Liliha Bakery doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes of causal Hawaiian food (though its pastries do fit neatly into boxes!). It fries great malasadas, but it isn’t a malasada place. You also can get diner classics, but it’s more of bakery than anything else. The best reason to come is for a Coco Puff.
A Coco Puff isn’t anything like that crunchy kiddie cereal. It’s a cream puff that is filled with a cocoa custard and topped with a little dollop of coconut before being finished in the oven. The flavor collision of chocolate and coconut is barely contained by the wafer-like pastry shell. The three flavors and textures from the various components harmonize in each splendid bite. It’s one of the best baked goods in the U.S.
Aside from the legendary Coco P0uff, the best thing to eat are poi donuts, which are made with mochi (glutinous rice jelly) that gives them a wonderfully bouncy texture. The taro offers mildly earthy flavor and light purple color in the dough. The pleasant texture and robust flavor is the exact opposite experience of actually eating a bowl of poi.
The pastry case is full of beautiful, technically impressive pastries that utilize island produce to capture the flavors of their surroundings. Ube croissants take the classic buttery french horn and fill it with the local purple sweet potato. Malasadas — Portuguese-influenced donuts — are filled with tangy lilikoi (passionfruit) custard. However, there is no reason to feel compelled to get something tropically accented. The blueberry scone is baked to perfection.
There is a location of this small chain right on the way to the Honolulu Airport, so these treats make great airplane snacks or fresh baked souvenirs. You can even grab a bucket of Liliha’s famous waffle or hot cake batter from the bakery counter, but alas, we did not pack our waffle iron on this beach trip.