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Fish of Hawaii - Hawaii Feature

A Menu Guide

Onaga with shiitake mushrooms and bok choy at Orchids restaurant in the Hotel Halekulani, Hawaii

Hawaiian Fish Guide

Ordering fish in a Hawaiian restaurant is not always easy — it can be akin to sailing into uncharted waters. So many strange names can have a numbing effect on the brain, so we've produced this simple guide to make sure that your palate doesn't suffer. We're only including the most popular saltwater fish, so don't look for the likes of hapuu or oio.


AHI — Here's one Hawaiian fish that has made it onto Mainland restaurant menus, along with mahi mahi. Usually served grilled, a yellowfin tuna can weigh up to 300 pounds. The red, firm flesh is also delicious as sashimi or sushi.

AKU — This is another type of tuna. Much smaller than the Ahi, it averages around ten pounds and has a more robust flavor.

AKULE — In Hawaii, the bigeye scad has to be over seven inches to be called akule. Those in the five-to-seven-inch range are known as maau, while those that are up to five inches are referred to as halalu.

HAPU'UPU'U — This species of deepwater bottom fish is only known to occur in the Hawaiian Islands. Most hapu‘upu‘u, also called grouper or sea bass, seen in the market are black, but are noted for their clear, white, delicate-tasting flesh.


HEBI — With its amber-colored flesh and mild flavor, this billfish, commonly known as short bill spearfish because its bill is almost nonexistent, is caught in Hawaiian waters.

KAJIKI — Commonly known as Pacific blue marlin, caught in Hawaii. However, this particular fish is larger in size, has a heavier bill and rougher skin than other marlins.

MAHI MAHI — You might remember this as the world's most delicious fish, or be horrified by the translation as dolphin. No, it's not the same dolphin that we all know and love. And, yes, it is the tastiest fish in the world, thank you.

MONCHONG — Monchong is a deep water fish that is rapidly gaining popularity in Hawaii. Declared by most professional chefs as a fish with special appeal, the monchong has medium-firm flesh, a moderate flavor and a high fat content well-suited for broiling.


NAIRAGI — Nairagi is a member of the marlin family and is often referred to as striped marlin, barred marlin and a'u, its Hawaiian name. However, it is the finest-eating of all marlin species because of its tender flesh.

ONAGA — Occasionally seen on island menus, the onaga is also known as the ruby snapper. The average size is about four pounds.

ONO — Some folks love the flavor of the six-foot-long wahoo. It's a great fish, say many island residents who eat it often, though it is prone to overcooking.

OPAH — Opah is also called moonfish because of its large, round profile consisting of three types of flesh, each a different color. Two of these types of flesh cook to white.

OPAKAPAKA — Did you realize that besides the ruby snapper, there is also a crimson snapper? This delicious fish is usually served in filets.

SHUTOME — Shutome is the popular name for swordfish caught in the pristine waters surrounding Hawaii. It is a moderately lean fish with a mild, yet distinct, taste and an ideal texture. Also called broad-billed swordfish, broadbill, true swordfish, or, by its Hawaiian name, A'u Ku.

TOMBO — Tombo is the name for tuna from Hawaii that is called albacore elsewhere. The light pink flesh is the lightest and mildest in flavor of all tunas.

UKU — Commonly known as grey snapper or jobfish, this snapper's popularity may be due to its summertime availability that is out of season for other snappers.

ULUA — You probably know him best as jack crevalle, but in Hawaii this tasty jack goes by a different name. The young fish is called papio.

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