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:
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.
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 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.
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!
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.