I could tell this trip was off to the right start when the flight attendant gave us two free Heinekens to enjoy as our “pre-flight drink.” Ahhhh, nothing tastes better than lukewarm beer in coach. Throughout the course of the flight she slipped us no less than three more beers, mixer and vodka for two Bloody Mary’s, warm chocolate chip cookies, milk for little Gonzo Girl, and—y’all ready for this??—a chilled bottle of champagne.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, why? Why would a flight attendant provide us with these simple yet much appreciated luxuries? Because I bought her a Carmel latte from Starbucks. There I was, walking toward our gate at LAX, when I spotted a harried flight attendant who said she was late for the Maui flight, and somehow it came out that she needed coffee. I understand. I myself can’t function without it, and so neither would she.
Obviously free drinks are the highlight of any experience, but that was just the beginning. From an ocean view room upgrade at The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas to the best pizza I’ve had in ages, this was definitely a great trip.
Best Spot to Watch Sea Turtles (while drinking): Mala Ocean Tavern (1307 Front Street, Lahaina; (808) 667-9394). I’ve been here three times and each time I’ve had the ahi burger. Generally I’d scoff at grinding up something as fabulous as ahi into a burger, but then I’d be the fool. This burger is so amazing I may never have ahi any other way. Also, the fries. Oh, the fries. And the beer, Maui Brewing Co.’s Big Swell IPA, which holds its own against my San Diego local fave, Stone IPA. Not to mention those prehistoric sea turtles bobbing about in the waves.
Best Pizza on Maui: Pizza Madness (1455 S Kihei Road, Kihei; (808) 270-9888). Hidden behind an Avis Rental Car kiosk, this place is definitely old school. You’ll see locals drinking happy hour brews at the bar while tourists scarf down slice after slice of pizza heaven. Thick, saucy slices of pizza, more Big Swell IPA, who could ask for a better meal before boarding the red eye to LAX?
Best Grocery Store to buy supplies for dinner when your kid is running a fever: Foodland Farms (345 Keawe Street, Suite 304, Lahaina; (808) 662-7088). As much as I like to cook, while on vacation I prefer to stuff myself with bar food. Yet when I entered Foodland Farms I felt oddly peaceful, as if I’d found the mother ship. This market, which competes with the older Safeway right across the street, has a fresh fish market, a cheese bar and a wine cellar that would do Whole Foods proud.
Of course, our trip wasn’t all free booze and Big Swell IPA. We also ate at …
Leilani’s on the Beach at Whalers Village (2435 Ka’anapali Parkway, Bldg. J, Lahaina; (808) 661-4495). Food is good, service is great. Try the turkey sandwich for lunch. For the kids, mac and cheese, but a large enough portion that you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off.
Hula Grill Ka’anapali at Whalers Village (2435 Ka’anapali Parkway, Bldg. P, Lahaina; (808) 667-6636). Food is fine, but the view is fantastic. Bathrooms are very clean (v. important when traveling with a toddler).
Round Table Pizza (2580 Kekaa Drive # 105, Lahaina; (808) 662-0777). Yes, more pizza! Dinner for four under $25 in Maui is hard to do, but Round Table delivers. They don’t serve wine or beer, but you can BRING YOUR OWN!! Or even buy it from the coffee shop (yes, the coffee shop) right next door.
Duke’s Beach House (130 Kai Malina Parkway, Lahaina; (808) 662-2900). For our last night we went big – hula pie big! I’m not sure why ice cream tastes better in Maui, but trust me, it does. Oh, and I also ate dinner, sautéed macnut and herb crusted opah coated in Parmesan and bread crumbs.
To work off all that good eatin’ we swam every day in the ocean at my favorite beach in Maui, Ka’anapali’s North Beach, and I even tried stand up paddle boarding for the first time. Loved it!
Every great vacay must come to an end. Our last day out, we trucked over to the island’s north side to check out the wind surfers, then headed south to Kihei, home of the fantastic Pizza Madness. And our reward for surviving the dreaded Maui-LAX redeye? No, not more free drinks, but instead this: a possible Patrick Dempsey sighting at the LAX Admiral’s Club. Who needs pre-flight drinks when you can text Us Magazine with a star sighting?