From haute cuisine to popsicles, the food scene is hot, thanks to fresh ingredients with amplified flavors

Loren Mooney, Brian Berusch, Joan Conrow, and Bonnie Friedman


Big Island | Monstera, Kohala Coast. This place does traditional Asian cuisine spot-on, and has a cult following for its heavenly bonito broth udon, rich with tempura vegetables and shrimp. The local snapper may have been caught within eyeshot of your table. $$$; 68-1330 Mauna Lani Dr.; 808/887-2711.

Kauai | Hukilau Lanai, Kapa‘a. There are a half-dozen catches of the day here, all from Kauai fisher­men, but for a creative twist on the traditional, try the signature ahi poke nachos, cubes of fish atop crisp wonton chips with diced tomatoes, avocado, fish roe, and a spicy wasabi cream sauce. Bonus: open-air dining with an ocean view. $$$; closed Mon; 520 Aleka Loop; 808/822-0600.

Maui | Paia Fish Market, Pa‘ia. First, pick your fish: fresh opah, ono, ahi, opakapaka, or mahimahi. Then your preparation: charbroiled, sautéed, blackened. Finally, your sides: Cajun rice, home-fried potatoes, hand-cut slaw. And be quick about it—there’s a crowd behind you. The communal table is packed with European windsurfers, tourists en route to Hana, and hippie expats from the Mainland. Not your scene? You can always get it to go for a picnic on the beach. $$; 100 Hana Hwy.; 808/579-8030.

Oahu | Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, Honolulu. Why put a tiki-motif seafood restaurant in an industrial neighborhood? Because it’s less than a minute’s walk to the Honolulu Fish Auction, where Uncle’s gets its ahi, opah, mahimahi, and whatever else is fresh, six days a week. The best part is what they don’t do: oversauce or overcook. Here, the fish is the star. $$$; 1135 N. Nimitz Hwy.; 808/275-0063.


Big Island | Hilo Farmers Market. It’s the kind of place one might expect on an island that boasts all but two of the world’s climate zones: locally blended ice pops (dragon fruit and rambutan, anyone?), kava smoothies, homemade jams, the rare white pineapple, and ginger root so fresh, you’ll need to wash off the clay soil. Every day but Fri until 4 p.m.;

Big Island | Ka‘u Farmers’ Market, Na‘alehu. This gem is your chance to acquire Ellis and Sokha Hester’s vegetables—take your pick of long beans, beets, a rainbow of cauliflowers, and dozens of others. 8 a.m.–noon Wed and Sat;

Kauai | Living Foods Market and Cafe, Koloa. The staples are here (house-baked bread, wine, European cheeses), as is a deep selection of island fish, fruits, and vegetables. The smoothies are chock-full of coconut, papaya, and other seasonal Kauai fruits. $$; 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka; 808/742-2323.

Kauai | Waipa Farmer’s Market, Hanalei. The island’s oldest farmers’ market is held, get this, on a farm, in a lush valley bound by blue-green mountains and the sea. Spring means flower power: heliconias and red and pink gingers. You can sample your way down a line of fruits like longan, rambutan, and rosy-fleshed Sunrise papaya. And don’t miss the chocolate-dipped apple bananas, made from the sweet-tart mini banana variety. 2–4 Tue; 5-5785 Kuhio Hwy.; 808/826-9969.

Maui | Kula Country Farms, Kula. Chauncy Monden is a fourth-generation Maui farmer who, with wife Teena, runs a 100 percent–local produce stand. Stock up on the familiar island tropicals (bananas, papayas, avocados) but also on astonishingly sweet strawberries, yellow corn, kale, and Chinese peas. Closed Mon; on Kula Hwy./State 37 across from Rice Park;

Maui | Rodeo General Store, Makawao. This upscale but authentic grocery/deli is loaded with produce from Ono Organic Farms, house-baked breads, and prepared deli salads. Don’t leave without a cup of steaming chili made with Maui Cattle Company beef. $; 3661 Baldwin Ave.; 808/572-1868. New second location: 1847 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei; 808/633-4990.

Oahu | Ala Moana Farmers’ Market, Honolulu. By Diamond Head, the Kapi‘olani Community College market has become mosh-pit popular. But the new smaller market on the Ala Moana mall parking deck has some of the same vendors, like Ma‘o Organic Farms, Naked Cow Dairy fresh-churned butter, as well as flowers to brighten your condo. 8 a.m.–noon Sat; 1450 Ala Moana Blvd.;