Aloha again. Last week, we took a look at some of the best places in and around Honolulu where you could find some spam musubi and loco moco on a shoestring budget. Today, we continue our tour of the Hawaiian island of Oahu by getting caffeinated and indulging our respective sweet teeth. Traveling around Waikiki and the surrounding area can be quite the treat and a cool dessert is a great way to beat the heat.
Honolulu Coffee Company
Apparently like so many of the other places that I like to visit, Hawaii is also known for its coffee. Over in the expansive Ala Moana Center, you’ll find no fewer than two locations of Honolulu Coffee Company. It’s basically like a Starbucks but with an island twist.
As it was a particularly hot day, I decided to cool down with an iced Nutty Hawaiian Latte ($5.50). From what I can tell, the “nutty” part was likely a macadamia nut flavor syrup. Not exceptional, but pretty refreshing.
If you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy some pretty fancy beans from the Honolulu Coffee Company too. A pound of 100% Kona coffee will run you about $50, while a bag of the Kona peaberry is about $70.
Island Vintage Coffee
Since I didn’t intend on spending $50 to $70 for a bag of coffee beans, I decided to get a single cup of the Kona coffee in drip form (about $5) from Island Vintage Coffee. This location is also in the Ala Moana Center, though both Island Vintage and Honolulu Coffee Company can be found throughout the city. To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by this 100% Kona blend. It had a nice earthiness to it though. And yes, they sell the fancy beans too.
Island Vintage Shave Ice
The kiosk for Island Vintage Shave Ice is listed as “B-1” in the directory — meaning it’s on the first level of the “B” building — but it’s not really in the complex itself. Instead, it’s out front on Kalakaua Avenue. While you can concoct together your own custom shave ice combination, we opted for one of the “signature” offerings: the Green Island.
This consists of the regular “snow cap” flavored with matcha green tea on one side and yuzu citrus on the other side. This is then mixed with organic frozen yogurt and topped with mochi and azuki bean. At $7.85, it’s not cheap, but there’s easily enough here to share between two people.
Island Vintage Shave Ice features “natural flavoring” and is one of the fancier shave ice places you’ll find on the island. Notable flavors include acai, lilikoi (passionfruit), lychee mint and coconut, while some of the other available toppings include lilikoi popping boba, condensed milk, fresh blueberry and fresh mango or pineapple.
Yes, sorry, we’re back inside the Ala Moana Center again. In the middle of the expansive food court, you’ll find a little dessert stand with a variety of baked goods and other treats. I grabbed a package of “Maui POI Manju” ($2.99) partly inspired by a recent Japanese pop song. It was like a fat cookie with a bit of a sweet filling. There’s no actual poi in here.
If you’re looking for some Japanese and Japanese-inspired treats on the go, Kansai Yamato is worth a quick look. Pricing isn’t outrageous either.
I’m told the malasadas (“Portuguese donuts”) here are quite famous, so much so that people fly all the way over from the US mainland just to taste them. We trekked our way through the heat to this otherwise humble looking bakery to give them a try. We got about a half dozen total: three cinnamon ($1.00 each), and three filled ($1.35 each).
These “donuts” are surprisingly light and fluffy, even the filled ones. From what I remember, we got one each of banana, macadamia and custard. I think I liked the custard one the best. It was sweet without being too sweet, despite being covered in sugar too. You’ll want to eat these while they’re nice and fresh. Eating one the day after just wasn’t the same.
On our way up to the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore of Oahu, our tour made a brief stop at the Dole Plantation in the middle of the island. It’s not a functional pineapple plantation anymore, as far as I can tell. Instead, it serves more as a tourist attraction for telling the story of the pineapple in Hawaii, including a giant outdoor maze and a train ride.
We had time for neither, so we just grabbed a bowl of the “Dole Whip” instead. The pineapple flavored soft serve with the chunks of pineapple topping came to about $5. You can find this iconic ice cream elsewhere, but enjoying a bowl at “Dole” is an extra touristy thing to do. And let’s face it: Waikiki and Honolulu are really tourist-centric.
We’re not done eating our way through Oahu just yet. I’ve got a couple more treats up my Hawaiian aloha-themed sleeve, including some Asian fusion and a hamburger on a taro bun.