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  • Writer's pictureRose@WhereToGoTravelCo

Foodies Guide to the Hawaiian Islands

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

While most people think of gorgeous beaches, dramatic vistas, and swaying palm trees when they think of Hawaii, there's something else visitors usually leave talking about. The food! With a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables, cattle farms, and of course, an abundance of food straight from the ocean, Hawaii Regional Cuisine will surprise and delight you. The Hawaiian people have found the BEST ways to use the land to grow and raise their food sustainably. Farm to table is a core philosophy of Hawaii Regional Cuisine- and it's reflected in the freshness of the food.

Food in Hawaii is a combination of American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese, with influence from the 19th and 20th centuries. No matter what island you travel to, you'll find a rich tapestry of flavors that reflect the islands' heritage.

From world-class restaurants to farmers' markets (there's an abundance of them), there is no shortage of options to find your delicacies. There are a few foods you'll want to make sure you try while you're on your trip. They are:

Poke (Poh-kay)

Eating poke in Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

The freshest sushi or sashimi-grade fish, cut into cubes and marinated with various herbs and colorful sauces. Poke has grown in popularity over the years, but if you haven't tried it, WAIT until you go to Hawaii to try it. You can find this melt-in-your-mouth delicacy in the Hawaiian supermarkets (similar to a deli counter) or at many restaurants. Ask a few locals where they get their poke. They'll lead you to the gold!

Plate Lunch

Plate lunch in Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

The plate lunch consists of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and a choice of meat (like kalua pork or mahimahi). Plantation workers and, later on, surfers wanted something nutritious as their main meal of the day. This led to the now-famous "plate lunch."

Sugarloaf Pineapple

Woman buying pineapple at farmers market in Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Mark Kushimi

Fresh produce from a farmers' market is a must-do when you're in Hawaii. Locate one early in your trip so you can stock up your room and enjoy it throughout your vacation. One thing you should not miss is the sugarloaf pineapple. Grown on Kauai- with extreme care for every single pineapple. Just know that no pineapple you eat after tasting this pineapple will be the same.


Sink your teeth into this soft, warm, pillowy doughnut with a light dusting of sugar. Try them filled with plain custard or coconut-flavored haupia pudding!

Hula Pie

Mac nut ice cream on top of a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge, whip cream, and mac nuts… need I say more?! It's ok to plan for a bit of indulgence when on vacation.

Shave Ice (not “shaved” ice!)

Finely (I mean finely) shaved ice topped with flavorful syrups, like lilikoi (aka, passion fruit), strawberry, or pineapple, and a coconut cream cap, sit on top of ice cream or azuki beans. (A must try with mac nut ice cream!)

Shave Ice in Hawaii
Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ben Ono

Besides local restaurants, farmers markets, and culinary tours, another great place to sample traditional Hawaiian cuisine is to attend a luau (albeit no trip to Hawaii is complete without enjoying a luau!). Here you'll typically find kalua pork, poi, laulau, and more. Plus, you'll be entertained by hula and fire dancers, all while learning more about the beautiful Hawaiian culture.

For the best recommendations for restaurants, tours, luaus, and more, make sure you contact us to help you plan your Hawaiian vacation! As a Hawaii Destination expert (the Hawaii Tourism Authority said so!), we know all the right places!

Schedule your complimentary consultation to start the planning process. We'd be honored to share with you the best that Hawaii has to offer and design a trip around the things that you love.

Picnic on the beach in Hawaii
Want a picnic on the beach? We can arrange that!


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