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6 mouthwatering Hawaiian specialties you have to try

Have your tickets booked and ready for your trip to Hawaii? Bags packed? Dreams of your Hawaii vacation rental swirling? Got all of your activities planned? With all of those boxes ticked, perhaps it’s time to start preparing your taste buds for what is sure to be a culinary adventure to the land of “yum,” “this is so good” and “please, can I have some more?”

While Hawaii is rightly thought of to be a dream spot for lovers of sun and surf, it’s also a great place to try new and delicious foods. We’ve put together a list of some of Hawaii’s most tantalizing epicurean treats to help you out – and no, Spam is not included in our list.

1. Poke

“Poke is a Hawaiian dish made of sliced fish and served as an appetizer.”

This is not just something you do when your brother, spouse or requisite family member is proving to be a pest. Poke is a Hawaiian dish made of sliced fish and served as an appetizer. Most often, this raw fish salad’s main ingredient is either octopus or an oily tuna, which is then tossed with classic poke seasonings such as soy sauce, green onions and sesame oil. As foodie culture takes over, adaptations of poke have been cropping up, including yellowfin tuna, salmon and shellfish. While the dish is growing in popularity on the mainland, don’t pass up the chance to eat it while watching the waves roll in.

2. Purple sweet potato

For all of you vegetarians, vegans and non-fish lovers out there, don’t worry! You won’t be starving on vacation. And, I know, the most exciting thing about this entry might seem like the unique color of the tubers, but purple sweet potatoes are one of the more traditional foods in Hawaii that you can give a shot; they were introduced to the island by the earliest Polynesians, according to the website Canoe Plants, who came to the area hundreds of years ago. Now, served grilled, steamed or baked, they are known for their soft texture and floral notes. You might even find a sweet dessert version!

3. Manapua

This dish, brought over by Cantonese immigrants in the early 1900s, resembles what most of us know as a steamed bun. With its sweet pork filling, manapuas can be found (and devoured) at bakeries and food markets across Hawaii. You might want to even consider getting two or three – it’s a vacation, isn’t it?

4. Poi

With its starchy, mushy appearance, poi may be the last thing you want to order at the market. However, if you’re able to look past its sludge-like appearance and give it a chance, your taste buds will be rewarded. The dish is made by mashing the baked corm of a taro plant. Its texture can vary from pudding-like to dough, and its taste can be sweet or strongly fermented. Give this traditional Hawaiian dish (and all of its variations) a try!

Try any of Hawaii's tempting dishes with a side of grilled pineapple.Try any of Hawaii’s tempting dishes with a side of grilled pineapple.

5. Malasadas

Hope you’re ready for the best breakfast of your life! Or snack, for what it’s worth. Basically, malasadas are hole-less donut holes (wrap your head around that!), or just chunks of donut dough fried to golden perfection and rolled in sugar. Sometimes these relatives of the French beignet are filled with cream or fruit, but always they are delicious. Do your vacation a favor and eat these every day for breakfast. Your stomach will thank you, even if your waistline won’t. If you want to pretend you’re being virtuous, grab some of Hawaii’s juicy pineapple!

6. Laulau

Your Hawaiian vacation wouldn’t be complete without trying laulau. This dish, once again, uses the taro plant, but this time layers of leaves are wrapped around pork. To get its smoky flavor, the “packet” is then cooked in an underground hot rock oven. Right? Too cool to pass up.

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Education

5 things you should know before your first trip to the Hawaiian Islands

Considering heading out on a Hawaiian adventure? The U.S.’s only island state has plenty of fun and exciting things to offer travelers of all ages and styles. Whenever you’re traveling to a new place, however, you’re likely to find some unexpected details. While that’s often half the fun, if you’re going in too blind, you can miss some important details. Here are a few things you should know before your first trip to Hawaii:

1. Plan ahead for popular vacation stops

Hoping to tour Pearl Harbor or lounge on Waikiki’s beach? Be sure to do plenty of research ahead of time because these super-popular destinations can get pretty packed. For example, it’s likely going to be impossible to avoid crowds entirely on the beach, but try to get a feel for the best times to head out from your Hawaii vacation home and to the beach (usually early in the morning). That way you can be sure to find a place to lay your towel.  When it comes to ticketed activities like Pearl Harbor or aquariums, see if you can order tickets ahead of time and skip the line when you arrive.

2. Dedicate time to your destination

“Let yourself vacation at a slower pace.”

It may be tempting to try a fast-paced tour of the entire Hawaiian island chain, but you’ll have a better time if you pick one or two destinations and really dive in. Hawaii has a lot to offer, and you might not be able to enjoy it if you run yourself ragged trying to hit everything in a short amount of time. Instead, take your vacation at a slower pace. Not only will this give you more opportunity to really get to know Hawaii, but it will also allow you to embrace a large part of Hawaiian culture: Island Time. This is the principle that time moves a little bit easier in Hawaii – bring this philosophy into your vacation, and you’re sure to be glad you did.

3. Hawaiian shirts aren’t just tourist clothes

Many people outside of the Hawaiian Islands think of the big, flowery button-up shirts as the ultimate tourist signifier. Though it may scream “out-of-towner” on the mainland, it’s actually a common piece of most people’s wardrobes in Hawaii. However, they don’t call them Hawaiian shirts there – after all, any shirt bought in Hawaii would technically fit that moniker. No, there they call them “Aloha shirts,” and they’re not just something people wear once in a while – they’re standard business wear! Walk around an office district on the islands, and you’re sure to see plenty of people brightly decked out. It’s also a common outfit for semi-formal or dressy-casual events.

4. Don’t skip culture stops

Yes, the beach is calling you, but try not to spend all of your time floating on the waves. Hawaii has a long and interesting history, and it would be a shame to miss out on all that culture during your trip. Make an effort to visit at least one museum that goes into the history of your region. Moreover, consider heading to a cultural event like a luau. Hawaiians are very welcoming and are happy that so many people are interested in their culture.

Culture is one of the things that makes Hawaii so special - don't miss it!Culture is one of the things that makes Hawaii so special – don’t miss it!

5. Come prepared for adventure

Even if you’re not usually the hiking or outdoorsy type, bring along a good pair of athletic shoes and some clothes designed for movement. Hawaii’s incredible landscapes have a tendency of bringing out the adventurer in people. Moreover, you may spot things like zipline tours or kayak trips once you’re there that you hadn’t planned for back home. It’d be a shame to have to pick up a pair of sneakers or shorts on your trip – or worse, miss out on a fun opportunity – because you didn’t make room for an extra item or two.

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Education

6 things you might not know about Hawaii

Planning a trip to Hawaii? You’re in for a treat! This chain of islands is one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations in the U.S. It’s also one of the most interesting. Some fun Hawaiian facts are fairly well-known, like the many meanings of the word “aloha.” Others, however, are a little more obscure. Check out these fascinating tidbits of info about the Aloha state:

1. Hawaii is the second-widest state

The only state wider than Hawaii measured east to west is Alaska. Other than that, the island state manages to outstretch any other – it measures 1,523 miles across. To give you an idea for scale, that’s more than twice as wide as Texas.

2. The Big Island is getting bigger

The Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano is constantly erupting, which means the island gets bigger every year. The volcano has been erupting since 1983, and as a result, the island gains about 42 acres of land annually. The island is already Hawaii’s biggest, but it seems that title will only become more appropriate with time.

The islands were created by volcanoes, and they'll continue to grow because of them.The islands were created by volcanoes, and they’ll continue to grow because of them.

3. Hawaii has the world’s tallest mountain

Move over Everest – Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest mountain – that is, if you define “tallness” a little differently. Everest goes much, much higher above sea level than Mauna Kea – the Nepalese peak reaches 29,035 feet above sea level, while the Big Island’s dormant volcano reaches less than half that high – 13,796 feet. However, Mauna Kea extends another 19,700 feet below sea level – which means its total height is a whopping 33,500 feet. If they were on a level surface, Mauna Kea would tower over Everest!

4. Time is different in Hawaii

Many people will tell you that people move at a slower, more relaxed pace in Hawaii. What you might not know is that Hawaiian time doesn’t just refer to this phenomenon – the islands have their own designated time zone. Moreover, they don’t follow daylight saving time in Hawaii. This makes it one of only two states that don’t adhere to this tradition – the other is Arizona.

5. Pineapples galore

Hawaii produces 32,000 tons of pineapples each year. This comes out to one-third of the world’s total pineapple production, all from this single small island chain. If you come to Hawaii, you can visit the Dole Plantation, which features a pineapple plantation tour and a giant maze you can solve yourself.

6. The curvy Road to Hana

Many of Hawaii’s visitors head to Maui to travel down the Road to Hana. This is a famous Hawaiian highway with tons of great sites and stops along the path. As anyone who has ever driven it well knows, it’s also an incredibly curvy path. How curvy? Well, it’s a 64-mile long road with 617 curves along the way. That’s just under 10 curves each mile! If you travel along the Road to Hana, remember to drive safely and enjoy every twist and turn.