Local Flavor: A Guide to Malasadas on Hawai‘i Island

Malasadas, a fried-dough treat, have become a staple of Hawaiian cuisine. Here are the best places to enjoy this sweet snack on the Island of Hawai‘i.

Portuguese laborers working in Hawaii’s plantations brought malasadas to the islands in the late 1800s. Ever since, the sweet treat has become an Aloha State staple, and it’s easy to understand why — they’re delicious. The traditional treats consist of balls of fried dough typically dusted with sugar and filled with custard, chocolate or a wide range of fruit fillings. (They are typically smaller than their donut brethren and have no hole.)

When I got my hands on my first malasada while visiting Hawai‘i Island, I was hooked. In fact, I made it a point to try as many malasadas as I possibly could while I was there. Here are some of the best spots on the island to find these incredibly tasty snacks.

Tex Drive In

I enjoyed my inaugural malasada at Tex Drive In before going on a grueling hike on the Muliwai Trail. At this malasada mecca in Honokaa, they serve local food dubbed “ono Kine grindz.” Along with malasadas, the menu features Hawaiian dishes like Loco Moco (white rice topped with hamburger meat, a fried egg and gravy) and Spam™ and Katsu Musubi (grilled spam on top of white rice that’s wrapped with seaweed).

I ordered a malasada filled with guava, but I also tried bites of my friends’ pastries,  which were stuffed with Bavarian cream and mango. Tex Drive In offers other flavors, too, like apple, strawberry, pineapple, haupia (similar to coconut) and plain. No trip to Hawai’i Island is complete without a stop here.

Manuela Malasada Company

Located in a small blue trailer along the Mamalahoa Highway in Kamuela, Manuela Malasada Company offers a nice variety of its namesake pastries. You can try fillings such as lilikoi (passion fruit) and guava, with your choice of regular sugar, cinnamon or li hing (a salty, dried plum powder) sprinkled on top. The Manuela Malasada Company also sells roasted corn, which goes surprisingly well with malasadas. Who knew?

roasted corn
Holy Donuts

On the west side of the island, you’ll find Holy Donuts, where the baked goods are sacred and awe-inspiring. Not only are the donuts huge, they also feature unique flavors like s’mores and bubble gum. As for the malasadas, the menu changes regularly, so you never know which delicious fillings will be featured on any given day. Sometimes Holy Donuts also offers special deals—for example, buy a certain number of donuts and get free malasadas. Perfection.

Quick Tip:

Renting a car is a must if you’re visiting Hawaii Island. The best way to explore is by driving around and stopping at various restaurants, shops and scenic spots to take in the breathtaking views.

Big Rob’s Bakery

If you’re looking to spice up your malasadas, check out Big Rob’s Bakery in Captain Cook. The casual daytime eatery features an extensive menu of authentic Hawaiian dishes, breakfast staples and sandwiches. There’s also a large case of eclectic homemade pastries. But the coolest — and most exclusive — item on the menu is The Hawaiian: a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, mayo and spam served on a malasada. Does it get any better than that?


Where to Stay:
Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club

Jeanne L. is a writer living in Los Angeles, California.