Papaaina at the Pioneer Inn

Papaaina – Enjoy Stunning Ocean Views While Dining on Island Cuisine in Lahaina
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Are you craving an open-air dining experience right on the oceanside? If so, jet on in to Papa’aina for island cuisine perfected by stunning views. At this Pioneer Inn eatery, Executive Chef Lee Anne Wong goes all out in hand-selecting and preparing every dish for your pure enjoyment. The results are phenomenal, so don’t be surprised to see all of Lahaina vying for a table on the daily.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

When only an open-air waterfront dining experience will do, set your sights on Papa’aina. Located in the historic Pioneer Inn, this Lahaina eatery serves up island cuisine to remember while letting you soak in the breathtaking views. The whaler’s saloon aesthetic remains from its inception in the early 1900s, but the menu received an update to support local in every way. 

Your dining experience starts well before you arrive with the selection of the local, seasonal ingredients. Executive Chef Lee Anne Wong personally shops for the fresh ingredients at local farmers’ markets, plus has partnerships with local fishermen, ranchers, and farmers. The menu changes with the season to keep things hyper-local, but it’s always easy to find pure deliciousness on tap.

With all the local fare in hand, Chef Wong uses her culinary expertise to build flavorful meals designed to delight. Every day starts with brunch, resulting in a long line of loyal patrons well before their doors open. The rush continues through the day, keeping their tables full hour after hour. For the best chance at getting a bite to eat when you want, make reservations through their site well ahead of time.

If you cannot make reservations, go on Yelp to join the waitlist before leaving your hotel. With that move, you’ll put your name in line, considerably minimizing your wait for a table. Many patrons cannot easily leave the gorgeous view behind, however, so a five-minute wait can easily turn into 30. That said, it’s well worth kicking around for a bit in order to get your turn at their tables.

While the chef definitely puts flavor at the forefront of all she does, artistic presentations do not go by the wayside. So, before you dig in, be sure to snap a few photos for the ‘Gram, so you can remember how good the items looked before you got a taste. The exquisite flavors will keep you delighted through to the end of your meal, as will the dazzling views of the West Maui oceanside.

For a taste of their most popular items, try the:

The French Toast
The French Toast takes a true breakfast favorite and elevates all its flavors perfectly. This dish starts with sweet bread dredged in a cornflake coconut batter. Then, it’s fried up until golden and served with creamy maple butter. Billionaire bacon arrives alongside, helping make this stellar meal feel even more decadent.

Hawaiian Fish Curry
For a taste of all the most popular ocean flavors, get the Hawaiian Fish Curry. They create this dish by lightly searing mahi-mahi while keeping it rare. After that, they build out their curry using braised cabbage, broccolini, eggplant, zucchini, and sweet potato. Chili garlic crunch goes over the top right before serving to add a crisp, zesty bite.

Fried Chicken Salad
When you want to keep things reasonably light yet flavorful, treat yourself to the Fried Chicken Salad. This popular entrée starts with the preparation of their delightful shoyu fried chicken. Once it’s done, they lay out a bed of local greens topped with market vegetables. The chicken goes over the top before the creamy sesame miso dressing drizzle joins the fun.

Their food gets the most attention, but their drinks are equally good. They have a full bar with beer, wine, and cocktails plus a barista brewing up Origin Coffee how you like it. They can even make you a cup of exquisite Dalgona Coffee with either milk or almond milk.

Insider Tips:
-They do not allow any substitutions, so read the menu carefully before making your selections.
-When dining with five or more in your party, expect an automatic 18% gratuity added to your total. All checks have a 5% kitchen service charge added as well.
-Special culinary events land here on the regular, so check their website to see what’s coming up.