Seven staple foods to try when you visit the Aloha State

Hawaiian cuisine covers more than just pineapple chunks on a pizza. If you want to try some traditional Hawaiian favorites, here’s seven to get you started.

1. Pupu

Pupu platter

Originating from the Hawaiian word pū-pū, this signifies an appetizer and will feature on the menu at most local restaurants. Try a pupu platter for a diverse range of Hawaiian bites such as sushi, poke, and an assortment of meats.

2. Plate lunch

This is one of Hawaii’s most famous dishes – a plate lunch is typically cheap, substantial, and full of carbs. Expect white rice, macaroni salad, and a protein topping such as kalua pork, teriyaki beef, or chicken katsu. A classic lunch choice for locals, tourists, and even Barack Obama.

3. Loco moco

Loco moco

History is slightly sketchy with this one, but loco moco is thought to have been coined in Hilo in the 1940s when a group of teenagers asked the owner of their favorite food joint to create this cheap and filling dish. It starts with steamed rice, topped with a burger patty and fried egg, then finished with lashings of gravy. Visit Café 100 - ‘the home of the loco moco’.

4. Manapua

Manapua buns

Similar to bao, these steamed or baked buns are believed to have a Chinese origin dating back to immigration in the 19th century. The most popular filling is char siu pork but you might also find vegetables, chicken, beans, and hot dog.

5. Spam musubi

Spam musubi

A common snack found all over Hawaii, the Spam musubi was said to be introduced during WWII by Japanese Americans. Redefining sushi, it consists simply of rice, fried Spam, and nori. Residents love their Spam, so be sure to give this one a try if you’re searching for some authentic local snacks.

6. Shave ice

Shave ice

Just like the name suggests, this is an iconic ice-based dessert, flavored with fruity syrups like pineapple, mango, or guava. Additional toppings range from ice cream, mochi, and a condensed milk drizzle sometimes known as a ‘snow cap.’

7. Malasadas


Originally brought over to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century, malasadas are sugar-coated doughnuts filled with everything from chocolate and coconut, to caramel and custard. Leonard’s Bakery is the ‘home of malasadas’ but there are plenty of bakeries stocking this sugary treats on each island.

For more local Hawaiian flare, visit one of our restaurants in Waikoloa Village.