A visit to Hawaii delights all of the senses but especially your taste buds! Culinary influences from all over the world, coupled with a huge variety of fresh produce and fish straight from the ocean combine to make eating in Hawaii extraordinary.
There’s just so much to try, and whether you want to eat super healthily or over-indulge because you’re on vacation, Hawaii really does have it all.
Here’s my A-Z of things you should try to eat or drink if you’re heading over to Hawaii anytime soon. S isn’t SPAM and I did have to get creative cheat on a few of the more difficult letters! A is for…
Ahi, Opa and Mahimahi in Penang Curry at Mama’s Fish House (Maui). Sometimes curry spices can overpower delicate fish, but not at Mama’s Fish House where the flavors are perfectly balanced.
Blue Mountain Coffee (Kauai). Hawaii is the only state in the United States that grows coffee and they take it very seriously. Kona coffee is also excellent.
Coconut. Whether you pick one fresh off a deserted beach or sample Alan Wong’s famous ‘The Coconut’ dessert at his Honolulu restaurant, it’s going to be good.
Donuts at Leonard’s Bakery. Honolulu’s best donuts are well worth a detour away from the main strip of Waikiki Beach.
Espresso Martini. Cocktails at the Andaz, Maui are all fabulous, but the winner for me is always an espresso martini!
Fire Rock Pale Ale. Kona Brewing Company describes its beers as ‘liquid aloha’. I couldn’t put it better myself.
Guava. Or any fruit grown on the islands; papaya, mango, pineapple or breadfruit are equally good options.
Hanalei Island IPA. Another lovely brew from the Kona Brewing Company. It’s possible to visit their brewery in Kona (Big Island) to sample a wide variety of liquid aloha and then soak it up with a spent grain crust pizza.
Ika (squid). I had to get creative with ‘I’. Seafood in Hawaii is generally amazing, and the calamari is no exception. Battered simply in salt and pepper or with more exotic island spices, it’s delicious every time.
Japanese Katsu Curry. Although you might think me mad for suggesting you visit a shopping mall for dinner while staying in Hawaii, a Katsu curry at Shirokiya Japan Village Walk in Honolulu was one of the best meals I had there. I’m also willing to bet it’s the only place on Oahu you can get a $1 beer with your meal!
Kalhua Pig. Kalhua literally means ‘to cook in an underground oven’. This method is similar to the Maori Hangi and produces a wonderful tender meat with a smokey flavor.
Loco Moco. Believe it or not, the image below is breakfast. The macaroni ‘salad’ is so glutenous, but such a good side for this dish. Big Island Grill in Kailua-Kona (Big Island) and Poi by the Pound in Kahului (Maui) were two of the best I had!
Maui Brewing Co. beer. It doesn’t have as good a strapline as Kona Brewing Co.’s ‘liquid aloha’, but Maui Brewing Co.’s Bikini Blonde is still a perfect late afternoon beer to enjoy by the pool or beach.
Noodles made in Honolulu’s Chinatown. I visited a Chinese noodle factory on a trip I took with Hawaii Food Tours, which granted me access to lots of places I would never have discovered or been able to access on my own.
Octopus (Tako) Poke. Or any octopus dish you come across, for that matter.
Polynesian Black Pearl Dessert at Mamas Fish House (Maui). The most beautiful dessert in Hawaii (probably).
Queen Bee Cocktail. This is a cop-out on my part, as I couldn’t find anything Hawaiian that begins with a Q (see also, Z). But you can always have cocktails in Hawaii!
Rambutan. Very similar to a lychee, this fruit can be eaten straight from the tree (if ripe) or used as a cocktail ingredient.
Shave Ice. Refreshing and guilt-free when compared with ice cream, shave ice is the perfect snack to help you cool down on a hot Hawaii day.
Taro. Poi, a traditional native Hawaiian food made from taro root, is a love it or hate it kind of dish. A tourist-friendly version of this is a burger on a taro bun, which is as close as I got to the real deal.
Upside down cake. To be specific, pineapple upside down cake. Or anything with pineapple. The Dole Food Company (now the largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world) can trace its origins back to a humble pineapple farm on Oahu.
Volcano Winery. On the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Winery offers tasting flights of their unique wines for just $5.
Wonton (Hawaiian style). Another nod to Chinatown here, but you will find a selection of wontons across Hawaii, served in anything from breakfast soups to starters at formal restaurants.
Xiao long bao. Chinatown to the rescue again! In Honolulu’s huge Chinatown, you can find anything from Shanghai dumplings (the aforementioned Xiao long bao) to SPAM sushi.
Yellowfin Tuna Poke. This amazing Poke was from Fish & Poi on Big Island. It’s no wonder Poke is getting popular throughout the US and beyond, it’s healthy, easier to make and eat than Sushi and tastes wonderfully fresh.
Zombie cocktail. Okay, I admit it, I struggled with Z. But this is a Tiki cocktail and Hawaii has lots of brilliant Tiki Bars. Two of my favorites are South Shore Tiki Lounge on Maui and Tahiti Nui on Kauai.
Whatever you eat in Hawaii, it’s almost guaranteed to be good. Even better, from high-end fine dining down to street food and hole in the wall vendors, you can pick fruit right off the tree (where allowed!) or spend obscene amounts in a fancy restaurant and come away feeling full and satisfied either way.