Dining and Diversions in Central Maui

By Kathy Englert

Most visitors to Maui arrive in Central Maui at Kahului Airport. From there most jump in a rental car and head to South or West Maui and only return for their flight home. Central Maui may not be as easy to navigate as Kihei, or as picturesque as Maalaea, but it has its own charm. With a little planning, Central Maui can be a lovely part of your Maui vacation.

Most airlines no longer offer a complimentary meal service on flights to Hawaii. If you have trouble loading your luggage into your rental car because you’re weak with hunger, there are a couple options less than five minutes from the airport.

Pinata’s and Koko Ichiban Ya are on the corner of Dairy Road and Hana Highway, an easy right-hand turn leaving the airport. Pinata’s offers simple Tex-Mex fare with an excellent salsa bar and a portion of your burrito purchase is donated to the Maui Humane Society. If you prefer udon or chicken katsu then Koko Ichiban Ya is right across the parking lot. Koko Ichiban Ya is a cash only, family-run, lunch counter with economical prices and generous portions. Once you’ve refueled, I’m sure your drive to your South Maui vacation rental will be much more pleasant.

For the lucky couples who come to Maui to get married, you’ll have to make a visit to the Governor’s Liaison Office for a marriage license. To celebrate, have lunch at the Class Act, the Restaurant run by Maui Culinary Academy at UHMC. Call ahead to reserve a table or the private dining room and bring a bottle of champagne for a lunch you won’t soon forget!

If you are looking for a sweet treat to take on your flight home, stop in at Broke Da Mouth Cookie Co. “Broke da mouth” is local slang for utterly delicious, and the cookies, cakes, and pies here live up to the hype. They generously offer free samples of all their cookies, and their shortbread cookies make excellent souvenirs (if they last through the flight home).

Other activities in Central Maui to add to your itinerary are the Swap Meet at UHMC and First Friday in Wailuku. The Swap Meet is every Saturday morning from 7am to 1pm and all kinds of things are on offer, from local produce to Hawaiian shirts to wood carvings. For a fifty cent admission fee, an open air bazaar of treats and keepsakes will keep the whole family amused. Don’t forget to get a shave-ice!

Once a month, on the first Friday, Wailuku has a gathering of local artists, businesses, and live music. First Friday is a place to enjoy Maui’s local culture, art, music, and food. Activities and amusements for every age are available with no admission fee and live music from 6pm to 8pm. Free parking in Wailuku is scarce, so make sure you have enough coins to feed a meter.