A Gourmand's Journey

6 Treats to Try

  • Dry-Roasted Macadamias - Drive to Kona Coast Macadamia Nut & Candy Factory at Highway 11 and Middle Keei Road in Captain Cook.
  • Spam Musubi - Eat Spam served on rice wrapped in nori at Matsuyama Food Mart on Mamalahoa Highway in Kona.
  • Poke - Taste raw fish seasoned with salt and seaweed or with soy sauce, garlic and ginger at the KTA Super Stores in Kona, Hilo and Waimea.
  • Kalua Pork Quesadillas - Stop in at the Bamboo Restaurant in Hawaii.
  • Japanese Rice Cakes - Also called mochi, sample these cakes at the Two Ladies' Kitchen in Hilo.
  • Malasada - Try this sweet, deep-fried Portuguese doughnut at the Tex Drive-In in Honokaa.

Insider Tip At the Hilo Farmers Market peruse fresh fruit, such as cherimoyas and rambutans. While there, order a passion-fruit juice. The market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Back to Basics Yes, there are first-rate restaurants like Merriman's in Waimea, where a meal is a fine-dining experience, but you can also learn some of the back story of cutting-edge Hawaiian cuisine by signing on for a Hawaiian Agricultural Adventure with Hawaii Forest & Trail. First you'll visit Kahua Ranch and Honopua Farm, a working cattle ranch and organic farm in the Kohala Mountains near the island's northern edge. Then you'll follow your chosen ingredients a short distance from their source to Waimea and Merriman's dining room for a four-course dinner showcasing these homegrown items, from beef and lamb to honeysweet corn and organic greens. hawaii-forest.com

Try This On the Big Island there are few limits to gustatory pleasure, from scallops topped with spicy guava sauce to the working man's loco moco (white rice topped with a fried egg and any manner of protein stuff ). While it's important not to neglect Hawaii's culinary triumvirate -- poi (paste made from taro), kalua pork and lomilomi salmon -- there is only one hard and fast rule: "Be adventurous," urges local food writer Joan Namkoong. "If you see something like saimin (an Asian-inspired noodle dish in broth) or Portuguese sausage, try it." Recommended dishes: plate lunch at the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, and saimin at Nori's Saimin & Snacks in Hilo.

Factoid Poi is a sacred and essential part of Hawaiian life, but this paste, made from the root of the kalo (taro) plant, has a practical side, too. "If your baby has allergies, it's a nutritious food that most babies can tolerate," says food expert Joan Namkoong.