Aloha from Maui Wowie
between Lahaina and Kapalua
Lessons Learned: If you want food for your hotel room or rental condo on Maui, go to the regular grocery store and buy only quantities you think you can use. The regular grocery prices are similar to the mainland. Buying at Costco volumes were too much for the 12 of us, we wasted a lot of food, and it was no cheaper per oz or lb than at the regular Maui grocery. So, we wasted money and volume of food by going to the Costco.
Since there were 12 of us, we got 2 condos with full functioning kitchens and lovely gas grills. That meant we could make a lot of our food at "home". We unfortunately followed the myth that groceries are more expensive in Maui than the mainland, and I got a lot of food at Costco. It is possible that groceries were more expensive on Maui at one time, but it is no longer. We think the reason why groceries are no more expensive than the mainland is because food has become so global now, and everything is shipped everywhere, so everyone everywhere is paying for the same shipping. There are a lot of fruits, vegetables and fish grown in Asia which are cheaper to ship to Hawaii than it is to TN, so some of the fresh foods on Maui are cheaper than TN. I found that most prices per unit or lb at the Costco was no different than the regular grocery store. Also, the unfortunate part of Costco is that it is so generic, and you cannot tell the difference between Costco Maui, from Costco Franklin, TN, or Costco, anywhere USA. There were no special Hawaii foods at the Costco. That would have been disappointing to not have any Hawaii special foods, had we only gone to the Costco.
Before getting to Maui, we agreed I would go to the Costco and pick up a few things thinking that Costco would be cheaper. So, I got giant boxes and bags of coffee, snacks, bread, organic eggs, and other stuff. I read a visitors guide that suggested the same thing, go to Costco and buy food if staying in a condo for the week and save money on food. Well, the shame is, even with 12 of us, the breakfast foods and snacks I bought were partially consumed, but we had so much extra food left. It was so wasteful to buy in Costco quantities. When we went to the regular locally owned grocery store across the street, with normal sized portioned foods, we all noticed that the prices were the same as at home, and the same or cheaper than the Maui Costco. We got organic butter, milk, and local organic fruit at the regular grocery store, and it was the same as paying for organic foods in Nashville, and we did not have the volume waste you get from Costco. We bought some steaks and fish to grill up from the regular grocery store, and it is true that the meat was a $1-2 more per lb than the mainland, but we only bought a quantity that we would eat, rather than a huge quantity from Costco (not really cheaper than the regular grocery store), that we would waste and throw away because it is too much.
The other best thing about going to the local grocery store is finding prepared foods made from local recipes. Had I gotten everything from Costco, we would have missed Spam sushi, and various poke. I don't normally like Spam because it is too salty and greasy. But, when a thin slice of pan fried Spam is combined with a nice pile of sushi rice, the saltiness and Spamminess is cut and it is an enjoyable dish. I got Spam sushi on two different days as a snack. The prepared food hot bar at the local grocery store had more of a local flare, including a lot of rice, pulled pork, and stir fried foods. I believe the rice is from the Asian immigration influence. I believe at one time, Asian immigrants built rice water terraces on the island and grew rice. Those terraces still exist but grow taro now. I believe rice is no longer grown on Maui, and all the rice used on the island is now imported from the mainland and Asia.
Had we only gone to the generic Costco, we would have missed various Poke. Poke are fish recipes from Hawaii. Poke is salted fish which could also be made with chili peppers. Poke is different from ceviche and sashimi, and it is its own thing. I believe the origin is a combination of local Hawaiian and East Asian influence. The prepared Poke I tried from the local grocery store was spicy mussels and spicy tako octopus. The spicy fish reminds me a lot of the South Korean spicy seafood banchan. The spicy banchan had seaweed, chilis and salt, and the Hawaiian poke had the same. I had the mussels and tako for snacks and some for breakfast. I love the poke.
My words of advice recap:
1. Don't waste your time at the Costco, go directly to your destination and start your vacation, and find the local grocery store if you want food and drink for your room or condo in quantities you think you will consume while on vacation.
2. Many fresh foods you are not allowed to take in or out of the state. On the way out you will be scanned 3 times by Hawaii Agriculture and TSA at the airport and they will confiscate certain foods, so don't buy more than you need during your vacation. Definitely DO NOT try to smuggle fresh foods into or out of Hawaii. DO NOT DO IT, DO NOT smuggle fresh food, it is illegal, and it can be terrible for both Hawaii and mainland agricultural and eco systems. If you want to bring back Maui Gold Pineapple, call Maui Gold Pineapple Company and order your pineapple. Maui Gold will deliver your Hawaii Agriculture inspected box with a handle to the airport on your day of departure.
3. If you stay in Lahaina, the Safeway grocery store in Lahaina has a really nice house made poke made with fresh catch of the day. The fish monger will tell you which fish is fresh, and which fish was frozen and shipped in (still good, but fresh catch is so much better!).
4. Try the Spam sushi from the grocery hot bar because it is worth saying you tried it once.
5. On Maui, the grocery stores sell beer, wine and alcohol. Bulk wine like Yellowtail is the same price as the mainland. There was Fox brand wine for only $2.99 which was as good as 2 buck chuck. The canned soda 12 packs seemingly were more expensive than home, but there is a $0.10 deposit on every can. Save them up and get your money back.
6. Maui is really great about recycling, and there a plenty of recycle bin centers along Rt 30 in West Maui. Do your part, recycle newspapers, glass bottles and #1 and 2 plastics. Drink cans are returnable for $0.10 each. Help keep paradise a paradise by reducing, reusing and recycling, and get your money back from can returns.
7. Not related to food, but the Maui sun is really really really strong. Get SPF 30+ sunscreen and use it right away, or you will burn quickly after only a few minutes of sun. If you burn bad on the 1st day, you are going to have a bad time. Some in my group did not use sunscreen right away, and got a terrible sunburn and sun poisoning on the 1st day, and they were having a bad time. I had a great tan base after running outside in TN sun for 6 mo. straight (for hours at at time), I have dark skin to begin with, and I even got too much sun after 20 min without sunscreen. I caught it soon enough and used sunscreen, and I was able to have a good time. Just use the SPF30+ sunscreen right away and have a great time!