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Hawai‘i: A Foodie's Paradise

Adventurous eaters will never be bored during a visit to Hawai‘i


There’s always something different to try at every meal, from exotic fruits and fresh seafood to only-in-Hawai‘i cuisine prepared by chefs who’ve received national acclaim. Here’s a quick guide to help you embark on an appetizing adventure and learn the true meaning of ‘ono (delicious!).


From the Sea

You may have tried a poke bowl by now (pronounced POE-kay), since the Native Hawaiian dish of cubed and seasoned raw fish has become trendy in Southern California and New York. But while you’re in Hawai‘i, see how locals have been eating poke for years.

Native Hawaiians simply seasoned raw fish with limu (seaweed) and ‘inamona (roasted kukui nuts mashed with salt) when making poke. Today, most people in Hawai‘i like it with soy sauce, onions, sesame oil, and red chili thrown into the mix. ‘Ahi is the most commonly used fish, but everything from fried tofu to smoked tako (octopus) can, and will, be made into poke.

Try a poke sampler with a craft cocktail at The Edge by Tamura’s, a new restaurant in Honolulu, or the upscale preparation at Roy’s that is served in a martini glass. Head over to Aloha Cones and Ono Seafood, casual poke counters close to Waikīkī, where you can build your own poke bowl with rice. If you’re visiting Hawai‘i’s Big Island, stop by the award-winning Da Poke Shack for the “poke bombs,” and Umekes for poke bowls.


Carbo Loading

It may be hot and humid out, but the warm weather doesn’t stop locals from enjoying a steaming bowl of saimin, the islands’ unique twist on Japanese ramen. It’s a comfort food of chewy noodles and meaty toppings swimming in a light, clear broth, and it’s so ubiquitous in Hawai‘i that even McDonald’s has a version on its menu there.

On O‘ahu, get your slurp on at any mom-and-pop saimin stand, Zippy’s restaurant (a regional chain) or try the modern version at Monkeypod Kitchen topped with kālua pork, sprouts, and cilantro. Don’t miss Hamura’s Saimin Stand if you plan to visit Kaua‘i—the small family restaurant holds a James Beard Award—and take the time to visit Star Noodle on Maui, which has both traditional and unconventional takes on the dish.


Fruit Loop

Forget that $5 bottle of coconut water! Cool down with a freshly cut coconut from a roadside fruit stand or farmers’ market. On O‘ahu, look for the fruit stands in Kahuku and Waiāhole when driving around the island, or visit the farmers’ market at Kapi‘olani Community College on Saturday mornings.

On Maui, the Upcountry Farmers Market has produce and food from more than 40 local vendors, and the Kaua‘i Community Market is one of the most popular outdoor markets on the Garden Isle. Aside from coconuts, look for liliko‘i (passion fruit), fresh lychee, papaya, the exotic Brazilian fruit jaboticaba, and apple bananas.


New and Trendy

Several new restaurants have opened on O‘ahu just in time for summer. At the newly revamped International Marketplace in Waikīkī is Stripsteak, the steakhouse concept from Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina, and Yauatcha, a high-end dim sum restaurant from nightlife company Hakkasan.

Moku Kitchen, at the new SALT at Our Kaka‘ako development in downtown Honolulu, has gourmet burgers and pizza cooked over kiawe (mesquite) wood. Locals have been raving about Senia in Chinatown, which was opened by two Per Se alumni, and the “pho-strami” báhn mì at Piggy Smalls. In Kahului, Maui, Tin Roof has casual dishes prepared by the only toque from Hawai‘i who competed on Top Chef, and Mauka Makai is the signature restaurant at the newly opened Westin Nanea Ocean Villas.

Tropical Tidbit

Want to try a tea that’s not yet on the radar of matcha lovers? while you’re in Hawai‘i, Look for iced mamaki, an herbal tea that comes from a medicinal plant with a mild flavor.

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