Hawaii: Favorites on the Big Island and Maui

Hawaii: Favorites on the Big Island and Maui | Cooked & Devoured

We just got back from our two week honeymoon in Hawaii and I’m slowly catching up on everything I neglected during that period. With massive flight delays that caused us to be a day late to Kona, we spent about six days total on the Big Island, and the rest of our time was spent on Maui. Despite the flight issues and a sinus infection, the trip was fantastic overall. There was a lot of hiking, relaxing, photography, and obviously eating.

I thought I’d put together some thoughts on some of our favorite places for anyone looking for recommendations for an upcoming trip. This is definitely not a list of everything we did, but it is a selection of places we would recommend to our friends if they were visiting, or places we would return to in a heartbeat if we had the chance.

Big Island

Shopping/Attractions

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: A must-do. We hiked the Kilauaea Iki trail and it was majestic.

Akaka Falls: Lush tropical falls that will make you feel like you’re in Jurassic Park.

Rainbow Falls: A beautiful smaller waterfall with stunning trails through a huge Banyan tree forest.

Snorkeling at the Fairmont Orchid: They have a lagoon on the ocean shore for swimming and snorkeling. The snorkeling there was amazing. Not very far out from shore we saw lots of coral, schools of fish and sea turtles!

Gallery of Great Things: A wide range of locally made souvenirs and antiques, a little more classy and unique than your average tourist shop.

Dining

Browns beach house: We went here our first night on the island, and it may have been the best meal we had that week.

Kilauea lodge: We went here on a whim for breakfast the day we went to the Volcano park and it was fantastic. We wished we had time to go back while we were there.

Hilo burger joint: Ok, I might take back what I said about Brown’s. This was probably the best meal we had that week. I’ll admit this place doesn’t look like much. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, a quick glance inside might make you reconsider your choice to go there. But trust me, it’s worth it.

Hayashi’s You Make the Roll: The cheapest sushi you’ll ever have that tastes like the most expensive sushi you’ll ever have.

Poke Shack: If you like sushi and you’ve never had Poke before, you must try it while you’re in Hawaii. The fish here was incredibly fresh and the sides were great also.

Tropical Dreams Ice Cream: You can get Tropical Dreams all over the island: in grocery stores, at their retail locations, and a lot of restaurants serve it as well. I live near Wisconsin, and I can easily say this was probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Maui

Shopping/Attractions

Iao Valley State Monument: A beautiful valley full of lush greenery and some history.

Paia, HI: A cute and tiny surfer town home to many galleries and shops, as well as Mana Foods: a grocery store I wish we had the likes of in the Midwest.

The Whalers Village Museum: This was the most surprising museum. It was incredibly well curated and had loads of fascinating information. We stayed here twice as long as we expected to and ate everything up.

The Andaz Resort: If you don’t go to the Andaz for one of their amazing restaurants, you should go there just to hang out. Seriously, just go there to walk around. It’s stunning, and it will make you feel like you’re in a James Bond movie.

The Kahekili Highway: A narrow winding road through the mountains with no shoulder, and in many spots one lane for both directions of traffic – not for the faint of heart, but the views are stunning. There are a few attractions on the highway and many places to pull off for a nice scenic shot. Julia’s Best Banana Bread is at the end of the road (or the beginning, depending on which direction you’re coming from). We came from the long direction. It was a harrowing trip, but she made it worth it in the end.

Dining

Ka’ana Kitchen: But if you happen to find yourself hungry while walking around the Andaz, this is where you should go. It’s a little pricey, but it was one of the best meals we’ve had anywhere, not just in Hawaii.

Cuatro: Great food, pretty reasonable. They did only have one dessert option, but if it isn’t what you want it just gives you an excuse to have Tropical Dreams again.

Mama’s Fish House: This place was unbelievable. The decor and atmosphere alone makes this a very special place to visit, but the food is outstanding. If you can pick only one nice place to go to dinner while on Maui, pick this place.

Star Noodle: We shared the Hapa Ramen and the Steamed Pork Buns – ridiculous!

Julia’s Best Banana Bread: We made it! And Julia was there! I made the recipe for this bread before we left, but we obviously had to attempt to get it from the source, and boy was it an adventure (see above).

 




Julia’s Best Banana Bread

Julia's Best Banana Bread | Cooked and Devoured

I mentioned last time that we were going on a trip soon — we leave for Hawaii this coming Monday and I don’t think words can really express how excited I am. I’ve wanted to visit Hawaii for as long as I can remember and for a little while was saving up money in an attempt to go on my own in my early twenties. That never really panned out, so I’m grateful and happy that we’re going now, for two whole weeks! We never really took an official honeymoon when we got married at the end of 2012, so we’re counting this as our honeymoon. That’s allowed, right? I say yes.

Julia's Best Banana Bread | Cooked and Devoured

We decided we were going to do this trip sometime during the planning of our wedding, so we’ve been talking about it for a few years at this point. We’ve been doing lots of reading about the islands, as well as talking to people we know who have been there about where we might want to go, things we’d like to do while we’re there, and obviously, where to eat. During this process we learned that the road to Hana is essentially paved in banana bread.

Julia's Best Banana Bread | Cooked and Devoured

Banana bread is a thing in Hawaii. Lots of bananas are grown there, and when you have lots of bananas, making banana bread is one very easy way to get rid of them deliciously. It is apparently hotly debated which banana bread stand has the best loaf, but Julia’s Best Banana Bread came up quite a few times while I was reading about this, and when I saw that Bon Appétit had posted their recipe, I was curious to try it. I realize that it seems a bit odd to make an online recipe for something that you may have the opportunity to experience for real in a few weeks, but truthfully this was more about some deeply freckled bananas that would need to be used up before we left anyway.

To be honest, I was mostly curious because it seemed like the most boring banana bread recipe ever. No spices? No vanilla? There isn’t even butter. Or nuts. No rum? Of course these things are not required, but I’ve had basic banana bread before and it never really excited me. The ratios in this recipe also seemed crazy. It has about twice the amount of sugar and baking soda that I expected. It wasn’t so much unlikely to me that it could be good, but that it could be special.

Julia's Best Banana Bread | Cooked and Devoured

I was definitely wrong. While it doesn’t have any extra showstopper ingredients to make it stand out on paper, it is undeniably special. The sugar browns to a deep caramelization and extra-ripe bananas give lots of lovely black flecks inside a slice. I made two changes to the recipe that were completely inspired by the fact that they were what I had at home and I didn’t want to run out to buy anything. I subbed coconut oil for the vegetable oil (which seems appropriate anyway in this context) and white whole wheat flour for all purpose flour. If I had APF on hand I would have probably used it, but I really like using white whole wheat flour in baked goods anyway because it makes them extra dense and chewy. If you do this instead of using all purpose, make sure you don’t over-measure the wheat flour, and maybe even err on under-measuring it, because it tends to absorb liquid into a black hole and the bread can come out dry. Then again, this bread is impossibly moist and I doubt you’ll have much of a problem.

 

Julia’s Best Banana Bread

Barely Adapted from Bon Appétit from Julia’s Best Banana Bread in Kahakuloa, Maui

Non-stick cooking spray
1 and 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
3 large eggs
1.5 cups cane sugar
3/4 cup of coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a 9 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt with a wisk. In another large bowl, place the ripened bananas and then mash. Add the eggs and sugar and wisk everything together until mostly well combined.

Melt the coconut oil in a small bowl in the microwave, then pour into the banana mixture slowly while wisking the entire time (so that your eggs don’t scramble) until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. The bread will get quite brown on top, almost to the point that it may seem like its burning. Brown is what you want, black not so much.