Standing firmly on its chocolatey history, Hershey, Pennsylvania officially claims to be “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”
On behalf of Hawaiians everywhere, we respectfully disagree.
With a wide array of tropical goodies growing straight from its lush jungles, emerald mountains and sparkling beachsides, Hawaii may as well be the world’s candy store—and, by the looks of the vibrant variety of fruit there, Mother Nature may have the biggest sweet tooth of all.
Hawaii wasn’t always such a Land of Plenty. In fact, there are very few native fruits of Hawaii.
Being an island – and a remote one at that – the place was basically barren when it first sprung from the sea, providing little more than some beautiful perches for its tropical birds.
The Polynesians changed all that when they first caught wind of the archipelago, sailing in with the spoils of their seafaring travels, including coconuts, plantain and sugarcane.
By the time Europeans reached Hawaiian shores nearly 1300 years later, the place was a thriving tropical paradise. But the islands would become even sweeter still, as the later explorers brought with them their own sea-hardy seeds, including those belonging to some of island’s now-most famous fruits.
Thankfully, you don’t have to do quite as much exploring today to track down these exotic fruits of Hawaii. Many can be found at the grocery store, or a good farmers market.
So if you’re looking to naturally satisfy your sweet tooth, try saying aloha to some of these:
What’s a tropical island without a palm tree? And what’s a palm tree without a coconut? (Actually, technically also a palm tree. But probably one that wished it grew coconuts!)
The coconut tree has been called the tree of life, thanks to the fibrous fruits that fill out its fronds, which were used by Polynesians to make everything from food to fabrics.
Inside, the coconut provides the elixir of life, with its nutrient-dense water that sports a mellow sweet taste. And that’s to say nothing of the pulpy delicious fruit that can be scraped from the nut, enjoyed fresh, flaked or in nearly any other form.
The original Hawaiian – and much more fun to say – word for passionfruit, this produce may not be the most farmer’s market friendly. But those with enough desire to hunt one down will be duly rewarded.
Passionfruit is a famous flavor profile for jellies and jams thanks to its naturally jello-y texture. But those desserts typically leave out the best part: the fruit’s clutch of crunchy black seeds, which add a perfect pop to any spoonful of fresh lilikoi.
Fun fact: The pineapple is not a native Hawaiian!
Yes, the spiny sweet fruit was actually first brought to the isles by European explorers, who’d previously picked them from the Caribbean. Still, the famous Bromeliaceae is essentially Hawaii’s unofficial mascot today—thanks in no small part to its embodiment of everything tropically cool.
If it’s vibrant orange-red flesh doesn’t dazzle you, it’s perfectly smooth and sweet flavor will. And even its cluster of black seeds has been known to deliver a dose of tasty tang.
Hawaiian papayas—which are grown year-round on the islands—are so good, some locals claim they should be considered a different fruit entirely than those unfortunate enough to sprout elsewhere.
If you’ve ever strolled around a farmer’s market and thought to yourself, “I didn’t know they sold koosh balls here,” you may have seen rambutan.
Though relatively rare in the continental U.S., the wonderfully spikey pink-and-green fruit—a close relative to the equally-Seussian lychee—grows abundantly in the far-flung Aloha State.
Cutting into something so weird looking may not feel great, but the fleshy give of an orange, juicy gush of a pineapple, and perfectly unique sweetness you’ll find inside will make it all worth it.
Starfruit looks a bit like a weird football – until you dare to make the first cut.
Slices of starfruit indeed mimic its namesake in shape and come in star-appropriate yellow, white and orange hues. In Hawaii, the exotic fruit is enjoyed fresh, juiced or dehydrated, and sometimes even dipped in chocolate – giving the treat a bit of true star power.
As we’ve previously discussed here, guavas come in a number of different varieties, though the strawberry guava is particularly popular in the Hawaiian Islands.
Small, sorta bumpy and sporting a dull yellow or green skin, guavas wouldn’t exactly turn heads at the farmers market. But the sweet, creamy taste of their brilliant pink, white or red flesh is anything but ignorable.
Perhaps nature’s most vibrant edible design—with a skin made of hot pink and green scales—dragon fruit can’t help but stand out at farmers markets in Hawaii and far beyond.
But it’s one of those rare fruits that’s equally beautiful on the inside, where dragon fruit’s famous flamboyance gives way to a more tender white flesh, studded with delicious pops of edible black seeds.
One of the most popular fruits on earth, mango is currently having a moment – and it’s not hard to see why. The orange fruit is crunchy, sweet and refreshing to eat in natural chunks, or a perfect compliment in any tropical smoothie or drink.
It’s not a native Hawaiian fruit, but we’d wager many of the locals are sure glad mangoes have found a home on the island.
Truly one of the most unique fruits offered up by the good and giving trees of Hawaii, the noni isn’t exactly known for its taste.
Instead, the coffee bean relative is revered for its medicinal properties, as a noted source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and potassium, along with a number of other qualities making it a prominent player in many traditional homeopathic elixirs.
But whether it’s the traditional noni, the humble guava or the tree of life itself, the exotic fruits of Hawaii all have the power to make us feel good.