Maui Tropical Plantation’s new restaurant features indoor-outdoor seating and an acclaimed chef devoted to fresh, local ingredients. // © 2016 Maui Tropical Plantation
Feature image (above): Ziplines add to the excitement of a visit to Maui Tropical Plantation. // © 2016 Maui Zipline
On a recent visit to Maui Tropical Plantation (MTP), I was greatly impressed by how much it has grown and improved.
Open since 1985, the central Maui attraction has made huge changes lately. Wisely, it has retained its tried-and-true lures, including a tram tour around the grounds and a country store with locally made products. At the same time, the 19th-century sugar plantation-turned-visitor-draw has reinvented itself to stay fresh for today’s travelers.
"Maui Tropical Plantation is a place where old Hawaii meets new Hawaii," said Pamela Shepard-Henderson, director of sales for MTP. "With all of our upgrades, we’re letting people know it's time for them to come back. We've brought the attraction to life. It's more relevant to today's travelers.”
Happily, one thing that hasn’t changed is MTP’s gorgeous natural setting, with its vast green valley and magnificent mountain backdrop.
Here are my top five reasons why first-time and repeat Maui travelers should visit MTP.
Bar and Restaurant
MTP’s Mill House restaurant recently debuted to rave reviews. Nostalgia rules the decor, which is highlighted by a historical train engine and recycled metal from old sugar mills. Patio seating provides views of a peaceful lagoon and lawn. The adjacent bar specializes in handcrafted cocktails that use fruit and flowers from the surrounding plantation, including sugarcane that’s cold-pressed daily, as well as syrup from plumeria blossoms.
MTP scored big points by hiring award-winning executive chef Jeff Scheer in May 2015. He’s devoted to working with fresh, local ingredients, so no two menus are the same. His Chef’s Table on Friday and Saturday nights is the island’s hottest culinary ticket. Held in an alfresco pavilion, it’s an intimate, interactive seven-course party. As Scheer cooks behind an open counter, guests can chat with him and one another. Reservations are a must.
MTP’s new Mill House Roasting Co. and Cafe pours artisanal java in medium and dark roasts made from 100 percent Maui-grown coffee. As the staff grinds and brews each order on the spot, clients can check out the cafe’s display of island-grown beans and exotic coffee grinders. Along with espresso drinks, it serves iced drinks — try the mango granita — plus teas and pastries baked fresh each morning.
Clients can catch dinner and a show thanks to MTP’s indoor theater, which presents big-name entertainers. The venue has featured favorite island stars such as musical duo Hapa, plus national names like Willie Nelson. Clients can also check out MTP’s outdoor concerts and festivals, which are drawing thousands of fans with lively tunes, food and beverage booths and the opportunity to rock out under the stars.
Two companies run zipline tours from MTP. Maui Zipline, with five side-by-side lines from 300 to 900 feet long, is gentle enough for 5-year-olds. The more challenging Flyin’ Hawaiian Zipline boasts eight lines from 250 to 3,600 feet long, with a minimum age of 10. Clients check in for both at MTP, but Maui Zipline soars over the plantation grounds, while Flyin’ Hawaiian’s upcountry course is accessed by a four-wheel-drive shuttle.