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Food Culture in Hawaiʻi
With our bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, abundant upland cattle farms and Pacific Ocean waters teeming with sashimi-grade fish, Hawaiian cuisine is a beautiful tapestry of flavors and traditions. Here, ancient customs meet global influences brought to Hawaiʻi over many generations, giving our local food culture more layers than a Maui onion. From farm-to-table Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine to traditional feasts fit for ke aliʻi (royalty), you’ll find delicious culinary treasures on every Hawaiian island.
Oʻahu, known as The Gathering Place, is nothing short of a foodie paradise, and in the past few years Honolulu has emerged as one of the major culinary meccas in the U.S. Stroll through foodie ’hoods like Kakaʻako, Kaimukī and Chinatown to discover a melting pot of trendy eateries and mom-and-pop diners dishing up local specialties like plate lunch and loco moco (white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy). From downtown Honolulu to Waikīkī, book a table at one of the iconic fine-dine restaurants that put Hawaiian cuisine on the map, including Roy’s and Chef Mavro.
If your travels take you to Kauaʻi, assemble an epic Hawaiian-style picnic at the island’s famed sunshine markets, and treat yourself to a memorable meal at hotspots like Merriman’s or Eating House 1849. Maui’s mix of roadside food stands and gourmet restaurants is enhanced by the abundant produce grown in the island’s Kula region. The island of Hawaiʻi offers dining choices as diverse as its landscapes; just remember to finish your meal with a cup of homegrown Kona coffee. And don’t let the smaller populations of Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi fool you: these deeply rooted islands serve up tons of local flavor – from pillowy doughnuts and fresh bread at Kanemitsu’s Bakery in Kaunakakai to high-end sushi from celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa at Nobu Lānaʻi.
Food festivals throughout the Hawaiian Islands showcase our local food scenes. Prestigious events like the Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival and Kapalua Wine & Food Festival gather top-notch chefs, sommeliers and winemakers from around Hawaiʻi (and the world). From poi to pancakes, learn all about the “staff of life” at the East Maui Taro Festival, and sample a real Hawaiian delicacy in all its forms at the Waikīkī Spam Jam. The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is good to the last drop, while beloved events like the Maui Onion Festival, Lānaʻi Pineapple Festival and Kauaʻi Coconut Festival pay homage to our local crops.
Speaking of celebrated chefs, you can even dine at restaurants run by two former Top Chef contestants: Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Café in Honolulu and fan-favorite Sheldon Simeon’s Tin Roof in Kahului, Maui. And of course, a trip to Hawaiʻi isn’t complete without experiencing the sensory delights of an authentic lūʻau – nightly celebrations of our islands’ rich culture and cuisine that are nothing short of ‘ono (delicious).
Explore Restaurants by Island
From funky North Shore food trucks to the world-class culinary mecca of Honolulu, Oʻahu is truly paradise for foodies. True to its nickname, The Gathering Place, Oʻahu’s dining scene combines diverse global influences with locally grown ingredients, creating a melting pot of flavors you won’t find anywhere else.More
With a moniker like "The Garden Island," it's no surprise the restaurants and sunshine markets of Kauaʻi are bursting with local fruits and veggies. On this laid-back island, you can keep it casual at poke joints, dress up for a high-end meal or ride your bike to Hawaiʻi originals like Lappert’s Ice Cream in Hanapēpē or Poʻipū.More
Lānaʻi may be small, but the fine dining offered at resorts like the Four Seasons Lānaʻi will dazzle even the most refined palates. In downtown Lānaʻi City, explore quaint cafés or peruse the Saturday farmers market at Dole Park for pineapples, lililoʻi (passion fruit) and other local treats.More
Roadside farm stands, mom-and-pop shops serving Maui’s signature banana bread and outstanding resort restaurants are among the diverse dining choices on the Valley Isle. See where it all comes from in lush Upcountry Maui, where you can visit farms, ranches and wineries in Kula and other towns.More
Island of Hawaiʻi
On the island of Hawaiʻi, the food is as diverse as the terrain. Sip your way through the coffee plantations that make the Kona region famous; snack on sweet treats from shave ice and mochi shops in Hilo; or feast on Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine at acclaimed restaurants like Merriman’s in Kamuela.More
Eat like a real Hawaiian on Molokaʻi, where many locals still fish for their dinner off the Kaunakakai pier, and lining up at the back door of Kanemitsu’s Bakery for piping-hot bread is a nightly ritual. Don’t miss the chance to devour one of Molokaʻi’s freshly-plucked coconuts, which you can even mail home!More
Hawaiian Culinary Highlights
Food in Hawaiʻi
Take your taste buds off the beaten path with the flavors of Hawai‘i. Discover local comfort foods, island favorites, and authentic tastes from farm-to-table and gourmet, to hidden spots and must-trys.
Culinary Adventures throughout Hawaiʻi
See how dishes from Hawaiʻi use local and ethnic styles and ingredients to reflect the islands' history and culture.
Balance in a Bowl
BALANCE IN A BOWL - The subway rumbles under Columbus Circle in New York City. Inside the towering Time Warner Center is Per Se by Chef Thomas Keller, one of the best restaurants in New York. This is where Brandon Baptiste cut his teeth, working tirelessly 12-16 hours a day, perfecting his culinary skills, and learning from the very best, to be the very best…More
Eat Like a Local
Consisting of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and everything from kālua pork, Korean barbecue, chicken katsu, beef teriyaki, or mahimahi, the plate lunch is a staple of local food.
No matter what island you’re on, grab a shave ice to cool off. These finely shaved snow cones are served with colorful flavors on the top with a choice of ice cream or azuki beans on the bottom.
“Pūpū” is the Hawaiian term for appetizer, and every local restaurant in Hawaiʻi offers a wide range of creative pūpū platters to dine on, from poke dishes to sushi.
Treat your sweet tooth to a hot malasada (a Portuguese doughnut). Although Leonard's Bakery in Kapahulu is popular on Oʻahu, ask any local and they can tell you their favorite bakeries on each island to find these fresh and tasty treats.
For big appetites, try a “loco moco,” which is a hamburger steak and egg over rice, covered in gravy. You can find loco moco served throughout the islands, but Café 100 in Hilo on the island of Hawaiʻi is said to have originated the name.
Farms and Agriculture
Each Hawaiian Island has its own agricultural region, from Upcountry Maui to the rich volcanic soil on the island of Hawaiʻi. Pay a visit to our many farms and ranches to see our farm-to-table traditions in action.More
Sweet lililoʻi (passion fruit). Succulent pineapples. Even fresh-baked banana bread and local macadamia nuts. Held just about every day of the week, Hawaiʻi's farmers markets give new meaning to the word "fresh."More
Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine
The farm-to-table philosophy is central to Hawaiʻi’s defining cuisine. Founded by 12 pioneering chefs, Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine uses fresh island ingredients – including locally caught fish and more fruits and vegetables than you can name – to create an exciting fusion of flavors.More
No trip to Hawaiʻi is complete without attending one of these traditional celebrations of food and culture. Feast on kālua pork cooked in an imu (underground oven), laulau (beef, pork, chicken or fish wrapped in taro leaves) and poi (taro starch) while hula dancers tell stories through their graceful movements.More
Explore Food in Hawaiʻi
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