When it comes to tropical fruits, we all know about coconuts, papayas and pineapples — but surely there’s more to it than that?
Of course there is. Tropical fruits are just as abundant as “regular” fruits — you just don’t normally see them in regular stores (and if you do, they’re expensive and not that fresh).
On Maui, you can find a massive assortment of fresh, exotic, seasonal fruits at farmers markets, roadside fruit stands and the best way: right off the tree or vine.
Bananas are everywhere, we know. The problem is most people think there’s only one kind of banana — the long, perfect yellow one with the blue and white Chiquita sticker.
Lucky for you, Hawaii is home to dozens of ultra-tasty banana varieties, and very few if any are long and perfect yellow. In fact, some of the best ones are small, with soft skin and brown spots — like the apple banana, ice cream banana and lady finger.
Once you try a banana in Hawaii, it’s seriously hard to go back to regular bananas again. Buy them anywhere for around $1/lb. Buy some ripe yellow and some green, so there’s never banana downtime.
Like bananas, mangos are also pretty common in non-tropical places. It’s not easy to get a good one…unless you’re in Hawaii of course.
Trust us when we say there is nothing more delicious than a sweet, juicy, ripe mango that’s picked right off the tree. Mangos ripen in late summer and fall, and they usually arrive in huge numbers because their grandiose trees.
There are at least 63 varieties of mangos in Hawaii, including Hayden, Rapoza, Mapulehu and Gouveia. Eat them raw or use them in smoothies, juices, salsa or as a garnish. Find them everywhere when in season. Caution: eat slowly — mangos have been known to cause allergic reactions.
Not too many people know about the eggfruit, but they should. The eggfruit is a small, yellow or orange round fruit with smooth skin.
To enjoy it, just cut it into slices and discard the 4-5 seeds from the fruit. The fruit is the consistency of the yolk of a hard boiled egg, but the flavor is a soft and subtle sweetness, with hints of overtones of custard and hints of vanilla.
Also known as pitaya, the dragonfruit has a striking, almost fictional appearance.
They grow on cactuses, and the white (or bright ink) edible flesh and small edible seeds boast a mild watermelon-like flavor and the texture of a kiwi fruit.
Dragonfruit can be pricey in the stores and markets, but they are worth a try. You will often see pitaya used in acai bowls. They are known to offer great health benefits, too.
Starfruits are juicy, crunchy and mildly-sweet (or mildly-tangy), with edible seeds and waxy edible skins. Like mangos, you’ll see hundreds growing off one tree — way too many for one household to eat.
If you’re wondering about the name, just slice one up and you’ll know exactly why it’s called a starfruit.
You might also be familiar with guavas. Of all the fruits in Hawaii, guavas are probably the most fragrant, as you can smell them on the tree from a hundred yards away.
A ripe guava plucked fresh off its tree will have yellow (or sometimes white) skin, and is soft to the touch. The flesh is pencil-eraser pink, with seeds you can’t bite into but can swallow (or spit out).
There is honestly no way to describe the taste of guava unless you’ve tried one, but let’s just say the flavor is distinctly tropical, sensual and yummy, obviously.
Lilikoi / Jamaican lilikoi
Lilikoi is also more commonly known as passion fruit. They grow in semi-hard “pods” on a vine, which you can pick and peel or cut open, revealing black seeds and some very potent, exotic-scented orange-colored juice.
You don’t really eat a lilikoi as you would a normal fruit; the juice can be quite tart. But what you can do is strain the juice, discard the seeds and drink the juice OR, better yet — add the juice as concentrate to enhance other juices (like orange and guava to make “POG”) or liven up cocktails — lilikoi margarita or mai tai, anyone?
Jamaican lilikoi are even better. They’re smaller with much softer skin, and unlike lilikoi you can bite the top off and eat everything in there, seeds and all.
Everyone knows when it’s lychee season in Hawaii. Everywhere you look‚ lychee are sold by the pound in plastic bags at the supermarket, farmers markets and pop-up roadside stands. The season is really short — usually no more than a month in late May / June.
Now onto the flavor: Lychee are the most delicious, sweetest, most succulent fruits on the planet, but only IF you get the right crop, right ripeness, and right size.
You can infuse lychee fruits with vodka for long periods of time (add a Tahitian vanilla bean for secret flavor). They are best consumed right off the tree.
Rambutan are the quirkier, less-sweet cousins of lychee. They are very tasty, but if you have the choice, go with lychee. Enough said.
Ancient Polynesians brought the ‘ōhi’a ‘ai fruit with them in their original voyaging canoes from Tahiti.
Despite the name, the mountain apple is not actually an apple and doesn’t grow on mountains. You’ll find them in low elevation windward forests.
They do, however, look like small apples and believe it or not, taste a little but like apples, but are softer and more tart. Very tasty!
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Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at email@example.com or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo or rental home in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui.