There are so many many restaurants on O’ahu and particularly in the Waikiki area. Whatever cuisine you are looking for, undoubtedly, you’ll have choices in this part of town and options for dining style range from diners to fine dining - so you really have a lot to pick from. There are, of course, also representations of every major US restaurant chain well featured - The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Bubba Gump Shrimp, P.F. Changs, and a Starbucks every few corners (just to name a few).
All of this is to say, you’re definitely not going to go hungry! But where do you want to eat? Here are some of my favourites to date...and of course, the best part about returning to the same places is that there is always opportunity to discover more so don’t be surprised to see more of these lists from Hawaii in the future! For now though, let’s begin…
Disclaimer - these recommendations and photos came from trips prior to starting this blog. As such, I don't have photos from all the restaurants and of all the food below but I do stand by all the suggestions!
2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
If you’re in Honolulu on a Sunday, there is no better way to spend the day than with Sunday Brunch at the Halekulani’s restaurant, Orchids. This opulent brunch buffet features a full sushi bar, multiple full roasts for carving, an omelette station, a large salad bar, multiple hot and cold food options, and then an excellent dessert buffet to top it off. Of particular note on the dessert table is the Halekulani’s famous coconut cake which is a creamy sponge style cake popping with coconut flavours - it’s simply delicious!
Personally, I’m a big fan of the frozen Blue Hawaiian cocktail and Orchids, though it is not on the menu, makes a fantastic rendition of this drink which is a perfect brunch pairing...even if I say so myself.
The room is all open but definitely ask to sit on the terrace if possible when booking as it is all open and offers magical views of the ocean and Diamond Head. The live pianist in the dining room is the ultimate compliment to the beautiful ambiance of this brunch.
My advice - book ahead, don’t eat anything before you go that day and don’t make too many food plans for the rest of the day! There is a lot of food and you’ll want to be able to sit and enjoy a beautiful leisurely mid-morning/early afternoon for as long as you can.
Trump International Hotel
223 Saratoga Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
This restaurant is particularly great for dinner because of the extensive steak and seafood menus. Though named BLT Steak, my favourite thing on the menu is actually the Maine Lobster with King Crab Crust and Sauce Americaine, with the Lobster Cobb Salad being a very close second (I do love lobster).
The restaurant goes the extra mile to make the experience memorable, for example, the delicious bread that opens your meal comes with a little recipe to take home so you can recreate the dish. It’s a completely unnecessary addition but such a cute touch that on multiple visits I’ve heard tables around me remark at the little recipe pamphlet and how sweet the idea is.
But the reason that this restaurant really makes my top of Waikiki list is because of the exceptional service from members of their team. We hosted a birthday dinner there years back and they could not have been more helpful or accommodating as I planned a party from overseas - they were simply divine to work with! So much so that when we went back on the same date (same birthday girl) a year later to celebrate again (just with a small group of 3 rather than a whole party) they had the team who worked the party come up to wish my mum a happy birthday again and remembered the cake from the year before and recreated it, despite it not being a dish on their menu - they went out to buy it from another retailer. It may not sound like a big deal but it was honestly quite exceptional and way beyond expectation. For this reason, their wonderful staff earns this restaurant a high spot on this list.
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
2365 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Set just behind the famous Banyan tree on the Moana Surfrider property, just off from the main reception with beautiful ocean views in a classic Southern style home, this restaurant features a modern take on classic Hawaiian cuisine. The wine list at this restaurant is award winning as well.
Open for all meals, this restaurant offers a beautiful, elegant take on porch-front eating. At night you’ll also hear the live music from the Banyan Tree Bar’s band or performer of the night so there is plenty of vibe as well.
Though, with a view like that, you really don’t much more!
1118 Ala Moana Blvd 100, Honolulu, HI 96814, United States
Though I am yet to try Nobu at its new location in Hawaii, prior to the move, Nobu was definitely one of my Hawaii favourites. Nobu is one of my favourites worldwide in fact so no doubt, I am sure I am going to love the new location in Honolulu too!
Nobu offers a modern Japanese-Peruvian fare with restaurants that are all sleek in their design and high quality guaranteed worldwide. Though it does not come with a small price tag, if you can stomach that, you’re in for a night of truly delicious food!
I definitely look forward to trying the new menu at the new location ASAP!
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, United States
Nestled within the depths of the Ala Moana shopping centre (you literally enter from within the carpark), this restaurant has beautiful steak offerings and a really great menu to indulge in, including such a great selection of side dishes that you will want to get the lot!
I have found the portions to be generous, though again, the price tag does match, and have enjoyed each visit to Morton’s. The staff are always very friendly and the whole place really feels like they are serving up ‘classic luxe’ dining. The only critique I have of Morton’s really is that the restaurant is just so very dark which feels slightly out of place in Hawaii but honestly, that is a very small thing to mention compared to very delicious food.
298 Beach Walk, Honolulu, HI 96815
Above the Tommy Bahama store in Waikiki is the Tommy Bahama restaurant and bar open from 2-8pm daily, and with happy hour from 2-5pm. They have a full menu on offer with a lot of seafood and of course, a lot of Hawaiian specialities, but I personally love just going up there for a drink as the bar area is particularly cool, complete with a sand pit and everything to feel like your drinks are on the beach. I haven’t really had enough on their menu to be able to recommend the food as yet but definitely the ambiance meant that this was a place that needed to make the list!
226 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815
If you’re looking for a casual option for the night, look no further than Yard House. This self proclaimed ‘high end sports bar chain’ has an enormous menu including the best Tuna Poke Nachos I have had. They also have a huge selection of beer and beer served in tall, tower-like glasses so beer drinkers, this is the place for you. With pages and pages of both food and drink options, there is something for everyone here and they have large tables to accommodate big groups.
They also have a very well priced happy hour on drinks and appetisers (which are, generally, big enough to share by the way) so if you’re looking for good food at cheaper prices, check out their happy hour.
227 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815
Though this used to be one of my absolute favourites to go to, unfortunately the last couple of times haven’t lived up to how amazing this restaurant used to be. That said, the food is still good and if you’re going for your first time, this is a lovely Italian restaurant specialising in Sicilian cuisine and making excellent pastas. Whilst I do miss the old menu and the more extensive variety in their offerings, at least the quality has well and truly been maintained which is why this restaurant remains on the favourites list as the best Italian I have yet to have in Hawaii!
Places to Eat
2201 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Within this center are a number of excellent dining options for you to choose from. Of particular note, we have enjoyed Restaurant Suntory and Doraku Sushi the most.
2330 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
The International Market Place has been completely redone in the last couple of years and now offers some of the best restaurants in Waikiki all conveniently within the one, open air center. Unfortunately, my favourite Chinese restaurant in Honolulu which was at the Market Place recently closed down and so I can no longer have that at the top of my where to eat in Honolulu list (the same thing happened to my absolute favourite Japanese in a different area...so sad!!). As such, unfortunately I have no specific favourites here just yet for you but I will absolutely next time!
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814
If you find yourself shopping until closing time (have done that on many more than one occasion) and want to find something delicious to eat, the Ala Moana actually has many restaurants and a couple food courts available for you.
Over the last few years I’ve noticed that the food retailers, as opposed to restaurants, have been getting more and more on trend, and more diverse which is great, so now you can find a lot all the cool things - bubble tea, Taiyaki fish shaped ice cream cones, Myungrang Hot Dogs and more! You can also still get all the classics like Cinnabon, shaved ice and even Magnolia Cupcakes...yum!
But what happens when you want to stay for a sit down dinner. Whilst more options are available during the day, at night the offerings are largely chain restaurants though many are still quite good (always happy to have Jenny’s Catch from Bubba Gump...for example). My favourites there for dinner are Tanaka of Tokyo teppanyaki or Jade Dynasty. Jade Dynasty is also open during the day and offers dim sum/yum cha which is quite good and which I am absolutely always keen for!
Also popular right around the island are Acai Bowls. Though I don't have anywhere in particular to tell you to grab one, I definitely love grabbing one for brunch by the pool or on the beach!
Hawaii has a lot of great food on offer and with access to such delicious, local produce, so much of it is so wonderfully fresh and rich in flavour. As I said, expect this to only be part one of the Hawaii food guide - I definitely look forward to delving in much deeper and tasting it all…just as soon as everything re-opens and we can go back #covid19.
Some Pics of Hawai'i...