Manele Bay, courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and Dana Edmunds
It’s been 31 years since chef Mark Ellman traded the vibrant chaos of LA for laid-back Maui. And, while kitchen life is as hectic as ever, at the end of the night he now retreats to a farm on Maui’s west coast, where much of what he grows is likely to end up on your plate at one of Ellman’s three acclaimed restaurants: Mala Ocean Tavern, Frida’s Mexican Beach House and Honu Seafood and Pizza. “Maui is one of the most peaceful, tranquil places on Earth,” he says. “When people travel here, it’s almost as though their souls are smoothed over.”
Here are a few of Ellman’s favourite spots.
Maui Jim, Lahaina
“[When visiting Maui], the most important thing to do in order to blend in is to not buy a tacky Hawaiian shirt. The next is to get yourself a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses. Every local has at least one pair. You can buy them elsewhere, but the best selection is at this company’s small store and office in Lahaina (721 Wainee Street). There’s often a lineup of people waiting to get in.”
Day trip to Lanai
“When [my wife and I] want a quick getaway, we hop on the ferry to Lanai. It’s a 45-minute ride for [US]$30, and we spend the day chilling out on the beach at Manele Bay. Hundreds of dolphins swim in that bay. If you go out there snorkelling, you’re almost guaranteed that dolphins will be swimming all around you.”
Canoe Beach, Kaanapali
“Canoe racing is to Maui what baseball leagues are everywhere else. There are clubs all over the island, but a great place to watch the locals training and racing is Canoe Beach, right next to the Hyatt in Kaanapali. On weekends, hundreds of people come out to watch, and there are always [food vendors] and people with guitars and ukuleles.”
Tin Roof, Kahului
“One of the most local, local, local things to eat is a plate lunch. Everything comes with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad in a to-go container. There are never any seats, except maybe a picnic table or park bench. One of my favourite [spots for a plate lunch] is Tin Roof by Sheldon Simeon. You get a donburi rice bowl [a.k.a. a Kau Kau Tin] and, on top of that, pork belly and choi sum [or another daily vegetable] with a great spicy sauce, all for about [US]$9.”
Tamura’s Fine Wine, various locations
“Not only does Tamura’s have one of the largest selections of wine, beer and liquor in the whole state, but they’re famous among the locals for their poke selection. There are always lines of people getting octopus poke and scallop or kimchi poke. They have a giant deli case with at least two dozen types and they sell out early every day.”
Getting there: WestJet flies to Maui six times a week from Vancouver.
What to Do in Downtown Lahaina
Once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, Lahaina occupies a central place in Maui’s history. Today, its low-slung buildings and oceanfront shops and galleries offer a taste of Old Hawaii. Take a walk through the neighbourhood, making stops at Lahaina Banyan Court Park, Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice and more.