Gluten Free (and Paleo) On Maui: Part 1

I needed a break, man.

So I picked up my stuff and just went. Alone, unencumbered, beholden to no one. Livin’.

I hiked, I swam, I body boarded, I slept a lot. I did not argue with anyone about restaurants. It was probably the best trip I’ve ever taken.

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Here’s the thing. I love to freakin’ eat. I’ve heard Michelle Tam call this “gastrotourism.” But when you’re coming off and autoimmune protocol, it can be a daunting task. That’s why I cooked most of my meals in my rental kitchen, and tried to eat out when I knew it would be really special.

I follow a Paleo diet, but I believe that when you go on vacation, it’s important to establish your no-go zones as well as the things you’ll bend for. Paleo perfectionism doesn’t help anyone. I won’t touch gluten or dairy because I know they’ll give me uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms that will ruin the rest of my day. Gross. I also try to avoid soy, because it makes me bloat (gross), and peppers, because I’m coming off AIP and they showed up on my food sensitivity panel.

Finally, I always try to minimize sugar, with varying success. I was really pleased on this trip by how much my gut healing showed through. Probiotics, yo!

Without further adieu, here are some of the foods and spots where I ate them on Maui

Mama’s Fish House

799 Poho Place, Paia, HI 96779

I saved my meal here for last. It was absolutely amazing!

I ate at the bar and told the bartender right away that I was gluten-free, and she helped me make my selections.

They usually serve bread and soup as an appetizer with every meal, but instead my server had fresh coconut and pineapple brought out. It was squishy! I dig it!

I also ordered a cocktail off their “lighter” menu, because this is my party. The coconut mint refresher had gin, coconut water, and apple mint, and while I didn’t expect it to be this fruity, it was really good and not too sweet.

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I had the I’a Maka Niu, Ono (fish) marinated in coconut milk and lime and served in a delicious young coconut. This was totally paleo and a great protein option. I also ordered a side of kalua wild boar, which is just perfectly marinated pork but from a delicious and totally free range animal. Finally, I ordered the poi—it’s a traditional taro paste that’s just taro and water. And it’s complimentary!

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This meal was pricey, but the setting is right on the water and the fish is super fresh. I think this is an absolutely stellar option for a memorable meal in a place that will defitely remind you that you’re on vacation.

Haliimaile General Store

900 Haliimaile Rd. Makawao, HI 96768

This upcountry restaurant is a trip to find. Inside it feels like a big open country home, and they use really fresh ingredients cooked with a twist on the traditional Hawaiian.

In retrospect, I think many of the options at this restaurant had soy. But I did call ahead about gluten-free choices and found they had quite a few.

I had calimari without the breading as an appetizer and ordered crispy duck with roasted root veggies and a maple glaze and green beans for my meal. This was truly delicious, but I got a definite soy flavuh from the skin. I didn’t ask about this because I’d eaten half before I decided that.  If you’re cool with soy, this is an awesome meal.

This was my most expensive dinner on the island. For a meal, an appetizer and a glass of wine, I paid $100 with tip. But it was worth it, even with the soy. And of course I accidentally deleted my pictures.

Ulupalakua Ranch Store

14800 Piilani Highway, Kula, HI 96790

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If you have time, I recommend you take a day for a food tour of Maui’s upcountry. I did this loop and visited the island’s only winery, Surfing Goat Dairy, and a beautiful lavendar farm.

At the end of the road is this spot, which has amazing sandwiches made from wild game and an upscale “plate lunch” option. Plate lunches in Hawaii are usually served with macaroni salad and rice, but this place had much fresher sides like green salad and olive oil and parsley potatoes.

I was on second lunch (a real vacation thing) so I ordered a serving of delicious kalua pig without a bun. It was something like $2! I topped it with some Hawaiian black salt I bought at the store. Afterward I went back and ordered a whole pound to take home. This was great for meals all week.

Save room for lunch here if your journey takes you to Maui’s winery.

Paia Fish Market

100 Baldwin Ave, Paia, HI 96779


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This place in the town of Paia on the road to Hana is one of the better Paleo options on the island. Inside it’s low-key and everyone sits at picnic-like tables. I ate here all sandy and gross after a day at the beach and felt totally comfortable, and you know, that’s important.

My salad had charbroiled Ono, a couple of the biggest, freshest shrimp I’ve ever seen and lots of local greens.

This place works well for special diets because it has a lot of customizable options. You can choose your fish and get it as a meal with a side or on top of a salad.

Maui Brick Oven

1215 S. Kihei Road, Kihei, Hawaii 96753

Warning: NOT PALEO.

This is a dedicated gluten-free recipe that I found thanks to a post from Nom Nom Paleo. 

They are open for dinner and have items like pizza, fish and chips, sweet potato fries and, my favorite, the fried calimari. Yum! I got an order of these after a day at the beach. They were soft on the inside and really chunky, like really good calimari should be!

I say it’s not paleo because most of their recipes have soy or rice, but if you can tolerate a bit of that it’s a great vacation splurge. I hear the fish and chips are delicious and pizza might be great for primal folks. You can check a full list of allergens here. That’s an awesome resource!

Maka by Mana

115 Baldwin Ave. Paia, HI  96779

This is a raw food restaurant, and they have many gluten-free options. They also stock fresh organic juices and smoothies, and I had a really good blended macha latte with fresh Brazil nut milk. You can also sit at a bar and drink local kombucha, which they have on tap.

But my absolute favorite thing here was the raw coconut kefir ice cream. I. Died. They make it fresh with fruit, so I had a serving with pineapple and strawberry and a serving flavored with durian fruit. That last one was, as they say, funky. But I liked it! And I also liked the raw chocolate they poured on top. Yummm.

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Coconut Glen’s 

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Look. This is the best and probably most-Paleo ice cream you’ll find on this island. It is un. freaking. believable. Glen mixes coconut milk with fresh fruit and toppings like candied coconuts and chocolate. There’s a truck in Paia, right next to Maka, and a bigger stand on the outskirts of Hana, so I encourage you to try it TWICE if you’re taking the road to Hana. WORTH IT.

Maui Sugar Shop

878 Front St. Ste A10, Lahaina, HI 96761

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I saved the best for last.

This bake shop is dedicated gluten-free and they’ll talk you through which items have dairy, eggs, nuts or coconut if you’re avoiding those. They even have paleo options, and if you’re staying in Lahaina I would suggest calling ahead to see if they’ll make you a paleo treat or if they have any in their case.

They didn’t on the day I visited, so I went for a vegan strawberry chocolate whoopie pie and a chocolate-dipped macaroon. The whoopie pie was the best thing I’ve eaten in years and one of probably 3 baked treats I’ve had in my year of Paleo. I most enjoyed the frosting, and I’ve very thankful for vegans.

What’s the best gluten-free meal you’ve ever eaten while traveling? Let me know in the comments below if you’ve enjoyed a great gluten-free meal on Maui!

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