• Solomon Islands!

    Solomon Islands: Looking up at palm trees. Go Now!

    Solomon Islands
    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

  • Tonga!

    Tonga: Coastline. Go Now!

    The heart of Polynesian culture is rooted in Tonga, but most visitors just come for the natural beauty. Explore Tonga!

  • Vanuatu!

    Vanuatu: Jetty into the ocean. Go Now!

    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

  • Palau!

    Palau: "70 Islands!" Go Now!

    Few people have even heard of this small Micronesian country, but those who have often return with stories of beauty unmatched elsewhere, such as view of the "70 Islands" (pictured). Go Now!

  • Explore the: Federated States of Micronesia!

    Federated States of Micronesia: Overlooking some islands. Go Now!

    Federated States of Micronesia
    This diverse country stretches for thousands of miles and has the diversity to prove it, including the people from Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap among others. Begin Your Journey!

  • Samoa!

    Samoa: A traditional home. Go Now!

    Among the most famous of the South Pacific's many countries, Samoa sits in the heart of Polynesia and has a culture to match. Begin Your Journey!

Food, Dining, & Drinks in the Marshall Islands

Historic Diet

Many of the islands in the Marshall Islands are volcanic in origin, meaning they are quite fertile and plants grow well. Despite this, there are few plants or animals that are native to these islands, especially edible plants so the potential diet prior to the arrival of the first people was very limited.

The most important plant used for food in the Marshall Islands is the coconut, which made its way to the islands by water. The coconut is the staple food for the people in the past and this continues today as this food is used for its milk and flesh. The coconut is one of the only plants that made its way to these islands prior to the first settlers, who brought many additional foods that create the base of today's diet.

When these first settlers arrived with their new plants and animals, they found plenty of sea life in the waters and these animals made up a large part of their diet both historically and today. Among these sea animals are crabs, clams, turtles, fish, and sea birds.

Culinary Influences

The first major culinary influence to reach the Marshall Islands likely came with the first wave of people to the islands about 3,000 years ago. Either this group of people or later groups brought with them pigs, rats, and dogs, all of which they used for food. One of these early waves of people also brought plants including taro, rice, yams, breadfruit, bananas, lemons, and sugarcane. Since there were numerous waves of people to the islands, it is unknown when or with whom these foods arrived, but they were definitely present by the 1200s.

Through these various waves of settlers to the islands the diet changed, but to what extend and with what additions is unknown. By the time the last large migration took place the traditional diet on the islands was well established and has continued for centuries. This diet, both then and now, is primarily based on pork, fish, yams, taro root, coconuts, rice, and the many fruits found on the islands, including breadfruit.

Although the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, there was little European influence on the islands until the 1800s when settlement began. The Spanish and Germans settled to a degree and they brought with them foods that they were familiar with, including both plants and animals. This included cattle, chickens, wheat, potatoes, and pineapples among others. Some of these introduced foods, primarily the fruits, have been incorporated into the local diet, including papayas, pineapples, and mangoes.

In about 1915 the Japanese took control of the islands and they settled to a vast degree. This led to significant changes in the food and diet as the Japanese ate exactly what they ate at home, so began importing or growing these foods on the islands. However, the Japanese influence was short-lived as they were forcibly removed from the islands during World War II, leaving behind some traces of their diet, but most of it left with them.

After the United States expelled the Japanese from the islands the United States used some of the atolls as nuclear testing sights into the 1950s. This forever destroyed some of these atolls and greatly affected the local fish and plant life in some areas. This of course also hurt the food production and food safety, but most of the tests were limited in scope and few people were directly affected by these tests although a large part of the people's diet, in the form of plants and animals, were destroyed in some areas. Some people also suffered from radiation poisoning after these tests.

Today the diet remains somewhat divided between the local people and the foreigners. Throughout the islands most of the people maintain their historic diet along with the new additions over time, but few people have abandoned their historic diet for a more European-styled one. However, tourism throughout the country and United States military presence on Kwajalein Atoll demand a growing number of ethnic restaurants particularly American food, but also Chinese, Italian, and others.

When & Where to Eat

Many people in the Marshall Islands start the day with coffee or tea as well as a small breakfast, including a bread of some sort, fruit, and sometimes fish or rice. Breakfast is usually eaten at home prior to school or the workday.

Lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day in the Marshall Islands and for some people this is still true. For these people, lunch is a large feast at home with family, which can last a couple hours. The foods served for lunch tend to be local foods and generally include vegetables, fruits, rice, and perhaps a protein, like fish. For the people who have a more rigid work schedule, most commonly in the larger towns, lunch tends to be smaller and is eaten at work, often times consisting of the previous day's leftovers.

For those who have large lunches, dinner is the secondary meal as it tends to be much smaller, often just consisting of leftovers from lunch. For those who eat lunch at work, dinner, which is typically eaten at home, tends to be the largest meal of the day and can go on for hours as many of the above mentioned foods are served.

Staple Foods

Breadfruit (ulu): this fruit is very common
Coconut: coconuts are used for their milk and flesh
Rice: a common base or side for many meals
Taro: taro root is prepared in numerous ways and is one of the main staples throughout the South Pacific
Yams: yams, a member of the potato family, are found in most meals

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Barramundi cod: cod cooked in banana leaves
Fried Prawns: these prawns are deep fried then topped with a spicy sauce
Roasted Chestnuts: as simple as it sounds, these are a street side favorite

Dining Etiquette

Dining etiquette in the Marshall Islands is quite varied and relaxed as there seems to be a large divide between the locals and the restaurants catered to tourists. Due to this people tend to eat in numerous ways and nearly all are acceptable, although in extreme cases you may be looked at oddly.

If dining with locals be observant of customs and how others eat as this varies as well. Generally speaking, let your local host show you a seat, then be polite and try everything. Accepting food is a sign of appreciation and not trying the foods offered to you is an insult to your host. On the other extreme, eating as much as you can shows great appreciation. Of course eating all of their food is a bad idea as well; the people believe food is to be shared by all as families and neighbors often share food and you should be sure to eat only as much as your present company. Whether or not you leave food on your plate when you're finished eating is up to you.

Most of the people eat with their hands and children are often fed first. Some families may have and provide forks, but this is not always the case and is not the traditional method of eating. Of course if you're dining at a restaurant you will be provided silverware (cutlery) and are expected to use it. In these settings eating in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) is the most common, but generally the etiquette is relaxed so eating in nearly any style will be fine, but this again depends on your company.

If you do eat in a restaurant and are paying the bill, it is important to remember that tipping is not customary in the Marshall Islands and you should not bring this custom to the islands.


Today nearly any popular international beverage can be found in the Marshall Islands, such as juices, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However for a more authentic taste of the South Pacific try kava, which is available on some islands in the country. This drink is made from the kava plant's roots, which are ground to release liquid, then water is added and the juice is drunk. This drink gives a very relaxing effect, yet is not considered a drug in the countries of the South Pacific.

Alcohol is easily accessible on most of the islands in the Marshall Islands, however past problems have caused some islands to ban alcohol entirely. Among the local favorites are beer and hard liquor, but in most hotels and nice restaurants wines are also available.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink on most islands of the Marshall Islands, but smaller islands have questionable water safety standards. Either way, check with locals before consuming the water and if you do decide to drink the water, remember that many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: April, 2013