You know the saying, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The same applies to Hawaiian vacations. Have you ever had a holiday where most of the nearby eateries seem to be the familiar chain restaurants that are ubiquitous in your home town? Vacation is a time to indulge in exotic dishes, try new flavors and do things out of the ordinary. Maybe you are ready to enjoy the greatest array of Hawaiian cuisine, and eat like the locals do!
Residents of the Aloha State have anticipated this inclination, as there are a number of notable culinary tours arranged throughout the islands. Each island brings a different experience to the table and is bound provide unforgettable journey, whatever you choose. From holes in the wall, to farmer’s markets, plantations and the finest of gourmet samplings, we have listed a collection of tours worth considering for your trip to Hawaii. It’s your vacation, so eat, drink and be merry, Hawaiian style.
On an island as thriving and busy as Oahu, there will inevitably be countless culinary tours at your beck and call. However, Matthew Gray’s award-winning Hawaii Food Tours has proven to be one of the most well-renowned for providing the greatest guided culinary tours in Hawaii. Matthew, a former Los Angeles chef and private celebrity cook, and his partner, Keira Gray, bring expertise and local insight to these tours. They offer several options. Their most popular Hole in the Wall Tour, occurring daily from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, guides guests through local hotspots. Such places include: Japanese favorite Sugio Bento and Catering for a flavorful plate lunch; delicatessens with a distinct international influence, such as Liliha Bakery replete with chocolate éclairs; exotic places, like Zaffon, one of the nicest Indian restaurant on the island; or Chili, an award-winning hot sauce shop where you can feast on unique dishes off the beaten path. Guests will get to try anything from Chinese dumplings to baked manapua, barbecued meats, fresh fruit and shave ice. Be sure to bring a big appetite as there are abundant sizeable portions to enjoy. Hawaii Food Tours also offer a North Shore Tour, departing Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:00 am to 5 pm, that highlights scenic routes to the northern side of the island, plantation visits, authentic Hawaiian food, unique roadside snack stops and decadent pastry desserts. For anyone wanting to fully indulge during their Hawaiian vacation, this tour is a must-do.
If you want something a little lighter, the Flavor of Hawaii offers a Gourmet Waikiki Tour of seven restaurants and award-winning eateries where those 21 and up can enjoy various cocktails, drinks and dynamic appetizers on the famous coast. They also offer the more substantial Kailua Food Tour which stops at six different restaurants, with samplings of fresh ahi poke, hibachi fried rice, garlic chicken, sweet malasadas and refreshing chai shakes. This tour lasts around 3 hours.
Aloha Food Tours also offers a variety of culinary experiences, such as the Ala Moana Area Local Food Tour featuring red-velvet waffles, taro cream cheese and taro lattes, steak rolls, garlic chips, spam musubi and shave ice with cream. The Best of Chinatown Tour highlights the some of the best ramen, pork bao, shrimp, smoked bacon pho and Asian pizza you could imagine. Aloha Food Tours also arranges private tours and custom packages for those who want to try a personalized gourmet or specific kind of food theme. For a quirky dining experience, venture out on the last Friday of every month in Kaka’ako in Honolulu for Eat the Street created by Street Grindz. Here visitors can join the thousands who come to try the greatest street food and gourmet food trucks around. As varied as the cuisine on the island, Oahu hosts numerous tours and food experiences that prove to be some of the most enjoyable things to do in Hawaii.
Maui Culinary Tours offers an informative and delectable journey for those who want to experience the process of farm-to-table in this popular aspect of agri-tourism. Visitors can opt for the Food and Agricultural Tour where they can visit local ranches and farms and dine at locally owned restaurants. This tour features Hawaii grown beef, produce, freshly caught fish and samplings of local Maui-harvested pineapple wine. This experience is available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Local Taste of Maui Tours offers eager foodies a different tour for each weekday. The Paia Culinary Tour includes 8 to 9 food stops and a trip to the 105-year-old Paia Sugar Mill. The Lahaina Culinary Tour visits 11 restaurants and eateries in the center of the historic whaling town. From fresh beef to salted pork, poi samplings, fudge tasting and fresh macadamia nut pancakes, you will certainly have a lot of flavors to enjoy if you choose to add this to your Maui vacation package.
Avoid mediocre restaurants and tourist traps by delving into a tour that will take you right into the heart of some of the best authentic Hawaiian food. A great starting point is the Hilo Farmer’s Market held twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays where you can try locally grown tropical fruits and fresh vegetables. The Big Island has some of the largest agricultural contributions in the State of Hawaii; so you are sure to find a colorful display of Hawaiian treasures to taste at the market. For those who want to take a cultural plunge into Hawaiian food and experience a glimpse in some local homes, the Home Tours Hawaii company provides what they describe as a “culinary adventure.” This begins as a gourmet four-course progressive meal that highlights three unique Kailua-Kona homes. Feel free to explore all the open rooms, then sit down to a beautifully arranged course or two before heading out to the next house to visit. With over a dozen homes in the roster, returning guests are almost sure to dine in a new dwelling where they can savor new sweet and savory dishes. Tours are given Monday through Saturday, from 7:45 am to 12:15 pm. A trip to the Big Island of Hawaii would be incomplete without exploring the combination of both lifestyle and cuisine of the islands.
Kauai offers farm-to-fork tours for visitors who want to experience the full process of growing produce and raising livestock in Hawaii. The Farmer’s Market Tour is offered weekly instructing visitors on the farmers who grow food on Kauai. Tasting Kauai also offers their monthly Farm-to-Fork Tour on the East Side of Kauai, where people ride a train, tour a plantation, feed animals and learn about how a working farm functions. Visitors get to sample tropical fruit salad from produce grown right on the Kilohana Plantation, followed by a trip to the Kauai Marriot Resort in Lihue where they watch a gourmet chef make dishes from his own organic garden. Some of the plates include Kauai shrimp, homemade herb pasta and Kauai coffee cheesecake with poha berry sauce. Travelers can then visit the nearby pub The Feral Pig and sample off-the-menu items like the feral burger with pork belly bacon and caramelized onions. The wide variety of cocktails is sure to satisfy every palate.
Molokai and Lanai
Though Molokai and Lanai do not offer culinary tours, guests can still enjoy food samplings and unique Hawaiian activities by going to the Ohana Poke Market on Lanai, where visitors can buy the freshest fish and try delicious poke bowls. Guests on Molokai can buy fish from local fishermen or relax at some of the low-key friendly local restaurants like the Molokai Pizza Café or the Cook House.
Delicious Hawaiian food is readily available on every island; but those who want tips on where to find the best authentic food, would be well advised to add a culinary tour on their trip to Hawaii. Why spend your precious days searching out the best-kept secrets, when a tour guide can show you the way? For those who want hands-on experiences or enjoy learning about history and agriculture can gain insights while savoring innumerable plates and flavors on one of the many Hawaiian culinary tours.