15 Favorite Restaurants in Hawaii – Eat Like a Local!
Hawaii’s natural beauty and warm inviting culture are famous the world over. But Hawaii also gives us a unique culinary experience that is delicious and accessible. Of course there are fine-dining establishments on all of the islands that many visitors frequent. However, there are also relatively inexpensive and delicious local spots serving culinary treats that everyone, no matter what their budget or cravings, can enjoy.
Kauai is famous for the rugged Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon and its lush green landscape. When in Kauai, keep an eye out for these favorite spots for local eats, picked by the Exotic Estates Team.
1. Al Pastor Taco Food Truck (Kapaa): If you are on Kauai and want some incredible fish tacos (think locally harvested fish + tacos), stop by this taco truck in Kapaa on the East Coast of Kauai.
2. Hamura Saimin (Lihue): Saimin is a Hawaiian noodle soup, essentially ramen. It’s popular all over the islands, is cheap and delicious, and can be eaten at any time of day. Hamura is a famous local spot that serves amazing saimin.
3. Kintaro's Sushi (Wailua): A favorite local sushi spot that's very popular, they even offer a special party room for groups.
4. Garden Island Chinese Food and BBQ (Lihue): Some say they serve the best Chinese food on Kauai, but our local folks also go there for their BBQ or what they call “local food.” No matter what your preference is, they offer simple and delicious cooking.
Maui is known for is incredible golf courses, Haleakala Crater and, of course, its stunning beaches and lush tropical inland forests. Here are some local dining spots, picked by our Guest Services team, which you can savor when spending time at an Exotic Estates’ vacation home in Maui.
5. 808 Deli (Kihei): A small “hole in the wall” located behind Fred's Mexican Cafe - this spot has some of the best sandwiches on island (also great salads for those who are diet conscious!). Stop by to grab "sammies" on your way to the beach in Makena!
6. Ono Kau Kau (Lahaina): This is the ultimate definition of “hole in the wall.” A great place to grab an inexpensive take-away lunch or dinner; they specialize in Chinese and Hawaiian-style plate lunches. (Note - Hawaiian “plate lunches” are ubiquitous in the islands and tend to include a couple scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and a main dish of meat or fish. You can typically find Teriyaki Chicken, BBQ beef, Kalua Pig (roasted and shredded pork) and Mahi Mahi). Tip - Can't decide which “plate” to get? They'll allow you to split two different plates and combine them into one - just ask for a combination of both plates into one plate to go!
7. Star Noodle (Lahaina): Star Noodle is not totally off the radar, but it is an unassuming restaurant in an industrial area of Lahaina, and it has amazing Asian specialties and house-made noodles. Tip - Arrive early in the evening, or plan on waiting a bit for a seat (it's a very small restaurant) - they only take reservations for large groups.
8. S&Q's Shave Ice Shack (Kihei): A small shave ice shack located right off of S. Kihei Road. A stop here is a must for the best shave ice on island. Tip: Get ice cream on the bottom and sweet cream on top for an unforgettable sweet treat!
Oahu, home to the city of Honolulu, has perhaps the most diverse culinary landscape in the islands. The island boasts world-class hotel and restaurant dining, but it also retains small-Hawaii dining experiences that locals and visitors alike cherish. Here are some favorite spots for tasty local eats frequented by Exotic Estates' Oahu specialists.
9. Keneke’s Plate Lunch and BBQ (Waimanalo): Keneke’s is a favorite place to stop for a plate lunch or a shave ice if you’re spending a day on the Windward side of Oahu. You order at a window and then either take it with you, or go to a little covered area and eat onsite. Very local and very delicious!
10. KIRIN Restaurant (Honolulu): This place sounds Japanese, but in fact it is a fantastic and somewhat upscale Chinese restaurant located not far from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It is on Beretania Street just off of University Ave. The menu is incredible so look around at what others are enjoying and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
11. Ono Hawaiian Food (Honolulu). This little restaurant on Kapahulu makes some of the best Hawaiian food in the islands. Walking in, looking at all of the clippings and photos on the wall, you can feel Ono’s legacy. We believe it has one of the best lau lau’s in Hawaii. If you have never had one, a lau lau is pork, and sometimes butterfish, that’s been wrapped in taro leaves and then ti-leaves and steamed. It is certainly unusual for most visitors to Hawaii, but it is the ultimate in comfort food. We recommend the Lau lau Plate dinner and/or the Kalua Pig Plate dinner. Tip – Get there by 6:00 pm or be prepared to wait in line – it’s a very small place!
12. Shirokiya Japanese Food Court (Honolulu): Located in the Ala Moana Shopping Center, the Japanese store Shirokiya has an incredible food court that will blow your mind! Go to the top floor and prepare to be amazed. The diversity and amount of delicious, beautifully presented Japanese delights will have any Japanese food lover salivating. The food is packaged in small quantities so it’s fun to pick up a variety of items to taste!
13. Waiahole Poi Factory (Kaneohe): Located on the beautiful Windward Side of Oahu, the Waiahole Poi Factory is one of those country-store-type places you pass on rural roads that lure you in with signs advertising home-cooked eats. Per its name, they serve poi, as well as all the other Hawaiian favorites, including Kalua Pig. Note that the food is take-away. It’s a barn-like place, and on the other side of the food area, there is a little Hawaiian cultural center. They have dried gourds and Hawaiian nose flutes for sale out front. If you are lucky you may catch someone actually playing a nose flute in the arts center!
14. Wasabi Bistro (Waikiki): We love this little restaurant because it has the feeling of a secret find. Located inside the pool area of the Breakers Hotel on Beachwalk in Waikiki, you have to go out of your way to find this little Japanese restaurant. The feeling is relaxed and a little funky, and its location inside of the Breakers Hotel, which has a retro-Japanese design vibe, adds to the ambience. Their prices are reasonable.
15. Zippy’s (multiple locations): This is a Hawaiian fast-food chain that we included because it offers something for everyone at a very reasonable price. You can order everything from a chili omelet to Portuguese Bean Soup and a loco-moco (a hamburger over rice, covered with gravy and a fried egg). There is also an impressive assortment of baked goods at any given time. There are several locations so check out this local fast-food chain if you are looking for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner with a local flair!