One of the many indulgent pleasures of a Hawaiian getaway is enjoying local delectable food. Hawaiian cuisine is a melting pot of fresh, tropical flavors paired and perfectly blended with influences from around the world.
With a variety of outdoor activities to do around Hawaii’s Garden Isle, Kauai, a sumptuous dessert to finish off a day under the sun is always a great idea. If you’re up for a sweet adventure on your trip to Kauai, we’ve rounded up some of the best Hawaiian desserts you can try and where to find them.
6 Best Hawaiian Desserts
One of the most iconic Hawaiian desserts, Haupia is a smooth, cool, creamy coconut dream. Traditionally served as a pudding or cut into squares, this Hawaiian treat also makes its way into ice cream, hand pies, cakes, fruit salads, and more.
Its silky gelatin-like texture is produced by sweetening coconut cream with sugar and thickening with agar agar or arrowroot. Definitely a great choice for foodies who want to stick to vegan-friendly options.
You’ll find some heavenly Haupia at Poipu Beach’s Koloa Fish Market, where it makes for a great finish to a delicious bento box or poke bowl. This hole in the wall is one of the best places for local food on the island – you’re sure to find other desserts on this list as well as many popular Hawaiian dishes.
Crispy and sugary on the outside with a soft, doughy center, Hawaiian Malasadas are a fried dough treat that is deliciously addictive. It is originally a Portuguese recipe brought over by laborers from the Azores in the early 20th century and may remind you of a warm Spanish latte made with love.
Malasadas dough is made with evaporated milk and more eggs than many doughnut recipes. They are served plain or with a variety of fillings including custard, coconut haupia, strawberry cream, ube, chocolate, matcha and more.
Voted best Masaladas on the island are the cream-filled ones from Kauai’s most iconic and beloved, Kauai Bakery. This adorable little place is located along Kaumualii Highway in Lihue inside Kukui Grove Center. Make sure to drop by in the morning to get your hands on warm, freshly-made malasadas.
3. Poi Mochi
This crispy treat comes from the fusion of Hawaiian poi and Japanese mochi that’s then fried, because why not? With Japanese influences heavily present in Hawaiian culture, it’s no surprise that locals have crafted their own version of the famous Japanese dessert.
The Poi Mochi’s crispy outside is balanced out by the sticky interior. In most bakeries, you can choose to drizzle the little purple balls with pineapple, coconut, guava, lilikoʻi, or poi sauce for an extra-delicious snack.
Off the main road in Kamakani you’ll find a big yellow sign that says Aloha Sweet Delites. It’s a small bakery that offers tons of pastry options from glazed donuts, cinnamon buns, and classic poi mochis, and a popular stop among visitors on a trip to the Waimea Canyon. Definitely drop by for a quick pastry run before sightseeing – you can’t go hungry with all that there’s to do in Kauai!
4. Liliko’i Bars
Liliko’i Bars aka Passion Fruit Bars is a Hawaiian play on the classic lemon bars recipe, made with tart and floral passion fruit juice. With a buttery crust layered with a sweet and tart lilikoʻi (passion fruit) filling, this much loved Hawaiian dessert lets fresh local fruit shine.
These bars tend to come out very sweet, so they pair well with a warm cup of coffee. And you’re in luck if you find these treats on a trip to Kauai – the Garden Isle is famous for producing world-class coffee varieties and being home to skilled roasters.
The Liliko’i Bar and Grill in Lihue, aptly named after the dessert, offers the famed bars on their menu as well as a few other pastries made with liliko’i. Try coming in for brunch – this fresh dessert hits differently when you’re about to power through a jam-packed day.
5. Coco Puffs
Everywhere else, chantilly means whipped cream, but not in the Aloha State. Chantilly is actually a decadent creamy topping made with butter, milk, sugar, and eggs, and is used to frost cakes and top Hawaii’s famous coco puffs.
The original version is a delicate pastry filled with chocolate and topped with chantilly, but the other varieties you’ll find in Kauai – green tea, chocolate, or cream – are just as delicious.
Hawaii’s best place for coco puffs may be in Liliha Bakery in Oahu, but a tiny dessert shop called Kawaii Kokoro in Lihue also serves a tasty take at this delicacy. The shop is located near Lihue Airport – if you have time for some souvenir shopping before you bid goodbye to the island, you may want to take a box of delectable coco puffs to go.
6. Hawaiian Shave Ice
Last but definitely the most popular Hawaiian dessert is the brightly colored and refreshing shaved ice. Hawaiian shaved ice is an ice-based dessert made by shaving a block of ice and flavoring it with syrup and other sweet ingredients. Whichever Hawaiian island you may visit, you’re sure to find a place that serves generous cups of shaved ice.
The thin ice shavings of shaved ice allow for the flavored syrups to be absorbed completely instead of sinking to the bottom. Hawaiian shave ice is derived from a similar ice-based dessert from Japan called kakigōri and thus involves similar production methods.
Our top pick for shaved ice is served by Kona Ice which has trucks all over the state. Their mobile ice cream trucks carry Flavorwave, which allows customers to get plain shaved ice from the window of the truck and then choose as much of and as many flavors as you please. Check Kona Ice’s locations before your trip – it’s a must-try on your trip to Kauai!
Take a Sweet Trip to Kauai
Salty and sweet are a match made in heaven. And when you’re on an island surrounded by salty water, there’s nothing more satisfying than a sweet treat. There is no shortage of delicious indulgences on Kauai. Fresh fruit drips from the trees. Coconuts accumulate in piles. And sugarcane grows like a weed.
The true edible treasures, however, are what foodies create with these decadent ingredients. The combination of tropical inspiration and to-die-for flavors is mouth-watering. On your visit to the island, make sure to plan a dessert-filled day out in the sun. When in Kauai, it may be an experience for the books.