8 Must Tastes Exploring Culture through Cuisine in Oahu, Hawaii at Breakfast & Beyond

Heading to Oahu soon? Well  then you’ll need to sample some of these must try tastes when visiting the Hawaiian island. Of course the local luau with its roasted pork is a must as are its celebrations on such a visit, but what about for breakfast?  What about some drinks? Snacks?

We have you covered.

We can often tell much about a culture by how they start their day, what snacks they enjoy, and what they drink too? So let’s explore Oahu through this foodie focused travel lens and I’ll share what I discovered.

family eating take out poi and pork on jeep hood oahu hawaii I compiled this list of eight musts. Eight tastes to give you more than just a flavor for Hawaii. You examine to enjoy its culture through cuisine. Ready? Here we go let’s enjoy some must eats from Oahu.


SPAM served in Waikiki Oahu Hawaii for breakfast

Hawaiian bacon?

You must know it. First created in 1937, long before email spam, this pork product (in a can) gained its popularity as a ration food in World War II. And with the military presence on the island SPAM still remains a popular Hawaiian dish today.

For breakfast order SPAM instead of the typical side of bacon or sausage. You can pair it with your eggs. Yum. But I also discovered SPAM goes well beyond breakfast too.  There is also a must eat snack – SPAM Musubi.

2) SPAM Musubi

SPAM Musubi at the Polynesian Center North Shore Oahu Hawaii

Surprisingly so delicious

Fancy a slice of the pork product atop sushi rice? Definitely try it, trust me. This delicious snack, typically served warm is always available inside food markets and is also a popular item found at concession stands at events.  I enjoyed some at the Polynesian Cultural Center watching a drumming show from Tonga.

Spam has now official been added to my home diet on some Sunday breakfasts. We slice up and fry up a can of SPAM to remind us about our Hawaiian adventures. Food always takes you back.

3) POG

Want more than just a glass of Orange Juice at breakfast? Me too. Then when in Hawaii turn your attention to their local POG juice. This three juice blend of  (P)assion fruit, OJ, and (G)uava is something I want to see in all supermarkets across the entire country. I poured a glass nearly every day at breakfast and often later too. Refreshing indeed.

POG Juice Carton Hawaii

Purchased for the room.

Yes, one can add it to champagne for a mimosa at brunch and it also works well to craft your tropical cocktails (punch) too.  I loved it so much, I purchased a carton from a local supermarket to keep in the room for both my early morning delivered breakfast and also evening cocktails on the balcony to appreciate the sunset at the Turtle Bay Resort.

POG works in a Champagne Glass

Cheers to POG

4) Kona Coffee

Volcanic soil seems to always deliver delightful flavors and tastes. From the very best in Mexican rum from Colima or the Sicilian wines from a Stay Luxurious Wine Journey, the secret is always the soil. Volcanic soil, so why not coffee too?

kona coffee beans at the market inOahu, Hawaii

samples of the coffee beans

Sure I love other coffee grown on volcanic soil, but Kona is more special it seems. The beans are hard with a high density packed with complex flavors. They seem to offer a unique and delicious tasting profile once roasted and brewed. And marketing it from the paradise of Hawaii helps too I am sure.  Remember food can take you back. But, you can taste the difference. So make room in the suitcase for a bag to bring home.  It is not cheap, but sometimes you need more than just coffee, you desire great coffee. Kona Coffee delivers.

5) Shaved Ice

The warm summer weather and plethora of outdoor activities create a perfect situation for taking an afternoon break for a refreshing snack. So, when it’s time to slow down and cool down in-between Hawaiian adventures take a moment and be present with the gift of this treat – Shaved Ice.

enjoying a shaved ice on the North Shore of Oahu

simple, yet so impactful. Yum!

It’s just ice with added flavors, but it is so popular in Hawaii, it is an event. And available in many flavors, including my new favorite flavor – POG..  This ice will be enjoyed and those very minutes will be some you treasure on your travels to Hawaii. Trust me.

Too many people keep a crazy itinerary  so this “pause” provides a great way to love the islands. The shaved ice part slows you down and allows you to be in the moment, allows you to take in your surroundings. These few minutes enjoying this simple, yet refreshing, snack in a natural outdoor setting will be a significant highlight of any trip to Hawaii. It was for me.

6) Poi

Food trucks are extremely popular with varying and nearly always delicious menus. There were plenty to sample on the north shore and we did fancy multiple trucks. But we needed another stop on our road trip around the island to sample another local stable – Poi.  Considered a spiritual food connected to the native Hawaiian past, a bowl of poi was often deemed sacred at the family dinner table.

kalua pork with poi at hawaiian rest stop style restaurant

Meal on the hood of our Jeep rental

Poi also is quite the superfood too. It is made from smashed taro root in Hawaii, (other Polynesian islands used other ingredients) and proved to be very healthy (not tasty) in recent studies.

No doubt this food is an acquired taste I haven’t acquired yet, but it serves well as side order with other  traditional Hawaiian dishes, like kalua pork (in the photo) and lomi salmon.

Delicious or not trying Poi remains a must. When tasting it just remember the health benefits. Studies have shown substantial reductions in weigh and a lowering of cholesterol for those who keep Poi in their diet. I told you it is worth a try.

7) Mai Tai

Mai Tai cocktail at Dukes in Waikiki Oahu

Mai Tai at Duke’s in Waikiki

What’s the most popular cocktail on the islands? Well, it is the Mai Tai. First invented in California the drink traveled west and found its home in Hawaii.

For the vacationing thirsty tourists it is often served in special “spirit”ual shaped glasses. A good version is not cheap, but it will not set you back like a Singapore Sling, so you can order more than one to truly obtain that tropical vibe before celebrating sunsets and the aloha spirit in Hawaii.

coconuts at the polynesian center on oahu in hawaii

So delicious , thumbs up!

So, if you are not drinking from a coconut, order up a local specialty – make it a Mai Tai at least once to get tropical.

8) Kona Beer

It’s not just Kona coffee, but there is a brewery too that shares the branding. The Kona Brewery beer is imported to “the 48” and we have access to the popular Big Wave at multiple venues and it is all over the Florida including the Florida Keys. My personal favorite is the Long Board Lager is here too, but on Oahu you’ll find them serving up many more craft beer types of this liquid aloha!  Try a few, I did.

Kona beer and the Kona Beewery on Oahu in Hawaii


Very much worth a stop when on Oahu as it offers good food, a great happy hour and a totally fun vibe to celebrate island life.

Final Thoughts

Just like on all my travels i look forward to tasting the cuisine and Oahu was no different. So here you have it my list of eight delightful small tastes to enjoy when on Oahu.

From its juices to sacred dishes to the SPAM we all know (and eventually come to love) Hawaiian cuisine shows us its culture.  So when you plan you next Hawaiian adventure make sure you put these eight Hawaiian must eats on your tasting menu you’ll be glad you did.

Stay appreciating thru cuisine,  Craig

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