Nakalele Blowhole Hike, Cafe Mambo of Maui

I’m going to take us back a month… back to my vacation in Hawaii at the end of August, when we were in Maui. We were staying on the west side of the island, about 10 minutes north of the famous town of Lahaina. On one of the days, we decided to rive past Kapalua and around to Paia. This road at one point is very similar to the road to Hana in that it offers lots of narrow spots where it is 1 lane and lots of twists and turns on the curvy road but with also gorgeous views of cliff and oceans and the road is not as crowded as the Hana Highway. One of the major stops we made was at Nakalele Blowhole.

There is a marked stop to view this blowhole, but the water that shoots up from here varies tremendously with the tide- when we finished walking here, it was only a little gurgle, and probably could barely be seen from the official viewpoint. But we had stopped per the Maui Revealed guidebook about 1/2 mile from the 38 mile marker and hiked down. I’ve used these guidebooks from the library on previous visits to Hawaii, and they are amazing in giving information as you drive along a road and pointing out great hidden stops you wouldn’t know about otherwise unless you were a local.

This hike was another example of the value of this guidebook. Despite the disappointing lack of power/water to the blowhole, this hike which promised landscape that “looks like an alien war zone where combatants fought with acid” was still a surreal and unique experience. It’s not what you would expect in Hawaii, but yet it was a welcome break from the sand and sky and waves and greens. Here are some example photos. in order of what we saw as we descended down towards the lighthouse, past cliffs pockmarked with crags and caves, with pounding waves and yet quiet clear pools of water, and then past it to the sea spray ravaged rockscape and the blowhole on this couple mile hike roundtrip:

Beginning our walk towards Nakalele Blowhole Beginning our walk towards Nakalele Blowhole Nakalele Blowhole Hike Walking towards the lighthouse, we see clear tidepools Walking towards the lighthouse, we see clear tidepools  Walking towards the lighthouse, we see clear tidepools We come to an alien landscape, where it looks like a war zone fought with acid. Billions of tons of sea spray blown by wind has carved up the soft rock here. The land is literally being eaten before us On the way to Nakalele Blowhole, there is an alien landscape On the way to Nakalele Blowhole, there is an alien landscape On the way to Nakalele Blowhole, there is an alien landscape On the way to Nakalele Blowhole, there is an alien landscape On the way to Nakalele Blowhole

After the hike at the Nakalele Blow Hole, I continued driving around the island on that scenic curvy road west to east onward to Paia, enjoying the sites of this windswept part of Maui. Although the forests and foliage are not as lush as Hana on this Highway 30 since it’s not as wet here, we enjoyed the views of untamed shoreline and cliffs and bays, and the valley small town of Kahakuloa where we acquired the best banana bread on the planet from a bright green shack, Julia’s. If you go this way, stop here, you would not believe how melt in your mouth moist this banana bread is.

View as you enjoy smoothies before you enter Kahakuloa Village if driving west to east on Highway 30 The best banana bread on the planet at Julia's stand as you leave Kahakuloa Village

Before we walked around Paia to explore this little sweet plantation town, we refueled recommended by the folks of the amazing Pulehu Pizza food cart in Portland who used to live in Maui. Knowing their impeccable taste level, we went straight with no hesitation, to the restaurant Cafe Mambo. The atmosphere is eclectic and warm, with lots of local art on the walls.

The atmosphere of Cafe Mambo in Paia, Maui The atmosphere of Cafe Mambo in Paia, Maui

The menu offers something for every diet. For instance, there is a tofu burger, which unfortunately didn’t mention it used mayo which overwhelmed the subtle fresh flavor of the Sesame & Nori-crusted Tofu. I had the same tofu that went into the burger on the side, which was much more enjoyable.
Cafe Mambo in Paia, Sesame & Nori-crusted Tofu, Maui

Other vegetarian or vegan options include from their menu a 7 Vegetable Stew with Cous cous, or a Mediterranean Nut Falafel Sandwich. In fact, all the main proteins they carry- the organic tofu, the island fish of the day, crispy duck, grilled chicken, local steak or kahlua pork, can all be found in their sections for salads, sandwiches, burgers, or fajitas.

The highlight and specific recommendation I loved from a friend who used to live in Maui was for the crispy duck fajitas. Look at that crackling, crispy deliciousness of that duck! You have the choice of ordering for one or two persons, so I obviously ordered the Crispy Duck Fajitas for One. All Fajitas are served with Home-made Salsa, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Feta, Jalapenos, Black Beans, Salad and Flour Tortillas. It comes sizzling to your table, and does have lots of crispy caramelized bits as promised by the name, you will not be disappointed! Seriously a large portion, I don’t know how one person could eat this- I wonder how generous the one for two persons would be!

Crispy duck for my crispy duck fajitas at Cafe Mambo Crispy Duck Fajitas for One at Cafe Mambo, Paia in Maui. All Fajitas are served with Home-made Salsa, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Feta, Jalapenos, Black Beans, Salad and Flour Tortillas

Cafe Mambo has two locations- Maui and the Hamptons in New York! I’ve only visited the Paia location, and highly recommend it as your meal stop if you are visiting this town.



  1. Adventures in Dressmaking says:

    Your vacation sounds lovely!! That heart hole in the rock is amazing!!

    When we were in Hawaii I was raw vegan so I didn’t eat much local food except fruit. =( Now I would love to try some local pork!! I don’t eat soy so I don’t eat tofu, but the meat choices at that place sound delish!!

    • I would say I could definitely just eat that crispy duck by itself – in fact as I was getting fuller I didn’t want to bother with the tortilla anymore and that’s exactly what I did!
      I also love the heart rock- and even more that F was the one who saw it and pointed it out to me, how romantic for a wedding anniversary vacation! 🙂

  2. I agree – it sounds like a wonderful trip!! I’ve never been to Hawaii, but Mr. B tells me he will take me there someday. Hopefully sooner than later.

    I’m intrigued with the Mediterranean Nut Falafel Sandwich. Blossoming Lotus has a walnut falafel that I’ve tried to deconstruct and duplicate – still working on it though.

    • Mmm a walnut falafel sounds great- it would add good crunch! I haven’t been to Blossoming Lotus yet, it’s on our to do list and good to know that it’s on your approved list!

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