Veganing on Maui, Part 1

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With a few animal sanctuaries, plenty of yoga studios, some Buddhist temples and a never-ending series of wellness celebrations and retreats, you’d think that Maui would support half a dozen or more vegan restaurants.  In fact, only one or two cafés and one food truck are completely vegan.

If you’re a vegan who eats out, you have probably considered a number of issues.  Do I want to support a restaurant that also serves animal products? Am I ok with highly processed vegan comfort food? Am I bothered by possible “cross-contamination” of food cooked in a facility that also prepares meat, fish and dairy? Can I tolerate less than ideal ambiance?  

In Search of Purity

The great thing about an all-vegan establishment is that you don’t have to quiz personnel about ingredients, negotiate veganizing a selection, choose from one or two token vegan options or worry about contamination by non-vegan food. We decided to visit the purest vegan restaurants we could find.

We tried the flavorful breakfast burrito at a’a ROOTS on Maui’s west side, and it’s hard to conceive of a more healthful version of the venerable staple than this one. In addition to excellent vegan food, you’ll find friendly service and plenty of parking.  It would be great if a’a ROOTS opened a branch in central Maui, upcountry or the north Shore.

Earth Aloha Eats, a vegan food truck in Kihei

Earth Aloha Eats, a vegan food truck in Kihei

An all-vegan food truck in Kihei’s Azeka Mauka Mall, Earth Aloha Eats, offers a surprisingly varied menu that includes build-your-own bowls, wraps, sandwiches and salads, BBQ pulled “pork” fries, Mexican street tacos, a Greek plate, an Asian teriyaki bowl, and more. There’s bound to be something to satisfy both hardcore vegans and carnivores seeking to cut down on meat. When we stopped by for lunch, several shaded picnic tables were available, and parking was no problem.

If you’re into farmers markets, the big kahuna is the Saturday Upcountry Market in Pukalani.  Don’t overlook the smaller organic market every Wednesday in Kula.  In addition to produce and coffee, you’ll find a few ready-to-eat vegan items from the unique Maui Tempeh and another vendor offering vegan ramen.

One of the vendors at the organic Wednesday farmers market in Kula.

One of the vendors at the organic Wednesday farmers market in Kula.

Community Involvement

A couple dozen people participated in the 5th Annual Protest Against Annual Cruelty at the Makawao Rodeo, July 2019.

A couple dozen people participated in the 5th Annual Protest Against Annual Cruelty at the Makawao Rodeo, July 2019.

Speaking of upcountry, for a few days each year, commerce, tradition and machismo combine to celebrate animal abuse. In July, a couple dozen wonderful people participated in the 5th Annual Protest Against Animal Cruelty at the Makawao Rodeo. This wasn’t protest organizer Stephen Beidner’s first rodeo, and it’s likely not his last. Stephen understands that major change results from long-term struggle, but he also believes that each demonstration has the potential to change some hearts and minds.

To be fair, Makawao does have one bright spot for animals. The Upcountry Dog Park, the best on the island, brings incalculable joy to the many dogs who explore, play and run with their peers.

Regulars at the Upcountry Dog Park participate in a four-way tug-of-war.

Regulars at the Upcountry Dog Park participate in a four-way tug-of-war.

On the North Shore

A couple of restaurants on the north shore are particularly vegan-friendly. A local institution, Maui Kombucha at the Haiku cannery may be most known for its variety of probiotic fermented tea beverages, but it also serves ‘raw vegan fusion” food. With mild lighting, a relatively low level of noise and a core of regular customers, this café is pleasantly laid back.

We tried the Aloha Pizza special, which doesn’t attempt to create a fake pizza from overly processed ingredients. The delicious reimagining features cashew cheese on a crunchy zucchini-carrot flatbread. If you don’t happen to be a fan of kombucha, try one of the excellent coffee drinks. A few visits to Maui Kombucha should turn skeptics of raw food meals into believers.

Laid back vibes at Maui Kombucha in Haiku.

Laid back vibes at Maui Kombucha in Haiku.

Apparently, the only thing keeping the Choice Health Bar in bustling downtown Paia from being completely vegan is the inclusion of bee pollen and honey in some selections.  So far, we haven’t been particularly impressed by the main courses we tried, but Choice seems popular, and we need all the plant-based restaurants we can get.

Of course, veganing on Maui involves more than eating.  Vegan-friendly activities include veganic farming, initiatives to strengthen food security, vegan homeless outreach, animal protection, education and more.

Choice Health Bar in Paia.

Choice Health Bar in Paia.

To be continued …

Eric Baizer