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Top 10 Food Tourism Destinations in Hawaii

Here's what you need to know...
  • Food tourism is a growing trend among people of all ages
  • You can experience not only the flavors of an area but its history and culture by participating in food tourism
  • Hawaii is a hot spot for food tourism with many different dining options including the Aiea Bowl and the Liliha Bakery
  • Safety should always be a top priority when taking a food tourism trip

While most tourism only involves a couple of aspects of a destination, such as its entertainment or natural beauty, food tourism tells the story of a destination’s people, culture, and history.

To experience food tourism is to experience nearly all that a certain location has to offer. By tasting the different foods of a region and dining in various settings, you can learn a lot about a particular area, including its history and culture.

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Food tourism is a growing trend. In fact, the number of people traveling for leisure with the main purpose of partaking in and learning about a destination’s local cuisine grew from 40 percent in 2006 to 51 percent in 2013. The increase in food tourism can be attributed to a variety of factors including:

  • Celebrity chefs and the media
  • Consumers who value culture
  • An increase in disposable income
  • A focus on foods that aid in health and well-being

Culinary Tours in Hawaii

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Hawaii is a state rich in culinary delights that represent both the Hawaiian culture and its unique history. If you want to participate in food tourism here, you have the option of going on a culinary tour or coming up with your own itinerary and menu.

There are many options for pre-planned culinary tours in Hawaii such as the following:

– Oahu

– Maui

– Big Island

– Kauai

– Molokai and Lanai

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No organized culinary tours are offered on these islands. However, you can start your own culinary adventure by going to the Ohana Poke Market on Lanai.

If you choose to participate in a culinary tour, the hard work is done for you. You do not have to spend time doing the research on where to go or how to get there. These tours are ideal for people with limited time schedules or those on a budget that cannot be veered from.

However, planning your own food tourism trip can be beneficial in that you are in the driver’s seat.

You can skip out on restaurants or food that do not interest you and save time by focusing on what does. If you are more of a free spirit and like to do your own thing, you may find it more enjoyable to be your own food tourism travel agent.

The Top 10 Food Tourism Destinations in Hawaii

#1 – Liliha Bakery

Whether you are looking for a home-like dinner spot or a baked treat, the Liliha Bakery has what you are craving.

Meals here are grilled to order and while you wait you can enjoy the aromas of baked goods in the oven. Since 1950, the casual style dining Liliha Bakery has been providing customers with homestyle meal favorites like hamburgers and pancakes.

#2 – Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp

Prawns and shrimp are harvested daily for meals at the must-see at Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp. Serving lunch and dinner, their food is 4-star quality, yet offers a feel for the North Shore with a roadside stand. Entrées here will cost about $11-$15 while sides run around $3.

#3 – Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Since 1946, Helena’s Hawaiian Food has been serving true Hawaiian cuisine to locals and visitors alike. For casual dining in a unique and truly Hawaiian atmosphere, don’t miss this restaurant.

Menu items include favorites like Kalua pig and cabbage, Haupia, and boiled butterfish. An entrée here will set you back about $5-$10.

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#4 – Fresh Catch

Featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Fresh Catch is known for its seafood, plate lunches, and poke and sashimi platters.

Casual dining with an island-style flair is offered here. Don’t miss the red velvet cupcakes baked fresh by the chef’s wife. You will pay about $11 for an entrée here and around $3 for a side or a salad.

#5 – Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha

Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha serves shaved ice but not just any shaved ice. This ice is world renowned and puts your typical snow cone to shame.

Here the Hawaiian iconic snack is crafted with homemade syrups made from fresh Hawaiian fruits.

You won’t find anything artificial at Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha. In fact, the ingredients are all locally sourced. The come as you are casual atmosphere attracts both locals and tourists.

#6 – Aiea Bowl

The Aiea Bowl has been featured on both Man Finds Food and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

For 50 years, this bowling alley and restaurant has been feeding delicious foods and providing unique entertainment opportunities.

Here you can be entertained with bowling and various nightlife entertainment. The restaurant features many favorites like the Suppa Garlic Shrimp, Deep Fried Pork Chops, the Alley Fried Noodles, and saimin.

#7 – Rainbow Drive-In

The Rainbow Drive-In is an iconic and fun island favorite and has also been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Try a slush float, a mahi-mahi sandwich, the corned beef hash, or the famous chili dog boat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served here all for under $10.

#8 – Teshima’s Restaurant

Teshima’s Restaurant is a local favorite with a comfortable dining environment that is great for families, attentive staff, and Hawaiian favorites. Serving Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine since 1957, Teshima’s Restaurant is a diner serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

For non-adventurous diners, plenty of American favorites can be found on the menu. They also serve bento box lunches to go.

#9 – Cafe Pesto

Café Pesto is committed to offering the latest and best local Hawaiian foods to their customers while still preserving the historic charm of their 1988 origins.

With colorful and provocative meal presentations in a dining environment featuring rattan chairs and tall ceilings, it is no wonder Café Pesto is a local favorite. Pizzas, pastas, salads, and calzones with Hawaiian flare are cooked to order here. Plan on spending at least $20 for a meal.

#10 – Merriman’s Big Island

At Merriman’s Waimea you can experience fine dining featuring authentic Hawaiian flavors with a farm-to-table concept.

For 20 years, this restaurant has offered lunch, dinner, dessert, wine, and brunch options like Hirabara Farm Kale and Beet Salad, the Waipio Taro Enchilada, Wok Charred Ahi, Kahua Ranch Lamb, Guerilla Farm Pumpkin, Kale, Smoked Bacon Omelet, and Keahole Lobster Benedict.

Their large selection of authentic fine dining cuisine runs between $13 to $65 per entrée.

Safety on the Road

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If you will be driving to your culinary tour destinations, be sure to avoid eating and drinking while driving. As hungry as you may be or as much as your taste buds are craving what you just bought, safety is always the priority.

Eating while driving creates many distractions for drivers. It may cause you to take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel.

It also takes your mind off of the important task at hand. If you still think eating and driving is okay, consider these statistics:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that eating while driving drives up the chances of a crash by 80 percent. In fact, 65 percent of near-miss crashes are caused by drivers who were distracted by eating or drinking while driving.
  • A 2014 Lytx study found that a driver who is drinking or eating is 3.6 times more likely to be in an auto accident than an attentive driver who is not eating or drinking while driving.

Unfortunately. many of the foods we enjoy or consider to be fast foods are the worst offenders when it comes to dangerous and distracted driving. If you must eat on the road, avoid the most dangerous foods to eat while driving:

  • Chocolate
  • Soft Drinks
  • Jelly or Cream Filled and Powdered Donuts
  • Fried Chicken
  • Anything Barbequed
  • Juicy Hamburgers
  • Chili
  • Tacos
  • Hot Soups
  • Coffee

In order to fully enjoy your food tourism trip, you may want to explore alternative forms of transportation such as:

  • Public transportation
  • Ride-sharing
  • Uber or Lyft

If you will be doing the driving during your culinary tourism trip, be sure you have the required auto insurance. In addition, compare auto insurance quotes for best rates. You can comparison shop easily with an online price comparison tool.

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