Hawaii’s great. It wasn’t as much fun-in-the-sun as I imagined it would be and the culture wasn’t so…cultural? But I may be spoiled a little from international trips. If the worst thing about a vacation destination is that it’s IN your own country, I’ll take it.
Tom and I spent about two weeks there, one on The Big Island and one in Maui. I recommend both for entirely different reasons: if you want “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” go to The Big Island; you want “Baywatch?” Go to Maui. The people in Hawaii were so absurdly friendly and everyone had this vibe about them like, “Yeah, I know, I get to live here. Hakuna Matata,” or whatever. I mean, they’ve only got like 11 letters in their language which can’t stress anyone out.
The hidden beaches were gorgeous, the fresh fruit plentiful, and really, it’s just the perfect vacation to take if you want something slightly exotic but easy. Everyone speaks English and accepts your good ol’ American dollars…what’s not to like? Well, the one thing I did not like was that pineapples cost seven dollars IN. HAWAII. Where they grow.
This post is called “The 8 Most Memorable Food Experiences I Had in Hawaii” because memorable food doesn’t always happen in restaurants, you know? Picnics, movie theater candy, Costco samples…food memories can be made anywhere, really. Especially Hawaii.
8. Pulled Pork Tacos at Hapuna Beach State Park
Hapuna Beach just north of Kona on The Big Island consistently lands itself on the “Best Beaches in the World” list and yes, it’s pretty. But it was packed to the gills with tourists and the wind chill was about 60 degrees. Did you know to bring a jacket to Hawaii in August? Bring a jacket to Hawaii in August. Anyway, these pulled pork tacos were the single best thing we ate on our entire trip. The pork was slow roasted for what must have been about 36-hours then drenched in tangy barbecue sauce and covered in cheddar cheese. All wrapped in a tortilla, of course. They sell them at the concession stand by the restrooms at the park and I wouldn’t have even looked twice if I hadn’t been so hungry but…man. I’m glad I did. We got a second order.
7. The Goat Cheese Sampler at Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui
These crazy Germans moved to Hawaii and opened a goat farm, wouldn’t you know it. They’re really, really good at goat cheese, too, and had all kinds of crazy flavors to try alongside a beer. When we were there someone had been stealing their goats in the night (!) but they were delightful people.
6. Lime, Tangelo and Cane Sugar Smoothie at Laulima Farm on Maui
This lady makes you ride a bike to power her blender which in turn makes your smoothie. There is no option other than “smooth” because you’re in a hut on the side of the road at the edge of the earth. But don’t worry, you want it smooth, and take whatever flavor she’s got. All the produce she has she grows herself (just like her underarm hair!) Check out the super-flattering video of me blending my smoothie.
5. Hot Dog from The Hot Dog Guy on The Big Island
As a general life rule, it’s not smart to buy a neon pink hot dog from a man from Alaska who looks like a Hell’s Angel that he fished out of a metal cart next to a pickup truck. Ignore that rule here. After driving for an hour through what looked like the set of Lord of the Rings I was hungry and this guy was…there. It was one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had.
4. Wine on the deck at the Ka’awa Loa* Plantation on The Big Island
I doubt I’ll ever stay in a bed and breakfast with a view like the one here. It was like something out of a dream. The guys who ran the place were just the best and they really took pride in the grounds and even in the breakfast spread. It was so magical, in fact, they had a giant mango tree that was dropping mangoes like raindrops fitted with a swing! I was unreasonably excited.
*You learn after about the third day in Hawaii that you sound like an idiot trying to pronounce the language.
3. Pick-Your-Own-Guava in the Bamboo Forest on Maui
This wasn’t so much pick-your-own as hop-a-fence-and-steal-a-guava from the land neighboring this state park but hey, they had plenty and they smelled so gooooood. The adventure was guided by 16-year old “Michael” from Asheville who just happened to have been recently adopted with his sister from Africa. He was amazing and he knew all the nuts (“don’t eat that one, it poison.”) I didn’t know I liked guava.
2. Lavender Lemonade at Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm on Maui
This particular morning we’d woken at 3:00am and driven in the dark for three hours up some of the windiest mountain roads I’ve ever been on to catch the sunrise from the peak of Haleakala. It’s an active volcano on the east side of Maui that hits at 14,000 feet above sea level, no big deal. Watching the sun rise from above the clouds was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, though, and you shouldn’t miss it. It was still early morning when we made our way halfway down the mountain to Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm which we’d researched beforehand. These maniacs put lavender on literally everything; lavender brownies taste like soap, be warned. But drinking a lavender lemonade in a field of fragrant lavender while gazing down at a breathtaking coastal view (while still slightly delirious from waking up at 3:00am?) Priceless.
1. Burgers and Wine in Hana on Maui
Hana is an incredible place. “The Road to Hana” is a popular tourist route which winds its way from one side of Maui to the other and I can’t more strongly suggest that when you get to Hana, stay there. It’s a place that seems stuck in time and nope, there’s not a thing to do. That’s the beauty of it. The natural seascapes and multicolored sand beaches are enough to balance out the fact that there’s literally not ONE restaurant open for dinner in the whole town. Almost 1,500 people live in Hana. So you have to buy your own supplies at the very limited convenience store (before 5pm, when they close) and cook your own food wherever you’re staying. We threw together some delicious beef burgers with BBQ sauce and pineapple and washed it down with some fruity wine on our ocean-view deck and it was about the most pleasant dinner I think we had. Aside from the massive spider staring at me that Tom refused to kill.
What was your favorite food memory of Hawaii? Haven’t been? What are you looking forward to trying when you get there?