ve won this time, sorbet.
Spago, Four Seasons Resort, Wailea
Overall Impression: Service is hands down, five star. Prices are through the roof, and is probably the most expensive restaurant on the island. It was a really good meal with impeccable attention to detail with very high quality of food. The Sauvignon Blanc I drank by the glass was excellent and worth the $15—which was rarely the case at other restaurants we ate at. When making a reservation, I recommend to note your gluten free needs and hopefully you’ll have a waiter like we did who knew exactly what you can eat from the menu, or how to alter the dish so that you can have it. Above all else, service is top notch.
Spago, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, was a great meal. Their menu changes daily. That said, it was also a super expensive meal. I keep debating in my head if it was amazing enough to deserve that price.
What was amazing was the service. We reserved a table in advance on opentable.com, and I made sure to write in the special request box, that one diner needed a gluten free meal. When our waiter greeted us, he asked who had the gluten free needs, and spoke to me in detail about their menu. He explained to me whether each menu item was safe for me to eat, or how it could be adjusted to be gluten free. Obviously there were a few options out of the question based on key dish components or marinades. I was happy with my choices and didn’t feel constricted in the options I had to choose from. When each course came out, they let me know if I could sample anything on my husbands dishes, which was appreciated.
Also top notch was their wine selection. At all restaurants I found the wine choices by the glass to be fairly pricey. Most of the time, I found that they did not live up to the price, but at Spago it did. I chose a $15 glass of a Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, which was excellent. It was quite possibly one of the highlights of my meal. When serving the wine, they brought the bottle out to you (each time you ordered a glass—I had two) and poured you a sample. I find this practice is rarely done when drinking wine by the glass, as opposed to by the bottle.
My appetizer was a duo of sashimi. Tasty, but the Tamari (gluten free soy sauce) over powered most bites. I really enjoyed my entree, which was a local fish, probably caught that day, and finally, it wasn’t mahi mahi. It was served over a “Sauce American,” a shellfish sauce, which was velvety and decadent. My dessert was heavenly a pana catta. It was like eating a delicious cloud.
Mama’s Fish House, Paia
Overall Impression: Our favorite meal of the trip! Once again expensive, but this time, it felt more worth it. Every single bite I was saying, “Mmmmmm!” It’s often said to be the best food on the island, and my husband and I believe it lives up every word of praise. Their menu changes daily based on what is caught fresh that day. Plus, the menu tells you who caught it, and where. I was happy we made the time to make this our last meal on the island before flying home that night.
Before coming to Maui, the number one recommended restaurant to us was Mama’s Fish House. We were booked up in advance for most of our dinners, so we were unsure of how to fit going here into our week. We figured out the best time would be for an early dinner, right before we went to the airport to come home. Despite the restaurant name, my husband who doesn’t eat fish had a few great non-seafood choices. He highly enjoyed his meal, and we both agreed it was our favorite of the trip.
Once again, while making our reservation online at opentable.com, I wrote my normal gluten free requirements. And once again, it proved very helpful as the waitress was able to inform me what I could and could not have, plus she double checked with the kitchen multiple times to ensure how they could change the dish slightly so that I could safely enjoy it. Her effort was greatly appreciated.
I can’t remember in detail what I had for each course, but we fondly remember the meal as one of the highlights of our trip. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Maui. Don’t miss out on Mama’s Fish House.