10 Great Hawai’ian Food & Drink Experiences Beyond Waikiki

Thu, 30/08/2018 - 3:11pm
Read Time: 4.0 mins

Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach is packed with cafes, bars and restaurants, but to experience a more authentic side of the island state’s culinary scene, it’s worth exploring further afield. Check out our foodie recommendations beyond Hawai’i’s most famous slice of sand.

Around Honolulu

The Pig & the Lady. Photo: supplied

The Pig & the Lady, Chinatown

Originally a simple market stall – still a very popular part of Honolulu's Saturday morning Diamond Head farmers market – The Pig & the Lady's bricks-and-mortar location fuses Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian flavours. Come for the pho ga (chicken noodle soup) packed with star anise and fresh herbs, and stay for the Asian-inspired cocktails.

Wing Shave Ice & Ice Cream, Chinatown

Shave ice is a super-refreshing fruit flavoured slushie and is popular around Hawai’i, but it's normally infused with tropical toppings like lime or coconut. At Wing, more surprising ingredients like coriander and lavender can feature, and the accompanying menu of eccentric ice cream treats often includes thoroughly grown-up flavours like Mayan chocolate and roast garlic.

Madre Chocolate. Photo: supplied

Madre Chocolate, Chinatown

A short stroll from Wing along Chinatown's Pauahi Street is Madre Chocolate. It offers a store full of flavours, and sampling before purchase is definitely encouraged. Organic and fair-trade ingredients feature, and there's even a 'chocolate' bar made of roasted coffee beans from the volcanic Kona slopes of Hawai’i Island. Think of it as your afternoon shot of espresso.

SALT at Our Kaka'ako, Kaka'ako

A 15-minute drive from Waikiki, the Kaka'ako district is Honolulu's emerging street art and foodie neighbourhood. The SALT at Our Kaka'ako precinct features renovated warehouses filled with juice shops, specialist craft beer bars, and hip record stores. Check out the area's flagship eatery, Moku Kitchen, for Pacific-Asian fusion dishes like Korean beef tacos with house-made kimchi.

The Beer Lab. Photo: supplied

The Beer Lab, University District

Owned by three nuclear engineers from Hawaii's Pearl Harbor naval base, The Beer Lab is an essential destination for travelling craft beer fans. Everything is brewed on site on a compact 900-litre system, meaning there are new beers on Beer Lab's eight taps every week. A BYO food policy means you can partner their hoppy IPAs or zingy wheat beers with Japanese ramen noodles or a Burmese curry from nearby businesses.


A Friday Town Party in Waiuku, Maui. Photo: Hawai’i Tourism Authority

Maui Friday Town Parties

The island's regular Friday Town Parties sees a gathering of Maui's best food trucks at one of five different locations every week. Try to visit the upcountry cowboy town of Makawao on the third Friday of the month – standout food trucks include slow-cooked barbecue and excellent Mexican-style ceviche. Live music enlivens proceedings as a Maui twilight settles.

Surfing Goat Dairy

Their cheeses are popular on menus across the state, so you'll probably try Surfing Goat's products even before you visit their rustic dairy on the volcanic slopes of Maui's Mt Haleakalā. Definitely book ahead for a tour: you'll get to go behind the scenes and see the world's most laidback goats being milked, and then finish up with a sampling platter of Surfing Goat Dairy goodies.

Hawai’i (The 'Big Island')

Kaaloa’s Super J's, Captain Cook

The 'Big Island' is more traditional than both O’ahu and Maui, and the humble Super J's is a true slice of authentic Polynesia. Settle into one of the shared tables at this humble roadside stall – remember, it's strictly cash only – and tuck into a plate lunch combining Kalua pork laulau wrapped in taro leaves, and robust scoops of both rice and macaroni. You definitely won't need dinner, but you may need a lie-down afterwards.

A bowl of poke. Photo: Hawai’i Tourism Authority

Umeke's, Kailua-Kona

Probably the most well-known internationally of Hawai’i’s local foods, poke (pronounced 'po-kay') is a healthy and hearty combo of rice (or quinoa) with loads of fresh seafood. Umeke's is widely regarded as one of the best poke places in Hawai’i, and the eatery's friendly team dispense various versions of the state's best known culinary export throughout the day. Try the shrimp poke with Umeke's refreshing kimchi cucumber.

The Coffee Shack, Kona

Widely regarded as Hawai’i’s best fruit (sorry pineapple!), lilikoi (yellow passionfruit) is harnessed across the state for Mai Tai cocktails, craft beer, and kombucha. But the combination of a stonking slice of lilikoi cheesecake and a coffee made with beans from the fertile volcanic hills of Kona is hard to beat. Take in brilliant coastal views from The Coffee Shack's balcony, and toast yourself for making it to the Big Island.


Brett Atkinson

Brett Atkinson is a full-time travel and food writer who specialises in adventure travel, unusual destinations, and surprising angles on more well-known destinations. He's based in Auckland but frequently on the road for Lonely Planet and other publishers in New Zealand and abroad. @travelwriterNZ