Hawaii – Day 14 of 15, Iao Valley and Mama’s Fish House

This tropical flower was a fragrant as it is beautiful and found in the rain forest of the Iao Valley.

Today we visited the Iao (ee-ow) Valley.  This is a cleavage between two mountains and clouds are constantly hung up on the mountain tops, so the valley gets more rain each year than anywhere on earth.  You can see it from many spots on the island and all around it will be sunny with blue skies, but this valley is shrouded in mist and cloud.

The lush rainforest of the Iao Valley.

There are trails to hike and a number of clear fresh streams that run down out of the mountains.  In the center of the park is the Iao Needle, a phallic rock formation, the result of erosion.  It was an important site both spiritually and as a lookout for chiefs and warriors hundreds of years ago.  It rises 2,200 feet in the air.

The Iao Needle.

From the Iao valley we drove around the norther mountains of Maui.  This is yet another narrow winding road of switchbacks and one-lane bridges!

In this picture you can see the road below cut into the side of the mountain. Often there is no guard rail and only one car can pass. Once we had to back up on this narrow road to accommodate oncoming traffic!

For this nerve-wracking drive however, you are rewarded with breath-taking views of pounding surf, mountainside farms (yes, cattle grazing on ocean-front property!) and gorgeous untouched tropical land.

A view that can only be seen from this gut-wrenching narrow road!
This cattle farm goes all the way down to the ocean!

The end of the winding road is the ultra posh Kapalua.  We stopped at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua for lunch and ate at their poolside bar.  Very nice!

From there the road wraps around to Lahaina and back to our resort town of Wailea.

A pristine waterfall hundreds of feet below the road.

Dinner tonight promised to be special.  We were eating at Mama’s Fish House in Paia.  Everyone had told us this would be an experience of a lifetime.  We have been using an old copy of Hawaii For Dummies to get around and the author called Mama’s the “best restaurant in all of Maui”!  It did not disappoint.

The view of the beach from our table at Mama's Fish House

From the moment you arrive every detail has been considered.  The beach is protected from the wind and looks like the set of South Pacific.  There is a giant Hawaiian canoe on the beach and many–including us–sat in it to pose for pictures!

Posing in the giant Hawaiian canoe

The finish and texture inside the restaurant is so detail-rich and so eclectic!  There are oriental rugs and a lot of fabric around the walls.  The lighting is beautiful and unusual.  Even the bar was special!

The beach outside the restaurant looked like the set of South Pacific!

Then there was the food!  This was a life-altering experience!  Our server the night before used to work at Mama’s and told us a couple things we needed to order.

The Polynesian strips of beef in grilled papaya were an amazing combination!  Earthy delicious thin strips of beef marinated in lime juice and served inside a half of papaya, lightly grilled!

Polynesian Beef Strips in Grilled Papaya

Unfortunately the restaurant was dark enough that flash was needed for the pictures and so the colors are not as vibrant as they were in real life.  The flavors were even more vibrant!  Bright sharp notes of citrus and coconut along with tropical fruit and the beef, this dish was truly memorable.

Uku Ceviche marinated in lime juice, mango and cilantro and served in a coconut with Taro Chips.

This dish too had strident bright notes which somehow did not obscure the delicate flavor of the fish.  The coconut was mild and young and did not dominate the flavors.  The lime juice essentially made the dish a ceviche.  This dish made both of us taste and pause, and in my case made my eyes roll back in my head!

The entrée, Hawaiian Ono with Maui Onions, Tomatoes and Jasmine Rice.

The entrée was simpler, but no less extraordinary.  It was caught that day and the menu told you not only where, but how and by whom!  It said, “Hawaiian Ono line-caught by Gerald Tosaka near the towering cliffs of Molakai”

The service was as memorable as the food.  When they heard we were in Maui celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary the manager, Jake brought Alice an authentic lei with the most fragrant beautiful flowers!

Alice with fresh flower lei, compliments of Mama's Fish House.

Our server Matt ran the show but also monitored a small army of assistants.  Sage and Chelsea never let a dish sit or a need go unfilled.  We might never have left if we weren’t so full!  They even brought us some coconut ice cream for dessert as an anniversary gift!

Tomorrow is our last full day in Maui and then we begin the long trip home.  Tonight’s meal was one of the finest we have ever had, one of a handful of restaurants which, in my mind would make the ToneMan Hall of Fame!

Mama's from the outside looking in...


One comment

  1. I’ve been following your Hawaii journal (former Tony’s Kitchen customer) and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Hawaii over the last several years, and your blog has brought back many good memories (my meal at Mama’s Fish House is one that I will never forget . . . in a good way!).

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