5 Local Dishes You Must Try on Your Trip to Hawaii

Poke bowl
Vegetables presented on top of a Poke bowl

So, you’ve made your way to the tropical islands of Hawaii! This is the ultimate vacation destination – you get everything from breathtaking views, hospitable people, indescribable adventures and of course, delicious, divine and delectable food!

Hawaii offers a cuisine that is distinctive because of all the history and influences in the region. The local cuisine takes inspiration from the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philippine, Puerto Rican and Portuguese influences, to name a few; creating dishes with unique ingredients like taro, arrowroot, breadfruit and spam. Below are some of our favorite Hawaiian dishes that are a must-try if you visit the islands:

1. Poke

Poke dish from Da Poke Shack in Kona

This bowl of deliciousness has been adapted over and over again all over the world because of its versatility and overall appeal. The word poke means to slice or cut crosswise in the local language. This dish has clear Japanese influences and is somewhat like deconstructed sushi. It consists of cubed raw fish, onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, pickled vegetables, dried seaweed, a local condiment served over rice. This dish has been adapted with all sorts of ingredients to serve personal taste.

2. Kalua Pig



Kalua pig, poke, mac salad, rice at Umekes in Kona

The infamous Kalua pig is an absolute must-try dish in Hawaii. The pig is prepared in a traditional underground oven called an imu. This method of cooking used to be used exclusively for special occasions like the luau feast, but now it is available more readily. The meat is perfectly cooked and can be eaten in a bowl with rice on between bread – eat it your way!


3. Loco Moco

Loco Moco at Big Island Grill in Kona

This is a serious food-coma inducing dish that is worth every bite (and calorie!). It is a plate of comfort food that is perfect after a heavy night out; where you need to carb-load to get rid of a hangover! It has heavy American influences, as seen by the simple ingredients that come together to create a truly perfect plate of food. Loco Moco is white rice topped with a burger patty and a fried egg, all of which is doused in brown gravy.

4. Lomi-Lomi Salmon

Lomi Lomi – One of Hawaii’s favorite luau side dishes.

Though it is typically served as a side dish, we love eating this delicious salmon salad on its own! It is a fresh, no-fuss salad that has a few ingredients that pack a whole lotta punch! Simply, it is a cured salmon and tomato salad but when you have the fresh fish in Hawaii prepared the local way, you won’t stop at just a few bites.

5. Shave Ice

Shave Ice from One Aloha in Kona

End your meal with this scrumptious local favorite. Shave ice is a Hawaiian dessert that sounds exactly like what it is; shaved ice. The ice is topped with natural and artificial syrups and flavors to customize it to your taste. Get a mix of your favorite flavors to beat the tropical heat!

These are just the tip of the iceberg when we talk about local Hawaiian cuisine. We haven’t talked about chicken long rice, spam musubi, huli-huli chicken or the countless other local food that has stolen our heart! So, when you’re on your trip to Hawaii, skip the burgers and pizza and go straight for the local cuisine to truly experience the islands!


  1. Ernest Lane

    God, I hate when someone says they sell “shaved ice.”

  2. Born in Hawaii with Hawaiian genes and still follow my Hawaiian love of poi and luaus. Eventually our family moved to California and we still seek out our Poi and Laulaus to have for our Christmas holidays and our birthdays! Yep, we still keep our traditions of the islands and have instilled our Hawaiian Aloha to our children!

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