So, you’re gluten-free or Paleo and planning a trip to Maui. If you’re wondering how to make eating on a special diet work as smoothly as possible, read on for my tips. If you’re looking for restaurant recommendations, find Part 1 of my series here.
1. Pack snacks
My flight was diverted to Honolulu on the way in because of a fire on the runway in Maui. We couldn’t get off the plane but had to land there to refuel. While everyone else was starving after 9 hours, I was eating a can of smoked anchovies in the galley (to save my seat mates the stink).
This miracle happened thanks to my number one travel tip: bring snacks.
Bring more snacks than you think you’ll need. Bring more snacks than you could possibly eat. Do this because airports are often terribly devoid of any nutritious options, and because you never know how long you might be delayed in travel.
Here’s what I brought on my 9-day trip.
- 3-4 cans of smoked fish
- a bag of home-made carmelized coconut chips
- 5 or 6 Epic bars
- 6 packs of baby food squeezers (I like this brand)
- 4 or 5 packs of AIP jerky
- Love Bean Fudge Sea Salt Caramel
I brought quite a bit of protein because I find that’s hardest to track down in airports. Baby food squeeze packs sound weird, but they can be a quick source of carbs or veggie nutrition when you’re on the road and don’t want another wilted salad.
I packed most of this list in my luggage and brought enough on the plane for 2 snacks. Additionally, since my lunch and breakfast were eaten in the air, I brought my insulated lunchbox and stainless-steel container from home and filled it with ground beef, sauteed squash and some sweet potatoes.
When I got to Hawaii, I used my snacks to fill out lunches while hiking or on the beach and my cooler to bring my lunch when I wanted to stay out adventuring all day. I always brought veggies and carbs along, because unlike in an airport it’s pretty easy to find kalua pig, fresh shrimp or other yummy proteins on the road.
2. Stay somewhere with a kitchen (and consider staying on a farm!)
I stayed at Hale Akua Garden Farm on the Hana Highway. This spot was fantastic because 1. I got to cook in a big kitchen with ceramic cookwear and tons of fridge and counter space and 2. I got to live on a working farm that distributed to local groceries and restaurants and sold some items directly to guests.
I grew up vacationing in cottages with my family, so I’m used to cooking at home during these times, and it really helps me feel my best while I’m out of my normal routine.
I grocery shopped (see below) the night I got in, and the morning after I arrived, I got up and did a smaller version of my weekly batch cook. I roasted some local Okinawan sweet potatoes, sauteed up half a head of cabbage and cooked some local grassfed ground beef up in a skillet with some onion.
I ate that for lunch and dinner for a coupledays, and packed nori hand rolls with deli turkey, avocado and sprouts and plantain chips for most of my lunches. This lasted me about half of my nine-day trip, and I batch-cooked a little more halfway through the week. This meant that when I did eat out, I really enjoyed it!
3. Rely on local grocers
Diane Sanfilippo, one of my favorite podcast hosts, often talks about how she hits up the local “hippie” food store in each new city that she visits. This is my favorite trick too!
The produce quality in Maui is unreal. It’s expensive to import, and Hawaiians seem to be very into local growers, organic and non-GMO farming and sustainability. This is really reflected in the quality of local grocery stores. Here are the ones I frequented:
This gem, located near in Paia just off the Hana highway, is about 20 minutes from the airport and cruise ship port in Kahului. It’s well worth the drive for their selection of grassfed Molokai beef, hyper-local produce and paleo snack staples like coconut butter, nuts, plaintain chips and super-dark chocolate.
I stopped here on my way to my farm stay because the staff their said they had the best prices on organics, but I didn’t do a price comparison. I did stock up…
Their hot bar had a few paleo items like curried sweet potatoes, and unlike Whole Foods, they seemed to use “safe” oils like olive, almond for salads and coconut oil. All the ingredients were labeled. Their salad bar also had items you could mix yourself.
They also have a deli counter with Applegate products, which I think is even better (less preservatives) than buying the pre-packaged Applegate products, which they also sell. Look out for Maui Coconut Water in the drink case.
Whole Foods in Kahului
When I go to a new place, I have to visit Whole Foods. The food nerd in me loves seeing what each place stocks and how they set up their store. And I love seeing regional and local products on their shelves!
Overall I’d rate this Whole Foods “fair.”
There was an awesome-looking BBQ bar with some spiced pork belly, brisket and ribs that looked perfectly Paleo. I didn’t eat there because I’m avoiding nightshades, but it would be a really good option if you want to know exactly what’s in your BBQ.
The hot bar was tofu-heavy, but there was a salad bar with some local items. I got some great prosciuto and uncured ham at the cured meats counter.
Other places with good protein options are the the fish counter, where they sell steamed cocktail shrimp and the canned fish section, which is my go-to. They had more varieties of sardines than my Whole Foods at home and several new things, like baby clams, that I had never seen before.
This is a good place to put together a salad and find some protein to place on top. They also sell Jackson’s Honest chips, the only place on the island I found that did so.
Down To Earth
This is a vegetarian store, but I actually found it to have great local options and, if you hit up one of the other stores I mentioned or a local butcher or fishmonger for your protein, it’s probably one of the friendliest places on the island.
My favorites at this spot included all the coconut products, including a huge selection of Maui-made coconut kefir in several flavors, coconut water and frozen coconut meat. There was a wide selection of produce as well, though not as expansive as Whole Foods, and bulk nut options.
They also have gluten-free pizza pre-made, and their salad bar had good Paleo choices. If they’d just had some cold cuts…
So there you have it! My best tips. Let me know in the comments below if you travel to Hawaii (or anywhere!) and find these come in handy.