Kihei Wailea vacation villa with all amenities

Merriman's Maui

With its vaulted ceilings, candlelit tables, and panoramic ocean views, Merriman's is one of Maui's most elegant and romantic restaurants, without being overly stuffy. The dishes here are made using 90 percent local ingredients, a showcase of the island's seafood, meat, and vegetables. Menu highlights include Keahole lobster with Maui corn and Hawaiian chili pepper, Kahua Ranch lamb with papaya salsa, and taro cakes with Hamakua mushrooms and local Swiss chard.

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Kihei Caffe

Kihei Caffe is as casual and no-frills as it gets: a colorful chalkboard menu, indoor-outdoor tables, sidewalk seating, mismatched furniture, and wild roosters roaming about. This is hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, down-home cooking at its finest. Specializing in breakfast and brunch fare, the cafe does heaping plates of comfort food like biscuits and gravy, pork fried rice, chicken-fried steak, and loco moco. But the key order is the pancakes; options include banana macadamia nut (highly recommended), pineapple-coconut, and chocolate chip.

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Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Dimly lit, cozy, and low-key, Sansei Kapalua looks like any sushi restaurant you'd find in a mall—but it's always packed to the gills. If you're a sashimi purist, you'll hate this place. If, however, you like big, bold flavors and don't mind a little sambal mayo and truffle oil, you'll love it. Take, for example, the signature ahi sashimi, fresh-caught raw ahi, wrapped in arugula and spinach, rolled in panko crumbs, and flash-fried and served in a puddle of soy wasabi butter sauce. Also worth trying: the seared foie gras nigiri.

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Taverna is modern, trendy, and attractive, with lots of raw wood and industrial-chic decor. The central bar has a buzzy, boisterous, sports-bar vibe to it—a lot of people seem to come just for happy hour—but the rest of the restaurant remains relaxed and low-key. The menu offers Italian crowd-pleasers like lasagna, carbonara, and ossobuco, all beautifully done. Standouts include fritto misto (fried seafood), polpette (beef and bacon meatballs), and, for dessert, tiramisu and panna cotta.

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Tin Roof

Tin Roof is a bustling and cozy takeout-style restaurant sandwiched between a payday loan shop and a small gallery in a strip mall. It's not pretty, but the food, from James Beard Award-nominated Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon, is glorious—just ask the dozens of people waiting in line. Order the Kau Kau Tins, layered Hawaiian rice bowls. You can't go wrong with any of them, but the Mochiko chicken (chicken thighs marinated in ginger-sake shoyu, battered, and then double-fried) and the pork belly bowl are so good they'll haunt you.

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Nalu's South Shore Grill

Everything on Nalu's menu—a list of comfort foods you won't feel bad about eating—is made from scratch using local and (wherever possible) organic ingredients; even the grass-fed beef comes from Makaweli Ranch in Kauai. Vegetarians can dig in, too: Nalu's satisfying loco moco is made with tofu, spinach, and quinoa instead of beef and mushroom gravy. Other standouts are the fall-off-the-bone ribs and the smoky-sweet apple-brie burger. The average entree costs $15, making Nalu's the best-value meal on the south shore.

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Poi by the Pound

This always-busy, diner-style restaurant in a Kahului strip mall is cozy and cheerful, but nobody's really here for the ambience; rather, they're here for homestyle Hawaiian food done to perfection. The signature Hawaiian plate ($24) comes heaped with juicy kalua pork, pork lau lau, chicken long rice, poke, lomi salmon, rice, mac salad, and, of course, the signature poi. The poi—made from scratch using East Maui taro—is easily the best on the island, fresh and bright with a smooth, creamy, not-too-thick texture. The boneless kalbi ribs ($18) are another standout.

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Hali'imaile General Store

Hali'imaile General Store is housed in a historic 1920s building that once served the workers of the surrounding pineapple fields. In 1988, the space was transformed into this charming, airy general store–cum-restaurant, which has a warm and inviting vibe. Hali'imaile was serving up farm-to-table cuisine before it was even a thing and, 30 years later, it's still doing that well. The menu probably hasn't changed much over time, with classics like roast chicken with Molokai sweet potato mash, scallop risotto with Kula corn, and roast duck with pineapple chutney.

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The Plantation House

Located in a gorgeous clubhouse overlooking Kapalua's lush Plantation Golf Course, the Plantation House is the go-to place on Maui to celebrate a special occasion. The sweeping views over the world-famous golf course and the ocean are worth the trip alone. If you're here for dinner, expect Angus beef, Australian lamb, just-caught mahi mahi, and fresh local crudo. Make sure to have the somm walk you through the phone book-length wine list, which is a mix of crowd-pleasers like New Zealand sauvignon blancs and Napa Valley cabernets, wonderfully obscure varietals and big-spender bubbles (Bollinger, Taittinger, Dom Perignon).

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Aloha Mixed Plate

Aloha Mixed Plate, a classic oceanfront hangout on Front Street, has been newly remodeled to serve up even better ocean views. But the vibes remain laid-back and cheerful, and the eats are as onolicious—Hawaiian slang for "delicious"—as ever. Start with the homemade spam musubi (made with house Spam that tastes even better than the original), followed by one of the epic, oversized lunch plates. We recommend the signature Aloha Mixed Plate, which comes piled high with juicy, tender shoyu chicken, thin-sliced teriyaki beef, fresh grilled fish, mac salad and rice, and a side of garlic furikake fries.

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Mama's Fish House

If you're looking for fine dining, island-style, this iconic Paia restaurant is it: classy and refined, decked out in glossy hardwood finishes, and wrapped in expansive ocean views, it's the archetypal special-occasion spot. Servers clad in Hawaiian-print muumuus and aloha shirts glide about gracefully, balancing beautiful cocktails and exquisite-looking seafood. Mama's does the best and freshest seafood menu on the island—so fresh that the menu changes daily and it even tells you which fisherman caught what you're about to eat, and where.

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Star Noodle

Star Noodle is airy, modern, and Japanese-inspired, with lots of natural finishes like stone and teak and wicker rattan chairs. The vibe is decidedly casual and low-key, with guests chatting and chowing down on gorgeous, family-style Asian plates: Filipino meets Korean meets Japanese meets Singaporean flavors, and it all works beautifully. Standouts include the Vietnamese crepes, filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts and served with sweet-and-sour Nuoc Cham, the porky Hapa Ramen, and the melt-in-your-mouth adobo ribs.

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Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop

Though Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop is cute enough, with its chalkboard pie menu and wooden tables, the ambience is not what draws perpetually long lines. Although you can get typical diner fare like burgers, pot pies, and pastrami sandwiches, everything's made with ingredients from nearby farms. But the real thing to order here is (duh) the pies, which rotate daily. Standouts: the blissfully tart Olowalu Lime Pie, the fluffy and decadent Coconut Cream Pie, and the Kiawe Bean Tart, made with Maui Meyer lemons and sweet, nutty kiawe flour.

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Ono Tacos

Ono Tacos is a food truck in a parking lot off Honoapiilani Highway. There are a handful of plastic picnic tables off to the side and wild chickens running around. There's a typical taco-cart menu: tacos ($4), burritos ($10), and quesadillas ($8). Try the fish and shrimp tacos—they're flavorful and fresh—and order a side of the rice and beans ($3.50). It's one of the cheapest, most satisfying lunches on the island, sure to hit the spot after a few days of overpriced and touristy eats around Kaanapali.

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Ka'Ana Kitchen

Ka'ana Kitchen, overlooking the terraced pools at Andaz Maui, is an earthy, modern, sun-filled space that's sleek and welcoming in the daytime and romantically low-lit in the evening. Though the menu changes seasonally, you can expect dishes like the Kona Kampachi poke with local beets and Hawaiian chili pepper, grilled octopus with Big Island chevre, and risotto with local Ali'i mushrooms and miso. Every dish is clean, bright, and flavorful, and portions are hearty and served family-style. Leave room for dessert—the chocolate tres leches with Kona coffee ice cream is a dream.