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Savoring the Tropics: A Food Photographer's Journey Through Hawaii's Culinary Scene

Whether you're planning a Hawaiian adventure or just love to feast your eyes on food photo fun - a quick glance at our aloha experience is certain to inspire something delicious for your future. I didn't prioritize having my camera on me at all times but was able to capture a quick snap of most things I'm hoping to repeat on future trips. I thought it would be a shame to keep the delicious to myself, Cheers!

Lunch at Hamura Saimin (Kauai)

Easily one of the best meals we ate on the trip. Saimin is contemporary Hawaiian cuisine and consists of egg noodles, hot dashi and a variety of toppings. It's a must have in Hawaii and if you're fortunate enough to travel to Kauai - this is the spot. We went with the bbq chicken sticks (so delicious, should have gotten extra), a Regular Saimin and their famous Lilikoi (Hawaiian for Passionfruit) Chiffon Pie. I've been dreaming about it since.

Omakase with Cocktail Pairings at Bar Maze (Oahu)

Each bite was an absolute experience and the cocktail pairings were equally enjoyable. My biggest regret was not bringing my camera but it made way for fully enjoying the good company, kind service and mouth watering experience Ki Chung and Justin Park have created. The location is a quick ride from Waikiki and we really appreciated the quiet and calm vibe. Everyone, including our local friends will be saving this spot for future celebrations.

Pahoa Fish and Chips (The Big Island)

I'm a sucker for a waffle fry for sure but lemme tell ya it was the crispy fried Ono that won our hearts. Ono, also know as Wahoo is one of the best tastes you can enjoy (imho) when visiting the islands - it has beautiful white flesh - it's buttery and delicious - an easy crowd-pleaser.

At Pahoa Fish and Chips, you order off a whiteboard - fresh scribbles let you know what's available for the day. We had a bit of everything (not pictured the jumbo shrimp we crushed before I could get a snap). Simple as hell but so damn good.

dole whip at the Aloha juice bar in (kauai)

How did I wait this long? Oh my, if you haven't had the pleasure of annihilating one of these bad boys you must when the opportunity presents itself. Pineapple Dole whip is an insanely delicious dairy free blend of yum and I cannot recommend it enough. JUST WOW!

Chicken + Pork Katsu at Tonkatsu Tamafuji (Oahu)

Don't tell the others but this is the best meal we ate in Hawaii. Katsu is a win no matter what but this is next level. I have never experienced a more light and airy crisp with beautiful and tender juicy meat - outstanding. You get to grind your own sesame seeds and incorporate your choice of their 2 housemade Tonkatsu sauces - the entire experience was amazing. I do highly recommend making a reservation, we waited over 2 hours to dine, 100% worth it.

Lunch at Maku'u Market (The Big Island)

The 'O Maku'u ke Kahua community center hosts a massive market, a weekly ritual for over 150 local merchants, every Sunday. Not only is the array of local produce and goods plenty - the prepared food scene is rich with Asian food and local eats. We feasted on lechon (Filipinx fried pork belly - served with spicy fish sauce, onions, peppers and rice), dumplings and grilled meat on a stick(so good). We loaded up on all sorts of ingredients for our stay on The Big Island and sipped on fresh blended fruit smoothies - it was awesome. I can't recommend this market enough.

Road Snacks from Koloa Fish Market (Kauai)

We got a hot tip from our buddy Fred who lives on Oahu - he said their smoked marlin was the best he's ever had. A lot of the best food I've ever had happens to have been with Fred so we heeded his advice. The poke was as incredible as it looks, can't go wrong with an early morning musubi and we got enough smoked marlin to bring some back to the mainland - which was the move, this stuff is crushable. I will come back for it for as long as it's around and send folks there always.

Cocktails at Fish Bar Deli (Kauai)

We loved this spot and will spend a lot more time here on our next round. The drinks were the best we enjoyed on Kauai and the energy and vibes are bright and airy. They have a killer market where they sling by the pound but they're also preparing and serving killer eats on premises. The menu is fresh and local - friends, there is so much to love here. Fish Bar Deli

Plus, they're in the best of company -- nestled in next to Kaui Juice Co (we stocked all-the-way-up on their ginger shots, morning bevies, and the MOST incredible coconut + mango chia puddings) and Java Kai (definitely had brunch here two days in a row)- both would be featured on this list if I hadn't inhaled them before taking snaps, oops.

The area, called Old Kapa'a Town is special and I love the focus on real flavor and unique experiences - they're doing an amazing job and it's beautiful and inspiring to see.

Everything about Kauai Farmacy (kauai)

I think both Jon and I would say that visiting this Herbal Pharmacy was the highlight experience of our trip. It's uplifting to meet folks who are aligned with your visions and goals and have the desire to share and grow together. Doug and his team are bringing the medicinal properties our foods once carried back. Through mindful regenerative practices and intentional care, they're healing themselves and their community.

The farm experience was inspiring and implementing the products into our lives has only had benefits. I'm looking forward to following and engaging with their work. This kind of reconnection and respect for land needs to be happening all across the world in order for the fate of the planet to turn around.

Brunch at KoKo Head Cafe (Oahu)

Waikiki's highly recommended brunch locale totally checks out. We feasted on fresh local fruit, sipped refreshing tropical elixirs, and closed it down with some killer brunch plates. Highlights for me the kimchee scone (like whoa, wtf kind good) and of course the house loco moco. The hashbrown was offered as a must-try and we were super glad we opted-in on the recommendation. This baby was crispy and delicate and perfectly tender inside - what a hashbrown! Service was energetic and everything was a 10.

Fresh provisions at the Hilo Farmers Market (big Island)

I dream of a life where I can eat fresh fruit like this. My mother grew up in a field of mango trees and she walked through pineapple roads to get to school. I feel closer to my Filipinx roots just standing in this space and breathing in the bustle and pride these vendors hold for their prized jewels produce by their rich and diverse soils. I would come here everyday if I could. It feels like home.

We spent years dreaming about and planning this vacation and it's joy to look back and see all that we got to experience and learn. Have you traveled to Hawaii? Where do you love to go?

harvested foods at Wai Mana Eco Farm (Big Island)

Giving back to the land is important and we stayed here for the eco experience and the opportunity for Malama Aina (honor the land) by joining them for work on the farm. This is the most unique airbnb experience we've had to date and it was awesome that my family could join (there are a few rooms for rent)and we could and did connect our spaces with a party door.

The eggs were fresh and the land offer an abundance of fresh offerings. We did a tour and then were free to harvest throughout our stay. I've never had a grapefruit so juicy and markrut lime, my favorite herb was growing in multiple places. We had a blast identifying, trying new tastes and of course learning. The airbnb was fully stocked with all the tools we needed and the location was perfect for adventuring.

We were all shocked to learn about the poisonous slug problem that plagues The big island. They hang out on greens and all locally sourced stuff needs to be washed extremely well as consuming them often results in a long and uncomfortable death. This can be a huge worry for children playing outside and sticking things in their mouths.


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