Food in Maui
The Island’s Incredible Fresh Fruit
It goes without saying that you will try some of Maui’s tropical fruit while visiting the island.
Probably on your first meal outing. Papaya, mango and pineapple are on just about every menu no matter where you go. But those who live on the island know there are many varieties of fruits throughout the island and knowing things like the times of year when certain fruits ripen or perhaps a tree and or farm location that the fruits originate from can make a difference.
One of the reason the fruit is so amazing in Maui is because Hawaiʻi has always been an agricultural society. The ancient Hawaiians created land divisions based on food production. Known as an ahupua’a these land divisions started in the mountains and ran all the way to
the ocean. They used the lush valleys and streams for farming by building terraced growing beds called Loi which diverted water into the fields and returned it to a nearby stream. Where these streams entered the ocean a village was built along with fish ponds reaching from shore out into the ocean and back again forming large, in some cases huge, stone fences near the mouth of streams and rivers. Nutrients from stream runoff fed the fish which where easily caught within the pond. This system of sustainable food production supported a large population for hundreds of years. Today most of Hawaiʻi’s food is flown in but there is still a large network of local food on the island… if you know where to look.
Lately farmers markets and fruit stands are showing up more and more in Maui. Locals and visitors alike are seeking them out and getting into the movement of farm to table freshness. It’s hard to go wrong wherever you may find fresh fruit in Maui but here are some tips that will help you get your hands and taste buds on some of the best fresh fruit Maui has to offer.
Tip # 1 – Grocery stores.
Safeway, Foodland, Whole Foods, and Costco all have tropical fruit selections. Look closely however because these big stores bring in produce from around the world and not all of it is local. Sometimes you may see displays in the produce section for local fruit which is good but check it closely – may not always be the ripest. Also the prices can be somewhat high compared to farmers markets and fruit stands. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not good fruit. More and more of these stores are working with local farmers to bring local organic food to their store shelves. Hooray for that! Also the health food stores in Maui are excellent! Down to Earth in Kahului and Mana Foods in Paʻia have a fantastic selection of organic fruits that is far better that most grocery stores. Bring a fat wallet though….
Tip #2 – Farmers Markets.
To find a farmers market in Maui the best thing to do is check out the Maui County Farm Bureau website. It’s a comprehensive list that covers the entire island and these farmers markets usually offer many kinds of vegetables along with fresh fruit. Farming vegetables in Hawaiʻi is not as easy as it would seem because of insects and the heat. However fruit is fairly easy to maintain. That is why just about everyone has some type of fruit tree growing in their yard.
The Maui Swap Meet in Kahului on saturdays is a great place to taste some delicious fruit samples as well as baked goods and dishes made with Maui’s tropical fruits as well as crafts and art. Though many of Maui’s farmers markets have some wonderfully tasty produce and have locations throughout the island the main challenge with them is they are not open every day, as you can see from the farm bureau link. A nice alternative is the ability to not only try some great fruit but to have it shipped back home. Check out Mr Pineapple in Kahului. They have a great location that is right along the way to the airport.
Tip #3 – Fruit Stands.
Maui has an amazing array of fruit stands. These stands are also located in various areas throughout the island and are usually open daily. If you think you’ve had some great smoothies wait until you try one made with fresh sugar cane juice! Yum! These stand are usually easy to find as you explore the island and offer some fantastic homemade treats like coconut candy or Macadamia nut brittle. Some even offer entrees like smoked chicken and fish. I tend to look for fruits types that are hard to find like large smooth skinned avocados, Tahitian yellow limes, or lychee. The small apple bananas are amazing too along with rainbow papaya, which I love to bring home. It really is endless but at some point you have to get picky. It’s a bummer to have more than you can eat. Having to watch it spoil is somewhat heartbreaking.
Tip#4 – Hana Fruit Stands.
One of the best areas on the island to find these amazing fruit stands and farmer’s markets is along the road to Hana. This is the rainforest side of the island with a rich history of farming. Many battles were fought in this area in ancient times for the resources of food and fresh water that are so abundant in Hana. Consequently some of the largest and oldest fruit trees grow here. While taking a Hana tour our guide stopped at a small fruit stand near Hana’s black sand beach where we found the most amazing avocados I’ve ever eaten. They were huge! At around 2 lbs each and about as big as half a loaf of bread, they an incredible flavor of smoked almonds. She said it was her favorite tree in Maui.
You could spend all day just stopping at the huge array of Maui fruit stands in Hana. They range from buckets at the end of a driveway with a sign and a pay box to fully enclosed buildings with a kitchen. Some of my favorites are Twin Falls Farm Stand (awesome smoothies) and Sandy’s Fruit Stand at Ke’anae Peninsula (amazing banana bread)
There are many opportunities to try Maui’s fresh tropical fruit, so be sure to keep an eye out for trying all the varieties of fruit as you drive around. You won’t regret taking the time to stop and sample one of the best things about a Maui visit – Tropical fruit!
Aloha Nui Loa