Top 12 Foods & Drinks You Must Try in Hawaii

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Top 12 Foods & Drinks You Must Try in Hawaii



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Hawaii is not just a tropical paradise known for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and rich cultural heritage; it’s also a culinary haven that offers a delightful array of unique and delicious foods and drinks. The fusion of diverse influences, including Native Hawaiian, Asian, and Western cuisines, has created a vibrant food scene that reflects the islands’ diverse history and culture. In this article, we’ll explore the top 12 foods and drinks you must try when visiting Hawaii.


Poke (pronounced “poh-kay”) is a Hawaiian dish that has gained worldwide popularity in recent years. It consists of bite-sized pieces of fresh, raw fish, typically tuna, marinated in a flavorful combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, and various seasonings. You can find poke in various styles, from traditional to modern interpretations. Some popular variations include spicy ahi poke and avocado poke. It’s a refreshing and healthy choice that captures the essence of Hawaii’s coastal cuisine.

Loco Moco

Loco moco is a hearty Hawaiian dish that’s perfect for breakfast or any time of the day. It features a base of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and rich brown gravy. This comfort food is a true reflection of Hawaii’s fusion cuisine, blending American, Japanese, and Hawaiian flavors into a satisfying dish that’s sure to fill you up.

Kalua Pork

Kalua pork is a traditional Hawaiian dish that involves slow-cooking a whole pig in an underground pit oven called an imu. The result is tender, smoky, and incredibly flavorful pulled pork. The pork is typically seasoned with sea salt and served with cabbage. You can find kalua pork in various forms, from traditional luaus to modern interpretations in sandwiches and tacos.

Plate Lunch

Hawaii’s plate lunch is a beloved local staple that typically includes two scoops of rice, a scoop of creamy macaroni salad, and your choice of protein. The protein options vary but often include teriyaki chicken, kalua pork, or loco moco. It’s a simple yet satisfying meal that’s a testament to the island’s multicultural culinary influences.

Spam Musubi

Spam musubi is a unique Hawaiian snack that showcases the love for Spam in the islands. It consists of a slice of grilled or fried Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with a strip of nori (seaweed). It’s a quick, portable, and surprisingly delicious treat that you can find at local convenience stores, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on malasadas. These Portuguese-inspired fried doughnuts are popular in Hawaii and come in various flavors and fillings. The classic malasada is a plain, sugar-coated doughnut, but you can also find filled versions with flavors like guava, haupia (coconut), or lilikoi (passion fruit). Enjoy them fresh and warm for an unforgettable treat.

Shave Ice

On a hot day in Hawaii, nothing beats the refreshing sweetness of shave ice. Unlike traditional snow cones, shave ice is made by shaving a block of ice into fine, fluffy layers that absorb flavored syrups. You can choose from a variety of tropical flavors like pineapple, coconut, and guava. Some places even offer add-ons like ice cream or sweetened condensed milk for an extra indulgent experience.


Poi is a traditional Hawaiian dish made from taro root, which is cooked and then pounded into a smooth, sticky paste. It’s often served as a side dish and can vary in consistency from thin to thick, with different stages of fermentation providing varying levels of sourness. Poi is not only a staple food but also an essential part of Hawaiian culture and history.

Lomi Salmon

Lomi salmon is a refreshing Hawaiian side dish made from salted salmon, tomatoes, onions, and green onions. The ingredients are mixed together to create a delicious and slightly tangy salad that complements the richness of other Hawaiian dishes. It’s a perfect accompaniment to your plate lunch or traditional luau feast.


Haupia is a classic Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch. The result is a creamy, coconut-flavored pudding with a firm texture. Haupia is often cut into squares and served at luaus or alongside other desserts. Its smooth, tropical taste is a delightful way to end your Hawaiian meal on a sweet note.

Mai Tai

When it comes to tropical cocktails, the Mai Tai is a Hawaiian classic. This fruity and refreshing drink combines light and dark rum with orange liqueur, lime juice, and orgeat syrup. It’s typically garnished with a cherry and a slice of pineapple. Sipping on a Mai Tai while enjoying a Hawaiian sunset is a quintessential island experience.

Kona Coffee

Hawaii is one of the few places in the United States where coffee is grown, and Kona coffee is the star of the show. Grown on the slopes of the Big Island’s Kona region, this coffee is known for its smooth, rich flavor and mild acidity. Whether you enjoy it black or as a latte, sampling Kona coffee is a must for any coffee enthusiast visiting Hawaii.

Hawaii’s culinary scene is a vibrant tapestry of flavors that reflects the islands’ unique history and multicultural influences. From fresh seafood in poke to hearty loco moco and sweet treats like shave ice and malasadas, there’s something to satisfy every palate. So, as you explore the beautiful landscapes and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Hawaii, don’t forget to embark on a culinary adventure and try these top 12 foods and drinks that define the tastes of the Aloha State. Your taste buds will thank you for the unforgettable journey through Hawaii’s delectable cuisine.

Exploring the culinary delights of Hawaii is not just about satisfying your taste buds; it’s also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and history. Each dish and drink has its own story to tell, and the vibrant fusion of flavors reflects the island’s diverse heritage. As you make your way through this list of top 12 foods and drinks in Hawaii, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the Aloha State’s culinary treasures.

While these 12 items represent some of the must-try options in Hawaii, there are plenty of other delectable dishes and beverages to discover as well. Hawaiian cuisine is dynamic and ever-evolving, incorporating influences from around the world and adapting to modern tastes. Whether you’re dining at a local mom-and-pop restaurant, attending a traditional luau, or exploring food trucks, be open to trying new flavors and dishes that you may not find anywhere else.

In addition to the culinary delights mentioned above, here are a few more honorable mentions that are worth seeking out during your Hawaiian adventure:

Laulau: Laulau is a traditional Hawaiian dish made by wrapping fish or pork in taro leaves and then steaming or baking it. The result is a tender, flavorful bundle of goodness that’s often served with rice.

Manapua: Similar to Chinese baozi, manapua is a popular Hawaiian snack made of fluffy steamed buns filled with various savory fillings like char siu (barbecue pork) or chicken.

Pipikaula: Pipikaula is Hawaiian-style beef jerky. It’s marinated and then dried, creating a salty and flavorful snack or appetizer.

Lilikoi Butter: Lilikoi, or passion fruit, is a beloved fruit in Hawaii. Lilikoi butter is a sweet and tangy spread made from the fruit and is often enjoyed on toast or as a condiment.

Hawaiian Craft Beer: Hawaii has a growing craft beer scene, with local breweries offering a wide range of unique and delicious brews. Be sure to sample some of the island’s craft beers to complement your meals.

Lau Lau: Lau lau is a dish similar to laulau but typically features pork or fish wrapped in ti leaves and steamed to perfection. It’s a classic Hawaiian comfort food.

Hawaiian Salt: Hawaiian salt, known as pa’akai, is a traditional seasoning made by evaporating seawater. It comes in various forms, including black lava salt and red alaea salt, and is used to add a distinct flavor to many Hawaiian dishes.

Lilikoi Chiffon Pie: This mouthwatering dessert combines the tartness of passion fruit with a light, fluffy chiffon filling and a buttery graham cracker crust. It’s the perfect way to end a Hawaiian meal on a sweet note.

As you embark on your culinary journey through the Hawaiian Islands, remember to embrace the spirit of Aloha and savor each bite and sip. The flavors of Hawaii are a reflection of the warm and welcoming culture of the islands, and trying these diverse foods and drinks is an essential part of experiencing the true essence of Hawaii. So, go ahead, explore, indulge, and let your taste buds dance to the melodies of the Pacific in this tropical paradise.


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