THANKSGIVING DAY IN MAUI – TOP THINGS TO DO
There are many ways to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui in 2016 and I won’t go into every option here but I will share with you my Top 6 Things To Do if you’re visiting Maui for Thanksgiving.
Having lived for close to 20 years in Maui, I have experienced Thanksgiving day in dozens of different ways. Ohana (family) in Hawaiʻi is a big deal. Native Hawaiians could chant their family lineages back hundreds of years during ancient times. Today that tradition carries on with the holiday season. However, even if you’re not a local Hawaiian, everyone living in Maui develops an ohana of friends who make up for family far away on the mainland during the holidays.
November Is An Exceptional Time Of Year On The Island.
The humpback whales begin returning to frolic in Maui waters by mid-November, and the winter rains start to plump up the green grasses of the mountain slopes making them stand out against a blue sky. The winter swells startup to bring large waves to all sides of the island. And since the weather is always warm one of the beautiful changes of the season happens when the Poinsettia plants that grow into large hedges here begin to turn red. It is very easy to be thankful to be in Hawaiʻi during the winter months!
Weather In Late November
If you are planning your Maui Thanksgiving meal out at the beach park or an open-air ocean-side restaurant, this November you can be 67% sure to have a wonderful day and sunset. In late November the rainy season has begun along many of the windward sides of the island like the north, northeast and northwestern shores Many communities and towns bring out beautiful decorations and lighting while the rains create gushing waterfalls and rainbows…it’s a beautiful time of year to be in Maui!
In November there are going to be some windy, cooler days in the low 80s on average. The trade winds will be blowing strong just over 60% of the time. Water temperature will be in the high 70s. Since most are traveling from much cooler climates, it feels like paradise here this time of year!
My First Maui Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving I encountered here in Maui back in the 1980’s was with a local family who cooked a turkey in an underground oven. It is called an Imu. You may have seen one of these if you’ve ever been to a Luau where they are used to cook a whole pig for kalua pork. It is a pit filled with red-hot lava rocks heated by an open fire pit. A certain kind of smooth porous lava rocks is gathered from river beds. These stones work best because they hold heat and will not crack from the extreme temperature.
Next, the turkey is coated with Hawaiian rock salt, wrapped in taro leaves and wrapped again in banana leaves. The turkey is then put on top of the hot rocks in the bottom of the pit and covered with a burlap sack. After being covered with dirt, it is left to cook underground for up to 7 hours. The resulting turkey is some of the most tender and moist bird you’ll ever encounter.
Giving This Thanksgiving
Before we get into celebrating with a bounty of food, it’s good to help out those who are less fortunate. Every Thanksgiving there are all sorts of events happening. One that we are highlighting this year is Paddle for Hunger. Come race for a great cause. Entry fee is a donation and is based on skill. If you think you are going to win, you better bring a lot of non-perishable goods, as your entry fee. All in good fun, everything is accepted. Registration starts at 7 am, and the race starts at 8 am on Thanksgiving Day.
#1 Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Dinner
If you’re visiting Maui for Thanksgiving there are a lot of restaurants and resorts to choose from. Almost every restaurant on the island has a Thanksgiving day special. Aside from the local independent restaurants, there are plenty of options at the resorts from which to choose. Check out the map above for those restaurants serving special Maui-style Thanksgiving dinner or brunch.
Some notable ones on Maui’s south coast are the Fairmont’s Kea Lani which is located in Wailea along with the Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea. On Maui’s west side the Ritz-Carlton, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, the Sheraton and the Westin Kaanapali all have Thanksgiving day specials with some options for intimate dining as well.
#2 Thanksgiving Day Dinner Cruise
Another fantastic way to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui is a dinner cruise.Pride of Maui has a Thanksgiving day dinner cruise out of Ma`alaea Harbor with live music and of course, whale watching. Also in past years the Quicksilver boats have had Thanksgiving Day cruises so check them out. Many of the dinner cruises have a Thanksgiving day tour so if you have a favorite boat give them a call. Chances are they’ll have some turkey onboard come November 24th.
#3 Maui Jim Invitational
We are lucky on Maui to have a basketball tournament like this one. Since 1984 108 College schools have played in this tournament and for the few days before Thanksgiving at the Maui Jim Invitational you can see teams play for the Wayne Duke Championship Trophy at the Lahaina Civic Center. This year’s teams include Georgetown, North Carolina, Oregon State, UConn, Wisconsin and Chaminade University from Honolulu. Enjoy some exciting college basketball in Maui Nov 19th thru 21st, 2018.
#4 Thanksgiving Day Luau
Another fun event to consider is a Thanksgiving Day Luau. Many of the luaus in Maui add turkey to the menu for the holiday crowd. Check with your nearest activity agent to get the full rundown on Thanksgiving Day luaus in your area of the island or you can check the local events calendar.
#5 Pick up Thanksgiving Dinner to Go
On several occasions, I have enjoyed Thanksgiving day in Maui on the beach. Many grocery stores, some resorts, and most restaurants will package up a full turkey day feast that can be taken to many of the beach parks around the island. One of my favorite beaches for this is Kamaʻole Beach Park 3 in Kihei.
Also known as “Kam 3” this park has a wonderful choice of picnic tables overlooking the beach and ocean. I first met my lifelong friends Dave and Mara for Thanksgiving dinner to go at Kam 3. It was their first time to Maui and since they didn’t know anybody my girlfriend (who met them at an activity desk) and I volunteered to show them some Thanksgiving day Aloha. We met them at the beach with a turkey dinner to go from Foodland. We had such a great time together that they moved to Maui a few months later and have been part of our Maui Ohana (family) for over 15 years. Such is the magic of Maui.
#6 Cook a Turkey Yourself
Visitors often cook in their condos equipped with a kitchen. With all the amazing local spices and marinades at your disposal, you may end up making a fantastic version of a Hawaiian turkey dinner yourself. Try stuffing your turkey with pineapple before roasting!
Of course, if you live in Maui, most people enjoy cooking a turkey dinner themselves. Foodland grocery stores have a discount program for residents called the Maika’i Rewards card. As you shop with them, you accumulate points and eventually receive a coupon. We save these because the week before Thanksgiving one coupon is good for a free turkey. Free I tell you! If you’re visiting try asking around to see if anyone may know of an extra Maika’i Rewards Coupon. Most people do and may be happy to share some free turkey Aloha!
Because I have a smoker, I have cooked as many as three turkeys at a time for our ohana as gifts or a big Thanksgiving day party in the backyard. For the brine, I use soy sauce, fresh ginger, brown sugar, and saki. Huli Huli Sauce is a recent favorite I use as a mop during this 5-hour cooking process. You can view my main Hawaiian Turkey recipe HERE.
Maui is a special place, and all of us who call it home are thankful to live in such beauty every day. That’s why we love holidays like Thanksgiving. I hope you get a chance to enjoy Thanksgiving day in Maui someday too!
Aloha Nui Loa