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With its fusion of cultures and access to ultra-fresh seafood, produce, and more, the cuisine in Hawaii offers endless options for visitors. If you’re wondering what delicious local foods to try during your Hawaiian getaway, you’ve come to the right place.

In short, be sure to sample plate lunches, shave ice, malasadas, poke bowls, and luau fare featuring kalua pig during your visit to take your taste buds on a Polynesian adventure.

This comprehensive guide will provide an in-depth look at 25+ authentic dishes you don’t want to miss when visiting the Aloha State. We’ll cover popular staples like mac salad and saimin noodles along with more unique eats like squid luau and haupia.

You’ll find recommendations on the best places to sample these iconic foods on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

Understanding Hawaiian Food Culture and Ingredients

The Polynesian Roots of Hawaiian Cuisine

The culinary traditions of Hawai’i trace back to the original Polynesian settlers who voyaged across the Pacific Ocean over a thousand years ago. These ancient voyagers brought staple ingredients like taro, breadfruit, coconut, banana, mango and sweet potato that still feature prominently in local Hawaiian dishes today.

Intermixing with later arrivals from all over the world including China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines, a uniquely Hawaiian fusion cuisine developed that celebrates the islands’ rich cultural heritage.

Staple Ingredients – From Taro to Spam

At the heart of Hawaiian cuisine remains the starchy taro plant, an incredibly versatile ingredient used to make staples like the quintessential poi, a thick fermented pudding. Poi frequently accompanies main dishes and serves as the traditional foundation for local-style feasts called lū‘au.While perhaps unexpected, Spam holds a place of honor in Hawaiian cooking that traces back to WWII troops stationed on the islands. Locals created delicious and unique recipes like Spam musubi (a rice ball topped with Spam and wrapped with seaweed).

Hawaiians eat more Spam per capita than any state in the union! 😊😍

Must-Try Fruits and Veggies

From tangy and sweet pineapple to enormous avocados and green mountain apples, Hawaiʻi offers bountiful options. Strawberry guavas, mangos, kumquat, rambutan and jackfruit tantalize people’s tastebuds.

Local farmers also harvest many vegetarian staples like bok choy, daikon radish, bitter melon and eggplant that blend perfectly in Hawaiian preparations.

Oahu Foods – Iconic Eats on the Gathering Place Island

The Famous Plate Lunch

No visit to Oahu is complete without trying the iconic plate lunch, available at countless local restaurants and food trucks. This meal staple features hearty portions of proteins like chicken katsu, kalua pork, teriyaki beef, or fried mahi mahi.

It comes with two generous scoops of sticky white rice and a side salad of macaroni or potato salad. Locals love to douse everything in soy sauce. Some of the most popular spots for plate lunches are Rainbow Drive-In and Lucky Belly.

Garlic Shrimp Trucks

The North Shore is famous for its epic waves and beaches, but it also boasts some of the best food trucks on Oahu. Topping the list are the renowned garlic shrimp trucks parked along Kamehameha Highway. These mobile eateries serve up bowls of buttered, garlicky shrimp with white rice or vegetables.

Some of the most popular and long-standing shrimp trucks are Giovanni’s, Fumi’s, and Macky’s. Expect long lines, but the wait is worth it!

Malasadas and Other Local Sweets

Satisfying one’s sweet tooth is a breeze on Oahu thanks to malasadas – Portuguese fried doughnut holes coated in sugar. Locals have been lining up for generations at Leonard’s Bakery to get their malasada fix.

Other classic local desserts include shave ice doused in sweet syrups and ice cream at places like Waiola Shave Ice, and pillowy soft guava chiffon cake from Liliha Bakery. For those who prefer haupia (coconut pudding) or mochi ice cream, pop into tea house and bakery Tea at 1024.

Maui Foods – Local Flavor from Valley Isle to Hana

Lahaina’s Signature Dishes

Lahaina is home to some of Maui’s most mouthwatering dishes that capture the flavors of the island. From fresh fish to sweet treats, Lahaina offers visitors a tasty sampling of local favorites. Some signature dishes you must try include:

  • Laulau – This traditional Hawaiian dish features meat wrapped in taro leaves and steamed. The Pork Store in Lahaina whips up delicious laulau plate lunches.
  • Poke – Raw, cubed ahi tuna mixed with sea salt, seaweed, and inamona (a Hawaiian condiment made of roasted kukui nut) makes this iconic Hawaiian appetizer. Stop by Foodland Lahaina and grab some poke to go.
  • Shave Ice – No trip to Hawaii is complete without shave ice. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice uses homemade syrups and tropical fruits like mango, lilikoi, and guava to top fluffy, finely shaved ice. It’ll cool you right down on a hot Lahaina afternoon.

Ono Grinds Along the Road to Hana

As you cruise along the winding Road to Hana, be sure to stop at a few of the famous food trucks and stands along the way. They serve up tasty “ono grinds” (delicious food) to give you an energy boost for tackling the 600+ curves that lead out to breathtaking Hana town.

First, fuel up on banana bread in Haiku at Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread, which bakes addicting loaves daily. Further down the road, satisfy your sweet tooth with coconut candy, macadamia nut brittle, and chocolate-covered coffee beans at Nahiku Marketplace.

When hunger strikes again, grab a grilled veggie panini at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop in Haiku or refreshing ahi poke bowls at Aiʻakea Lunch Wagon in Hāna bay.

Maui Pineapple Tours and More

You can’t leave the Valley Isle without tasting its sweet, juicy pineapple, declared “World’s Best” at the 2017 International Pineapple Competition. Book a tour with Maui Pineapple Tours to learn about Maui’s pineapple history first-hand and nibble on samples straight from the source.

If you still have room after all that pineapple, Lahaina and Kīhei offer several pie shops packing plenty of tropical flavor. Scoop up a slice of lilikoi chiffon pie from Leoda’s in Lahaina or banana cream pie from Kīhei’s Pie Shop before leaving the island.

From the plate lunch bowls of Lahaina to the famous banana bread stands along the Road to Hāna, Maui serves up scrumptious local cuisine and sweet tropical flavors around every corner. Come with an empty stomach, because with all there is to eat, this island promises you won’t leave hungry!

Kauai Foods – Tropical Tastes on the Garden Isle

Polihale State Park Kalua Pig

No trip to Kauai is complete without trying the traditional Hawaiian kalua pig. Some of the best kalua pig on the island can be found at Polihale State Park, where it is slow cooked all day in an underground oven called an imu.

The pork is rubbed with Hawaiian sea salt and ti leaves, giving it a wonderfully smoky and salty flavor. Locals frequent Polihale specifically for this tasty dish after a day of beachgoing and snorkeling along the Na Pali Coast.

In addition to kalua pig, Polihale offers visitors grilled mahi mahi, teriyaki chicken, and pineapple bowls. Wash it all down with a passion fruit smoothie or ice cold coconut water for a quintessentially Hawaiian gastronomic experience surrounded by breathtaking natural vistas.

With recipes passed down over generations and food sourced from local Kauai farms, Polihale’s kalua pig represents the spirit of aloha in cuisine form.

Wailua Shave Ice

No trip to a Hawaiian island is complete without trying shave ice. On Kauai, one must-visit shave ice destination is Wailua Shave Ice. Family-owned and operated since 1990, Wailua serves over 38 flavors of the finest shave ice on the Garden Isle.

Their generous mounds come drizzled with sweet tropical syrups like guava, lychee, mango, coconut, and local favorite haupia (coconut milk).

What sets Wailua Shave Ice apart is their homemade mochi and sweet adzuki bean toppings. The mochi, made fresh daily, adds a delightful chewy contrast to the icy shave ice. Regulars swear by the macadamia nut or vanilla mochi.

The adzuki beans are simmered in sugar to concentrate their natural sweetness into rich, velvety goodness. Upgrade to the Ali’i Bowl to sample multiple mochis and adzuki together.

Kauai Coffee Treats

As Hawaii’s largest coffee plantation at 3,100 acres, Kauai Coffee produces a wide array of coffee products for visitors to sample. From chocolate macadamia nut coffee beans to coffee maple bars, the plantation’s café and gift shop tempts with specialty coffee treats made from their 100% Kauai-grown beans.

Sure to be a hit with both kids and adults alike is their chocolate covered coffee berry ice cream. This one-of-a-kind frozen treat features roasted whole coffee berries enveloped in smooth 55% cacao chocolate.

The resulting sweet-tart flavor and crunchy fruit bits in creamy ice cream make for a tasty demonstration of the unique coffee harvest methods found only on Kauai.

Big Island Foods – Diverse Flavors Across Hawai’i

Hilo Farmers Markets

The Hilo Farmers Market, open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is a bustling open-air market with over 200 vendors selling the freshest local produce and prepared foods ( Wander through rows of colorful stalls to find tropical fruits like guava, lychee, rambutan, and white pineapple.

The market also offers an assortment of popular Hawaiian plate lunch items like teriyaki chicken, loco moco, and authentic shave ice.

Some standout vendors not to miss are:

  • Aunty Sally’s pineapple whips – creamy pineapple soft serve
  • Paradise Plants – orchids and anthuriums grown locally
  • Hamakua Mushrooms – oyster, shiitake and other gourmet mushroom varieties

Kona Coffee Shops

The Kona side of the Big Island is world-famous for its coffee. There are over 600 coffee farms in the region’s rich volcanic soil and ideal climate that produce Kona’s unique smooth, mellow flavor.

Top specialty coffee shops for experiencing quality 100% Kona coffee include:

  • Hula Daddy Kona Coffee – Award-winning farm with tasting room
  • Holualoa Kona Coffee Company – Historic coffee estate
  • Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation – Charming family-owned farm

You’ll find these shops located up winding mountain roads, offering flavorful cups of hot and iced coffee, as well as exclusive estate-grown beans to take home.

Volcano Winery Tastings

Yes, wine in Hawaii! Volcano Winery is Hawaii’s southernmost winery, growing grapes at high elevations near the Kilauea Volcano ( Its rich volcanic soil nurtures European varietals producing vibrant tropical-influenced wines.

Visit its charming tasting room daily, where you can sample wines like Lehua Bianca, Symphony Special Reserve, and Volcano Red while taking in gorgeous views of the lush rainforest and awe-inspiring Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.


From the flavor fusion of saimin noodles to the tropical twist of mango shave ice, Hawaiian food offers an abundance of iconic tastes for visitors. By trying popular staples along with unique hyperlocal specials across the islands, you’ll enjoy the full spectrum of flavors that earn Hawaii its reputation as a culinary paradise.

Use this guide to discover 25+ beloved foods to try during your getaway, taking your taste buds on a Polynesian adventure with every bite. With so many delicious options, you’re bound to fall in love with Hawaiian food as much as the islands themselves.

So get ready to experience a feast for all the senses!

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