Spending all day on the beach is not good for your skin. So, in the interests of better skin, if not necessarily better health, my sweet-eating companion and I dedicated our Maui middays to finding the island’s best treats. Herewith – the fruits of our labours!
1. Chocolate tasting
Melanie Boudar used to be a gem buyer. Now she makes less permanent treasures – chocolates. Taste the range at her store, Sweet Paradise Chocolate, in Wailea Gateway shopping centre. Even better, go to her cocoa farm, Manawai Estate Chocolate, on the road out of Paia, where she grows the beans that will soon form the basis for her chocolates. First make your own hot chocolate, starting with roasted beans. (I’ve written about making chocolate from scratch here.)
Follow up with a guided chocolate tasting, after which you’ll be amazed to find you can taste the difference between chocolate from Hawaii and chocolate from Venezuela. I promise after this , you will never mindlessly eat chocolate again.
2. Dippy donuts
On Maui, donuts are malasadas and at Star Noodle in Lahaina, they come speared on a skewer to dip into chocolate or butterscotch sauce and roll in crushed peanuts. What makes this dessert even better is that it follows a great menu that ranges all over Asia, and doesn’t just stick with noodles. It feels a bit wrong to leave the beach to lunch in the light industrial area of town, but once the door to those delicious cooking smells opens, you won’t miss a view.
3. Banana cream pie
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is on the road north from Lahaina. There’s a welcoming diner-meets-plantation-house aesthetic to the fit-out and the menu suits, with great fresh salads and sandwiches. The draws for us though were the homemade pies. Maui is mad for the macadamia nut-chocolate combo they call macnut. As macadamias are Australian native plants we felt it a patriotic duty to indulge in the macnut choc pie. (It was the Hawaiians who commercialised the mac and until recently were the world’s biggest producer of macs, and its most enthusiastic coverers of it in chocolate!) Flag-waving aside, we found the macnut just a bit too rich, and sided with the North American classic – banana cream.
Celebrity trivia note: Leoda’s chef/owner is Sheldon Simeon, who fans of Top Chef will remember as a charming finalist in series 10.
4. Coconut ice
There are several reasons you’ll need an ice cream when you get to Hana. The first is medicinal. The road is famously narrow and windy, the locals know no fear – nor speed limits – and, taking their lead, neither do the teenage boys in rental convertibles. So it’s a white-knuckle ride: a sweet ice will soothe those adrenalin jitters. And then, once you have walked to the base of Maimoku Falls waterfall and back, you’ll need an ice cream to cool down.
Coconut Glen’s is the last food stall before Hana. Glen himself is a refugee chef from Boston. He’s also a vegan so his ‘ice creams’ are all made with coconut milk, and with a spirit of sharing.
5. Best gelato
Home base for the Maui gelataria Ono is Lahaina, but there is an outpost in the cool old whaling village of Paia. Robert Mahler makes genuine gelato (which is denser and more flavour-packed than traditional American ice cream because it’s churned more slowly and so incorporates less air as it freezes) from locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The coffee crunch – with chocolate, coffee and mac nuts – is hard to pass up, but save some room for the sensational salted caramel, and, because this is Hawaii, the only place on earth where people eat more passionfruit that we do – for the lilikoi, Hawaiian for passionfruit.