The 50th state and the latest addition to the United States, Hawaii is considered the eighth smallest and the 11th least populous among the 50 US states.
Still, its 10,931 square miles total area is a sight to behold with a coastline that runs for about 750 miles, the fourth longest in the US, and a warm tropical climate, making it a favorite tourist attraction to people seeking to bask under the sun.
A haven of everything diverse and scenic, Hawaii is teeming with breathtaking sand beaches, thrilling cliff diving spots, and bountiful natural wonders — a true testament of its brand as the Paradise of the Pacific.
It is also home to flavorful cuisine, and luxurious beauty of culture and tradition. The Aloha State also abounds with historic sites, living proofs of its significant role in the Second World War, one of the deadliest conflict in human history, and its roots as a monarchy.
As you take a holiday plunge into the waters of Hawaii, indulge yourself to these nine foods you should not leave Hawaii without trying and five historic sites that will bring you another look at the richness of the state that no beaches can ever display.
A Treat to the Palate
Poke is a salad made from raw seafood. It first came into Hawaii as a snack of fishers who use the cut-offs from their catch and seasoning to create the dish. At present, Asian influence has been evident in the poke seasonings which uses soy sauce, sesame oil, sea salt, green onions, wasabi, and chili pepper.
Huli Huli Chicken
As it names suggests — huli, a Hawaiian word for “turn” — huli huli chicken is cooked by turning or rotating the meat. Portuguese-American businessman Ernest Morgado is credited for developing the dish.
The chicken is basted with a sauce that is said to be made of pineapple juice, ketchup, brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. But because Morgado never revealed the sauce recipe, various variations have emerged.
Loco moco is a filling rice dish considered as comfort food in Hawaii. It is composed of white rice, topped with fried egg, a burger patty, and gravy. Other kinds of loco moco have emerged which substitute burger patty with spam, bacon, shrimp, ham, or teriyaki beef.
Saimin is a comfort food first developed during the plantation era of Hawaii in the latter half of the 1800s. It is a soup dish made of egg noodles, dashi broth, topped with fish cake, deli ham, and green onion. It is heavily influenced by different immigrant groups who worked in the sugar plantations of Hawaii.
Brought to Hawaii by Chinese plantation workers as cha siu bao, manapua derives its flavors and look from its Chinese counterpart.
Known in Hawaii as a Cantonese barbecue-flavored filled bun, manapua is either steamed or baked and can be filled with pork, chicken, sweet potato, beans, and hot dog.
Another product of the plantation era, a malasada was brought to Hawaii as a Portuguese confection. It is sweet, deep-fried, and resembles a doughnut coated in sugar. At present, malasadas with fillings are also made available.
With Hawaii’s tropical climate, it no longer comes as a surprise that one of the must-eat in the Aloha State is its world-famous shave ice. Brought to Hawaii by Japanese laborers during the plantation era, shave ice is a generous serving of shaving ice poured with syrups that can be flavored with guava, coconut cream, kiwi, pineapple, mango, among others.
A staple snack in Hawaii, spam musubi in Hawaii is what onigiri is in Japan. It is ever-present in convenience stores, cafeterias, or easily made at home.
Spam, in the first place, is immensely popular and available in Hawaii since the end of the Second World War. Spam musubi is made by soaking a slice of Spam in a sugar-soy sauce mixture, frying it, assembling the cooked Spam with rice, and wrapping the rice-spam combination with nori.
But if you are stuck with a budget and constricted by time, tasting Hawaii’s mouthwatering food in one plate has become a possibility through a Hawaiian Plate. It consists of a scoop of rice, pork cooked using an imu or underground over called kalua pork, a taro-wrapped or luau leaf-wrapped chicken laulau, salted and dried beef called pipikaula, a fresh tomato and salmon salad called lomi lomi, poi, and kulolo.
An Indulgence of Hawaii’s History
‘Iolani Palace served as the royal residence of the monarchy until 1893 when Queen Lili’uokalani was overthrown. The palace, which is the sole structure in the country used as an official residence of a reigning monarch, is one of the two palaces in the United States along with Hulihe’e Palace.
The memorial of the Kingdom of Hawaii was designated as a national historic landmark in 1962 and is presently open as a museum under the management of a non-government organization, Friends of ‘Iolani Palace.
Washington Palace is well-known as the site of the arrest of Queen Lili’uokalani who is the Kingdom of Hawaii’s first queen and last monarch. Until her death in 1917, the Queen used the Palace as a private residence.
After that, the Washington Palace was used by 12 territorial and state governors of Hawaii excluding the consort of the Queen and Oahu Governor from 1868 to 1891, John Owen Dominis.
In 2007, the Washington Palace was designated as a national historic landmark.
United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor
The United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor will forever go down in world history as the site of Japan’s surprise military strike which ultimately prompted the entrance of the United States in the Second World War.
The Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Naval Air Service of Imperial Japan in 1941 and acquired by the Naval fleet of the United States via the Reciprocity Treaty of 1975. In 1964, it was designated as a national historic landmark.
Old Sugar Mill of Koloa
The Old Sugar Mill of Koloa is an essential structure in Hawaii’s sugarcane planting — a driving force of Hawaii’s economy and the state’s cultural diversity.
Considered the first large-scale commercial sugarcane plantation in Hawaii, the Old Sugar Mill of Koloa was founded in Koloa, Kauai in 1835 and designated as a national historic landmark in 1962.
Ka Lae or South Point
as the southernmost point in the United States, Ka Lae is considered one of the first settlement sites in the Aloha State. Characterized by the strong winds and ocean currents, Ka Lae is a famous fishing spot in Hawaii and teems with red snappers and giant trevally.
In 1962, it was designated as a national historic landmark known as South Point Complex.