Remember this bucket list from 2014? I got to cross Hawai’i off the list last June and it was GLORIOUS.
I was in Hawaii last June because of 1) the International Coral Reef Symposium and because 2) Hawai’i. As I didn’t get any funding from official sources (e.g. the Philippine government, UP, NGOs, etc), I paid for everything out of pocket with a LOT of assistance from my parents, relatives, and friends (they’re even more awesome than I am). It was worth it thought because I learned a lot during the ICRS and Hawaii is love.
First up in the Hawai’i series: the food. The first things that I look for in a new place are the beach (if present), museums, and food. I love Hawai’i because it has all three! <3 I joined a food tour of the Pike Place Market when I was in Seattle in 2013, so I thought of doing it in Oahu and the Big Island as well. Unfortunately, I was on a tight budget and a tighter schedule (wanted to explore the sights in addition to the food) so I DIY-ed it this time.
Breakfast: pancakes from Wailana Coffee House. This was the easiest to get to because we stayed in the Ilikai Hotel and the Wailana is just down the road and across the street. Confession time: I’ve wanted to go here ever since Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) said that it had the “best pancakes on the island”. Yes, I’m a Hawaii Five-0 fan.
(I really wanted to sit at this table but it was occupied. Huhu.)
Steve wasn’t exaggerating: Wailana’s macadamia nut pancakes are the best pancakes I’ve ever had. They were fluffy, filling, and absorbed syrup like sponges. They offer three types of syrup: maple, coconut, and boysenberry. I tried them all but the maple was still my favorite. I’m also not a big fan of coconut so there might have been some bias there. But despite what Steve says about boysenberry syrup and the people who like them (AKA Danno), the boysenberry syrup was pretty good too.
Bonus: I came back and ordered their roast beef sandwich for dinner. It was delicious and big enough that I had enough left for breakfast the next day.
Morning snack: coco puffs from Liliha Bakery. My determination to get coco puffs also stems from H50: Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua love coco puffs. And with good reason! Liliha Bakery’s coco puffs are easily my favorite food from Hawaii. This is high praise because I’m very picky when it comes to pastries. The puffs are soft and light and the chocolate cream filling is just the right level of sweetness. I bought four coco puffs and two cream puffs – the coco puffs were better, by the way – and it was a mighty struggle not to eat them all in one sitting, plus I was supposed to bring some back for my friends. I LOVE THESE PUFFS.
Liliha Bakery has two branches: one on Kuakini St and another on Nimitz Highway. For some inexplicable reason (though I’m leaning towards “extreme tiredness” as the explanation), I got it into my head that the Kuakini St branch would be closed on a Sunday (when it’s not!!!) so I went all the way to the Nimitz St branch to get the coco puffs. It was still worth the trip but the Kuakini St branch is much much closer to Waikiki and the Bishop Museum (my third stop of the day and why I chose to DIY the food tour). The puffs also travel pretty well. I bought the puffs at around 9am and only got them into the refrigerator at around 8pm but they were still good.
Evening snack: malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery. Again, with the recommendation from Five-0. I swear, Hawaii Five-0 is a weekly 45 minute-long ad for Hawai’i tourism. Malasadas are Portugese doughnuts: deep-fried dough balls covered with sugar. Leonard’s Bakery supposedly makes the best ones. I say “supposedly” because Yelp reviews say that Champion Malasadas has better malasadas and most tourists don’t know about them so there’s no crazy waiting line in front. I was hoping to sample both bakeries (for science!) but alas, Champion Malasadas is closed on Sundays.
From Leonard’s Bakery, I bought the original sugar malasadas, cinnamon sugar malasadas, and malasada puffs filled with dobash (chocolate). The original sugar and cinnamon sugar malasadas are okay. Yes, they were light and oh-so-chewy but that’s it. Bakeries in the Philippines also make fried doughnuts and they taste just as good as Leonard’s. The real winners were the malasada puffs with dobash. They were so good that I didn’t want to share them, but still did anyway because of friendship.
HAWAI’I ISLAND (The Big Island):
Lunch: pork laulau from Ka’aloa’s Super J’s. We visited Super J’s at the recommendation of a Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park staffer (thank you sir!). Super J’s serves authentic Hawaiian food, with pork laulau as their specialty. Their pork laulau is pork with vegetables, wrapped in taro leaves, and steamed for hours until the meat is ready to fall off the bone. A standard plate lunch consists of pork laulau, rice or poi, macaroni salad, and lomi salmon. We wanted to have poi with our laulau but they were out of poi 🙁 The laulau melted in my mouth and the taro leaves gave it a little extra kick. The lomi salmon was also good enough to be an entree on its own. Super J’s is a family-owned business so I was concerned when there were only six people (including our group) in for lunch. As it turns out, we dropped in during one of their few off-days. They had so many people in the day before that they ran out of food by 3pm and closed early. Super J’s also sells frozen laulau for you to bring home.
Breakfast: pancakes from Ken’s House of Pancakes. Don’t let the name fool you: Ken’s serves practically everything under the sun. There are over a hundred different items on their menu and we had trouble choosing what to eat. I ended up ordering their standard buttermilk pancakes with bacon so I could compare them to Wailana’s . The pancakes were good but not as good as Wailana’s. On the plus side, the servings were huge so great value for money, plus they’re open 24 hours so it was the perfect place to get a very early breakfast before our 6:20 am Hilo-Honolulu flight.
Stray observation: in ALL of the places that I’ve featured here, the wait staff were Filipino! Some of them moved to Hawai’i as adults (those who had a Tagalog/Ilokano accent) and some who moved when they were children (those with an American accent). I ordered my coco puffs from Liliha in Tagalog 😛
Wailana Coffee House
1860 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96815
Open 24 hours
515 N. Kuakini Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
Open 24 hours a day from Tuesday 6 a.m. to Sunday 8 p.m. Closed Mondays.
580 N. Nimitz Hwy.
Open daily 6am to 10pm (last seating) for the Coffee Shop and 12am for the Bakery.
933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
Open 5:30am to 10pm (Sunday to Thursday), 5:30am to 11pm (Friday and Saturday)
94 Lumiaina Street
Waipahu, HI 96797
Open 6am to 9pm (Sunday to Thursday), 6am to 10pm (Friday and Saturday)
Ka’aloa’s Super J’s
83-5409 Mamalahoa Hwy.,
Honaunau, Hawaii, 96704
Open 10am to 630 pm, closed Sundays
Ken’s House of Pancakes
1730 Kamehameha Ave,
Hilo, HI 96720
Open 24 hours