In June, my wonderful friend Cassie and I headed to Honolulu, Hawaii for five days. It was an amazing holiday and my first time to Hawaii. I loved the scenery, the beaches and most of all: the food! Cassie and I are both huge foodies so trying the must eats in Honolulu was a huge part of our trip.
Cassie and I had been wanting to travel together for some time. We decided that we would jump on something not too far and not too expensive in 2018. An awesome deal to Honolulu came up ($395 CAD roundtrip non-stop flights) so we decided to go for it. Cassie had been on the Big Island last fall and was excited to go back to Hawaii. I was super excited to visit Hawaii for the first time.
I’ll get into our itinerary in a future post but for now, it’s all about those must eats in Honolulu! Hawaii is well known for its cuisine and we wasted no time enjoying the best of it!
This was my favourite restaurant of our entire trip and #1 on my must eats in Honolulu list. Marukame Udon is an authentic Japanese restaurant that is never not lined up. But don’t worry, the line moves quick and the wait is worth it! The menu is mainly in Japanese but there are photos you can point to. As you enter the restaurant, you watch fresh udon noodles being made right in front of you. You choose your bowl and then move onto a serve-yourself tempura station.
All of the food was so fresh and so flavourful. I’m not a huge noodle soup person but I LOVED my udon bowl. And the tempura was amazing as well! Best of all, it’s really affordable. It was one of the cheaper meals we had in Hawaii.
Before we even landed in Hawaii, Cassie was sending me photos of Ahi Assassins on Instagram as a must-try poke place. Being a huge fan of poke, I was not about to say no. So we headed over to Ahi Assassins which has got to be the most unassuming, hole in the wall place I have ever ordered food from. It’s off in the university district away from other shops/restaurants. And it’s on the second floor of what looks like a motel or sketchy apartment complex. The actual restaurant is about the size of my dining room table (don’t worry, it’s take-out only).
But despite its appearances, when I put that sample piece of fish in my mouth (Lunatic is the name on the menu), I was in foodie heaven. It was absolutely the most tender and delicious fish I had ever tasted in my entire life. When you’re talking about must eats in Honolulu, Ahi Assassins earns its place.
Unfortunately, I messed up my order. Instead of just doing the Lunatic, I did half Lunatic and half Shoyu Garlic. As this is a traditional poke place, the fish is served with large pieces of raw onion on a bed of rice. I don’t like onion and with the rice and Shoyu Garlic fish, I could barely taste the awesome flavour of the Lunatic. Lesson learned: just order the Lunatic!
I wouldn’t say you should go out of your way to eat at Mac 24/7 but I did want to include it as one of the must eats in Honolulu because of our experience there. We arrived in Honolulu late and by the time we made it to our Airbnb, we were so tired and so hungry. But of course, almost everything serving food was closed. Except for Macs! It was right next door, it was still open and the burger and salad we got were delicious. They were also giant and we had leftovers for days!
Lilikoi, or passion fruit, butter is my new favourite thing in the whole world. Forget fish or spam, the only thing on your must eats in Honolulu list should be lilikoi butter. Cassie introduced me to this delicious spread on our first day and I fell in love. It’s so good! It’s sweet and tropical and creamy. I like to put it on bread and Cassie recommended drizzling it on ice cream. I wish I had brought more home!
KCC Farmers’ Market
On our first day in Honolulu we headed out to the KCC Farmers’ Market, which is only a short bus ride from Waikiki where we were staying. I loved visiting local markets and we had the best time checking out all of the awesome food. It was crazy crowded, but worth it for all of the deliciousness we got to enjoy!
The Pig & The Lady
This was another eatery that Cassie had on her must eats in Honolulu list before we even left Vancouver. We ended up finding their mobile unit at the farmers’ market and enjoyed some really delicious Vietnamese good. I had lemongrass chicken and Cassie had a banh mi. High recommend!
On our last night in Honolulu, Cassie and I decided to treat ourselves to a fancy restaurant in Waikiki. We headed to Eating House and were not disappointed. The atmosphere is really awesome – it’s a modern place with al fresco dining (rooftop of a mall) and acoustic live music. And the food was amazing! We particularly loved the chocolate souffle! If you want to splurge, Eating House is a good choice.
So I used to only enjoy pineapple on pizza. I know, I’m weird. But I recently realized that pineapple is plenty delicious on its own. And I absolutely converted when I got to eat the fresh pineapple in Hawaii. You know how insane fitness people on Instagram like to call fruit “nature’s candy?” Well, pineapple in Hawaii actually is! It was so sweet and so delicious!
If you’re a sweet tooth like me, these will definitely be your must eats in Honolulu. Malasadas are Portuguese donuts and a favourite in Hawaii. Cassie actually brought me back some malasadas from the market and they were so freaking good! They were like little dough pillows. I’m almost glad I didn’t go with her or else I would’ve bought a dozen and polished them off myself.
Another Hawaii staple has got to be Dole Whip. My first introduction to Dole Whip was actually at the Dole Plantation where they grow the pineapple. And I got to have the best version of it! Instead of just the icy dairy-free Dole Whip you can get elsewhere, the Dole Plantation served a twist version with half of the icy stuff and half of these creamy dairy base. Plus, I added some pineapple chunks to it. It was so good!
Tips for hidden must eats in Honolulu
- Do you know where else we had some amazing must eats in Honolulu? The food court at the mall! We had delicious poke and some really amazing Korean food while we stopped to shop at Ala Moana. The portions were giant and I was so surprised mall food could taste so good.
- Looking to buy some iconic Hawaiian snacks and souvenirs? Don’t waste your money at the gift shops or even the ABC Stores. Head to Walmart and Target!
- Hawaii is also really well known for their macadamia nuts and coffee. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of either. But I brought some home for Colin and he loved them!
Pass on these
- The Honolulu Cookie Company was a disappointment. Which is so sad because I really wanted to like it! I love cookies and I love that their whole aesthetic is cute and in pretty teal boxes. I loved that their cookies are shaped like pineapples and dipped in chocolate. But the actual cookies? Not good. No matter how many times I sampled them (and it was a few), they never tasted good.
- Spam misubishi. I had read about spam misubishi as one of the must eats in Honolulu or Hawaii in general. So I added one to my plate when we were at Marukame Udon. And it was gross. I’m sorry, I know spam is a big thing in Hawaii. But it’s nasty.
- Shaved ice. Okay, don’t kill me. I know some people really love shaved ice. And, in fairness, I didn’t actually try any. But I just couldn’t get into it. Why is flavoured ice so cool? And why would I pick that when Dole Whip is an option?
Which of these must eats in Honolulu is making your mouth water?