Travel insights from Jenna Buege, contributing editor of The Compass

5 Must-Eat Foods When You Visit Hawaii

Sun-soaked beaches, lush landscapes and spectacular wildlife, Hawaii is one of the most marvelous destinations on earth. But the island fun doesn’t stop at luaus and snorkeling; Hawaii is also the perfect place for adventurous foodies. Rich culture and access to unlimited fresh seafood have resulted in some wonderfully unique traditional Hawaiian dishes. Here are a few of our favorites.

  1. Poke

    You may be familiar with this traditional Hawaiian dish, as poke has recently taken the U.S. by storm. The Americanized, Instagrammable version of this dish often is made up of diced raw fish, a base of brown or white rice and an array of toppings. The authentic version of poke tends to be less photogenic as it’s less customizable than its western counterpart. Traditional poke consists of raw tuna, salt, candlenuts and seaweed. Locals recommend visiting Kahuku Superette, a local grocery store, for some of the best poke the islands can offer.

  2. Poi

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    Hau’oli la Makuakane!! Waiahole Poi Factory will be closed tomorrow

    A post shared by Keliko Hoe (@waiaholepoifactory) on

    Poi is a staple Hawaiian dish with a sticky, pudding consistency. A thick paste made from steamed or baked taro root (similar to a potato or yam), poi has a uniquely starchy and somewhat sour flavor from the fermentation process. Some Hawaiians like adding fresh salmon to the dish for a little extra taste. Want to try this regional specialty? Natives love the Waiāhole Poi Factory located off the Kamehameha Highway.

  3. Laulau

    Taro is an important plant throughout Hawaii, Polynesia and the Pacific Islands. Much like poi, laulau is also made from the taro plant but instead of using taro root, laulau is made from the plant’s leaves. Traditionally laulau consists of cooked pork wrapped in layers of taro leaves; the pork is then placed in an underground rock oven where it cooks for hours until it has a smoky flavor. You can also choose from other meat options like fish and chicken. To experience yummy laulau, visit Helena’s Hawaiian Food or Yama’s Fish Market for some of Hawaii’s best.

  4. Lomi Salmon

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    Grams lomi lomi #hawaiian #lomilomisalmon #tutu #mauisweets #fam #familydinner #salmon #ono

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    Often used as an addition to poi, lomi salmon was originally brought to Hawaii from the Pacific Islands. Lomi salmon is almost like a Hawaiian salsa as it combines diced raw salmon, salted salmon, tomatoes, onions and chili peppers to make a delicious garnish. For tasty lomi salmon and a show, visit the Old Lahaina Luau in Maui, one of Hawaii’s top attractions.

  5. Fresh Fruit

    Everything you thought you knew about fresh fruit will change after sampling Hawaii’s unbeatably juicy pineapple and passion fruit. The islands of Hawaii were once known for their fruit, however, as land and labor raised in price, Hawaii’s fruit industry declined. Lucky for us, there’s still plenty of fruity deliciousness to go around, whether it’s in the form of a boozy cocktail or the side for your next meal is up to you.

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