Maui’s Favorite Plate Lunches

A Local Tradition

When I’m on vacation, a big part of my budget (both money and time) is set aside for food. I research restaurants in the weeks before I leave, and sometimes I have my dinner reservations squared away before I even book a hotel. I’m almost as meticulous with my breakfast plans—seeking out the best French toast or eggs benedict wherever I am. Lunch, though, is usually an on-the-fly decision while I’m out exploring. You’ll probably find that the same holds true for you while you’re on Maui. And of course, you’ll find yourself among some of the best multi-cultural cuisine around—want Mexican? Chinese? Italian? Thai? Japanese? Maui’s got you covered. One more option, though, that I really hope you’ll try, is the wonderful world of “local” food. It’s a huge genre, and it brings together the very best from cuisines all over the planet, all with its own island flair. If you need some help navigating a menu, I’ll try and help you out a bit!

First of all, most local lunch offerings are in the form of a “plate lunch”: Protein, rice (one or two scoops of sticky white rice), and “mac salad,” the distinctly local variety of macaroni salad. I know what you’re thinking, and no, a plate lunch isn’t usually a healthy affair, and most people aren’t chowing down on these carb-and-fat extravaganzas every day. As a once-in-a-while indulgence, though, a hearty, filling plate lunch is the ultimate Maui comfort food. Additionally, most local eateries have started offering brown rice instead of white, and tossed salad instead of mac salad—so you can still sample our island flavors without going overboard!

Here are some of my favorite plate lunches that can be found almost anywhere in Hawaii:

Shoyu Chicken

If you see this on a menu, and are in the mood for a sweet, tangy, and umami-dense dish, order it! “Shoyu” is the Japanese word for soy sauce, and you’ll find that that’s how most locals refer to it. Shoyu chicken is slow-cooked in, you guessed it, soy sauce, along with brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Simplicity at its finest, this is a dish you’ll find not only in local diners, but also in local home kitchens—it’s a weekly menu item at my house, and it’s always a hit. Usually, it’s served as bone-in thighs, and the meat is delightfully fork-tender. Mix your rice with the sauce, and you have a taste sensation that’s out of this world.

Loco Moco

We’ve mentioned this one before, but I always think that it deserves a boost, since it’s one of my favorites. It starts with a bowl of hot white rice, which is then topped with a hamburger patty, an over-easy egg, and brown gravy. Sometimes some grilled or fried onions join the party as well, which just adds to the wonderful combination of flavors and textures. While it’s commonly served as a breakfast item, it’s also a favorite for lunch, and it’s one of the most ubiquitous dishes in Hawaii. Want to try a twist on this favorite? Get the Chili Moco at Zippy’s, where their famous chili replaces the gravy. Yum!

Mochiko Chicken

Mochiko chicken-- one of my favorite dishes-- is a local staple.

Mochiko chicken– one of my favorite dishes– is a local staple.

If this is on any menu, anywhere, I order it. No questions asked. The “mochiko” part comes from the rice flour that’s used in the dish. Mochiko is mixed with egg and seasonings (like garlic, ginger, shoyu, and sesame oil), and then used to batter tender chunks of chicken. Deep-fried, crunchy, and golden brown, this treat is simple and unique, and pairs well with both the traditional and healthier plate-lunch sides. You’ll see it at local eateries around Hawaii—give it a try!

Meat Jun

Many plate-lunch dishes find their roots in Asian cuisine, and meat jun is no exception. Based on Korean jeon, you’ll find this at both local-style and Korean restaurants in Hawaii. Flavorful, marinated beef is sliced super-thin, and fried in an egg batter. You can easily cut this tender beef with the plastic utensils that come with your plate lunch, and you’ll find that it goes great with the accompanying spicy gochu jang sauce. Many places will serve it as a combination with fish jun—tasty fish fried in the same batter. Try them both!

Kalua Pork

Yep, this traditional luau fare has made its way to plate lunches all over Hawaii. Salty, smoky, tender pulled pork is sometimes served with cabbage, and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Often, in addition to the standard “two scoops rice,” you’ll find this one served with poi (you gotta try it once!) and lomi salmon. Look for a “Hawaiian plate” and many places, and you may even find this served with laulau—another dish of tender pork, steamed in taro leaves. This hearty lunch is a great way to get a true “local” experience while fueling your Maui adventures for the day!

These are just some of the choices you’ll find at the many local Maui eateries—so find something new that you’ll love! One of the best things about plate lunches is that they’re inexpensive by nature, so you can try a few of them while you’re here without breaking the bank. If you run out of time, not to worry! Many local favorites can be made right at home—I’ve linked some of my favorite recipes below.

Shoyu Chicken

Meat Jun

Mochiko Chicken

Kalua Pork

Mac Salad

If you have some leftover rice after recreating your favorite plate lunches, it’s time to whip up a big batch of Hawaiian-style Spam Fried Rice!

Luxury Limo-Vans

Luxury Limo-Van Tours in MauiThere are quite a few things that set us apart from other tour companies: our State Certified Guides, our tasty Pacific Rim Cuisine picnic lunch, and our many one-of-a-kind tour offerings. Another aspect that we hear quite a few compliments on, though, is our Luxury Limo-Vans. We take pride in our fleet of customized, unique, comfortable touring vehicles, and once you step into one, you’ll certainly see why!

First of all, the windows in our vehicles are gigantic, so when you’re traversing the 617 turns on the Road to Hana, you won’t miss a thing. Because our Limo-Vans are painstakingly detailed before each tour, you’ll have a perfectly clean, crystal-clear view out each panoramic, polarized window. And while you’ll make plenty of stops on your Hana tour, don’t be afraid to snap some photos through the window as well—you won’t be disappointed!

Custom Tour Limo-Vans in Maui

Enjoy total comfort and luxury on one of our custom Limo-Vans!

Next, the space! You’ll really be able to relax and “stretch out” while on tour, with plenty of leg room. And when getting in and out of the Limo-Van, you’ll enjoy a spacious center aisle and a high ceiling. It’s roomy enough to ride comfortably, but still an intimate space to talk with family and friends about the sights and experiences along the way. Your Tour Guide will provide narration and answer all your questions through an around-sound PA system—so you won’t miss a word.

Finally, the captain’s chairs. We can’t say enough about these comfortable, plush, ergonomic seats. Covered in soft, imported leather, you’ll sink into one and wonder why you’d tour any other way. When you’re leaving your hotel at 3:00 AM to catch the Sunrise at Haleakala, you’ll appreciate relaxing in your personal captain’s chair and letting your Tour Guide do the driving. On the way back, sit back and enjoy an ice-cold tropical soft drink in a conveniently placed cup-holder. Seriously—it’s hard to sit in another vehicle again after spending a day in one of our Limo-Vans!

Of course, it’s more than just the vehicle that makes the tour, but we think our Luxury Limo-Vans are a huge part of what makes Temptation Tours so great! If you’re wondering what a luxury tour on Maui feels like, climb into one of our signature Limo-Vans and find out for yourself.

A Taste of Paradise with Ocean Vodka

a taste of paradise withHave you seen the intriguing round, blue bottles on shelves and displays at stores around Maui? If you haven’t, I’m sure you will while you’re here. Ocean Vodka is taking Maui by storm, and it’s not difficult to see why. If you pick up a bottle, or sample it in a cocktail at one of Maui’s many award-winning dining establishments, you’ll experience a fresh, smooth, sip that certainly enhances your vacation vibe. Distilled right here on Maui, and made from organic sugar cane and desalinated deep-ocean water, Ocean Vodka is quickly finding its place as a true local treasure. In fact, it’s been the exclusive vodka served on Hawaiian Airlines flights since 2007, and can be found nationwide. If you didn’t get a chance to try it while on Maui, you can find it on your flight home, or even once you get back to the mainland. If you want to go a step further, though, you might consider paying a visit to their farm to learn how it gets from sugar cane to spirit.

Ocean Vodka's eco-friendly facilities lie on 87 acres on the slopes of Haleakala.

Ocean Vodka’s eco-friendly facilities lie on 87 acres on the slopes of Haleakala.

Owned by the Smith family, Ocean Vodka’s Kula farm is a picturesque site, exactly where you’d imagine a Maui vodka to come from. With incredible ocean views, swaying cane fields, and sustainable operations, it’s got “Maui” written all over it. The facility spans eighty acres, and includes the distillery, organic sugar cane fields, and a “martini garden,” where you’ll find local ingredients (like citrus, strawberries, and—my personal favorite—lavender) to pair with the smooth, crisp flavor of Ocean Vodka.

Enjoy the Martini Garden for inspiration on what to pair with your top-shelf Ocean Vodka.

Enjoy the Martini Garden for inspiration on what to pair with your top-shelf Ocean Vodka.

If you visit, you’ll notice how many ways the production of their signature spirit is eco-friendly. Their bottling facility uses as much natural light as possible, all packaging is recycled, and their cane is grown and harvested in a sustainable manner that doesn’t necessitate burning—like most commercial sugar cane. In addition to their eco-friendly practices, sale of Ocean Vodka also supports clean-ocean initiatives and foundations. All in all, it makes for a tasty martini that you can definitely feel good about!

Want to try it out? Consider joining us for a Haleakala Sun-Trek! Our newest tour is one of the most unique adventures available on Maui. You’ll start with a pick-up at your hotel, and then enjoy a 30-minute “first-flight-of-the-day” helicopter tour over Haleakala. After you touch down, relax in a Luxury Limo-Van on your way to Paia, where you’ll then enjoy a hearty no-host breakfast at a trendy local café. We’ll make our way upcountry, and you’ll tour the charming Paniolo (cowboy) town of Makawao. Take time to browse, shop, and even have a chance to see glass-blowers in action at Hot Island Glass.

Enjoy unbelievable views of Haleakala Crater in full, stunning daylight.

Enjoy unbelievable views of Haleakala Crater in full, stunning daylight.

After that, you’ll head to Surfing Goat Dairy, where you’ll learn all about traditional goat-cheese production on a humane, eco-conscious farm. Book your tour in the spring for a good chance to meet unbearably cute baby goats! Sample cheeses, and, if you’d like, pick up your favorites at the shop afterwards. Finally, head to Ocean Vodka, where you’ll enjoy a Pacific Rim Cuisine picnic lunch on their grounds, and tour their state-of-the-art green facility. Afterward, enjoy the sights and relax as your Hawaii Certified Tour Guide returns you to your hotel—at a “Maui-style” pace, of course.

If you’d like to get a taste of agri-tourism, while still traveling in VIP luxury, the Haleakala Sun-Trek is the way to go. If you’re bringing home a ubiquitous blue bottle of Ocean Vodka, bring home some memories of a lifetime to go with it!

Haleakala Sunrise Tour – How to do it right!

SUNRISEIn addition to the Road to Hana, Sunrise at Haleakala is one of the “must-do” tours on Maui. You’ve heard about it, and you’re wondering if it’s worth it to get up that early in the morning. And what’s this about it being cold? Despite all that, thousands (yes, thousands) of visitors make the journey each morning to witness this incredible event. Is it really that big of a deal?

Yes. Yes it is. You’ve never seen a sunrise until you’ve seen every cloud illuminate with a different color, standing 10,000 feet above sea level. You’ll see incredible constellations fade away only to be replaced by the incredible pastels of dawn. You might even be standing above a sea of clouds, experiencing first light from what feels like the top of the world. It’s no wonder Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian—you truly feel like you’re among the stars.

Temptation Tours_Limo-Van Interior_Haleakala

Getting to Haleakala Crater has never been so comfortable.

That being said, it is still a bit of a challenge to get there. That’s where we’re happy to step in! All you need to do is wake up and bundle up. We’ll take care of the rest. Your Tour Guide will meet you at your hotel in the wee hours—usually between 2:00 and 3:00 AM, depending on where you’re staying and what time of year it is. Hop into the luxury Limo-Van and relax as your Tour Guide takes you up the slopes of Haleakala. Once you’re there, enjoy some coffee, tea, or cocoa and some tasty breakfast pastries while you get a great spot (ahead of most everyone else) and watch the heavens for first light.

When the sun rises, you’ll be speechless as you watch the natural gradient from gold, coral, lavender, and blue. Clouds will light up in contrast with the dark sky, and sunlight will begin to illuminate the moon-like, desert surface of Haleakala Crater. Being up so early and layering on your winter clothing was worth it. It’s hard to describe the sheer beauty of this “everyday miracle,” and even pictures don’t always do it justice. You just have to see it for yourself. In the meantime, though:

After all that, you’ll have some time to explore Haleakala a bit in the daylight, and then it’s off to a hot breakfast at Kula Lodge. Whether you’re ready for pancakes, eggs and bacon, granola with local fruit, you’ll find a delicious meal and a warm fireplace (you’ll appreciate it—trust us!) at Kula Lodge. It’s included in the price of your tour, so sit back and enjoy a filling breakfast and compare photos with your tour companions. Then, make your way back to your hotel, either for a nap, a dip in the pool, or to start another Maui adventure.

Whether it’s your first time making the journey, or a yearly Maui tradition, let Temptation Tours escort you to an unforgettable Sunrise—and experience this “rite of passage” in more comfort, style, and luxury than you could have ever imagined!