Food Culture in Hawaii

With our bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, plentiful upland cattle farms and Pacific Ocean waters pouring with sashimi-grade fish, Hawaiian cuisine is a beautiful weaving of flavours and traditions. 

Here, ancient customs meet global influences carried to Hawaii over many generations, giving our local food culture more layers than a Maui onion. From farm-to-table Hawaii Regional Cuisine to traditional feasts fit for ke alii (royalty), you’ll find exquisite culinary richness on every Hawaiian island.

Oahu, known as The Gathering Place, is nothing short of a foodie heaven, and in the past few years Honolulu has emerged as one of the significant culinary meccas in the U.S. Stroll through foodie ’hoods like Kakaako, Kaimuki 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 Waikiki, 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 Kauai, construct 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 heightened by the abundant produce grown in the island’s Kula region. The island of Hawaii 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 Lanai and Molokai fool you: these deeply rooted islands serve up tons of local essence – from pillowy doughnuts and fresh bread at Kanemitsu’s Bakery in Kaunakakai to high-end sushi from celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa at Nobu Lanai.

Food festivals throughout the Hawaiian Islands showcase our local food exhibitions. Prestigious events like the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival and Kapalua Wine & Food Festival gather top-notch chefs, sommeliers and winemakers from around Hawaii (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 Waikiki Spam Jam. The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is good to the last drop, while beloved events like the Maui Onion Festival, Lanai Pineapple Festival and Kauai Coconut Festival pay homage to our local crops. 

Speaking of celebrated chefs, you can even dine at restaurants run by two previous Top Chef candidates: Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Café in Honolulu and fan-favourite Sheldon Simeon’s Tin Roof in Kahului, Maui. And of course, a trip to Hawaii isn’t perfect without experiencing the distinct delights of an authentic luau – nightly celebrations of our islands’ rich culture and cuisine that are nothing short of ono (delicious).

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