Hawaii has so much amazing food that you can't really find in other places, especially other American states! When I visited Hawaii, I tried every dish that I cannot find at home. Most of them I liked, others were alright. Here are some things to try in Hawaii:
Poi is a traditional Hawaiian dish made from taro. It's purple and almost the consistency of pudding. It has a very unique taste and is definitely not for everyone, but you can't leave Hawaii without trying it. I'd recommend getting a small side of it somewhere because a lot of people who did not grow up eating it don't particularly like it. Helena's Hawaiian Kitchen is a great place for traditional Hawaiian food if you're visiting Oahu!
Hawaiian shave ice is amazing! It's kind of like a mix of ice cream and a snow-cone. The ice is finely shaved, giving it a different texture than regular snow-cones. There are all kinds of flavors you can get on it, but I'd recommend sticking with tropical flavors since you're in Hawaii. Some places even give you the option to put ice cream and fresh fruit on top!! If you're on Oahu, check out Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha for shave ice! Also, it's shave ice, not shaved ice 😉
I've been told before to try Dole Whips and I never did, until I visited Hawaii. I swear this is one of the best creations on Earth. I love pineapple, so to me Dole Whips are just outstanding! It's basically like pineapple ice cream!!
To be honest, when I got lomi salmon I thought it was basically like pico de gallo (I didn't notice the salmon at first and I didn't pay attention to everything that came with my meal). Lomi salmon is tiny pieces of salted salmon, tomatoes, and onions. It's usually a side dish with traditional Hawaiian meals.
A common dish that you'll find around Hawaii is slow cooked, shredded pork, or kalua pork. Traditional kalua pork is made in an underground oven and wrapped in ti or banana leaves. You'll often find it served with white rice and or lomi salmon and poi. Again, a great place to try kalua pork is Helena's Hawaiian Kitchen!
Haipu (coconut pudding)
Haipu is essentially coconut pudding. It's made from coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, and water and is usually eaten as dessert. Although it's considered coconut pudding, the texture is more like jello. It's served like jello, too; you'll get it in a square or rectangle shape.
I'm sure you could've guessed this one, but the fruit in Hawaii is fresh and delicious!! You MUST try the pineapple, it's juicy and amazing! You can find fruit stands in the North Shore area with fresh pineapple, mango, coconut, bananas, and more!!
These Portuguese doughnuts are usually coated in sugar and can be filled with cream! The best place to go for malasadas is Leonard's Bakery! They have plain, sugar-coated ones, cinnamon sugar malasadas, or sweet and sour malasadas. For filled malasadas, they have custard, dobash (chocolate), haupia (coconut), macadamia nut, guava, and a featured flavor that changes monthly. These doughnuts are light and fluffy, making them perfect for breakfast or as dessert.
Pork & Cabbage
This is basically kalua pork and cabbage that is cooked with the pork and pork juice. It's really good and you can find it practically anywhere that has traditional Hawaiian food.
You can find macadamia nut everything in Hawaii. From raw or roasted macadamia nuts to macadamia nut tarts, they have it all! You can even find macadamia nut cookies/shortbread at the grocery stores!! If you like macadamia nuts, I recommend at least getting some cookies and roasted macadamia nuts!
Fish / Poke
You're on an island in the Pacific Ocean, so you must have some seafood! I had a lot of mahi mahi, but I also tried butterfish and some other local fish (I don't remember the names 😅 oops). There are some traditional Hawaiian dishes that have salmon in them, but I would say try another local fish that you can't find everywhere if you are ordering fish as a meal. Lastly, you have to try poke! Poke is raw fish, usually ahi tuna, and it is sometimes mixed with soy sauce and green onions.
If you're not from a Pacific island or a tropical place, Hawaii will spoil you with food that you can't find elsewhere or that is expensive back home. That means you have to take advantage of it in Hawaii by eating it every chance you get. Let me know how you like it!