There are lots of great restaurants on Maui but we’re fine with letting the first time we went to Mama’s Fish House be our last.
Deciding to Visit Mama’s Fish House
As with most great decisions, this one (you’ll get the irony later) was made on a whim days before we placed a reservation during our honeymoon.
Well, let me backtrack.
As you may know by now, we went to Oahu and Maui for our honeymoon. Before going to Hawaii, we spent months researching things to do, places to check out, restaurants to visit, everything. We wanted to get as acquainted as possible with the islands so as not to be taken aback by anything because we failed to look more into it before going.
Part of our research involved looking at travel books, videos, and blogs, in addition to a Facebook group for fans of the Hula Land blog I brought up earlier. Mama’s Fish House was somehow a popular mention across those sources but once we looked at the menu and the listed prices online, we decided it wouldn’t be worth it–way expensive.
So even though many people recommended it, we were fine staying away.
Until we were in Hawaii, that is. Specifically, Oahu. You see, one morning, a couple days before departing for Maui, we thought to find a nice restaurant at which to have a “swanky” meal and we could get all dressed up while on Maui. (On Oahu, we had a dressy dinner at Benihana’s, which we don’t recommend.)
Instead of doing more research, we both settled on Mama’s and made a lunch reservation for a few days later. (What’s funny is that almost everyone said reservations must be made much longer in advance so I was rather surprised we were able to make ours with relatively little notice.)
While placing the reservation I was asked whether we were celebrating a special occasion, and I enthusiastically said, “Yes! We’re on our honeymoon!”
Mama’s isn’t difficult to find whatsoever. The entrance is semi-tucked away so you could easily drive past it (I think we did, haha), but the prop boat and sign outside make it hard to miss. It’s right outside of Paia on the way to Hana, so once you’re on Hana Highway past Paia you’ll soon come across it.
After dropping your car off with a valet, you walk to a little booth where they ask what you’re doing there. If you have a reservation to either the restaurant or the inn (we didn’t know there was an inn, either), or even if you just want to hang out on the grounds, you’re let through.
Speaking of the grounds, to say they’re beautiful would be an understatement. Mama’s sits on some primo territory that grants it some of the most exquisite views on the island. The walk to the restaurant isn’t short, but suffice it to say that by the time you do arrive at the restaurant you’ll wish you hadn’t yet if only to take in more of that gorgeous beach. But we didn’t want to be late for our reservation so off we went!
While waiting for our names to be called (just a few minutes), we were continuing to admire the views and taking selfies. Then we were led inside the restaurant and to our table.
It was perhaps THE BEST table at the restaurant, on a corner towards the front with a huge window looking out onto the view I thought we’d have to temporarily say Goodbye to while we ate.
Right on the table was a card congratulating us on our honeymoon (Aww!) and a really nice setting greeting us.
The service was formidable, and I’m not just saying that because of the thoughtful card on our table. Our waiter was attentive and checked on us often to ensure we were satisfied with everything.
After our meal, we didn’t feel like paying a lot more for dessert so we skipped it, but then our waiter brought us a free dessert that wasn’t really a “dessert” per se inasmuch as it wasn’t even on the menu. (I forgot exactly what it was but it was a sweet, small token of appreciation that we were nevertheless thankful for.)
The food at Mama’s Fish House
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: The food was good but WAY overpriced. (Especially considering the fish had just been caught locally that morning.)
Yes, I get that food in Hawaii is expensive because they have to fly in most things, and blah blah blah.. BUT we don’t get why fish can be so expensive at a fish restaurant located on an island where the fish is caught every morning.
(Our–or at least my–new favorite restaurant on Maui, which we went to at least twice during our second trip, has more filling entrees for less than half the price of Mama’s.)
Price can play a huge role in our deciding whether we like a restaurant. Whereas we wouldn’t recommend the food at the Old Lahaina Luau, at least that at Mama’s was good (albeit overpriced).
But the problem when we think something is ridiculously priced is that our appeal for it somehow wanes because we realize that it wouldn’t be that difficult or expensive if we were to replicate that meal (or, in the case of Mama’s, get more food for the price of a single entree there).
Yes, the food was tasty but the portions were tiny for the cost, so unfortunately we wouldn’t recommend it.
After our meal we left the restaurant and walked around the grounds for a bit because we couldn’t get over just how beautiful it all was. For this alone, I’d go back.
I remember we also decided to later on consider staying in one of the cottages–if only to get to experience those views every day. I’m sure we will one day (but our most recent trip to Maui–our second to the island–left us a bit Maui’d out, haha); we want to take some time to explore the other islands more first.
The service was also great, which is sadly rare. Good restaurant service is apparently hard to come by–unless you’re in the South, where merely OK service is VERY rare.
But food makes up a significant part of a restaurant’s raison d’être, and because (a) we weren’t big fans of that at Mama’s Fish House and (b) you don’t just go to a restaurant for its views or service alone, I’m afraid we can’t recommend it.
Just like with the Old Lahaina Luau, in that giving it a chance taught us we won’t be going there again, Mama’s wasn’t worth the hype.
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What did YOU think of Mama’s Fish House? What are YOUR favorite restaurants in Hawaii?