Geoff and I have been A.F.K. (“away from keyboard”) these last few days, enjoying a much-needed break from the deep freeze of the Polar Vortex by escaping to the island of Maui. If you’re planning your own escape, we highly recommend the Valley Isle and hope the information here helps keep you healthy and safe.
Below you will find our review of our condo hotel (great for celiacs because you can cook your own meals), reviews of the restaurants and grocery stores we visited, a couple of things we recommend you skip if you are gluten free, as well as a link to an awesome website on gf Maui. Aloha.
We stayed at the Honua Kai Resort and Spa, an awesome place to stay north of Kaanapali Beach, just outside of the really busy tourist areas around Black Rock. The resort has amazing pools and a great beach – although not as large as the beach in the heart of Kaanapali.
As for gluten free needs, the studio condo was large and had a great kitchen with almost everything you could need for cooking – including a blender for those slushy drinks.
TIP: If you don’t want to buy spices, be sure to pack some – including salt and pepper.The hotel supplies locally grown ground coffee, dish soap, laundry detergent and fabric softener, dish and tea towels, and Aveda bath products.
The room also had a Bosch dishwasher and almost everything was dishwasher friendly so the pans etc. were very clean. We did, however, still wash everything by hand before we used it and lined what we could with tinfoil. Geoff also brought silicone toaster bags which, if you haven’t tried them, work really well. The resort also has communal BBQ’s which Geoff used a number of times. He reports that they were very clean and, after he lined off a section with tinfoil, he had no issues about using them at all.
TIP: Head to the beach in the morning with your coffee and you will be sure to see humpback whales and green sea turtles playing in the waters along the coastline.
Eating out with Celiac Disease is not as easy on Maui as you would expect it to be in such a major tourist destination. We ate most of our meals in our condo, but we did go out a few times. Here’s what we found.
Fleetwoods: The restaurant is owned by Maui resident Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. The atmosphere is great, as are the views across Front Street and over the Lahaina harbour. On the menu is a Hog Burger which for $33,000 includes Mick Fleetwood’s Soft Tail Harley. We were devastated to find out that it didn’t come on gf bread, so instead Geoff settled for a regular burger without the bun. The food was expensive but very good.
TIP: We talked to a number of locals who had been here when Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (also a Maui resident) or Mick Fleetwood dropped in for impromptu performances. We weren’t so lucky but maybe next time.
Bubba Gumps: Much cheaper than Fleetwoods and has a dedicated GF menu. The menu is small, but includes some salads and fish dishes. Geoff had a shrimp cocktail to start and a berry salad with shrimp for dinner. Can you tell he likes shrimp? Food was good as were the prices but the real treat is the view. Almost every table is ocean front – and I mean Ocean FRONT. It feels like you’re on a boat!
Gannon’s: Geoff spent one day golfing at the Emerald Course in Wailea which was absolutely beautiful! He ate at Gannon’s, the clubhouse, where the wait staff were very knowledgeable and they even had gluten free beer! He had a very good seafood salad for lunch. Prices were what you would expect in Wailea – on the high side.
Tommy Bahamas: In the Shops at Wailea, Tommy Bahamas has a gluten free menu that is a bit sparse but includes more than just salads. The waiter here was knowledgeable and made sure the kitchen substituted grilled potatoes for the french fries. He recommended the ribs, which Geoff ordered and enjoyed, as well as the Butterscotch Pudding for dessert – which was waaaayyy better than my glutinous coconut cake. The meal was good, but like everything in Wailea, a bit pricey.
Makawao Garden Fresh Bistro: Makawao is a small upcountry town on the slopes of Haleakala with a surprising number of galleries, local shops, and good restaurants. The Garden Fresh Bistro cooks everything from scratch with organic and local ingredients and seemed very aware of the needs of those with celiac disease. Geoff had the catch of the day, which was Ahi tuna, and a grilled vegetable salad that was to die for. He didn’t even have room for the gf dessert that they offered!
TIP: Also head down to Paia which is where they get the North Shore surf breaks. “Jaws” (the surf break not the shark) is just east of here.
Maui Brick Oven: I saved the best for last. Maui Brick Oven is a dedicated gluten free restaurant in a strip mall in Kihei. Speaking to the owners, they said that the menu is based on everything a person with celiac disease wishes he or she could have and, I have to say, from the look on Geoff’s face when he saw it, they hit the mark. Items include pizza, pasta, fish and chips, calamari, mac and cheese, onion rings, coconut shrimp, teriyaki chicken, and a number of desserts. The prices were also very reasonable. Geoff had the coconut shrimp and the fish and chips and I had the pizza. Both were very good – and the pizza reheated nicely the next day back at the condo. Oh, and they had many, many vegetarian options as well.
TIP: The restaurant is small and busy, so be prepared for a short wait during the dinner rush.
Buying GF Groceries
Kahului seems to be the place to buy most of your gf groceries. There is a Whole Foods, which is small by American standards but since we don’t have one anywhere near us in Red Deer it was a welcome treat! The gf bread from the bakery was really, really good – especially with North Shore Goodies Chocolate, Coconut Peanut Butter on it (the Hawaiian equivalent to Nutella). Whole Foods also seemed to have the best selection of gluten free beer. Geoff tried Omission for the first time and loved it. If you don’t react to it, we highly recommend it – especially the lager.
Also in Kahului is Down To Earth, a specialty foods market with plenty of local produce and lots of gluten free options.
In Makawao on our last day we came across the Rodeo General Store, a small town convenience/grocery/deli store. They have many gf options in their deli as well as on their shelves including Udi’s products, cake and cookie mixes, etc. We will definitely stop in here again!
In Lahaina we bought groceries at Safeway, Times, and Foodland, with Foodland having a slightly larger gf selection.
Places to Consider Avoiding
Teralani Sunset Dinner Cruise: In Kaanapali. The food is served buffet style and they could not guarantee gluten free and did not seem open to setting some aside for Geoff. We opted out.
Aina Gourmet Market: At the Honua Kai resort. They do offer quite a few pre-packaged gluten free products in their market which is good, but stay away from the items labelled gf in their deli/bakery. Geoff had a gf cinnamon bun on the first day and got rather ill. We spent one whole day of our holiday in our room while he recovered.
For a local’s perspective on being Gluten Free on Maui, check out Amanda Schaefer’s blog Gluten Free Maui: Being Gluten Free on a Rock in the Sea, in particular the sections on dining and shopping. Thanks Amanda. Lots of good information here.
Photo Credit: gf and me 2014. The picture is of Geoff soaking in the views from one of the Honua Kai’s lobbies.