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We have family and friends that visit Hawaii for it’s beautiful beaches, hikes, and warm weather. But what really keeps them coming back is the abundance of local food. Hawaii is known for its diverse culture and with that, there are a lot of different kinds of food you need to try while visiting this state. What’s a vacation if you don’t EAT LIKE A LOCAL. Here are top 10 iconic bites you need to try while in Hawaii:
1. Hawaiian Food
Starting off with the most traditional local food in Hawaii is of course, Hawaiian food. What’s a Hawaii vacation without tasting traditional Hawaiian food. If you can fit it in your schedule (which is a must if it’s your first time visiting Hawaii), visit a Hawaiian food restaurant or go to a Luau. They will have all of the Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua Pork, Poi, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Haupia, and many more.
- Highway Inn – 680 Ala Moana Blvd #105 Honolulu, HI 96813
- Helena’s Hawaiian Food – 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817
- Paradise Cove Luau – 92-1089 Alii Nui Drive, Kapolei, HI 96707
- We went to this Luau at Ko’olina and it was absolutely amazing!
- Germaine’s Luau – 91-119 Olai St, Kapolei, HI 96707
- Chief’s Luau – 41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo, HI 96795
2. Garlic Shrimp
It’s our monthly tradition to visit the North Shore for some delicious Garlic Shrimp plate. (Yes, monthly!) This is our favorite dish that Hawaii has to offer! It’s sautéed garlic and butter shrimp served with white rice (you can opt out for brown rice at some shrimp trucks. Depending on which Shrimp Truck you go to, they serve their Garlic Shrimp plate with salad and pineapple (Macky’s) or lemon (multi purpose; either sprinkle it over your garlic shrimp or use it to get the smell off your hands afterwards). Prepare to get your hands dirty!
Shrimp Trucks (our favorites in order):
- Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – 56-505 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731
- Macky’s Shrimp Truck – 66-632 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
- Romy’s Shrimp Truck – 56-781 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731
Seafood lover? This dish is perfect for you! It’s the most fresh, raw ahi tuna. You can get different kinds of sauce for your poke, Reid’s favorite is the spicy ahi poke. If you’re heading to the beach and need a quick meal, poke bowl is a popular one! It’s poke served over white or brown rice.
- Tamura’s Market – 1216 10th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- Tanioka’s Seafood and Catering – 94-903 Farrington Hwy, Waipahu, HI 96797
- Pa’ina Café – check out our post about it here.
4. Spam Musubi
This is a quick food you can grab at every corner store in Hawaii. It’s spam and white rice wrapped in nori (dried seaweed). For breakfast, head over to McDonalds (yup! we have that on the menu here) for the spam and rice platter (without the nori). Lunch, you can grab this at 7-Eleven or any ABC Store. Dinner, we wouldn’t recommend buying this for dinner as it’s best when made fresh but some restaurants such as Genki Sushi offer this dish.
- 7-Eleven – Multiple locations on Oahu
- ABC Store – Multiple locations on Oahu
- Tanioka’s Seafood and Catering (we highly recommend this place!)
5. Loco Moco
One of my favorite dishes, loco moco. (Reid is not a fan of this dish) I absolutely love gravy over rice and this dish has exactly that! It has hamburger patty over rice with sunny side-up eggs smothered in gravy. Most local restaurants in Hawaii serves this dish in their menu. We’ve tried mini loco moco’s at Wai’Olu Restaurant (Trump Waikiki) and it was divine!
- L&L Drive-Inn – Multiple locations on Oahu
- Loco Moco Drive-Inn – Multiple locations on Oahu
- Zippy’s Restaurant – Multiple locations on Oahu
6. Plate Lunch from Zippy’s
Zippy’s is known as THE local restaurant in Hawaii. As mentioned above, not only does Zippy’s have Loco Moco plate but other delicious local plates. We have a few favorite dishes from Zippy’s Restaurant which is why we recommend trying any “plate lunch”. From breakfast, lunch, dinner (Korean Chicken and Chili Frank plates which is our favorite), and dessert.. Zippy’s Restaurant has it all!
Zippy’s around Oahu:
- Town Side (Honolulu/Waikiki)
- 601 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 9681
- 1725 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826
- 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814
- West Side (Close to Kapolei)
- 950 Kamokila Blvd, Kapolei, HI 96707
- 94-180 Farrington Hwy, Waipahu, HI 96701
- 91-1717 Fort Weaver Rd, Ewa Beach, HI 96706
Now that we’ve covered the main dishes.. It’s time for the local snacks and desserts!
7. Shave Ice
With the warm weather, this is a must food to cool you off! It’s finely shaved ice covered in any delicious syrup of your choice. Syrup flavors such as coconut, pineapple, guava, lilikoi, and many more.. It’s like experiencing Hawaii in your mouth. Shave Ice can also be topped off with li hing mui (which is #10 on this list), ice cream, or condensed milk (sounds daring but it will be the best decision of your life!)
- Matsumoto’s Shave Ice – 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy. Haleiwa, HI 96712
- Shimazu Store – 330 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817
- Wiaola Shave Ice – 2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826
8. Acai Bowl
This dreamy bowl of goodness! It’s served everywhere in the world and can easily make at home but Hawaii has it’s own touch which you need to try. It’s acai berry blend with your choice of fruits, granola, and honey in a bowl. (I’m craving one as I describe this!) Great to try before and after the beach, a hike… pretty much any time of the day!
- Haleiwa Bowls – 66-081 Kamehameha Hwy. Haleiwa, HI 96712
- This place was sent from heaven! Little shack in Haleiwa with a variety of fruits and toppings to choose from. Their Acai is perfectly blended to my likings. If you can’t already tell, this is my favorite Acai place on earth!
- Lanikai Juice – Multiples locations on Oahu
- 808 Urban Bowls – 94-450 Mokuola St, Waipahu, HI 96797
- This is Reid’s favorite Acai place.
Let’s thank the Portuguese for this perfect ambrosia! It’s deep-fried doughnut without a hole and coated with sugar (or li hing mui). These little balls of puffs can also have fillings such as custard, chocolate, coconut, and other special flavors. Tip: Eat them while it’s hot!
- Leonard’s Malasadas (This is the only place we recommend to try fresh malasadas!) – 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
10. Li Hing Mui
This powder consist of ground-up plum skin with food coloring, salt, and sugar. It doesn’t sound appetizing, however, you will not regret tasting this! In Hawaii, we sprinkle this over anything we can! It’s great with mango, pineapple (our favorite!), malasadas, pop corn, shave ice, gummy bears, alcohol drinks… you get the picture, pretty much on everything. After trying it out, you may want to stop at a local grocery store and bring some home to share with family and friends.
- Available at most local stores (ABC Stores, Walgreens, CVS/Longs Drugs, Walmart, etc.)
If you really enjoy trying out local food and knowing more about it, check out our Hawaii Food Tour.