Of all the Hawaiian islands, Oahu is certainly the most densely populated and potentially the most lacking in laid-back tropical vibes. However, one of the benefits of Honolulu being a big city in the middle of the Pacific is the mix of cultures that come together here to bring amazing food. Here are some of my favourite budget-friendly(ish – nothing is cheap on Oahu) spots to eat, drink and be merry in the tourist spots of Waikiki and Haleiwa.
Brunch & Brekkie
412 Lewers Street
Poolside at the Surfjack Hotel is the lovely Mahina & Sun’s, featuring homegrown Hawaiian cooking from Honolulu-favourite, Chef Ed Kenney. Skip the supremely foamy cappuccino for an espresso, and be sure to get there early for the best scones on the island. The smoked fish frambled flat omelette is enough for two, and will leave you feeling all sorts of good inside.
2586 Kalakaua Avenue
I’ve got a lot of aloha for Lulu’s – it’s been one of my go-to spots since my first visit to Oahu in 2012 (and not just for the free wifi). While the afternoon and evening at Lulu’s are also just fine, I love going to Lulu’s in the morning. Sit at the bench and look out over Waikiki beach and enjoy the Longboard Benny, the Dawn Patrol Omelette or a delicious Fruit Bowl with a cup of coffee and some fresh juice. When the breeze comes through and the puffer fish lantern sway, it’s pretty dreamy.
342 Seaside Avenue
Hurry up and wait to get some great healthy and/or boozy brekkie at this cozy Waikiki special. (The line moves quick, I promise.) Pair he Local Eggs Bennie, Organic Loco Moco (you should probably have at least one loco moco while you’re in Hawaii for the local experience), or a Flat Omelette with one of their super-powered smoothies, the lilikoi and mango sangria, or a guava mimosa for a great start to your day.
Dinner & Drinks
2005 Kalia Road
Nachos, mai tais and blue Hawaiians. Don’t miss this great happy hour right on the beach, but be ready for a touch of a wait if you get there after the prices drop.
2335 Kalakaua Avenue
Duke’s is definitely a bit overpriced, but I still kind of love it. Have the Ahi Sashimi with a Mai Tai during happy hour, and enjoy the view over the beach in the evening.
2365 Kalakaua Avenue
The best Mai Tai on the island. 100%. Located just steps off Waikiki Beach, the oceanfront Beach Bar is an ideal setting for enjoying the very insta-worthy Waikiki scenery and a stunning sunset with a tropical bevvy in hand. There’s live music and decent appies to be had under the banyan tree, just through the foyer of the absolutely stunning Moana Surfrider Hotel.
2299 Kuhio Avenue
A note about the Hideout: If you’re not American, you’ll need to bring your passport to get a drink at the bar. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you’re in your 30’s, or that it’s super impractical and daft to carry your passport out with you for a night on the town, no amount of government issued photo ID will work for this establishment if it’s not American. That said, no one seemed to have an issue serving me in the restaurant area, but the experience with the bar staff was definitely a negative one. Dinner here is great, as is the whisky list and cocktail menu. The Coconut Curry Seafood Stew was delicious, showcasing Kauai prawns, an abundance of mussels, and whatever the local fish of the day was.
Dinner & Drinks
66-011 Kamehameha Highway
Get here early and skip straight to the bar for happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30pm, enjoy the local atmosphere, and dig into some great tropical drinks and pupus. While there isn’t much ‘fire’ about the Peel & Eat Fire Shrimp, the Crunchy Coconut Shrimp, Tempura Crab Roll, and the Black & Blue Ahi will leave you both starving for more and too full to eat anything else.
Haleiwa Food Trucks
66-235 Kamehameha Highway
Go buy yourself some bevvies from the grocery store across the street and camp out on the picnic tables in front of the food trucks for one of the best meals you’ll have on the North Shore. The Spicy Penang Curry at Thai Bo is definitely delicious but the showstopper is 100% the Spicy Shrimp. Where Thai Bo brings the heat, No. 7 Japanese Food Truck has incredible handheld rolls and delicious udon.
TheBus is the cheapest way to get around the island. If you’re light on luggage (can fit it under a seat or hold it on your lap), you’re looking at $2.50-$5.00 to get between Honolulu and Ala Moana – saving you quite a bit for happy hours around the island.