With humpback whales breaching all over the horizon and glorious winter water on the south side, Keawakapu Beach in Kihei is a visual playground this season.
Let's look at two of the prime restaurants from which to view all of the ocean action - Sarento's on the Beach and 5 Palms at Mana Kai Resort.
SARENTO'S ON THE BEACH
5 Palms Sushi Chef Marcus Grassinger is one of two on a roll at 5 Palms in Kihei. He and his pal Matt Perry draw in the crowds daily for two happy hours from 3 to 7 p.m. and from 9 to 11 p.m. with half off select sushi and well drinks, wine and beer.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
For years, Sarento's has been making a splash during dinner hour with its gourmet menu, award-winning wines and impeccable service. Colorful sunsets and green flashes are regular occurrences.
But you may also consider waking up to breakfast on one of Maui's best beaches from 7 to 11 a.m. daily. Complimentary valet parking is included.
"We thought, it's such a beautiful location right here on the ocean at Keawakapu, why waste it during the day? Let's share it with others," says Patricia Blackburn, director of sales and marketing for Tri-Star Restaurant Group, the umbrella company for Sarento's, Nick's Fish Market in Wailea, and Son'z at Swan Court in Kaanapali.
"We place binoculars on each table so guests are able to watch whales, dolphins and turtles," she continues. "Just the other day, we had a school of spinner dolphins putting on a show! Can't think of a better way to start your day."
Tri-Star Corporate Chef Geno Sarmiento agrees.
"The food is great and it's always been as fresh as it gets," Sarmiento says. "And the views are magnificent."
Look out from the open-air establishment and you will find Kahoolawe, Molokini and Lanai islands, the West Maui Mountains and Pu'u Olai cindercone.
"The bongo lady, dressed all in purple, frequents the beach here, as do the 'noodle people' - a group of seniors who do water aerobics with colorful noodles as floatation," says Blackburn.
"Then you can also watch the stand-up paddleboarders, the snorkelers, the divers, the kayakers and the families on the beach. It's quite the scene."
Begin your day with a variety of eggs Benedict such as the Club with Canadian and applewood-smoked bacon along with oven-roasted turkey; and the Pacific with lump crab made into cakes, asparagus and an unusual sauce Choron.
"Choron is Hollandaise made with our own oven-dried tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil," says Sarmiento. "I use Maryland blue-lump crab. This dish is a top seller and everyone's favorite."
Loco moco is made with a filet-mignon meatball, the same recipe used at night. It's grinded and mixed with fresh Italian herbs, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, served with two eggs sunny-side up, fried rice and mushroom gravy.
The breakfast burritos are huge, the fresh mozzarella Caprese omelettes are delightful, and the bananas Foster French toast with caramelized fruit is over the top, when you order it a la mode.
Other indulgences include frittata with fresh spinach, feta, kalamata olives and more; Maui pineapple filled with fresh local fruit and berries with Devonshire cream; and Yazmin's Huevos Rancheros with avocado and black beans.
Sip a Starbucks-brand coffee or Bloody Mary and pick up those binoculars to view the Keawakapu action. For more details, call Sarento's at 875-7555.
5 PALMS AT MANA KAI
Nearby Sarento's and perched on the bluff at the far north end of Keawakapu Beach is 5 Palms. Expansive and airy, this popular hot spot is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
But it's the daily happy hours that draw in everyone from Canadian part-timers to young athletic types finished with beach workouts to golfers and more.
The eclectic crowd is all over the map, making for a lively and diverse scene from 3 to 7 p.m. daily.
"Sometimes, we have a line out the door at 3:30 for people waiting to get in because nobody has a view up and down Keawakapu like this, and we have the freshest sushi and the coldest beers, too," says Moki Chong Kee, general manager.
Plus, you get half off select specialty sushi and appetizers and discounted drinks as you check out the eye candy.
Two expert sushi chefs tempt seafood lovers with spicy tuna rolls, sashimi trio, and California rolls. They are Marcus Grassinger and Matt Perry. Both haole surfer boys, but cutting-edge sushi experts.
"We've got a bunch of happy hour pupu at half off, too, such as Chinese-style barbecue ribs, island vegetable crudite, prawn lettuce wraps and also crispy calamari strips," says Chong Kee.
Order hamachi kama or "collar" on mixed baby greens with ponzu sauce; island-style carpaccio, and ahi-poke martinis.
"It's fun, with great prices, and views are incredible," says Chong Kee.
Call 5 Palms at 879-2607.