Hawaii · World Foods

What to Eat on the Hawaiian Islands

Food is part of every culture—we all have to eat! Hawaii has its very own incredible foods to enjoy, unlike what you can get on the Mainland. Here are some of the best foods to try on your next trip to Hawaii!

Acai Bowls

It’s basically like a smoothie under there! Acai is a berry that looks a little like a grape, and it’s pureed with frozen yogurt or milk. At least that’s what I read–it just tastes good to me! It’ll be topped with granola, fresh fruit, and often with dried coconut, too, which I don’t like to eat, but it sure looks nice!

Beautiful Acai Bowl from Island Vintage Coffee in Waikiki!
Fresh Fruit

The fruit tastes better in Hawaii, and I’m not the only one who’s noticed! The pineapples, papayas, lilikoi (passion fruit), guavas, starfruit, mangoes, rambutan, dragonfruit, chermoya, and more familiar fruits are sweeter, maybe because they’ve come right from the source! Try something new, and taste your favorite fruit as they were meant to taste while you’re in the islands!

Pineapple Sample from Maui Tropical Plantation
Haupia

This is a traditional Hawaiian dessert that’s made from coconut milk and has the consistency of a dense jell-o. It’s usually served in blocks like the ones below, but I’ve also had it layered on a chocolate cream pie, and that was pretty delicious!

Sheet Tray of Haupia at Our Big Island Luau
Hula Pie

You will find this massive ice cream-cake-pie concoction only at Duke’s Restaurants throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It’s actually the only dessert on their menu—because it’s the only one you need! It’s got a chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, and is topped with more macadamia nuts. It’s the only dessert I’ve ever come across that’s so large, I don’t mind sharing!

Hula Pie from Duke’s Kauai

Loco Moco

You’d think with fresh fruits and vegetables that Hawaiians would eat “healthy” and lite all the time. But it’s just not so! They are like the mainland’s South of the Pacific with their carbs and gravy, my friends! This is perfectly evidenced in their “Loco Moco.” It’s a couple of heaps of rice, hamburger patty, brown gravy, and a couple of fried (typically runny) eggs. Variations include bacon, spam, ham, and other meats in place of the hamburger patty. I definitely recommend a hefty workout before you eat and a long nap after!

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Luau Food

It took three trips to Hawaii before we fit in a luau, and while it was worth the wait, I wish we’d done it sooner and more often! It’s not just dinner, it’s a show. And not just a show, a cultural experience! You really must have the experience at least once in your life, and I recommend trying everything!

Luau Sampler Platter
Get the Whole Story: What to Eat at the Luau!
Macadamia Nuts

You will not be able to escape the macadamias! They are everywhere and come in ever variety: honey roasted, hot and spicy, mixed into ice cream, flavoring your coffee, as nut butter, chocolate covered, and more! Pick up a pack at the nearest ABC Store or at the grocery. They are one of my favorite nuts!

Raw Macadamia Nuts from Purdy’s Mac Nut Farm on Molokai!
Malasadas

This is Hawaii’s answer to the donut. Only better! Maybe it just tasted better because I was in Hawaii. Either way, I definitely recommend one to you! They are made with a yeasted dough, fried (of course), rolled in granulated sugar, and possibly filled with Hawaiian-inspired jellies or creams. I’ve seen lilikoi, coconut haupia, and even taro.

Malasada Variety Pack! Photo Credit: My friend Vanessa from the Big Island!
Poi

What’s poi? It’s taro paste! What’s taro? We’ll get to that in a moment. You’ll definitely find poi at a luau, but also at some other traditional Hawaiian restaurants. It’s been a little on the bland side every time I’ve had it, but you have to try it at least once!

A sampling of poi from Mama’s Fish House
Poke

Poke is…raw fish! Usually it’s served over rice with vegetables and other toppings. This one came from Pineapples on the Big Island, and it tasted so fresh. Poke is making its way across the U.S. (there’s a poke place just across the street from me in Virginia now!), but it originated in Hawaii. Japanese immigrants put a Hawaiian twist on traditional sushi and sashimi when they came to the islands, and you should definitely put it on your “to eat” list!

Beautiful Poke with purple sweet potato from Taste of Molokai on the Island of Molokai
Shave Ice

That’s not a typo! It’s “shave,” not “shaved” if you want to sound like a local. It’s exactly what it sounds like: shaved ice! It’s also flavored with your choice (or choices!) of sweet syrups. It’s a fun and colorful treat to cool you down on a hot Hawaiian afternoon!

Papaya Shave Ice topped with haupia and coffee boba from Ice Monster, Waikiki
Spam Musubi

World War II and its soldiers introduced spam to Hawaii, and it really took off. The Japanese influence brought with it all forms of sushi, which is rice. Add some soy sauce and wrap it all up in seaweed, and you have a popular Hawaiian snack food! I think this was my first taste of spam ever. It’s not something I’ll be going back for, but when in Hawaii, give it a go!

Spam Musubi from a convenience store in Waikiki
Taro

Back to taro! Taro is a starchy root vegetable that’s purple inside! So if you see something purple, like a pastry, cheesecake, mousse, or filling for a masalada, it’s probably taro. Give it a try!

Taro Hotcakes from Kanemitsu’s Bakery, Molokai

Want more? Check out all my Hawaiian “What to Eat” posts on my Pacific Islands Page!

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2 thoughts on “What to Eat on the Hawaiian Islands

  1. Great post. I’m going to flag it (I’m not on Pinterest) for our future trip. To my embarrassment, the husband really likes Spam, so I’ll be sure to tell him about the Spam musubi.

    1. HA! He will find no shortage of spam in the islands! So glad this post was helpful, and I hope y’all LOVE Hawaii!

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