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Eat Like a Local: Must try Foods When in Hawaii

a person holding a cup

The Hawaiian cuisine is one of the most diverse, interesting, and delicious foods in the south pacific. It serves as a multi-cultural melting pot in the Pacific Ocean. Despite the variety of flavored dishes and food options, it remains one of the most distinct cuisines in the world. Here are some of the must try foods when in Hawaii:


One should not visit Hawaii and not try Poi. This dish is one of the most popular offerings in the country. It is a staple of Hawaiian culinary upbringing and traditional dish locals always recommend their visitors.

Poi came from taro root. It is similar to a yam or potato. But it has more distinct starchy flavor, that is either steamed or baked and pounded. It’s created by pounding the taro root while water is added to the mixture to create a very sticky pudding.

According to locals, you shouldn’t leave Hawaii without tasting Poi. In fact, this can define their culture of food and warm Aloha.

Some tourists can’t get enough of it that they purchase poi in powder form. In that way, they can take it to their homelands without missing the Hawaiian delicacy. Although it may be not as fresh, it’s still a great alternative, especially if you’re a thousand miles away.


Laulau is another traditional Hawaiian food. It is made of Taro, which many consider one of the most important plants in the whole island region and its neighboring countries. While poi is made from the taro root, laulau is made from the leaves.

The Laulau is cooked pork wrapped in layers of taro leaves and cooked in an underground hot rock oven for hours until it turns soft and smoky flavored. The meat is tender and juicy while the leaves turn to a spinach like consistency.

As the Hawaiian cuisine innovates, other kinds of meat such as chicken and fish can be alternatives or different variations of Laulau.

Kalua Pig

Another must eat dish when in Hawaii is the Kalua Pig. As expected, this dish’s star is pork, which was cooked in an underground oven, (known as an imu). For hours, the pork slow roasts so it becomes extremely tender and retains a remarkable smoky flavor.

It is comparable to the South America’s pulled pork dishes, but without the tangy barbecue sauce. Instead, the Kailua Pig has a smoky and woody flavor, accompanied with a distinct pungent smell. Best served with rice.


Dawning from a Japanese influence, the Hawaiian Poke is also one of their staples. It is their derived version of the Japanese sashimi or raw fish, which are made from their fresh catches from the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of slicing the fish thin like for Japanese sashimi, Hawaiian poke is served in bite sized hearty cubes. The locals most commonly use Ahi, or tuna, in making the Poke, but also uses different kinds of fresh saltwater fishes as well. Different variations each has their own names as well, such as Limu (sea weed) Poke, Shoyu (soy sauce) Poke, and Spicy Mayo Poke, which offers a different take on the traditional Poke.

It is also best served with rice, known as the Poke Bowl.

Squid Luau

don’t let its gooey green exterior fool you. The squid Luau is one of the most popular dishes in the whole of Hawaii for a good reason.

It is made by slow-cooking luau leaves and squid in coconut milk or cream until tender, adding salt and sugar to taste. The result is a thick, creamy puree that will result to the perfect blend of briny, savory, and sweet.

Lomi Salmon (lomi-lomi salmon)

Lomi salmon is not originally native to Hawaii. But it doesn’t mean you should not try it when you go to Hawaii, especially in Waikiki.

Lomi Salmon is just raw salmon which was cured with salt, diced up with tomatoes, onions, and normally some chili peppers. It turns out like raw salmon with a salsa made of traditional Hawaiian flavors which are vibrant and colorful at the same time. The salty flavor of the salmon paired with the acidic tomatoes and pungent onions is a flavor to cherish.

Chicken Long Rice

Like the previous entry, the chicken long rice is also not a traditional Hawaiian food recipe, but because of its yummy flavors, it has been a staple dish in the islands.

Chicken long rice is originally from a Chinese dish, combining clear mung bean noodles cooked in chicken soup, resulting to a yummy hot bowl of deliciousness.

Huli huli Chicken

Who doesn’t love chickens? The Hawaiian Huli-Huli chicken is not just grilled chicken. In fact, it is commonly present in roadside grills all throughout the island.

Huli-Huli Chicken is famous all over the island, given away by billowing smoke from roadside grills.


Kulolo is a popular Hawaiian desert that is quite similar to the haupia, but it is has a distinct taste of taro and a nutty sweetness. It has a thicker, more mealy texture, when compared with the smoothness of haupia.

Traditionally, the ancient Hawaiians make Kulolo from the flesh of mature coconuts, combined with taro. Today, they use coconut milk, taro, sugar, and sometimes honey, baked in a covered pan or imu for several hours.

Tropical Fruits

One must not go to Hawaii and don’t eat its tropical fruits such as pineapples and lilikoi, their native term for passion fruit.

Hawaii is famous for their fruits, so you definitely don’t want to miss out. Most often, these fruits served as deserts after meals.