My husband and I were lucky enough to get to go to Oahu for our 25th wedding anniversary in March. This was a lifelong dream and truly a once in a lifetime vacation. When I wrote recently about this trip it became pretty obvious that one aspect of our trip deserved a post all of it’s very own – the food!
Every new place we visit has it’s own unique flavors, so when planning any trip I am always looking for the best possible places to experience the local cuisine. Whether it is BBQ in Kansas City or Creole in New Orleans, when traveling the food you eat actually becomes part of your memories. Like a savory little souvenir that will always remind you of the place you visited.
So when planning our dream vacation in Oahu you better believe I put a lot of thought into where we would collect those culinary memories.
One of the sources I used to help plan our dining options was my Fodor’s travel guide. Call me old fashioned but I like having something I can actually carry around with me. My copy is still in my nightstand, a little reminder of our trip. Can’t really do that with a website or Pinterest.
So now I’m going to give you my top 12 must eat ideas for Oahu – in no particular order.
1. Duke’s Waikiki
We were lucky enough to stay on Waikiki Beach and our hotel was right next to this famous icon. With views of Diamond Head and literally steps from the water this place is a must for anyone visiting Honolulu. They take pride in using locally grown produce and of course fresh seafood. Their world famous Hula Pie can be described best by one word – yummmmm!
2. Leonard’s Bakery
This little gem is a happening place I will tell you! Located on a corner lot, plan on circling the block a few times to find parking because this place is hopping! When you finally make it inside that’s where the magic is, freshly baked Malasadas are what it’s all about. We tried several different flavors, we were on vacation you know! From the unusual Sweet and Sour to the original, they make the extra effort getting there well worth it.
3. Hawaiian Shave Ice
While Matsumoto Shave Ice is perhaps the most famous locale on Oahu, where fans line up to buy the tasty treat, this is something that is readily available pretty much anywhere on the island and is a nice refreshing way to cool off after spending a day at the beach.
This was a staple for Hawaiians following WWII and has stuck around big time! One day on our trip we had a Spam fest, with Spam for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From upscale restaurants to gas stations, you can buy it anywhere and prepared pretty much anyway imaginable. They even have Spam flavored Macadamia nuts!
5. Dole Pineapple Whip
We took the trip up to Wahiawa to visit the world famous Dole Plantation. While the destination offers quite the touristy attractions, it was the pineapple whip we were most excited about and let me tell you, WOW! This tasty treat is available at many locations on the island so if you don’t have time to make the trip you can enjoy it anytime you want.
6. Food Trucks
Living in my tiny corner of Southwest Missouri, food trucks are definitely a novelty for me and they are literally EVERYWHERE on Oahu! Perhaps the most famous area for this particular type of casual cuisine is a short trip up to the North Shore where one of the most famous eateries is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. The garlic shrimp is sooo good, but there are many other trucks with all sorts of food available to satisfy any palate.
7. Ted’s Bakery
Speaking of the North Shore, we also stopped off at this tasty locale while visiting in Haleiwa. This is the epitome of “off the beaten path” and although the pies are awesome, they are readily available at pretty much any market so taking the trip is not necessary. The Chocolate Haupie Cream Pie is perhaps the most famous and one of the best things we ate while on vacation.
8. Ahi Poke/Poi
So I have included these because I feel that any visit would be not complete without at least sampling some of the legendary fare, but I must say I didn’t really care for either one. The Ahi Poke is a usually a bowl of freshly cut raw fish marinated in a soy sauce with sesame oil. It was edible but not a favorite. Poi is something that pretty much everyone has heard of and is usually associated with a luau, which is were we tried it. Made from the taro plant, which is a Polynesian staple food, this can be best described as bland, sticky goo. Sounds appetizing huh?
9. Kalua Pig
This a another food we tried while at the luau we attended and it was scrumptious! When cooked traditionally it is smoked in a dirt pit called the imu, although many times now it is made in a gas or electric oven. If (or I hope when) we visit Hawaii again I hope to go to a traditional luau and actually watch the cooking process first hand.
10. The Veranda at the Moana Surfrider
Our first Hawaiian meal was at this restaurant which also just happened to be at our hotel. We had awoke VERY early that morning and are so grateful we did because seeing the sunrise while eating on the outside lanai was speculator! The food and service were beyond compare and whether eating fresh fruits and pastries from the buffet or one of their to die for freshly prepared waffles it is a great way to start any day.
11. Azure at the Royal Hawaiian
If you want a good excuse to get dressed up, this is for you! We dined, and I mean DINED, at this restaurant on our 25th Wedding Anniversary. The fresh seafood was the best we ate while on the island and the service and atmosphere were awesome! The special anniversary dessert that our waiter provided was the icing on the cake.
12. Murphy’s Bar and Grill
Atypical Hawaiian is perhaps the most accurate way to describe this eatery. Located downtown in the financial district this Irish pub was featured on Food Network’s ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’ and I was able to mark another bucket list item off with our visit there. Casual and intimate this is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki beach.
There are countless other foods and restaurants we would have loved to sample while on our anniversary dream vacation, but sadly there just wasn’t enough time. But this just leaves us with a further excuse to revisit this beautiful island. Until then, we will remember our time in paradise fondly and just keep collecting memories as we go.