No matter which island you visit in Hawaii, there are 5 MUST EATS items that you should try no matter what before you leave. They’re all specific to Hawaiian cuisine and are my personal favourites every time I visit Hawaii.
Hawaiian food culture is built on luncheon meat, fresh fruit grown on the island like pineapples, incredibly fresh fish and seafood, and lots of shaved ice or cold drinks. Eating their food will instantly slow you down, transport you to tranquility, and you just can’t help feeling good vibes when you’re chowing on their local food.
In no particular order, here is a list of my Top 5 MUST EATS when in Hawaii!
If you click on any of the bullet points, it will also take you to that section.
1. Loco Moco
If you’ve never had Loco Moco before, it is essentially hot rice, topped with a beef patty, runny egg on top, and lots and lots of gravy. ❤️ It is by no means a light (nor healthy) dish, but it’s literally comfort on a plate. Almost every place will serve their version of a Loco Moco, and each place will put their own flair to this classic traditional Hawaiian dish.
I actually had a FANTASTIC Loco Moco at the Hawaiian Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Oahu!
It’s called “The Local @HNL” and it’s a Hawaiian restaurant located inside the airport. The food they serve is WAY better than any of the items you can get at the nearby food court (also located inside the same airport).
Poke is one of the most traditional Native Hawaiian dishes and I highly urge you to give poke a try even if you’re not a fan of raw fish. Poke is diced raw fish usually served either by itself as an appetizer or as a meal when it’s put on top of hot white rice. Poke has evolved to include all kinds of seafood (and vegetarian options!) so you’ll now find octopus, scallop, tofu, crab, shrimp, clam, squid poke at most shops!
You can find poke at specialty shops/restaurants or you can even find them at Costco (see photos above), liquor stores or grocery stores! They’re everywhere!
The biggest difference between true authentic Hawaiian poke and poke in other cities (like Vancouver) is that poke is often sold by weight in Hawaii, and by itself. No rice, no vegetable side dishes, no nothing. You eat the marinated fish on it’s own and truly I think it’s healthier that way anyways. I wish Vancouver sold poke by weight like this!
Musubis are such a staple snack food in Hawaii that you’ll literally find it at every corner. It’s a slice of luncheon meat on top of a bed of compact hot rice and furikake. Sometimes they’ll have different varieties like egg, bacon, avocado in addition to spam, and sometimes they’ll have fried chicken instead of the spam entirely.
From the ABC store (which is just a brand of convenience stores in Hawaii), to 7-Eleven, to specialty musubi shops, you MUST give this a try before you leave.
On another note, did you know there is such a thing as Okinawan Musubis?
Okinawan musubis are folded differently than traditional Hawaiian musubis! It’s more like a taco and I found a place in Waikiki that serves it!
This one has deep fried bitter melon inside along with egg and spam. Super interesting combination and I would happily get it again.
I got it at Pork Tamago Onigiri which is located inside the Waikiki Food Hall Co, in the heart of Waikiki. Very easy to walk to, but it’s tucked away in a little food court so you really have to look for this or else you’ll miss it.
4. Acai Bowl
In Hawaii, it’s bound to get really hot so what better way to cool yourself down than a nice refreshing acai bowl? ?
Acai bowls are usually made from a base of acai berry smoothie made super thick (although it can just be a different type of thick smoothie as the base) and generous fruit and healthy toppings. Such toppings include fresh fruit (banana, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, dragonfruit..etc), cocoa nibs, coconut shavings, granola, honey, honey pollen…etc.
Look at this LOADED acai bowl from The Sunrise Shack!! This was one of the best acai bowls I’ve had and it’s extremely filling so you’re bound to be full eating it as a lunch.
This bowl is called the Blue Dream Bowl and it consists of Blue majik spirulina, banana, mango, coconut cream, almond milk, honey, and salt. I also added cocoa nibs to it as well.
5. Mai Tai
I’m going to be bold and say “You haven’t been to Hawaii if you’ve didn’t have Mai Tai.”
And I truly think that because the Mai Tais in Hawaii are just so spectacular. I have yet to find restaurants in Vancouver that serves Mai Tais as good as the ones I had in Hawaii.
First and foremost, the best Mai Tai in all of Hawaii belongs to Merriman’s.
I can confidently say that because I’ve been to multiple Merriman’s locations whether it’s Honolulu or Maui, as well as their sister locations Monkeypod Kitchen and it has been fantastic each time. The way they craft their Mai Tais are just so different and unique. They use Kula Light and Dark Rums, lime, house made macnut orgeat, orange curacao, and honey-lilikoi (passionfruit) foam. The passionfruit foam is what makes the drink and when you stir it all in, the delicious tropical flavours all meld together to create one cohesive delicious tropical drink.
On another occasion, I got the Mai Tai from the hotel pool bar. While it was not equally as delicious, it was still fantastic and just as tropical and refreshing by the pool.
Can’t stress this enough: Order a Mai Tai while in Hawaii!!
And that’s it!
⬇️ Check out my other Hawaii food posts ⬇️
Thank you for reading my Top 5 MUST EATS when in Hawaii! If you want more yummy recommendations from my last Honolulu trip, check out my Honolulu Instagram posts.