By: Kim Kessler

There are a variety of spectacular restaurants on the island of Maui, offering the freshest fish and local produce. For a casual oceanfront dining experience, I recommend Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina for dinner at sunset, where you can often spot green sea turtles from your table! They present a fresh “guacamole” made out of soybeans paired with salsa and chips and a large variety of salads, appetizers, Kobe beef burgers and fresh fish. My favorite starters are the ahi tuna bruschetta and quartet made of homemade hummus, raita, babaganoush and Greek feta cheese. I also love going to Mala for brunch on the weekends and especially suggest ordering the huevos rancheros with black beans, feta cheese, tortillas, eggs over easy and salsa.

I also adore Lahaina Grill and always recommend the salad with Hana tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, truffle oil and aged balsamic vinaigrette and the local Maui onion and sesame-crusted seared ahi tuna with vanilla bean jasmine rice. The dessert sampler is perfect to share and so delicious with their signature triple berry pie, Road to Hana chocolate cake, sunken chocolate cake and vanilla crème brulee.

For a romantic evening, you won’t want to miss The Banyan Tree restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, which features dramatic views of the ocean and island of Molokai. I prefer ordering the appetizer trio, where you can select a sampling of three appetizers from the menu, such as seared scallops with roasted tomatoes, roasted beets with “Surfing Feta” and quinoa, and Kona lobster with hearts of palm in a martini glass. My favorite entrées are the opah with cauliflower, oyster mushrooms and yellow curry and the pine nut crusted ahi with cucumber noodles and Thai basil pesto, created from herbs grown right in The Ritz-Carlton’s organic garden. I absolutely love the chocolate tasting dessert where you can sample chocolate fudge, the chocolate peanut butter soufflé cake and white chocolate sorbet.

Merriman’s in Kapalua is situated right on Kapalua Bay and provides one of the most spectacular views on Maui! Peter Merriman is one of the founders of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine and believes in the “farm to table” experience. I recommend trying the Kapalua Farms heirloom tomato and Kula onion salad and definitely the Big Island butterfish with Shemiji mushrooms, baby bok choy or the seared day-boat sea scallops with creamed Kula corn, roasted Anuhea asparagus and applewood smoked bacon.

Mama’s Fish House provides a very authentic Hawaiian ambiance and is also one of my favorite restaurants but located an hour from West Maui on the north shore of the island. The restaurant lists the name of each fisherman for the daily catch, so you know the fish is fresh! For instance, I experienced the Opakapaka caught by Claude Moreau over deep reefs near Kahakuloa, sautéed with Kamuela tomatoes, white wine, garlic and capers. Save room for the Mama’s chocolate kuau pie baked in a caramel cookie crust. Mama’s also has the best tropical cocktails!

For a new casual lunch option, the Kapalua Café menu offers a variety of salads, wraps and sandwiches with produce from the organic Kapalua Farms. I love the grilled vegetable sandwich with fresh fruit including Maui Gold Pineapple and the tofu wrap. This is located where the new Kapalua Adventure Center is and they offer the most comprehensive zipline system in North America!

The Plantation House is located at the famed Plantation Golf Course, which has been home to the PGA Tour’s Mercedes-Benz Championship. I prefer to dine there for dinner at sunset with the panoramic ocean views and love the Kapalua Farms beet salad with baby tomatoes, feta cheese and balsamic drizzle, followed by the Taste of Maui entrée with pistachio-crusted papillo, Maui onions, local tomatoes, upcountry spinach with couscous and olive oil.

Pineapple Grill is another fabulous restaurant, which is located at The Bay Course and I prefer the lemon porcini dusted Hawaiian Monchong with a tarragon-lobster essence and the pan-seared marinated king salmon with chilled soba noodles, crisp vegetables and a citrus ponzu sauce.

Kim Kessler has 10 years of public relations experience in the hospitality industry, including nearly five years with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Kim spent four years at Murphy O’Brien Public Relations, where she handled publicity for The Peninsula Beverly Hills, Chicago and New York; Esperanza, an Auberge Resort in Cabo San Lucas; See’s Candies; Morton’s of Chicago; Villa Toscana and The Century Plaza Hotel & Spa. She began her career at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and has a degree in public relations from Pepperdine University.

All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements. 

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