With poke shacks and menus touting traditional Hawaiian fare cropping up in cities around the US, there’s never been a better time to visit the source. Hawaii’s rich culinary history, gastronomic fusion of Pan-Pacific flavors, and growing locavore movement help make Oahu a hotbed of food culture serving unique cuisine. Here’s where to start.
For breakfast, smoothies featuring lilikoi (passion fruit), mango, or guava are an excellent choice, but for a heartier option, try loco moco. It features a fried egg-topped hamburger patty atop a bed of white rice and smothered in a rich, brown gravy. For your next meal, save room for some real local food: plate lunch. The typical format includes a meat like North Shore garlic shrimp, char siu pork, teriyaki beef, or chicken katsu served with a scoop each of white rice and macaroni salad. For dinner try island-raised or -caught fish like Kona kampache or monchong and—if you can find them—sides of 'ulu (breadfruit) fries, purple mashed sweet potatoes, or fern shoot salad made from native forest-grown hoio.
Luaus and sunset cruises couple entertainment and tropical cocktails with the chance to sample many types of Hawaiian food including imu-roasted kaula pig, poi, and haupia (coconut) pie.
Take a food tour where tour guides help you navigate the restaurant-rich areas of Chinatown or Ala Moana. Stop at secret local spots to find the best food in Honolulu and taste-test popular options including Japanese takoyaki dumplings, boals of saimin rice noodles, Spam musubi (think sushi rolls with Spam in the middle), and shave ice.
Head out on a foodie bike tour to cover more ground and burn calories along the way.
Take home some knowledge with a cooking class—learn the proper way to dice poke or spend time crafting a chocolate bar from Hawaii-grown cacao.