Since 'you are what you eat,' here's one thing you may not want to have in common with the fruits and veggies on your plate in Hawaii: A trans-Pacific airline flight. Most of the fresh foodstuffs in Hawaiian supermarkets travel 2,500 miles to get to the tables in the Islands.
Many restaurants, of course, feature locally grown produce, but you will be paying a premium for small portions. Instead, plan to pick up a low-cost cornucopia of tropical goodies at the beginning of your visit. In the offing are apple bananas, machette-whacked coconuts, papayas, mangos, avocados, a wide-range of citrus, leafy greens, flowers, and herbs—plus some exotics you've possibly never imagined, like soursop, star fruit, rambutan, and lilikoi. Enjoy these fresh foods, and you'll go home with Hawaii in your body as well as your memories. From the pages of Trailblazer Travel Books (one for each island) here are some directions to get down the garden path while on vacation.
Each day somewhere on the island, you'll find at least one of the pop-up outdoor stores called Sunshine Markets. Several take place on Saturdays. Be sure to show up on time—but no one gets in early—and bring your own bags and dollar bills. Wherever you are on Kauai, keep your eyes peeled for roadside stands, usually run on the 'honor system,' which offer whaver grows in someone's backyard. Many on these are located near Kilauea on the north shore, but some are above Kapa'a off Olohena Road, and outside of Lihue, in Kipu. Some vendors set up on the two-lane highways.
With a million people and several freeways, much of Oahu is not exactly rural. But fresh local produce is plentiful. The most fun place to shop is Chinatown in Honolulu, where, amid the tattered film-noir neighborhoods, are teeming indoor food-fests, like the Oahu Market and Mauna Kea Marketplace. Prepare for sensory overload. On the weekends head for the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet (although most of the 700-plus vendors sell gifts, not veggies) or the Kamehameha Swap Meet, where produce in primary. On sundays, head for the very scenic Windward Open Market, at He'eia State Park just north of Kailua.
Locals gather around at 7 a.m. for the opening of the Maui Swap Meet, set on the open expanses of Maui Community College in Kahului. You can pick up souvenirs and artwork to go along the bounty from gardens. Kumu Farms, one of the better in the islands, is open every day. It's located at located at the underrated family attraction of Maui Tropical Plantation, set on many acres at the foot of the West Maui Mountains. Another favorite is fruit stand at the trailhead for Twin Falls Botanical Preserve, at the beginning of the Hana Highway. Near Hana, take the short drive to Waianapanapa State Park, and you'll find several honor stands.
The Hilo Famers Market is the best in the Islands. It rocks on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but you'll find ample supplies every day. No trip to the Big Island is complete without a stroll of quaint Hilo Town, and getting there is much easier these days thanks to the new Saddle Road. You can also pick the garden stuffs, along with tacky-tack trinkets, at the Kona Farmers Market, right on the main street of Ali'i Drive. If staying in the resortville of South Kohala, check out the mom-and-pop market in Kawaihae, where folks bring fruits and veggies from the Hilo side—and also where you can get gourmet fresh fish and some huli huli chicken hot off the grill. On Saturdays, drive up to cowboy country for the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market and the Waimea Town Farmers Market; on Wednesdays, add meat and eggs to the shopping bags along with greens at the Pukalani Stables Market at Parker Ranch.
ON ALL ISLANDS
Hawaii is not lacking quality health food stores, where you can add to the fruit bowl and also fill in the menu with yogurt and a rainbow of organic foods. Most of these places are windows into the the eat-local scene in Hawaii.
On KAUAI on the north shore, step into Healthy Hut in Kilauea or Harvest Market in Hanalei; on the eastside, try Hoku Hut and Papaya's, both in Kapa'a. On MAUI Mana Foods is the with-it epicenter of the arty-surf town of Paia. On the BIG ISLAND, Abundant Foods anchors the main drag of the old town on Kamehameha Avenue. On WAIKIKI, nachos would be consdired a health food, but you can find organics at Ruffles Natural Foods. On the NORTH SHORE of Oahu, Celestial Foods in Haleiwa is where to be.