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Eating Gluten Free in Hawaii (with AIP & Paleo Tips)

Eating Gluten Free in Hawaii (with AIP & Paleo Tips)

It’s a hard to think of a place more dreamy that Hawaii… lush vegetation, tropical flowers, amazing papayas (one of my favorite fruits) and a crystal clear water! If you add the fact that eating gluten free in Hawaii is super easy, you have the perfect cocktail for a fantastic escapade!

Ambra Big Island Hawaii
Ambra Big Island Hawaii
eating gluten free in hawaii

What We Ate on the Plane:

Safa Catch Tuna

The night before our flight, we went to our local Whole Foods, where we put together a delicious salad made with kale, spinach, Romain, radish, carrots and roasted turkey that was only seasoned with olive oil and salt.
I added some dried oregano, more olive oil and salt and a handful of blueberries.

This made for an amazing airplane meal!

Together with it, I brought a banana and an apple, and a trail mix made with coconut flakes, dried prunes and Turkish apricots, as well as some low mercury Tuna (can’t wait to tell you more about it in one of my next posts),  Jicama chips and Cassava Bread, so that I could have some snacks for the first couple days too.

(By the way, if you are on a grain free or AIP diet, you need to order some Jicama chips and cassava bread right now because they are the best thing ever!! …just saying ;)

eating gluten free in hawaii

First Stop Kona.. And The Health Food Store!

As we landed in Kona, we learned that there is a health food store called “Island Naturals” 15 minutes away, right next to Target. Going there gave us a good chance to visit the cute downtown of Kona and buy some souvenirs in its colorful shops.
Even though the health food store is pretty expensive (everything is $1 to $2 more expensive that Whole Foods), we got a few snacks: kombucha, wild caught sardines, apple sauce and kelp noodles.

What We Ate At The Hotel:

The Hilton Waikoloa Village was going to be home for the next few days! It was a beautiful place and we loved the ocean view from the balcony in our room.

In the morning, the breakfast buffet wasn’t the most allergy friendly I have ever seen (like the Intercontinental Ko Samui for example): even their Kailua pork had gluten in it and smoked salmon was only available for an extra charge.

eating gluten free in hawaii

The only safe things to eat were lettuce and baby spinach, bacon (which was certified gluten free and baked) and steamed purple sweet potatoes, which are considered a staple in Hawaii.

Other than that, I always opted for fresh Hawaiian papaya with lime and watermelon, as they they don’t have a lot sugar and are some of my favorites!! And, since I was able to reintroduce rice successfully, I used to get some as a side to accompany my first meal of the day.

NOTE: rice and all products derived from rice are not allowed on the AIP, but they are on the list of foods to try and reintroduce after the elimination phase is over.

eating gluten free in hawaii
eating gluten free in hawaii
eating gluten free in hawaii

The cookies I prepared before we left (I used the recipe for my AIP Digestive Cookies) went a long way as I doubled the dose and saved them for a special morning and after dinner treat.

Since the weather was pretty hot, we didn’t feel like a big meal for lunch and often went for a refreshing Acai Bowl or a smoothie with coconut water (I loved there is was acai bowl stand inside of our resort!!).

As per dinner, we liked to relax and order room service while watching a movie. I used to order a mixed salad with olive oil in the side to which I’d add a can of wild caught sardines I bought the first day.

eating gluten free in hawaii

Where to Buy Food:

Luckily in Waikoloa, at walking distance from our resort there is a mall called ‘The Queen Shops‘, with a nice grocery store called ‘Island Natural‘ that offers pretty much anything you need. If you can tolerate rice (or have reintroduced it successfully), here you can find sushi rolls made with rice vinegar (as opposed to wheat vinegar), or you can ask for custom made rice bowls topped with baked salmon that only has salt added). They also have a station where they make custom salads, another good healthy option.

eating gluten free in hawaii

In the same shopping mall there’s also a nice Japanese restaurant called “Sansei”, where you can enjoy amazing sashimi and a cute and eclectic café called “Daylight Mind” where you get a safe Kailua Pork with no seasoning added (but it does have a ton of salt! I got it to go and washed it off a bit when I got back to my room).

Hawaiian Jackfruit and Pitaya
Hawaiian Jackfruit and Pitaya

In Waimea, about 30 minutes away from Waikoloa, there is another cool shopping mall, the Waimea Center (see below) with a health food store, where we bough a bottle of coconut aminos to season our food and some local avocados, and a regular grocery store where they sell something really interesting and very typical from Hawaii: Poi.

Poi is a starchy puree (free from nightshades and grains) which consists of taro pounded with water and that represented a staple eaten by the Hawaiians back in the days to accompany proteins.
Eaten plain it’s not the best, but if you warm it up (maybe in your room microwave) and add a bit of salt, it makes for a great side!

eating gluten free in hawaii

Where To Eat Out:

One place I loved in particular was Village Burger in Waimea, where they make amazing grass feed beef and lamb burgers (cooked on a separate grill from where they grill the bread to avoid cross contamination): you can choose among beef, fish and even a vegetarian burger called Waipi Taro Burgers, that has nor grains nor fillers and it’s made with taro, leeks, carrots and zucchini.

We went for the beef burger with caramelized onions and mushrooms and a side of breadfruit chips. They were amazing!!

Basically they slice the fruit when it still isn’t ripe, roast it and then fry it in canola oil. Even though they have a sperate frier for gluten free customers, we asked to just have it baked (read here why I avoid canola oil) and that made for the most delicious bun replacement to enjoy our burgers!

eating gluten free in hawaii
eating gluten free in hawaii

The same owners also opened a noodle bar called ‘Noodle Club‘ in the same complex, where you can enjoy a bone marrow pho made with oxtail broth (the only non AIP ingredient it has is star anise, so, if you have reintroduced this spice successfully, you are good), veggies and rice noodles, or, if you can’t tolerate rice, you can get just the oxtail broth with veggies and enjoy a grass fed marrow bone).

eating gluten free in hawaii
eating gluten free in hawaii

North of Waikoloa, there is a cute, tiny town called Hawi, where is a cool place called Kava Cafe, where they handmade taro burgers that are completely grain free (they have a bit of gluten free Tamari inside so they are not for those on the AIP elimination phase) and made with no gluten nor dairy.

We stopped there for a fresh squeezed juice and tried Kava, a local drink made from an Hawaiian root. Also, a few doors down from Kava Cafe, there’s a cool place called “Sweet Potato Kitchen” that’s entirely gluten and dairy free.

eating gluten free in hawaii

The north side of the island is stunning: the vegetation is tropical and there are lots of fruit stands selling local papayas, bananas and lime.

And if you are lucky enough to run into one of the local Farmer’s Markets, you can get amazing tropical fruit for cheap (like a papaya for a dollar) and the guys from “Ono Gelato” who make the most amazing coconut milk gelato with no sugar!! (The photo above shows the coconut milk, chocolate and orange zest flavor… It was the end of the world!)

eating gluten free in hawaii

On the other side of the island, the day we went to see the volcano we ate at the Volcano House.

This amazing hotel and restaurant is located right across the visitor center of the Hawaiian Volcano National Park. Not only does it have a spectacular view over the smoking carter of Mauna Loa, it also serves amazing food, both at the restaurant and at the bar, where we enjoyed a great grass fed burger with no bun, lettuce and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil.

Papaya Boat Stuffed with Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

What We “Cooked” at Home:

Some of the dishes we enjoyed the most were the ones we made at ‘home’! After a few days at the Hilton Village, we moved in one of the villas that are usually reserved for the time share. Here we had all we needed to cook, including all the utensils, an oven and a blender!

Kelp Noodles with Butternut Squash Puree

We loved to make kelp noodle salads seasoned with canned butternut squash puree or with coconut aminos and topped with sardines and pieces of nori, or to prepare big raw salads, topped with local avocado and paired with a side of baked sweet potatoes.

eating gluten free in hawaii

We had lots of smoothies in the morning, made with local fruit and the coconut milk we bought at the Queens Shops, as well as papaya boats  filled with smoothie and with a squeeze of lime on top. And one day we even managed to make our own chocolate gelato that we served inside of a papaya boat!!

Papaya Boat with Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

To make it we followed the basic dairy free gelato recipe that’s in my AIP Italian Cookbook and added chocolate inside. A couple hours in the freezer while mixing every 20 minutes, and you have a creamy and delicious gelato!!

eating gluten free in hawaii

We loved our time on the Big Island and definitely eating gluten free in Hawaii and being able to enjoy allergy free food made my experience a lot nicer too!

I hope you enjoyed this article and that you’ll get a chance to visit Hawaii soon as it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to!!

Make sue to share this article on your social media for ideas for eating gluten free while traveling to Hawaii and I will catch you next week!!

Ciao, Ambra


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eating gluten free in hawaii
eating gluten free in hawaii

This post was shared on “Phoenix Helix

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  • jyll May 3, 2017 5:16 pm

    you missed Under theBodhi Tree

    • ambra May 4, 2017 1:45 am

      Jyll, thanks so much for letting me know!! I will check it out for sure when I am back there!!

  • Sandra May 5, 2017 12:26 am

    What a fun travel guide!! Thanks so much for sharing and I can’t wait to go to Hawaii too one day!

    • ambra May 7, 2017 1:22 am

      I can’t wait for you to go Sandra! It’s such a magical place and you’ll love trying the typical foods too!

  • Brittany | Paleo Bee May 6, 2017 6:36 pm

    Loved reading about your time in Hawaii Ambra! I was there last October and we also stayed at Hilton Waikoloa Village, it was absolutely stunning. When I asked the manager if the Kailua pork at the breakfast buffet omelet bar was gluten-free they told me it was, so strange! I never felt sick from it so maybe they changed it. The Volcano House was also one of my favorite restaurants!

    • ambra May 7, 2017 1:24 am

      Brittany, thanks so much for the feedback!!
      Yes. they might have changed the recipe as I asked a few times and the response was only negative negative (I love that dish so I was really hoping to get a yes! 😉
      Too bad we didn’t make it to the Volcano House. Definitely trying that next time!!

  • Brittany May 8, 2017 2:42 pm

    My family and I are going to the big Island in August. This article brought me tons of relief! It’s my first time traveling since going AIP, and I have been stressing about dining in Hawaii!

    • ambra May 8, 2017 3:04 pm

      Brittany, I am so glad this article helped!!
      I am excited for you to visit this wonderful place! It would be such a sin to let our food restrictions limit our ability to travel.
      Please let me know if you find great food spots I missed when you get there!

  • Sylph May 20, 2017 5:12 am

    Such an informative article. I love Hawaii so much.

    • ambra May 20, 2017 3:28 pm

      Thanks so much for the feedback Sylph! Hawaii is definitely a magical place, with lots of healing energy. I am sure it’s a perfect place for you!!

  • Daphne November 16, 2017 7:15 am

    Thanks so much for all your recommendations! We were just in Kona and hilo and these came in So handy! I came across Ono Gelato at a famers market ( I forgot you had mentioned it!) But OH MY WORD! It was incredible!!!!

    • ambra November 16, 2017 12:17 pm

      Daphne, thanks so much for leaving your feedback! I am so glad you fund this post useful and that you got to try that amazing gelato! …It was sooooo good!! 🙂

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