Hawaiian Food: 22 Dishes You Have to Try!

Last Updated on October 4, 2022 by admin

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you’ll want to make sure you try as much of the local food as possible! One of our favorite aspects of travel is getting to try dishes made with local ingredients. In this post, we’re sharing 22 Hawaiian dishes you absolutely have to try during your next trip to the islands. We’re sharing some of our favorite dishes, but be sure to ask around and learn as much as you can about Hawaii’s culture and history. Be a respectful visitor and enjoy!

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About Hawaiian Food

While in Hawaii, you’ll want to try some of the dishes that are traditional to Native Hawaiians. You’ll also want to try Asian-fusion dishes, as there is a heavy influence from Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. Some of the dishes are also heavily inspired by the Portuguese community.  


The Best Hawaiian Food: 22 Dishes You Have to Try

1. Loco Moco

Loco Moco at the Pineapple juice at the Dole Pineapple Plantation

The Loco Moco is a popular brunch dish that you can find all over the islands. It was first invented in 1949 to feed a group of teenagers that were hungry after a day of surfing. They wanted something inexpensive, but different from a sandwich. The dish features white rice, a hamburger patty, gravy, and fried eggs. It’s one of my personal favorite Hawaiian dishes!

Garlic Shrimp

Gilligan's Beach Shack garlic shrimp
The garlic shrimp at Gilligan’s Beach Shack was so yummy!

 

If you visit the North Shore, you’ll see lots of food trucks selling garlic shrimp. The dish is super satisfying: lots of fresh shrimp cooked with lots of garlic. It’s typically served with rice or french fries. We ordered garlic shrimp from a food truck in Waikiki. It was super satisfying!

Shave Ice

Shave ice in Honolulu and Waikiki
We got this shave ice at the Wiki Wiki Market at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

 

Shave ice is the perfect dessert to cool off while you’re in Hawaii. The dish is comprised of shaved ice and flavorful syrups. It’s way better than any shaved ice I’ve ever had on the mainland! We’ve heard that one of the best places you can get the refreshing treat is at Matsumoto‘s on the North Shore. 

Coconut Shrimp

Best Hawaiian Food
Coconut shrimp from Gilligan’s Beach Shack

 

When we visited Hawaii, we must have ordered coconut shrimp at least a half dozen times. Fresh shrimp are covered in a coconut batter and then fried. Pure deliciousness!

Fresh Pineapple

Dole Pineapple Plantation in Hawaii

Anywhere you go, you’ll see dishes inspired by pineapple. We visited the Dole Pineapple Plantation and their gift store had pretty much everything you could think of in a pineapple flavor! They had pineapple cookies, jams, syrups, and more. We also liked drinking smoothies from fresh pineapples!

Macadamia Nuts

One of Hawaii’s main agricultural exports is the macadamia nut! The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center is located on the Big Island. It recently was renovated and re-opened in August 2022. If you find yourself on the Big Island, definitely check it out! I visited back in 2007 and I really enjoyed learning about macadamia nuts. You can order the macadamia nuts directly from their website. Whether you get them plain, covered in chocolate, or roasted with Maui onions, they’re sure to be a hit!

Fresh Coconut

best Hawaiian food: fresh coconut

One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to drink fresh coconut juice. It’s such a refreshing drink, and a healthy one too! 

Poke 

Best Hawaiian Food: Poke Bowl

Whenever I visit Hawaii, I order lots of poke! The dish consists of raw, marinated fish. If you like sushi but have never tried a poke bowl, be sure to order one while in Hawaii.

Butter Rolls

When you’re at a bakery, you might be tempted by the sweet pastries, but you have to order at least one butter roll. It may seem like a “plain choice”, but I promise you they are absolutely delicious! I remember trying my first Hawaiian butter roll in 2007, and it was sooooo good.

Kalua Pork

BBQ at the Dole Pineapple Plantation

Kalua Pork is one of the more commonly-served luau dishes. The pork is slow-roasted and shredded. The above picture shows a Kalua Pork BBQ Sandwich. It was really tasty!

Coco Puffs

The Liliha Bakery is famous for serving up their Coco Puffs. The dessert is made from puffed pastry filled with decadent creams. You can find the Liliha Bakery at the International Market Place in Waikiki.

Acai Bowl

Best Hawaiian Food: Acai Bowl

The perfect way to start your day in Hawaii is with a refreshing acai bowl. Acai bowls first originated in Brazil. The dish is a cool and creamy mix of acai berries with lots of toppings. Popular toppings include fresh fruits and granola. We ordered acai bowls all the time during our trip. It was a great way for our toddler to have a healthy breakfast while on vacation!

Coffee

Coffee beans grow super-well in Hawaii’s tropical climate. Be sure to try lots of fresh coffee during your trip, and you can even bring home coffee beans as a souvenir. We recommend trying Kona Coffee Purveyors. (You can also find their store at the International Market Place in Waikiki). 

Poi

If you go to a luau, you will definitely see poi as one of the menu items. Poi is made from the taro plant, and it’s one of Native Hawaiian’s main starches. It’s not always the most popular among tourists, but you have to try it at least once!

Saimin

While you’re visiting Hawaii, you might also see saimin on many local menus. Saimin is a noodle soup dish that is kind of similar to ramen or pho. The dish is comprised of a clear broth, lots of noodles, and toppings.

Hawaiian Chocolate

Cacao also grows extremely well in Hawaii. We tried some chocolates at the Dole Pineapple Plantation, and they were some of the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted. I’m normally not much of a dark chocolate person, but I fell in love with their dark chocolate. (And of course their milk chocolate too!) I highly recommend the chocolate from Waialua Estate

Shortbread Cookies

You will see shortbread cookies all over the place in Hawaii. We especially like the macadamia nut shortbread cookies from Honolulu Cookie Company. (We brought these cookies home to give as souvenirs to our family.)

Malasadas

Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery in Oahu

Malasadas are a Portuguese-inspired donut. The best place to get malasadas is from Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. The malasadas are served hot. We really enjoyed the plain malasadas coated in sugar, but we also liked the malasada puffs (filled with creams). The guava-filled and haupia-filled malasada puffs were out of this world. 

Li Hing

You’ll find that a lot of Hawaiian foods are sprinkled with Li Hing. (We even had a malasada covered in Li Hing!) We didn’t know what it was until we traveled to Hawaii. Li Hing is a dried plum powder that’s used to top a lot of local dishes. 

Spam Musubi

Best Hawaiian Foods: Spam Musubi

I would normally say I don’t like to eat spam, but I make a definite exception when it comes to spam musubis. It’s one of the most popular snacks in Hawaii. Spam is grilled and placed on top of white rice, and then wrapped in nori (dried seaweed). 

Lau Lau

Royal Hawaiian Luau
Second course at the luau.

 

Lau Lau is is made from steamed pork and butterfish. It’s wrapped in leaves and then steamed. It’s a traditional dish served during luaus. In the above photo, the lau lau is in the bottom left. (If you’re interested in reading more about our experience at the Royal Hawaiian’s luau, click here.)

Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a super-popular side dish often served as a part of a plate lunch. It’s often served alongside barbecue meat and steamed white rice. 

Sushi

Hatsuhana at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
Delicious sushi!

 

You will find lots of fresh fish on the Hawaiian islands, which makes for some pretty incredible sushi! Be sure to check out a sushi spot while you’re visiting.


Hawaiian Drinks

While you’re in Hawaii, you’ll also want to try the tropical drinks! 

Smoothies

Best Hawaiian Food: Pineapple Smoothie

We had lots of smoothies while in Hawaii. They’re the perfect healthy breakfast or snack. Smoothies were a great way to make sure that our toddler was also getting enough fresh fruit while on vacation. One of our favorite smoothies was a pineapple smoothie from Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood in Waikiki (pictured above).

Blue Hawaii

Ali'i Tower Pool at the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel (Blue Hawaiian cocktail)
Drinking a Blue Hawaiian at the Ali’i Tower Pool

 

The Blue Hawaiian was invented at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in 1957. The bright blue drink contains rum, vodka, blue curaçao, pineapple and sweet-and-sour.

Mai Tai

Mai Tai at Royal Hawaiian
A Mai Tai from the luau. Cheers!

 

Perhaps the most famous Hawaiian cocktail is the Mai Tai! It was first served at the Royal Hawaiian resort, and today the resort has a dedicated Mai Tai bar. The picture above shows the a Mai Tai from the Royal Hawaiian’s luau

Pina Colada

tropical cocktails in Honolulu, things to do in Waikiki
Pictured here is a Pina Colada, a Pina Colada with Lava Flow (strawberry swirl), and a Blue Hawaiian

 

Pina Coladas weren’t invented in Hawaii, but they’re the perfect fit for the islands because they feature coconut and pineapple flavors (plus rum!). We really enjoyed visiting Hawaii and having creamy Pina Coladas!

Bubble Tea

Bubble tea consists of tapioca balls and tea. The drink first originated in Taiwan. There’s lot of bubble tea stores all around the island. 

 

 


Where to Stay in Honolulu (Best Hotels!)

We recommend staying in Waikiki when you visit Honolulu. You’ll be steps away from the beach, and you’ll have a dazzling array of restaurants and shops within walking distance. 

See our full review of our stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort here!
 

  Booking.com

Luxury Hotels

  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: When we visited Waikiki in 2022, we stayed at the Ali’i Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The Ali’i Tower is the most luxurious tower on the resort property, and it has its own private pool, lounge, and check-in. The Ali’i Tower has ocean-view and oceanfront rooms, and it’s just steps away from the beach and lagoon. We wrote a full review of our stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village here.
  • Halekulani Hotel: This luxury 5-star hotel has a beautiful pool overlooking Waikiki with a mosaic floor of 1.2 million pieces of glass tiles. The hotel also offers daily surfing demonstrations.
  • The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort: This is another 5-star located right on the beach with two pool options. (Plus poolside cabanas!)

Moderately Priced Hotels

  • Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel: This hotel is located within walking distance of the beach, as well as other attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and Kapahulu Avenue. 
  • Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach: Waikiki Beach is just a 3-minute walk from this hotel. This hotel also offers daily complimentary breakfast. 

Budget Hotels

  • Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki Hotel: This hotel is located just a few blocks away from Waikiki Beach. There’s also a small outdoor pool.
  • Ilima Hotel: This hotel is just a couple of blocks from the beach, and it has free parking.

What to Pack for a Trip to Hawaii

When you visit Hawaii, expect to spend a lot of time at the beaches! Here’s a few things I recommend bringing:

  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen: You have to use reef-safe sunscreen while you’re in Hawaii, because other sunscreens can harm the waters. Make sure you buy yours in advance, as they tend to be more expensive on the islands. 
  • Portable Charger: We like this cell phone charger because the cord is embedded. (That’s one less thing to search for in your bag!) This charger will let you charge your phone when you’re out exploring. You don’t want to run out of battery while you’re on the go, because you don’t want to miss a photo opportunity.
  • Waterproof Phone Case: Protect your belongings with a waterproof phone case. 
  • Quick Dry Towel: This is perfect for hikes where you wouldn’t want to pack a bulky towel from the hotel. It’s easy to throw into a beach bag.
  • Flotation Strap: If you’re going to be snorkeling or surfing, and you want to bring a camera or GoPro, you should make sure you have a flotation strap. That way, if you drop your equipment, it won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean.
  • Water Bottle: Stay hydrated while you’re out in the sun! We like this water bottle because it’s insulated and will keep your water cooler for longer. 
  • Vacation Hat: Protect your face from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat. 
  • GoPro: A GoPro will let you take amazing underwater footage. We highly recommend getting one if you want excellent underwater photos and videos! 

(Click on any of the above images for current pricing and shipping information.)

 


Summary: The Best Hawaiian Food

We love visiting Hawaii not only for the tropical climate and pristine beaches, but for the delicious food! We hope this article inspired you to try some of these dishes during your next trip to Hawaii!

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Best Hawaiian Food: Pinterest Pin
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Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information.

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