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Food and drink in Hawaii
Taste your way across the islands.
Hawaii is home to a number of unique dishes inspired by the islands’ tropical flavors and Asian influences. You might not be able to hit every spot on your vacation — but we can help you try.
Top must-eats in Hawaii
Taro, a root vegetable from the tropical Colocasia esculenta plant, is a star ingredient in laulau and other Hawaiian dishes. To make this traditional entree, fish, chicken or pork is wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in a hole in the ground. A rock placed over the hole gives the dish its signature smokiness and softens the taro leaves to the consistency of cooked spinach.
This Hawaiian staple of raw fish cut into chunks and tossed in a savory marinade of soy sauce and green onions has caught on in restaurants on the mainland. While ahi tuna is the traditional choice, octopus poke is also popular — and delicious. It can be served on its own, tossed with a salad or as a poke bowl served over a bed of rice.
The word manapua literally translates to “delicious pork thing” — and it certainly lives up to its name. Think of it as a supersized Chinese steamed pork dumpling. It’s traditionally filled with a sweet pork stuffing, but you can find many varieties on the island.
A canned pork product, Spam has become practically synonymous with Hawaiian cuisine. It’s most famously used to make on-the-go snack Spam musubi: a slice of Spam glazed with soy sauce and sugar, wrapped in rice and seaweed.
Saimin is the ultimate Hawaiian comfort food — a seafood-based broth made with wheat noodles just a bit thicker than ramen. Topped with pork, green onions, fish cake, eggs or cabbage, it’s heavily influenced by Chinese noodle soup, Japanese ramen and Filipino pancit. You can even try a fried version at festivals.
The sweet treat to try on Hawaii is shave ice, which consists of finely shaved ice and flavored syrup made from local fruits like lychee, mango or guava. Top it off with goodies like ice cream, mochi balls or condensed milk.
Best restaurants in Hawaii
Alan Wong is an original creator of Hawaii regional cuisine, and his restaurant has served drool-worthy Asian-fusion dishes since 1955. It uses locally sourced seafood, beef and tropical fruits to create unique dishes packed with flavor.
1857 South King Street, Suite 208, Honolulu
Geste Shrimp food truck
Best known for its fresh shrimp plates with flavors like lemon pepper and spicy pineapple, Geste Shrimp is Maui’s most famous food truck.
2001 Kahului Beach Road, next to Kahului Harbor, Maui
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
To experience traditional Hawaiian fare at its finest, head to Helena’s Hawaiian Food, which serves up dishes using family recipes from the original founder. If you want to try a bit of everything, order “Menu D” and sample a range of true Hawaiian dishes.
1240 North School Street, Kalihi, Honolulu
ULU Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge
For an ocean view and a great selection of wine and fresh seafood, go to ULU Ocean Grill and Seafood. It sources 75% of its menu from local Hawaiian farms and serves specialties like Big Island wild boar and Kekala beet salad.
72-100 Ka’upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island
Taking a break from surfing? This is the perfect spot to walk to from the beach for an icy cold cocktail.
As a bonus, you can show up in a bikini and board shorts. The casual vibe pairs well with delicious island drinks, burgers (or veggie burgers) and fresh fish — plus panoramic views of the Pacific.
2335 Kalakaua Avenue, Suite 116, Honolulu
Tiki’s Grill and Bar
Located a few floors up in the Aston Waikiki Hotel, this hot spot is perfect for drinking in a picturesque Hawaiian sunset. Plus, it has live music most nights and drink specials throughout the week.
2570 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu
How does tipping work in Hawaii?
Like most US locations, tipping in Hawaii is standard practice. Leaving a 15% to 20% tip in cash for restaurant servers is considered best practice. A 15% tip to your taxi driver is also courteous. For tour guides, base your tip on the length of the trip. You might tip $5 per person for a one to two-hour tour and $20 per person for a full-day tour.
What to drink in Hawaii
A quintessential island drink, the mai tai is made with a base of rum and triple sec, then topped with lime, almond syrup and grenadine.
A drink with roots in Hawaii, Blue Hawaii was invented by Harry Yee while working at the Hilton Hawaiian village Resort and Spa in 1957. It’s made with rum, pineapple juice, Blue Curaçao and sweet and sour mix.
Popular at many island bars, the chi chi is a refreshing mixture of fresh pineapple juice, tequila, orange liqueur and grenadine.
What’s the legal drinking age in Hawaii?
The legal drinking age in Hawaii is 21. Hawaii does not permit open containers while driving or in public places, including beaches.
Hawaii food tours and experiences
Top Hawaii Coffee & Tea tours
Viator, a TripAdvisor Company
Viator, a TripAdvisor Company
Top Hawaii Food Tours
Viator, a TripAdvisor Company
Find food and drink deals in Hawaii
Because of the numerous pineapple plantations throughout the islands, this fruit is a staple in many traditional Hawaiian dishes. Plantation laborers were historically of Polynesian, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese descent, bringing their own unique cooking style and delicacies to the islands. The result is a rich blend of cuisines that harmoniously come together in Hawaiian cuisine.
Take advantage of the many delicious food and drink options throughout the Hawaiian islands during your stay. Now that you’ve figured out where to eat and get a refreshing drink, look into where to stay.
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