Everything You Need to Know About Hawaiian Poi

| © Damien VERRIER / Alamy
Marjorie Perlas

Contributing Writer

Of all the unique cultural aspects of native Hawaii, the inclusion of poi as a key ingredient in cuisine is a testament to its role in Hawaiian history and religion. Legend tells the story of Haloa, the very first Hawaiian, who was born of the sky and the earth and came to them in the form of the kalo, or taro plant.

Loved by over 40s

What is Poi?

Hawaiian poi is a traditional staple food of the Native Hawaiian cuisine. It is made from the starchy root of the taro plant (Colocasia esculenta). Poi has been a significant part of Hawaiian culture and diet for centuries and holds cultural and historical importance to the Hawaiian people.

Hawaiian legends

After creating the paradisiacal islands of Hawaii and giving birth to the stars and heavens, the sky and the earth had another child: Haloa. Believing he was still-born and mourning the loss of their child, the two wrapped him and buried him in the earth. It was at this point when Haloa came to life, sprouting stems and magnificent, heart-shaped leaves. He was then known as the first Hawaiian and the ancestor of all people of the islands.
The connection of Hawaiian religion of the past to the food culture today still holds strong. And in order to honor Haloa and keep his spirit alive, Hawaiians transform taro into poi and offer it with every meal, in turn, keeping him in their day-to-day lives.

How it’s made

The ku‘i, or process of making poi, has not changed much from its original method. The taro root is cooked ever so slowly and for many hours, traditionally in an imu pit. This cooking method is used in order to break down all of the root’s fibers. On a stone tool, which people still use today, the cooked poi is mixed with water and then pounded into a thin or thick paste, depending on preference. When fresh, the poi is sweet and often consumed as a dessert. When given some time, the poi becomes a bit sour and is perfect as an addition to savory meals.

Modern-day role

Poi is specific to Hawaii and is not found anywhere else in the world, making it significantly important to the people of the islands and the preservation of their culture. And even though many of the old taro fields are now just prime areas for real estate development, the community still makes a large effort to keep this tradition alive. Those who pound poi today have a stronger connection to the ancestral past. In order to make the paste, anything that can fall in accidentally must be removed. In a way, this connects them to the poi makers from centuries past.

Not typical of Western tastes and mouthfeels, however, poi has gained a reputation for being somewhat of a mystery food that only daring visitors will try. But once you become accustomed to the unique flavor of this very traditional dish, you’re bound to reap the many health benefits that it has to offer.\

How it is Eaten

Traditionally, poi is eaten as a main part of the Hawaiian diet, often served alongside other traditional foods like kalua pork, lomi salmon, or laulau. It is typically eaten using the fingers, with a small amount scooped up and rolled into a ball before being dipped into accompanying dishes. The mild, slightly sweet flavor of poi complements the savory and salty flavors of other Hawaiian dishes.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.