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Hawaii palm tree

Your Hawaii check-list

For those of you following myself and Sophie (@coconutandbliss) on Instagram and snapchat, we hope you enjoyed our many, many snaps as we travelled across beautiful Hawaii. We searched high and low for the best acai bowls in town, authentic healthy cafes and the most majestic sights across Maui, Kauai and Oahu.

We found some serious winners (including one cafe that served what Sophie and I deemed to be ‘the best acai bowl we’ve ever eaten’) and others that we found to be a bit of a let down or that didn’t quite live up to the hype. Here are our recommendations for cafes and restaurants we love, must-see sights and our favourite beaches. Your Hawaii check list sorted!

Coconut glens vegan ice cream

Maui

Cafes and restaurants

Coconut Glen's

Coconut Glen’s is a little vegan ice-cream shack off the Hana highway. Something I really love about Hawaii is the abundance of food trucks/huts that use fresh, local produce. We tried the plain coconut ice-cream (my personal favourite) and the choc-chilli for something a bit different. All flavours are made using coconut milk and on special request, it can be served in coconut bowls (see below picture). Coconut Glen’s makes for the perfect pit stop on the long and windy road to Hana – which is definitely worth renting a car for.

Maka by Mana

Maka by Mana is a raw food restaurant in Paia town centre, located next door to Mana Foods health food store. It was a struggle to find raw food in Maui so were very excited to come across this one. We tried their classic acai bowl which had a delicious thick, ice-cream like consistency topped with local fruit, coconut kefir yoghurt, bee pollen and house-made vanilla bean granola. The servings were very generous so kept us going all day which is great for when you’re out and about but if you’re after something a little lighter I would recommend sharing. Maka by Mana is also open for lunch and dinner with an extensive raw, vegan menu but we unfortunately didn’t get the chance to try. It is high on our list for next time!

Merriman's

Another fantastic find that ticks all our boxes – delicious food, great ambiance (live music) and friendly staff. Perfect for an early dinner, watching the sunset over beautiful Kapalua beach. We ordered the ‘poke’ not knowing what it was, soon to realise it was on just about every menu in Hawaii. Poke is a traditional Hawaiian salad of raw Ahi tuna, usually served as an appetiser. This is my favourite way to eat fish and you can tell that the Merriman’s produce is premium quality – so much so that we had to order another. The quality is particularly important when consuming raw meat so be careful about where you try it.

Monkey pod Maui

Monkey pod

This one is an absolute must. Everything was so good we ended up ordering far too much including the ‘Poke’ Tacos with avocado in a crisp wonton shell (probably my favourite dish), wild mushroom and truffle oil pizza, pumpkin patch ravioli with goats cheese and pesto and oven charred brussels sprouts. They also have amazing cocktails made with coconut water and/or freshly squeezed juice. The cocktails were not too sweet and could be made without sugar on request which was a refreshing change to what we had experienced in other bars/restaurants in Hawaii. I would recommend making a reservation to avoid having to queue.

Wow Wow Lemonade

After a few sickly sweet acai bowls, we learnt that just because acai is a commonly listed menu item in Hawaii, it doesn’t mean they are all good. We learnt to ask whether they use sweetened or unsweetened acai. If in doubt, we found that cafes using the brand ‘Tambor’ – an acai puree made from premium, wild harvested, organic ingredients were the best and the healthiest. The acai bowl we had at WOW WOW lemonade was easily the best and most authentic we had in Maui (don’t be scared off by the name – we may never have tried it ourselves if it wasn’t for a personal recommendation). Sadly, we didn’t discover this place until our last day so were only able to try one. We both had the original which was topped with fresh fruit and granola (and almond butter for an additional $1). There are a few different locations for WOW WOW lemonade across Hawaii (including Oahu) so make sure to find your local.

Wow wow lemonade maui

Where to visit

Black Sand beach

Black Sand Beach is on the road to Hana and I can safely say it is unlike any beach I’ve seen before. The water is beautiful – definitely worth stopping by for a quick swim.

Black sand beach maui

Kapalua Beach

This was my favourite beach we visited in Maui. It is a great place to go snorkelling with a captivating array of coral and tropical fish. One of my most memorable days in Maui was spent here, followed by dinner at Merriman’s.

Paia town centre

This cute strip of shops and cafes is a must-see in Maui. There are a number of great clothing shops (particularly swimwear), as well as an abundance of cafes and restaurants. One in particular that was recommended to us but we didn’t get the chance to try was called Flatbread. We drove by and it had a great vibe and was packed so it is likely very good.

Kalalea juice hale best acai in kauai

Kauai

Cafes/restaurants

Kalalea Juice Hale

If you could only try one of our cafe recommendations, it should be this one. This is the one Sophie and I voted the best acai we’ve ever tasted. And that’s a big call. We had the ‘King Kong’ acai three days in a row because it was just too hard to go past. The King Kong is thick, creamy *unsweetened acai blended with banana, cacao and almond milk, topped with house made granola, macadamias, cacao nibs, goji berries, peanut butter (which also happens to be the best peanut butter we’ve ever tasted), cacao syrup and your choice of fresh fruit. The smoothies also look and sound to die-for. This is another one that you have to seek out as it is just a small hut off the Kuhio Highway so you’re unlikely to stumble upon it. The staff members are also so lovely and so passionate about what they do which makes all the difference.*If you also prefer unsweetened acai, make sure you specifically request  it as they may default to the sweetened variety.

Hippie cafe

Hippie cafe also have a delicious acai bowl with your choice of three toppings… (You’ve probably guessed by now we are serious acai addicts). I would definitely suggest adding peanut butter (this is a very popular addition in Hawaii and for good reason!) We found this cafe by luck as our favourite Kalalea Juice Hale is closed on Mondays and despite our high expectations, this place did not disappoint. We called it a very close second for the best acai we’ve ever had (it even managed to maintain its high ranking by the end of our trip). We did however go back for dinner one night and were a little underwhelmed but perhaps it was just a case of bad ordering. If you’re vegan and struggling with options, they do have an extensive vegan menu so it may be worth a visit. It is the same location but the dinner cafe is called ‘Caffe Coco’.

Hippie cafe Kauai

Restaurant Bar Acuda

This is a great restaurant for dinner, located in the heart of Hanalei. We sat outside overlooking the bustling town that we fell in love with over a very short space of time. It is definitely where I would choose to stay if/when I go back. It is a tapas style restaurant so the menu is designed to share – great for indecisive people like us! To start, they serve delicious, warm bread with olive oil from the Hanalei Bread Co. Their emphasis is on locally sourced produce and you can taste that all the food is fresh and healthy. Their cocktails also sound delicious.

Where to visit

Lumaha’i Beach

We stumbled across this beach accidentally when we saw a few cars parked on the side of the street. Naturally, we had to stop and investigate. We asked a few locals where everyone was headed and they pointed us in the direction of a short (probably 2-3 minute) hike down a muddy slope which led to a hidden, idyllic beach.

Tunnels Beach

This is just a little further along from Lumaha’i Beach so great if you feel like beach hopping. We spent a day driving from beach to beach and these two were our picks of the day.

Poipu Beach

Poipu is quite a busy, touristy destination but it is still very charming. On the beach, there was a small area enclosed for wild turtles and a seal so it is a great spot if you’re hoping to spot some sea animals. It is also near the Poipu shopping village where there are lots of great shops and restaurants. There is a health food shop/cafe there called Living Foods Market.

Kapalua Trail

A spectacular 4-mile hike (or further if you go all the way to the waterfalls). It starts at Ke’e beach and runs along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. Make sure you wear shoes with good grip as it does it is a very rocky and slippery trail, especially if it has been raining.

Kapalua trail

Ke’e Beach

Another highlight beach for us, partially because of its crystal clear water and partially because it is located at the end of the Kalalau Trail. It was the perfect way to refresh after the hike.

Hanalei Town Centre

This was my absolute favourite town we visited in Hawaii. There were  lots of great shops, cafes/restaurants and food trucks. We loved the local health food store, Harvest Market Hanalei which sells the best raw chocolates (Lulu’s) and ‘Aloha Fresh Macadamias’ which were insanely delicious. Our favourite flavour was the ‘Maple Coconut’ macadamias. Harvest Market also sell fresh, cold coconuts which became part of our morning Hawaiian ritual.

Elephant thai shack oahu

Oahu

Cafes/restaurants

Elephant Thai Truck

This is hands down the best thai food I have ever eaten, although in fairness I have never actually been to Thailand. I was so impressed by the way they were able to whip up such delicious, healthy and authentic Thai dishes out the back of a truck! We went for an early dinner and both had the vegan pad thai. They are served in very large boxes so it’s great for when you’re really hungry (or I guess you could always share).

The Beet Box cafe

Another great place for acai. We tried the ‘Mayan Bowl’ which is made with unsweetened acai, banana, mesquite, almond butter, fresh mint and almond milk (we also asked for almond butter on top which was a great addition). It is located very close to Heleiwa bowls and for me there was no comparison between the two. Beet box cafe is right next door to a local health food store if you need to replenish your travel snacks (as we did most days).

Banan oahu nice cream

Banán

This was really something special. Their banana ‘soft serves’ taste way too good to be true. They are dairy free and refined sugar free (the only thing stopping them from being vegan is that they are often topped with honey however this can easily be omitted). We tried the ‘chocolate mac’ (as well as sampling the acai and plain banana). Every flavour we tried was delicious. We would recommend getting the bowl rather than the small cup as you get double the amount of toppings which takes it to a whole new level.  We ate breakfast at Banan two days in a row and couldn’t imagine ever getting sick of it! We did learn however that it does not travel so well… So our idea of buying it a day ahead didn’t exactly go to plan.

Tommy Bahamas

This roof top bar/restaurant is worth treating yourself too. We went on one of our final nights and absolutely loved it. The staff were very friendly, the food was delicious and they had great cocktails. Again, we had the Ahi poke which was one of the best we had the entire trip. We really struggled with the menu because everything sounded amazing and all the food that came out looked delicious.

Nobu

Another one that is a big treat, but if you love Japanese – you must try it. It is world class and I can honestly say that no other Japanese restaurant comes close to its standard. I would highly recommend trying the new style salmon sashimi and tuna tataki salad. If you’re in the mood for some dessert, their chocolate fondant with green tea ice-cream is insanely good.

Waimea bay

To visit

Waimea Bay

This beach was also quite touristy but we found it far more beautiful and the water was clean and crystal clear. Jump rock is also on Waimea Bay which contributes to its popularity. This is definitely something worth doing if you’re up for a bit of an adrenaline rush.

Sharks cove

Sharks Cove

Sharks Cove is near Waimea Bay (and right by Elephant Thai Truck). We didn’t actually swim here as we arrived quite late in the day but it was beautiful to see at dusk.

Lulumahu Falls

This was definitely our most adventurous (albeit slightly dangerous) hike but very rewarding as we approached the 50 ft waterfall. After taking two wrong turns, we finally found the right track towards Lullmahu falls, gripping onto trees, balancing on stepping stones and walking through water streams to find it. Sadly it was the end of our nikes so here’s a tip – wear shoes you don’t like or plastic grip shoes that can be washed!

Lulumahu falls
Lanakai beach

Lanakai beach

This was my favourite beach we went to in Oahu, and is up there for my favourite beach in Hawaii. The water is so clear and the colour is stunning. It’s about an hour from Waikiki but definitely worth the drive. There is also a popular walk nearby (Lanakai Pillboxes Trail).

I hope you all enjoy these suggestions. If anyone has any more recommendations they would like to add I would love for you to leave a comment.

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