The flavors of Hawaii are as unique as the islands themselves, and while signature dishes and ingredients have reached international popularity, there are still some food and drink experiences that are best had when you’re in Hawaii. From special cocktails to a dish with ancient roots, no trip to Hawaii is complete with trying these dishes, ingredients, and beverages yourself.


Tour a coffee farm

Hawaii’s Kona coffee has a smooth, sweet, and medium-bodied taste that is unlike any other coffee you’ll find in the world. A bag of genuine Kona can cost you a pretty penny, but you can enjoy a tasting during a tour of one of the more than 600 coffee farms like Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farms in the town of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.


Dive into a poke bowl

Poke is now a staple for seafood lovers from coast to coast on mainland USA, but the fresh bowls of raw fish, rice, noodles, and toppings were born in Hawaii. Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona is easily the most famous place to get the popular dish, but Chef Keoni Chang of Hawaii’s grocery store chain Foodland (pictured below) has made it so that affordable, high-quality poke is available everywhere and for everyone across the islands.


Photo courtesy of Shontel Horne


Eat a malasada for breakfast

Malasadas are doughnut-like confections that are fried and covered in sugar. While the sweet treat has Portuguese roots, malasadas are popular in Hawaii, and Kamehameha Bakery in Honolulu has fun flavors like poi, glaze, and strawberry. We dare you to try to eat just one!


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Try your first poi

Poi, a purplish-gray Hawaiian staple made of mashed taro root, probably won’t be your favorite dish during your trip, but the dish is an essential part of native Hawaiian cuisine and remains popular with locals throughout the Hawaiian islands. For poi done right, head straight to Waiahole Poi Factory in Kaneohe.


Have picnic on a secret island

Sure Kualoa’s Secret Island in Kaneohe isn’t really that much of a secret, but a trip to the gorgeous beach requires booking a reservation and taking a boat to get there. Bring some coconut drinks and treats and live your best island life while lounging on hammocks and gazing at the view of Mokoliʻi.


Photo courtesy of Shontel Horne


Snack on Spam Musubi

Spam is a big deal in Hawaii, so much so that the popular canned meat is often the target of theft and sold on the black market for twice its original price. Spam Musubi, a sushi-like snack where Spam is marinated and cooked, placed on top of sushi rice then wrapped with nori, is a must-try, and you’ll find it everywhere from convenience stores and food halls to high-end restaurants.


Cool off with Hawaiian Shave Ice

When Hawaii heats up, the locals cool down with light and refreshing Hawaiian Shave Ice. Everyone has an opinion about who makes the best version of the frozen treat, but you haven’t truly had a Hawaiian Shave Ice until you’ve been to Ululani in Lahaina, Maui.


Sip Tiki cocktails on Waikiki Beach

Head to Hau Tree Cantina at Hilton Village Waikiki Beach Resort to sample colorful, sweet cocktails, including the Tropical Itch, a rum drink that was created at the hotel and is served with a wooden backscratcher.


Go rum tasting in Kauai

All great Tiki drinks start with rum, and Kōloa Rum Company makes the best rum in all of Hawaii. Located in Kauai, the Kōloa Rum Company offers tastings of their award-winning rums daily, and if you love coffee, be sure to buy a bottle of the coffee rum for your personal souvenir.


Photo courtesy of Shontel Horne


Dive into Garlic Shrimp in North Shore

Take a break from touristy Waikiki and head to Oahu’s North Shore to get unspoiled ocean views and the region’s signature Garlic Shrimp. On your drive to North Shore you’ll see countless roadside eateries all offering the flavorful dish, and while Giovanni’s is the most popular place, skip the line and head to Hono’s Shrimp Truck to get your seafood fix.


Leave room for pineapple

The sweet fruit has been a symbol for the Hawaiian islands for nearly a century, dating back to when John Dole purchased land on the tiny island of Lanai to harvest pineapple back in 1922. Today, pineapples are a staple of the islands and are used in everything from cocktails and desserts to savory dishes. If you can’t make Lanai’s annual pineapple festival, you’ll still get a chance to try the local crop nearly everywhere you turn in Hawaii.