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Malasadas, shave ice, boiled peanuts and more island snacks we love.
When it comes time to eat, Hawaiians love their snacks. And when you’re on holiday, grazing is an especially good way to eat. Not only is it fun to explore local shops and bakeries for treats that don’t quite qualify as a full meal (you can cover more ground this way), snacks won’t slow you down—and will keep you well-fuelled for a day of surfing, snorkelling or exploring. Here are some Maui classics to add to your must-snack list.
They’ve been making malasadas—soft doughnuts similar to a beignet, tossed in sugar or cream-filled—daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Home Maid Bakery since 1960. The full service bakery has everything from Maui sweet bread to handmade mochi and is considered the “Home of the Crispy Manju”—little round pies with a delicate flaky crust and fruit fillings like sweet azuki beans, coconut, peach and pineapple.
You can find the best poke (pronounced poh-KAY) at grocery and liquor stores across the island. Foodland stores have a wide assortment beside the deli counter (similar to how by-the-gram potato salad and cole slaw are sold in Canadian groceries). Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquor stores also have a poke counter, so you can pick up a six-pack and a container of ahi to go. Poke is often eaten as a late afternoon/after work snack to tide you over until dinner, but really, when in Maui, it’s enjoyable any time of day.
If you’ve never had shave ice in Hawaii, you’ve never had shave ice—it is to a regular syrup-soaked sno-cone what a butter-basted bone-in prime rib is to a thin, leathery steak. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice is reportedly the best, and I wholeheartedly agree. They make all their own fruit syrups in-house (think coconut, guava, tamarind, passion fruit and calamansi lime) which are then poured over a ball of ultra-fine ice snow. You’ll see a shaker of dusty brick-red powder on the counter—it’s li hing mui (salted dried plum), which you shake overtop almost like salt. When it’s hot outside, a shave ice beats ice cream hands-down—and for me, that’s saying a lot.
Ask a group of friends who’ve been to Maui for their best travel hacks and chances are some will tip you off to the Costco that’s right by the airport (membership cards are valid no matter where you’re from). Besides drinks and booze, you’ll find towering displays of Maui sweet onion chips, Island Princess Macadamia Nut Popcorn Crunch, shrimp chips, taro chips, ahi tuna and marlin jerky, SPAM musubi, every kind of macadamia nut you could ever want, and chocolate-covered Japanese rice crackers. (And yes, Costco has a poke bar, too!)
If you’re lucky enough to make friends with a local who has a mango or avocado tree in their back yard, be extraordinarily nice to that person. They might just reward you with some of the best fruit you’ll eat in your life. (Pro tip: put your mangoes in the fridge overnight, and dig into them for breakfast on a hot morning.)
The perfect local snack, boiled peanuts (raw peanuts that have been boiled in their shell in brine—salted water or salted/spiced water) are soft and seasoned and delicious. In Maui, you can find them almost anywhere—in ABC convenience stores, vendor stalls and the deli section of the grocery store.
Donut Dynamite specializes in brioche donuts and changes their menu daily, looking to local ingredients to inspire a wide variety of flavours. They’re the most fun (and Instagrammable) to pick up if you’re planning a day of exploring or lounging by the pool.
Shortbread cookies are kind of a thing on Maui. There are Honolulu Cookie Company locations everywhere, and then there are the Maui Cook Kwees you see in clear plastic packages in every store. They’re impossibly light and tender coconut-macadamia cookies that may turn to crumbs in your backpack—but it’s ideal to have a pack in your hotel or car for an absolutely addictive afternoon nibble. And if they do turn to crumbs, sprinkle them over fruit yogurt or ice cream.