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Dining in Hawaii: Here’s what you need to know about the food

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Hawaii is not only popular for sparkling ocean, sandy beach, daunting cliffs, and tropical climate but also for the distinct food that is exclusive only to this island state. Not only authentic food but Hawaii is also renowned for drinks like Mai tai, Pina Colada among others. However, there is no denying to the fact that some of the popular Hawaiian dishes were originally brought from the Polynesian island of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii has stood the test of time and successfully retained its traditional true taste. Let’s dig a little deeper into the lip-smacking authentic Hawaiian food and drinks that are enough to make you fall in love with the Island state. Here are some of the staple food and drinks of Hawaii that are worth a try when you are on a vacation.


This sour and starchy dish (sour due to light fermentation during preparation) is a staple food of Hawaii. Poi, the life force of locals is made from the root of taro plant which is the agricultural plant of the Island. Though the texture and flavor of this dish certainly can take some time to get used to, but it can be relished easily on pairing it up with other Hawaiian food. The frequent pounding while preparing the dish is the reason why it has a consistency of sticky pudding. To get the ultimate dining experience in Hawaii, make friends with the locals and request one of the aunties to make this dish for you. Hawaiians are very welcoming and generous in such matters.

Spam Musubi

Highly influenced by the Japanese Musubi, Hawaiian Spam Musubi is a simple mix of dried seaweed, white rice and fried/grilled spam that has a slimy texture and is counted among the top snacks of Hawaii. Spam Musubi is by far the cheapest and tastiest food in Hawaii that you can invest in. It’s a sin to not try this dish while you are exploring the island state of Hawaii. Simply grab the hot dish from the food store and take it along to discover the beauty of different islands.


Manapua is the soft and fluffy Chinese buns stuffed mainly with barbecue pork, pork hash, sweet potato, curry chicken, or kalua pig. Brought by the Chinese immigrants somewhere in the mid 19th century, Manapua can be found at various Chinese restaurants and food joints in Hawaii. This pillow-soft dim sum tastes best when served hot and fresh. You can pack it as lunch while exploring the island. It is undeniably the easiest food to carry along in entire Hawaii.


Don’t get Saimin confused with ramen as both are way too different. Although, Saimin was influenced by the Japanese and Chinese noodles, yet it has an unusual taste that makes it altogether alike. This Hawaiian version of noodles is something that must be savored after a long and tiring journey of the island. Saimin tastes best with kamaboko (fish cake), green onions, eggs and pork. However, you can also add toppings of your choice or use it with traditional Hawaiian food too. This delicious comfort food is certainly one thing to relish on a trip or vacation to Hawaii.


Brought by the Portuguese immigrants in the early 1800’s, these crispy doughnuts named “Malasadas” are literally a treat to the foodies out there. These deep-fried Hawaiian delicacies are rolled in cinnamon and sugar giving it a crunchy taste that enhances your taste buds and gives you some serious food goals. Malasadas tastes scrumptious when served straight from the oven i.e. hot and fresh. So no matter if you are a sucker for a sweet dish or not, savoring Malasadas in Hawaii is definitely worth spending money (even though they aren’t expensive). This fluffy Hawaiian treat is something to cherish on a lazy afternoon.

Shave ice

If your sweet tooth is craving sugar, then tasting shave ice cone is the best way to satisfy that hunger. The process of trimming the ice into the fluffiest version is quite laborious. Hawaiians plantation workers use a machete to shave ice from the large ice blocks. The finely shaved snow cones are topped with fruit juice, chocolate and syrups with flavors like vanilla, lilikoi, coconut among others. Shaven ice is an iconic frozen treat to Hawaii and you must indulge in your cravings when on vacation to this beautiful tropical island state. To get the most of this sweet dish, don’t forget to add a scoop of ice cream, mocha balls, fruits, azuki beans or condensed milk.  

Pina colada, Mai tai and Blue Hawaii

Your vacation to Hawaii is not complete if you haven’t tried the colorful, sliced fruit-filled drink studded with a tiny umbrella.  Yes, your guess is absolutely right! It’s the exotic tropical drinks called cocktails. Hawaii has endless options in cocktails when it comes to choosing the best one to relish. However, Mai tai, Pina colada and Blue Hawaii are the drinks that mustn’t be skipped at all.

Mai tai, a combination of rum and triple sec or orange Curacao with lime, almond syrup and grenadine, is a quintessential drink known to be the king of all tropical drinks.   Pina colada is a mix of rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice. In Blue Hawaii, you can get a tinge of rum and pineapple juice. There are different variations of drinks which you can enjoy regardless of time i.e. being day or night.

Kalua Pig

Cooked in an underground oven, Kalua pig is yet another famous dish of Hawaii that must be enjoyed when you are in this island state. Due to the slow roasting, the pork gets a smoky flavor and is extremely tender to eat. The dish tastes even better when paired with rice along with a macaroni salad. You can find this juicy and delicious disk on every menu of the restaurants in Hawaii. You can spot this dish in every corner of the island.

Lau Lau

Lau Lau is a dish in which taro leaves are wrapped with fish, pork or meat and then steamed. This comfort food of Hawaii is also cooked in an imu (same as poi is prepared), an underground oven for hours giving it a soft and smoky flavor. Lau Lau is one of the favorite dishes of Hawaiians. You can also eat it with poi to enhance your taste buds.  The taste of Lau Lau might take a while to get used to, but once acquired, you can’t help but fall in love with this tropical cuisine.

Acai bowl

Packed with nutrients, and antioxidants, Acai bowl is a healthy choice if you want to steer clear of the food loaded with carbs and sugar. The benefits of Acai bowl are multifold. Fitness enthusiasts would want to invest in their health even when they are on vacation. What else can be perfect to fill your hungry tummy with healthy food other than Acai bowl? Although Acai bowls cannot be called classic Hawaiian food, yet it is something that mustn’t be missed. This fruity deliciousness of a bowl typically comprises of Acai berry topped with fruits, honey and nuts. Variations can be made as per your taste. You may add chocolate or ice cream to soothe your sweet tooth. Acai bowl can be taken before or after a rigorous workout be it- hiking, biking, mountaineering, or any other strenuous activity.