Strategy for buying the best groceries on Maui at the best price

Aloha! When I first walk into any Maui grocery store, I am in sticker shock over the price of a gallon of milk, butter, yoghurt and bread. However, a little experience goes a long way and I don’t think I spend much more on food on Maui than on the mainland because I employ the shopping techniques listed below. Also, since the weather is warm, I eat differently than back on the Mainland and don’t need so much of the high priced imports!

1. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Take a look around the condo before you make your list. You might find a few things in the kitchen that folks have left behind. Also, we generously stock the hall closet with paper products and have a drawer in the bathroom with various items. We do this so you don’t have to spend $6 for four rolls of T.P. at Foodland! We also prefer you use our supply of laundry detergent. It is the right kind for the washer.

2. Take a few minutes to comb the sale flyers on the Internet for Foodland, Safeway and the Times Market. Start your grocery list based on what’s on sale at a couple different stores. If you will be here for a week or more, you might consider a Costco run…especially if you want alcohol and/or fish. Local fish can be VERY expensive… $25 per pound when I last checked the local market called Eskimo Candy. It’s about half that at Costco and much of it is wild caught in Hawaiian waters.

3. Before heading out, grab the cooler, ice packs from the freezer and cloth bags from the hall closet. (Maui banned plastic bags in 2010.)

4. The nearest “farmer’s market”(which is really a family owned produce stand) by the Aloha Outdoor Market is just past Foodland on the Makai (water side) of the street. It’s open daily, but has different operators and therefore different produce on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Regardless of the day of week, this is by far, the cheapest and most local produce around. Go there first and put your produce in the cooler before you proceed to the grocery store. Then, go to your other two stores knowing in general, Safeway has the best sale prices. I find Safeway is large enough so that one brand of just about anything I need is on sale.

5. If you go to Foodland, take the door key with the Makai card attached in order to get the sale price. The Time Market does not require a card. Safeway does, but we don’t supply one. (I think they will give you one if you ask. Lots of people already have one.)

6. Avoid buying drinks in small containers. Maui has a five cent container deposit which is difficult to retrieve. On an early trip to Maui we bought a Costco 48 pack of small bottled waters. Ouch. (Also see next item.)

7. There is no need to buy bottled water (also imported from the Mainland). Maui gets its water from the local mountains and it tastes fine. There are four plastic water bottles in the cabinet opposite the freezer.

8. Check out the local products at Long Drugs. I had been in that store a dozen times before I realized it has organic grass fed Maui beef in the refrigerator in the back, local produce just across the aisle from the beef and Hawaiian ice-cream in the freezer case near Checkout Stand #2. Be daring and try the Melona bars (actually Korean). Much like a  healthy fruit popsicle with a dash of sweet cream. While you’re up front, check out the bread products by Checkout Stand #1. The sale price and quality is often hard to beat.

If you’re willing to do a little planning and be flexible, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on food to eat really well. Aloha!

Shop Like a Local: Buying Souvenirs on Maui

Many stores on Maui sell the exact same souvenirs, but at different prices. We’re talking about T-shirts, key chains, jewelry, and other nick-knacks.

If you want to buy souvenirs within walking distance of Maui Vista 2418, the cheapest place for mass produced items is at the ABC store just a couple blocks to the south on South Kihei Road.

If you want locally made items within walking distance, walk a few blocks north on South Kihei Road and check out the small open mall of vendors. Here you can find home-made soaps, necklaces, custom photos, and even a store of Maui-made food products. (There are actually two open malls with vendors. This picture is of the larger one, located a block north of the Kihei Caffe. If you like, check them both out.)

If you don’t mind driving a bit, consider Long Drugs which is about 1.5 miles north on South Kihei Road. You will find a few Maui made products and many of the same items that are sold in the ABC store, but for less money.

Closer to the airport, you can find the same products again at Walmart. It has a huge selection of souvenirs on the left-hand side of the store (just past the McDonald’s). The prices are very good but, like those in the ABC store and Longs Drugs, most of the products are not made on Maui.

If you’re going for mass quantities of macadamia nut products or aloha shirts, you might consider Costco which is also near the airport. Unfortunately, unlike some mainland Costco’s, this one doesn’t provide day passes – so you have to be a member to shop.

If you want to take pineapples home, we have one renter who told us she bought 100 pounds from Mr. Pineapple. She said they were fabulous and the on-line reviews say the same. Mr. Pineapple (located at 370 Dairy Road on your way to the airport) guarantees the airlines will allow you to check their products as luggage FOR FREE – although if you find one as large as the one in this photo you could have a problem. You might also find a 10% off coupon for Mr. Pineapple on line.

The bottom line: when it comes to buying souvenirs on Maui, it pays to shop around.

Mode of Transportation – PortaPotty Surfers

Maybe the nice man will give these ladies a ride

The wind was up, the paddle boarders down – stranded on Charley Young Beach a half mile from Maui Wave Riders where they’d rented their boards.

Gotta get back. What to do?

Hey, here’s a man with a truck. Maybe he can give the ladies a ride. (Hmm, why’s he wearing plastic gloves?)

Looks like he’s going their way! “Rainbow Rentals – Service is Our #1 Priority.” I wonder if that’s what the boss had in mind. Thank you Rainbow Rentals!

This is SO Maui (well, maybe not Wailea, Kaanapali or Kapalua – but definitely Kihei).

POST NOTE: Our neighbor reported she saw the truck going up the road and the ladies were waving to people as if they were on a beauty pagent float!

(Photos courtesy of Sandi Rethage. Thanks Sandi!)

Weatherwise Kihei No Ka ‘Oi

Whether you’re escaping the bitter cold of Canadian winters or the sometimes brutal heat of the American southwest, the climate of Hawaii is a welcome relief. But if you’re from the Pacific Northwest like we are, there is one meteorological phenomenon that you most want to avoid:  rain.

Every Hawaiian island has its microclimates and Maui is no exception. From the daily downpours in the West Maui Mountains (up to 400 inches per year!) and the lush jungles on the road to Hana to the parched cactus lands in the rain shadows of Mount Haleakala and the West Mauis, there is enormous variability. The dryest part of inhabited Maui is the southwest coast including Kihei, Wailea and Makena. The entire area is shielded from the rains that make Hana so green by the 10,000 foot Mount Haleakala.

In this dry corner of Maui, the dryest place is Kihei – which is why we say Kihei No Ka ‘Oi (Kihei is the best).

Everywhere on Maui the wettest months are December through March. The best months to avoid rain are May through September. But hey, this is Hawaii – even if it rains, as long as you’re not on the mountain top, the rain is warm.

A Walk on the Beach

If you’re on the west coast of the U.S. or Canada and look at the web cam of Charley Young Beach a few hours after sunrise, it will be early morning on Maui. (Click on “View the Live Cam” on the left-hand side of this page to see the beach.) All is calm and the long shadows of the palm trees stretch across the beach out to the blue waters of the Pacific. Early morning strollers traverse the field of view. Couples hold hands. Dogs bounce happily along with their owners or walk sedately by their side. Joggers lope by at their chosen pace. The first swimmers take to the water. The day has begun on Charley Young Beach.

As the sun climbs higher over the rim of Mount Haleakala the shadows shorten and more walkers, joggers, and beach lovers of every kind begin to arrive. When we’re on Maui, that’s when we first go to the beach.

Our ritual is simple. We wake to the dawn chorus of the many birds who make the trees of Maui Vista their home. We wait awhile or sleep some more, then get up, make coffee and sit on the lanai where we read an on-line newspaper while we have a light breakfast. Next destination: the beach. We kick off our sandals and stroll from one end to the other – a round trip of about 3/4 mile on the sand – our bare feet washed by the lapping surf. Not a bad way to start the day.

Dale Zarrella and Helper Carve a Vision in Sand

Dale Zarrella and Helper

Sometimes artists play at their work. From our other posts (and maybe other sources) you know that Dale Zarrella is an accomplished sculptor on Maui. (See Maui Artist Dale Zarrella at Work and Frank Lloyd Wright and the King Kamehameha Golf Club.) We can’t call it a timeless work of art, but in this photo Zarrella and his granddaughter have created something wonderful out of the shifting sands of Charley Young Beach.

This female turtle has laid a clutch of eggs. Like her more sentient sisters she will soon disappear beneath the waves – never to know her young.

You can never tell what you’ll find when you cross the road from Maui Vista and explore Charley Young Beach. We do it every day we’re here.

A Breakfast Favorite – the Kihei Caffe

Kihei Caffe from the south

The Kihei Caffe, located across the street from Kalama Park on South Kihei Road, is a ten minute walk from Maui Vista. We rarely go out for breakfast. We usually sip our coffee and have a light meal on the lanai while listening to the birds and gazing at the ocean through the canopy of monkey pod trees. (See why we stay at home?) However, if we do go out, the Kihei Caffe is our destination of choice. In fact, every time we fly to Maui we ALWAYS go to the Kihei Caffe the first morning. We usually haven’t been to the grocery store (Emergency! No coffee!) and we’re still on west coast time so we’re up early.

Getting up early for breakfast at the Kihei Caffe is important. They are EXTREMELY popular in the morning. They open at 5 AM and are generally crowded not long after 7:00. If you want to avoid a long line, get there early or plan to eat late.

To be generous, from the outside the Kihei Caffe does not look upscale. (Ok – it looks like a hole in the wall.) If you want white table cloths in a romantic hand-holding setting, go to Wailea. You can still hold hands at the Kihei Caffe, but you’ll have to bring your own romance.

All seating is outdoors at the Kihei Caffe

You order inside where the line often snakes through a (short) stanchioned pathway like a ride at Disneyland. There is no inside seating. You order and pay then find a table outdoors. We suggest you buy pastries and/or coffee you can take to your table for something to munch/drink while you wait for the rest of your order to arrive. When it’s ready, one of the waitstaff will shout out your name as they carry your breakfast from the kitchen. The portions are large and the food is excellent. We usually split an order (ask for an extra plate) and have a big macademia nut cinnamon roll while we sip our coffee and wait for the main course. Enjoy!

NOTE: Cash only…as in NO credit cards or checks. They do provide an ATM machine, but we assume that carries a fee.