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Where to Eat in Waikiki, Hawai’i

Beach Volleyball players in Waikiki
Surfing off Waikiki Beach

Where to Eat in Waikiki, Hawai’i

story by: Mike Williams

There are so many options on where to eat in Hawai’i.  You don’t want to get stuck in a Taco Bell and miss out on some local delicacy, but you also don’t want to fall into the tourist trap of eating in your hotel every night or getting over-charged by a local taking advantage of your traveller’s innocence!

So where to go and what to try? Here is a quick Hawai’i 101 guide on where to eat in Waikiki, from restaurants and fine dining to the best place to grab a coffee.

We are relatively spoilt in NZ with our coffee.  Most of us are used to heading into a coffee shop on any corner and ordering a latte, flat white or cappuccino without much thought.  In the US however, you’ll usually be served filter coffee made with one of those good old drip machines. Many hotels in Hawai’i don’t offer espresso-based coffee drinks; they offer filter coffee ‘black or with cream’ instead. 

If you hanker for a good ‘latte’ in the morning, then head to the Honolulu Coffee Company each morning for your fix.  The best one is located just outside the lobby of the Moana Surfrider, about half way down the strip and a medium size (about the same as a large  NZ) will set you back $4.50 US and has 2 shots.  The larger cup is a monster and still only has 2 shots but is topped up with milk! 

If you are staying too far away for this, then there are several ‘Starbucks’ around – usually one on each corner, and while I’m not normally a fan, I prefer it over the filter option.

Eating with Kids
Whether it’s with kids or a group of friends that want a casual dining experience, I really love the ‘Shore Bird’.  Its waterfront location is amazing, located right on the beach inside the lovely Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel. The atmosphere reminds me of a tropical version of the Raffles Long Bar in Singapore.  It has these awesome old fans on the ceiling, and the entire front wall opens to the ocean, meaning that if you get there early or book a table in advance, you can practically sit in the sand.  The menu contains good basic food, but you can get some lovely healthier options also.  My kids do the fish and chips which is fresh caught Mahi Mahi (battered or chargrilled) and I always choose the fresh tuna wasabi wrap which is divine with a huge chunk of rare tuna in yummy salad and a good kick of wasabi. 

Add a pint of the local ‘Long Brew Lager’ to the mix and I’m in heaven!  It’s fairly priced and usually I’ll eat lunch here 3 or 4 times in a week if I’m on holiday.   If you prefer to try it for dinner, then do the BBQ Grill.  This offers an ‘all you can eat salad bar’ and then you get to cook your own meat (several options of steak, daily catch of Mahi Mahi or lobster, or chicken etc.).   The kids will love the fun of cooking up their own tinfoil parcel of fish, and you can fill them up on good tasty salads, hot pasta, baked potatoes or garlic bread from the salad bar.

Couple’s Night Out
There are so many great options for couples!  My favourite is ‘Roy’s’, located just opposite the Halekulani and Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotels, just one street back from the beach. Roy’s offer what is termed ‘Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine’ which promises to make for one of the most unique fine dining experiences available.  I love the classic Hawaiian Martini that they offer and they specialise in a mix of Japanese, Hawaiian and fresh seafood and flavours. 

Roy’s is quite famous locally – back in 1988, James Beard Award-winner Roy Yamaguchi opened the first Roy's in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Today there are 31 Roy's locations around the world—23 in the continental United States, six in Hawaii, one in Japan and one in Guam. This particular Roy’s restaurant is recognisable by the flames around the outside bar and was designed around a unique experience through spacious dining rooms, an expansive lounge and Roy’s signature exhibition kitchen in full view.

A Special Occasion
For a special occasion such as a wedding, anniversary or birthday celebration where you want to splurge on nothing but the best, then definitely the best on offer is La Mer at the Halekulani. 

Start the evening at this beautiful hotel with its newest and exciting bar concept and tasting experience, L’Aperitif. The fabulous cocktails are specially designed by renowned Chef du Bar, Colin Field, of the legendary Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Hotel, Paris. L’Aperitif is open nightly and definitely requires formal attire! It is located in La Mer, Halekulani's finest and Hawaii's longest, consecutively ranked AAA Five Diamond Restaurant. Enjoy fantastic ocean views while pondering the an acclaimed menu that features Neoclassic French cuisine made with indigenous ingredients.

The Beachfront Bar
One of the reasons to head to Hawai’i is to sit on a beach and watch the sunset with a cold cocktail in hand.  Waikiki beach to the right hand side when looking at the ocean, gets spectacular sunsets – so for a cocktail or a bar snack, there are several options you can choose. 

The Honolulu Tropics bar and grill is located in the Hilton Hotel’s Hawaiian Village.  It’s beachfront and has a lovely courtyard and nightly live entertainment. Open fires, great food, casual atmosphere and one of the best spots to watch the sunset – this is a great casual option.  Make sure you get there earlier, particularly if you want a table outside as it can get very busy.  The music is great and you can get up and dance if you feel like it! 

The other great option, more to the middle of the beach, is the poolside bar at the Moana Surfrider.  Nestled under the shelter of the most gigantic Banyan tree, this bar offers Hawaiian music complete with Hula girl six nights a week (Sunday is their day off) and a casual pool side and beachside dining option.

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