7 must-eat fish from Hawaii

The deep, rich waters of the North Pacific make Hawaii one of the finest places in the world to enjoy fresh caught fish.

But with so many options, which fish is which? Read on to find out!


Opah, aka “moonfish,” is my personal favorite fish from Hawaii. The light pink fillets are soft, and — depending on the cut — marbled with fat, which makes it hard to overcook. Opah is best grilled over charcoal and tastes like a cross between ahi and salmon (fyi it contains more oil than salmon). It’s absolutely, positively divine.



Ahi is the Hawaiian word for yellowfin and bigeye tuna, and is pretty much our prized staple fish used for sashimi, poke, searing, fillets, and celebrations. When cooked properly (quickly grilled or pan fried), ahi tastes a lot like a really amazing steak, but much leaner and healthier. You can find ahi pretty much anywhere fish is sold, but the main season is May through September.

Mahi mahi

Aside from being totally delicious, what I love about maui mahi (or “dorado”) is how versatile it is, except for raw. You can grill it, pan fry it, deep fry it, and, as I just discovered — “cooked” with fresh squeezed lime in ceviche. One of the best and healthiest mahi mahi dishes you can try is lightly seasoned and grilled over a fresh salad with a squeeze of lemon.


Ono happens to be both an edible fish and the Hawaiian word for delicious. Coincidence? I think not. Ono, aka “wahoo,” is just as versatile as mahi mahi (not advisable to eat raw) but more mild in flavor — kind of sweet and buttery but firm and smooth in texture. It’s ideal in ceviche, deep-fried, and in soups like ciopinno. It’s also fairly lean and easy to overcook, so be quick with it on the grill.


Shutome is swordfish, with fillets that are pale to pinkish but brownish once cooked. They are a little tricky to grill: I like to cut them about 3/4″ thick, but unlike ahi you need to cook it a little more to the inside but not too much or it gets tough pretty quickly. If you can pull that off the flavor is delicate, soft and flaky and oh so yummy.


I first discovered au, or shortbill spearfish, from a fisherman selling it from the back of his pickup truck when I lived on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s orange-pink in color, lean and mild in flavor. Dare I say it tastes a little bit like chicken, but way way better. Au is very hard to find, but if you ever see it — get it!


Which fish melts in your mouth? Opakapaka does. Also known as pink snapper, opakapaka is a delicate white fish without that fishy flavor that’s best prepared steamed, baked, broiled or scored, fried and served whole on the plate. This prized Hawaiian bottomfish is caught in depths of 300 to 500 feet of water, and was once the catch-o-the-day for Hawaiian ancient kings.

Image credits: Les Hata, James Thornton

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