With 1000+ years of interconnected culture, you already know there’s the best food to try on the Big Island and the other 7 Hawaiian Islands. Mixing native Polynesian, Asian, and Western culture has created a unique cuisine with plenty to enjoy for everyone. Join us as we explore 11 of the best food to try in Hawaii!
Kona Coffee is arguably the most famous export of the Big Island of Hawaii; this grown only on a few of its hilly slopes, only on this island, in the entire world. Though one of the most expensive blends as well, thankfully, it’s easily accessible to tourists throughout the Island. The many coffee farms on the island offer tours and tasting experiences (some even for free) for anyone to try their unique blends. The exquisite taste of the coffee has hints of chocolate, nuts, and fruits, unlike most other beans in the world. Most definitely a food to try on the Big Island, as much for its taste as is the farm taste-and-tour experience.
Fruits: Papayas, Breadfruit, Passionfruit, Starfruit, Guavas
The United States is lucky to have Hawaii, a tropical paradise, in its borders, as it provides access to unique fruits not often found elsewhere, namely papayas, breadfruit, passionfruit, starfruit, and guavas.
You can enjoy these from a supermarket, local farmers’ markets, and sometimes even off the sides of the roads!
Although one can often get papayas and guavas in the contiguous states, breadfruit, passionfruit, and starfruit are still unique to the area.
Breadfruit: A large ball-shaped fruit related to the jackfruit, mostly only found in Oceania. These are a staple for many of these cultures, and can be cooked to create the base of many dishes. The breadfruit we bought, we cooked and air-fryed to create breadfruit fries. It has the taste between potatoes/french fries and bread, albeit healthier. Definitely one to try!
Passionfruit: A small fruit filled with sweet seeds not unlike that of the pomegranate, it’s found often on the forest roads of Hawaii. In Hawaiian it goes by the name Lilikoi. Though not as common on the Big Island, its sweet and tangy taste makes it something worth trying.
Starfruit: With its shape following its namesake, it has a unique texture along a sweet-and-sour taste.
The Dole Company started their plantation in 1950 on the Island of Oahu. Since then, its become a tourist attraction and their namesake soft-serve, a global phenomenon. However, Hawaii has always done their Dole Whip the best, a dairy-free soft-serve ice cream in its iconic Pineapple flavor. No matter which island you’re on, it’s something that anyone with a sweet tooth must try. Similar pineapple ice cream is often garnished with bananas or lilikoi syrup.
Possibly the healthiest food to try in Hawaii is the Poke bowl; a mix of many seafood and vegetable ingredients, lathered in sauces of your choice. The fresh flavors go perfectly for any lunch or dinner, along with the daily catch. Keep in mind though that the fish is raw!
An uncommon sight in American cuisine, but nevertheless a food that’s found around the world, is the tamarind. With a wide variety of flavors based on its ripeness, it’s found around the Big Island on roadsides and in markets. Have it raw and plain, or use it as an ingredient in your next Indian/Southeast Asian dish!
A Hawaiian dessert special, this is a must-try in Hawaii for a twist on traditional ice cream pie. With macadamia nut ice cream underneath layers of chocolate and fudge, this is a special served at only a few of the best restaurants on the Big Island. Goes great with a fancy dinner!
Ube, or purple yams, have been all the rage recently. Despite being similar to potatoes, it finds itself to be a more complex and enjoyable flavor. Given the Southeast Asian influence in Hawaii, it’s been adopted into all kinds of foods and desserts. A favorite is ube ice cream, coming in its conspicuous purple hue and giving off a light, earthy and nutty taste that’s just so enjoyable.
Hawaiian Shaved Ice
Undoubtedly the most famous Hawaiian dessert, a food that one cannot visit the Big Island without trying. Served as fresh ice drizzled with a multitude of flavors, it’s perfect to cool off on a hot day on the islands and isn’t too filling. It’s easy to mix and match flavors so get all of your favorites in one serving!
Along with coffee comes the Big Island’s other cash crop, macadamia nuts. Eaten plain or in dishes like the Hula Pie, they’re delicious by their own or covered in chocolate. Makes for a great gift to bring back home as well!
Although not exclusive to the Hawaiian Islands and having earned the status as a health food globally, its innate freshness and availability definitely make it a food to try on the Big Island. With a base of açaí puree and toppings including, fruits, nuts, chocolate, PB, and more, it has a little something for everyone. Furthermore, the freshness of produce in Hawaii can’t be beat, making the fruits worth trying in their own right.
After coffee and macadamia comes chocolate, where all 3 become mixed into bars of deliciousness. Hawaii grows its cacao right here on the islands, and it often comes made along with macadamia nuts or coffee. Once again, it’s something readily available in stores and easily taken back home to share with friends and family.
Among other things, Hawaii’s diverse climate and culture allows for a long list of food to try on the Big Island. Keep these on your radar for your next Hawaii trip!
Thank you for reading this installment of the Big Island of Hawaii Collection. Other articles in this series include:
- Mahana Beach Green Sand Beach In Hawaii (Papakolea)
- Hawaiian Food: Things You Need to Try on the Big Island
- Seeing a Live Volcano in Volcanoes National Park!
- Manta Ray Night Dive: Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
- Best Beaches on the Big Island
- First Time Ziplining? This Article is for You
This article also accompanies the series 7 Days in Hawaii. Here are the other articles in this trip:
- READ FIRST: Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii
- Day 1 and 2 in Waikoloa + Waimea
- Day 3 on the Road to Hilo
- Day 4 in Volcanoes National Park
- Day 5 in Puna and Ascending Mauna Kea
- Day 6 in Ka’u (South Big Island)
- Day 7 in Kailua-Kona