Taking a trip to Hawaii at least once a year has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. I recall the days of packing my bag with slippers, dresses, my snorkel, and making a list of all of my favorite Hawaiian snacks I had been craving. We have been able to FaceTime our family in O'ahu where they show us pictures of the Hawaiian Islands' lush, green mountains, jaw-dropping clear blue waters, and countless rainbows. Although it feels a bit like we are there in paradise with them, it is not the same. I have been fortunate to have family in Hawaii that have introduced me to all of the wonderful touristy spots, but also some of O'ahu's best kept gems. 

Whether you are craving something sweet, salty, savory, or some sugar-crusted heaven, this is the read for you. I have compiled some of my favorite post-snorkel treats and perfect pick-me-ups that are best enjoyed on the beach with the Mokulua Islands in the background. Close your eyes, and let each bite take you to your favorite views of the Hawaiian Islands.  

1. Malasadas

If you love donuts and cream puffs, then these will seem irresistible. They are little fried balls of dough that are perfectly pillowy and soft in the inside with a nice crust on the outside to complete every bite. To top it off, it is coated in sugar granules. At some places, you can find these little bundles of joy with custard or vanilla fillings that make each bite more satisfying than the last. When purchased in Hawaii malasada fillings can consist of haupia, which is a type of coconut cream custard, lilikoi or passionfruit, li hing mui, macadamia nut, mango, guava, or pineapple cream. When on the island, the most well-known place is Leonard's Bakery in Honolulu, where they are famous for their tasty malasadas. Make sure to get there early and eat them right away because they are best when they are hot and fresh out of the oven.

2. Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

Every time we visit the Islands, a trip to O'ahu's North Shore is always a must. The North Shore is where many freshwater shrimp farms reside. It is also where you can get the best Hawaiian garlic shrimp plates. Each plate consists of some freshwater jumbo shrimp that have been coated in butter, garlic, and tossed in a pan with some parsley 'til tender, and topped off with a hint of lemon juice to bring out the shrimp flavor. There is also a much-needed mound of white rice, a lemon wedge, and a side of coleslaw. Once you take a bite, you will be hooked. The fresh, juicy shrimp that have absorbed all of the delicious flavors of the butter and garlic make this dish refreshing and full of flavor. Although there are many Hawaiian garlic shrimp plate trucks to choose from on the North Shore, one of the most well-known trucks is Giovanni's Shrimp Truck in Hale'iwa. When visiting the Hawaiian Islands, a trip here is one you will not forget. 

3. Shave Ice with Condensed Milk and Azuki Beans

Hawaii is the only place where you can find some of the softest, most fluffy shave ice. Despite shave ice just being blocks of ice that have been delicately shaved down to form pillowy mounds of snow, the natural flavors from the juice of locally found tropical fruits grown on the Hawaiian Islands add a level of fruity sweetness to this popular dessert. Popular Hawaiian flavors are lilikoi, pineapple, guava, li hing mui, mango, and POG (passionfruit, orange, guava). When you go, make sure to order it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, azuki beans (beans that are cooked and sweetened to form a rich, subtle, sweet, full-bodied flavor), and snow cap or condensed milk drizzled on top.

My favorite place in O'ahu to get this staple Hawaiian treat, is Waiola Shave Ice  in Honolulu. It is a little blue shack in the heart of Honolulu. Be ready to wait, as there is always a line. But, the wait makes the shave ice taste even more delicious. 

#SpoonTip: When you go, be sure to look for the little, smiling, rainbow shave ice character waiting to greet you upon your visit. If you are lucky, you just might get to enjoy your shave ice with a double rainbow to keep you company. 

4. Fresh Poke

Despite the poke craze hitting the mainland hard the past couple of years, there is nothing like fresh fish caught off of the shores of the Hawaiian Islands and to your plate in the same day. Although you can just about find a poke bowl place around every corner now, the freshness and seasoning just are not the same. Hawaiian poke, unlike poke you find on the mainland, you can purchase by the pound where the fresh fish is typically marinated in a blend of sesame oil, soy sauce, hint of chili, Hawaiian salt, raw yellow onion, green onions, and limu or seaweed.

Poke is enjoyed alone, or with a side of rice, unlike the bowls you find here that are topped with countless toppings such as edamame, onion crisps, and dried seaweed. Hawaiian poke marinades are lighter which allows for the rich flavors of the fish to stand out more. Poke is popularly made with ahi tuna or octopus, often called tako. Poke from Ono Seafood in Honolulu is always fresh, seasoning is light, and the fish is always so tender that you believe that it was the catch of the day. Another favorite is Fresh Catch in Kaimuki, Kane'ohe, and Pearl City on O'ahu. Enjoy some fresh poke while watching some of the most talented surfers down at Banzai Pipeline when at the North Shore. 

5. Dole Whip

Although this is not a treat that is unique to Hawaii, it originated there at the Dole Plantation in O'ahu. Every time I go to Disneyland, getting a Dole whip at the Tiki Room is a must. The creamy, tart, and sweet pineapple soft serve is refreshing after a long treacherous hike up the 1,048 railroad steps up the Koko Head Stairs - a trail that rewards you with 360 degree views of the vibrant, lush, green island. Every time I get Dole whip, whether it be at Disneyland or here at Menchie's in Berkeley, I am instantly reminded of memories I have made snorkeling, frolicking in the warm Hawaiian Island waters, and getting ankle deep in mud on some of the most enjoyable hikes I have done in Hawaii. Every time that my family and I find a place that serves Dole whip, it feels like we just bought a plane ticket to O'ahu. Each bite instantly brings us back to our most cherished moments spent on the island. 

Whether you have never been, or you are now booking your plane ticket soon, or you are just missing the culture and food in Hawaii and dying to go back like I am, be sure to give these Hawaiian delicacies a try. Enjoying some of my favorite foods from the Hawaiian Islands always brings back missed memories. With each bite, I can easily recall floating in the clear blue waters at Lanikai Beach or spotting green sea turtles and humuhumunukunukuapua'as at Shark's Cove while snorkeling.  If you have never tried any of these, give them a try or look up a recipe to make some delicious Hawaiian garlic shrimp and thank me later. Trust me, you'll want to bookmark those recipes.