A Taste of Hawaii: Best Bites in Honolulu

Honolulu is home to a dining scene that you’ll remember just as much as the beaches and beautiful waterfalls.

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Honolulu is home to a dining scene that you’ll remember just as much as the beaches and beautiful waterfalls. From food trucks and tiny hole-in-the-wall joints to fine restaurants and sweet shops, Honolulu is the king of having it all. Just make sure you show up hungry, and carry a coin for flipping, because the hardest decisions you’ll make in Hawaii are where to go and what to try next.

Grab Some Poke

A white plate sits on a wooden table in Honolulu, Hawaii, with Ahi Tuna Poke with onions and a bright purple flower on top next to a garnish of lettuce

You want to taste Hawaii? This is the dish that delivers (and is taking the mainland by storm). Poke (po-kay) is a favorite among locals — for good reason. The combination of super fresh fish and other flavorful ingredients is like a song in your mouth. Sample some of the best poke around at top spots like Da Hawaiian Poke Company, a strip mall joint that uses locally sourced ingredients like line-caught ahi tuna and deluxe ingredients like Maine lobster. Order your favorite by the pound to take home, or create your own combination at the poke bar.

Ono Seafood is another local favorite — and don’t be fooled by the hole-in-the-wall appearance. The freshness of the buttery ahi and octopus flavored with wasabi, miso, and shoyu, puts this joint’s poke at the top of many best-of lists.

Slurp Some Noodles

Chopsticks pull ramen noodles out of a black bowl with a white spoon laying in the broth at a  Japanese restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii

Sometimes the slurp says it all. The island of Oahu is home to a large Japanese population, and that means you’re in for some of the best ramen around. If you’ve never eaten this Japanese combination of noodles and dashi (broth) with flavorful toppings like green onions, sliced pork, dried seaweed, or fish cakes, you’re in for a treat. Standout options include:

  • Goma Tei: Local chain with four locations that serves specialties like shoyu ramen and tantan ramen
  • Hokkaido Ramen Santouka: Known for its tonkotsu ramen and hour-long lines
  • Kiwami Ramen: Favorite of Oahu residents for years, thanks to perfectly cooked noodles and rich dipping broths

Food Trucks

Food truck lovers rejoice. You’ll have plenty of mouthwatering options in Honolulu. Some of the best trucks park at Pau Hana Market Waikiki and offer everything from tacos and seafood to fresh pineapple juice and shave ice. Eat the Street is an event that happens every last Friday of the month and serves up a wide variety of food trucks at Kaka’ako Park. Let your nose lead the way when searching for food trucks. They’re parked all over the city and serve up some of the best food.

Experience Traditional Hawaiian Fare

Three pieces of Spam musubi, a traditional Hawaiian dish, sit on a white plate, with rice on bottom, spam on top and seaweed wrapped around them, and a piece of lemon garnish on the side, in a restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii

When you’re in Honolulu, you have to experience at least one traditional Hawaiian meal, such as kalua pork, a Hawaiian specialty made with pork cooked in a pit called an imu. Helena’s Hawaiian Food serves up some of the best and is a James Beard Award winner.

And, of course, you can’t leave Honolulu without having some Spam. That’s right, the canned lunchmeat your grandpa ate is a traditional Hawaiian favorite. Head to hot spots like Mana Bu’s in Makiki or the Fort Ruger Market in Kaimuki to try out some of the best Spam dishes, like Spam musubi with sushi rice and seaweed, on the island.

Snag Some Sweet Treats

Various pieces of pink Japanese rice cakes, called mochi ice cream, sit on a bamboo mat at a restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii

Looking for a sweet way to end the day? Or maybe you want to have a sweet lunch or dinner for a change. From the bite-sized mochi ice cream treats at Bubbies — imagine different flavors of homemade ice cream wrapped in sweet rice cake shells — to the poi donuts at Kamehameha Bakery in Kalihi, there’s no shortage of yummy options.

Crave sweets but need to keep it light? Several specialty spots serve up just what you crave. Case in point:

  • Banan’s is the place for banana soft-serve ice cream served in a hollow papaya and topped with honey butter, fresh fruit, and crunchy quinoa.
  • Alan Wong’s serves a dessert called “The Coconut” that is a haupia sorbet in a chocolate shell served with a luscious tropical sauce.
  • Matsumoto Shave Ice is the king of the Hawaiian specialty known as shave ice. You can also find delicious options at Island Snow and Waiola Shave Ice.

Did these tips make you hungry? Head over to Twitter to check out some more delicious finds.

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