We’re big believers in having our cake and eating it too, which extends to Hawai’i food tours. And when eating local is our entertainment, uncovering the best food and drink in a breathtaking destination like the Hawaiian islands means combining both eats and views in one unforgettable experience.
It also means seeking out Hawai’i food tours that allow us to dig into authentic eats and try new cocktails, and learn a thing or two about where all of the delicious things (from local honey to handmade chocolate) come from to how it’s made!
Best Hawai’i Food Tours
This brings us to the intel below. Below, we curated unmissable Hawaii food tours to book on O’ahu, Kaua’i, Maui, and Island of Hawai’i including a few you may have heard about before and some hidden gems.
From a rum tasting made from heirloom sugar cane in O’ahu to a bee and honey experience in Kaua’i to sampling vodka in Maui’s Upcountry region and traditional Portuguese bread making on the Big Island, these are the best Hawai’i food tours beyond the farmer’s market:
P.S. – If you need tips on what to pack for Hawai’i, head here.
O’ahu: Taste Heirloom Sugar Cane At A Rum Tour
For our private travel planning clients, one of the most unexpected of our Hawai’i food tours is tasting locally-made artisanal rum. But the reality is that sugar is a deep part of Hawaii’s culture.
Beginning in the 1870s, long before tourism became Hawai’i’s bread and butter and visitors flocked to the Aloha state, it was all about sugar. Even though the plantation industry closed its last sugar mill in 2016, Hawai’i’s sugarcane past lives on, thanks to small local companies like Kō Hana.
These days, the Kunia distillery grows sugarcane from Native Hawaiian varieties – even before the sugarcane industry took off, the Hawaiians used it for medicinal and ceremonial purposes – to produce small-batch rum.
Kō Hana gives daily tours, which begin with a taste of pure cane juice before being led to a viewing deck to take in Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the Wai’anae mountains views.
Then it’s on to learn about their distilling technique before another tasting – though this time, with rum made from their Kō, or sugarcane. The distillery is located about 20 miles from Honolulu.
Kō Hana Rum, Ko Hana Distillers, 92-1770 Kunia Road #227, Kunia, HI, 96759
Maui: Sip Organic Vodka On An Upcountry Farm Tour
We’ve mentioned how we’re fans of the hidden gem Upcountry area, bursting with laid-back charm and lots of Upcountry-grown, farm-to-fork finds. Pro tip: In Upcountry, organic, sustainably produced cocktails are worth the drive and top on our list of Hawai’i food tours.
At family-owned Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery, sugarcane (as in more than 30 species of native Polynesian sugarcane) is harvested and distilled with ocean water that comes from deep beneath the sea off of the Big Island’s coast.
During a daily tour, see the whole process in action (and yes, it includes a tasting). The tour covers part of the farm’s 80 acres, which is situated on the volcanic slopes of Haleakalā.
The farm uses organic farming practices like select harvesting the sugarcane, meaning they pick only ripe cane and leave the growing cane for the next harvest instead of burning the fields, a more common method.
They also use solar power for their energy needs – which makes sense because Haleakalā is also known as the “house of the sun.”
According to Hawaiian legend, demi-god Māui struck a deal with the sun to help his Mother after holding it hostage in the sky with his lasso. So that his Mom would have more time to dry her kapa cloth, he made the sun promise to slow its roll across the sky, which may (or may not) explain why Haleakalā gets 15 minutes more sunshine than the coast below.
Ocean Vodka, 4051 Omaopio Road Kula, HI 96790
Kaua’i: Tour A Regenerative Farm
What used to be a guava plantation in the 1990s is now Common Ground, a regenerative farm and foodie-focused event space you can visit day or night for a top-notch Hawai’i food tours.
By day, take a small group tour and learn how it cultivates traditional Hawaiian food like ‘ulu (breadfruit) and kalo (taro), vegetables, and egg-laying chickens in a way that improves the land.
This Hawai’i food tour experience includes a fruit tasting and a pau Hana gathering, or Hawaii’s version of happy hour. Common Ground hosts Lounge Nights, some evenings with live music, snacks, and drinks. These events include a three-course dinner and rotating new dishes by local and visiting chefs serving some of the best food on Kaua’i.
Before a farm tour or lounge night, spend the early afternoon a bit further North toward Hanalei town to cruise through the taro patches and stop for lunch for fresh local fish at Hanalei Dolphin (note: it gets busy!) or a deli sandwich at The Hanalei Gourmet. Plus, you can’t go wrong at picturesque Hanalei Bay.
Common Ground, 4900 Kuawa Road, Kilauea, HI 96754
Kaua’i: Get Buzzed On A Local Honey Tour
Another of our top Hawaii food tours, this activity’s meeting point is at the apiary in Kapa’a town across from Keālia Beach (also home of our cafe faves Mermaid’s – with lots of vegetarian picks, by the way – and Java Kai).
It includes an intimate exploration of the ins and outs of bees, the beehive, and how honey is made. You’ll get decked out in protective gear and head home with a sweet souvenir – a jar of host Robin’s honey – after the experience, which runs about two hours.
The apiary – science speak for beehives – shares space with several local farmers and a working cacao farm. Choose from a group or private, kid-friendly experience.
Island of Hawai’i (aka Big Island): Bake Portuguese Bread
You may think of Kona coffee when you think of the Big Island but that is just the tip of the culinary iceberg. For example, Portuguese influence in Hawai’i goes way back to the late 19th century, when the first Portuguese arrived to work in the plantations.
From the introduction of the ‘ukulele to the fluffy, sugar-coated donuts we’re always gushing about when we talk about the 808, Portuguese culture is part of local culture in Hawai’i. (Malasadas are a foodie must in the islands and may not be traditional Hawaiian food but it’s one of the state’s authentic foods at this point.)
To get in on that Portuguese culture, add this to your list of must-do Hawaii food tours. Once a month, the Kona Historical Society invites the public to participate in their Portuguese bread-making activity. While the forno – or traditional Portuguese stone oven heats, a process that begins hours prior (four hours to be exact!) – guests knead and shape the dough and plop the round shapes into a pan for baking. The forno is massive – it can hold 30 loaves in one sitting.
Or, if you’re passing through on Mamalahoa Highway, pick up a loaf of bread when you pass through Captain Cook, where the historical society is located. The roadside stand should open at 1:00 pm, about when the first batches of bread are removed from the forno.
Kona Historical Society, P.O. Box 398, Captain Cook, HI 96704
Cook Hawai’i Local Food
Not heading to Hawai’i yet? To satisfy your wanderlust in the meantime, cook these local recipes.
More Hawai’i Food Tips
Not heading to Hawai’i yet? To satisfy your wanderlust and better understand Hawaii’s culture, including learning about its best authentic local food like kālua pork and poke, insights on its different restaurants, check out:
- Cook These Local Dishes
- Spam Musubi, Huli-Huli Chicken, And More: Get To Know The Flavors Of Hawai’i
- Why You Have To Try Hawaiian Doughnuts
Have Us Plan Your Hawai’i Trip
Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency specializing in Hawai’i vacation planning? If you’re planning a trip to Hawai’i or need help booking private tours, our Hawai’i trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary.
Photo Credit: Opening photo and photo of a collection of fruit credits Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) / / Mark Kushimi; sugar cane credit Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds; beekeeper photo credit Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
Hawaiian Diacritical Marks: In an effort to be accurate and respectful of the Hawaiian language, we use diacritical marks in our articles on the region. For more about which marks are used in the language and how to find proper spelling, refer to this Hawai’i Magazine article.