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Top 10 Foods & Drinks You Must Try in Hawaii

A cruise to Hawaii offers plenty of tropical splendor. The Hawaiian archipelago, with its eight main islands and extensive beaches and coastline, is the ideal place to enjoy the sunshine and sample the many local delights while on vacation.

a view of the maui coastline

You’ll have the option to cruise to Hawaii from Long Beach/Los Angeles, San Diego, or Vancouver, Canada.  Depending on your cruise, you’ll be able to stop in at numerous ports of call, including Hilo, Kona, Kauai, Maui and Honolulu.

While on vacation you’ll enjoy delicious onboard meals, from gourmet chef specialties to casual, snack-on-the-go meals. However, you should also save time to experience the range of dishes unique to Hawaiian cuisine. Here are 10 popular Hawaiian food and drink options you really must try on your next Hawaiian cruise.

1. Poke

Perennially beloved by locals and visitors alike, poke is a rich dish full of flavorful, simple ingredients. Most versions use ahi tuna, chopped into small cubes and combined with onions, sesame seeds, limu seaweed and soy sauce. Sometimes, they substitute other freshwater fish or even octopus instead. The dish is so popular that it has made its way across the ocean, showing up in eateries all along the mainland.

hawaiian poke in a martini glass

2. Poi

Taro root, a vegetable similar to sweet potato, forms the basis of this classic side dish. The taro is baked or steamed and then pounded, gradually mixed with water until it forms a thick delectable paste. How do you eat it? The choice is yours! Add it to shredded pork or lomi lomi salmon, eat it by the spoonful, or use it as a dipping sauce.

3. Lomi Lomi Salmon

Although similar to poke with its use of raw fish, lomi lomi salmon is prepared using different techniques. The salted salmon is massaged gently, over and over, and then mixed with onions, tomatoes and hot peppers. The overall flavor combination imparts a tangy yet satisfying bite.

a dish of lomi lomi salmon

4. Kalua Pua’a

This dish features pork slow-roasted in an underground oven, resulting in meat that practically melts off the bone. The wood smoke used in the oven gives the meat a pleasingly strong flavor without the need for additional condiments. Heaped over rice, kalua pua’a is a meal in itself.

pulled pork in a pan

5. Lau Lau

Here is a return to the taro plant, this time for the leaves. Lau lau uses large taro plant leaves wrapped around pork or fish. The whole concoction is then placed in an underground oven. After several hours of slow cooking, the smoky meat and tender leaves are ready to eat. This dish is ideal for everything from large group gatherings to an intimate meal for two.

6. Haupia

Were you wondering about dessert items? This one will surely get your mouth watering. Haupia is a traditional dessert made from the beloved coconut. The coconut cream is combined with arrowroot powder and then baked in an underground oven. Modern versions often boil the cream and add cornstarch as a thickening agent before chilling in the fridge. Regardless of the method, haupia will surely satisfy your sweet tooth after the main meal.

7. Pipi Kalua

Anyone craving beef jerky? Here’s a Hawaiian-style version you’ll be eager to try again and again. The flank steak is typically dried outside or in a drying box before being charbroiled for a rich, smoky flavor. The meat is often marinated in sauce or incorporated with other condiments, too.

8. Loco Moco

To locals, this dish is comfort food at its finest. What could be better than a hamburger patty topped with gravy and a fried egg, all placed on top of a heaping plate of rice? It’s filling, it’s delicious, and it’s ready to make your day.

a dish of loco moco and rice

9. Manapua

Essentially a steamed bun stuffed with delectable filling, it pays homage to Chinese immigrants who came to Hawaii in the 1800s. The manapua retains its street food identity amid a reimagining of savory fillings, some of which include sweet beans, chicken, vegetables, curry or sweet potato. Many versions still use pork, the original filling.

steamed chinese bun known as manapua

10. Hawaiian Cocktails and Drinks

What would the evening be without a little cocktail? Enjoy it alongside a meal, or relax with a drink and watch the setting sun. You’re in Hawaii, after all. It’s time to slow things down and enjoy the gentle pace of life at its finest. There are numerous cocktails to sample, with some of the most famous being Blue Hawaii, Mai Tai and Lava Flow. Of course, you could opt for non-alcoholic as well. Pineapple iced tea, virgin piña colada and tropical smoothies will have you savoring the flavors just as readily.

a mai tai drink by the pool

Travel to Hawaii in comfort and style on your next Carnival cruise, and get ready for an unforgettable vacation. You’ll be eager to sample the local Hawaiian foods, each of which will have you coming back for more. From the stunning beaches to the friendly, welcoming people, Hawaii is just a short cruise away.