The Best Restaurants in Hawai‘i

The Aloha State is a foodie haven that’s unlike anywhere else, thanks in large part to its bounty of fresh, local ingredients. From poke to ramen to Portuguese-Chinese fusion served with a helping of traditional shave ice, you won’t be able to decide on the best place to eat in Hawai‘i.

2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd A-201, Koloa, HI 96756, USA
Iconic chef Roy Yamaguchi helped popularize Hawaiian-fusion food a generation ago, but at Eating House 1849 he takes a delicious detour with dishes inspired by Portuguese, Spanish, and Filipino flavors. This “plantation cuisine” evokes the immigrant dishes served in the mid-1800s, when the state’s first restaurant—a Honolulu establishment called Eating House—opened (according to legend). Yamaguchi brings some serious chops to the table: He trained at the Culinary Institute of America before serving as executive chef in Los Angeles‘s La Serene and winning a James Beard Award. The menu shifts seasonally, according to what farmers, foragers, ranchers, and fishermen produce. Expect delicacies like a beef-and-wild-boar burger and pork lumpia with green papaya. Cap it all off with cinnamon-dusted malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts) with Koloa Rum sauce!
799 Poho Pl, Paia, HI 96779, USA
Foodies from all over flock to Mama’s Fish House for ocean-to-plate dishes in a postcard-perfect setting. At this tiki bar meets restaurant, the fish is delivered daily by local anglers and many dishes showcase regional ingredients like Maui onions, Hawaiian chili pepper, and Hana ginger. As a young couple in California, owners Floyd and Doris Christenson fell in love with Maui while on vacation. In 1960, they sailed back across the Pacific, navigating only by sun and sextant, and anchored back on their dream island, where they eventually opened Mama’s. Today, the hot spot can be crowded and pricey, but few begrudge the premium for the fresh fare and stunning panoramas. Make a reservation well in advance for an ocean-view table.
1200 Ala Moana Blvd #657, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA
Ramen is the ultimate comfort food, and here you can choose from over 20 varieties thanks to Okinawan chef Hisashi Uehara. His team makes all the noodles from scratch and boils 2,880 pounds of pork bones daily for more than 24 hours to create the chain’s signature tonkotsu broth. Agu has six outlets across Oahu, including one in Waikiki (2146 Kalakaua Ave.). Slurp your way through specialties like Parmesan cheese kotteri (an extra thick, oily broth) or a chicken-stock mix with citrusy yuzu and pepper. Additional toppings include house-made chili, pickled mustard greens, and pork belly roasted Cantonese-style, like char-siu. Vegans and vegetarians: Ask about your options, as they’re not well-labeled!
5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756, USA
Boasting some of the best views in Kauai, this dreamy eatery serves up spectacular sunsets alongside splurgeworthy lunches and dinners. Start with the signature Monkeypod Mai Tai: A potent blend of Old Lahaina rums and orange curaçao, graced by honey foam. Then try the Thai-inspired coconut crab cakes, followed by the oven-roasted Jidori chicken with goat-cheese polenta or the wasabi-crusted fish with passion-fruit beurre blanc. Vegetarians won’t go hungry either, thanks to dishes like coconut corn chowder sweetened with local lemongrass and slow-roasted beets with tomato-cilantro salad and tempura asparagus. Often voted the island’s top restaurant by Honolulu Magazine, Beach House has also won a steady streak of awards from Wine Spectator.
2365 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Affectionately called the First Lady of Waikiki, this grande dame opened in 1901. Its gracious architecture harks back to the sugar-plantation era and wraps around a courtyard anchored by a massive banyan. Pull up a chair under its spreading branches—or else a seat overlooking the ocean—and enjoy island-inspired fine dining. East meets West here with appetizers like Kona abalone bourguignon, tempura asparagus with Parmesan custards, and twice-cooked octopus with macadamia romesco. Entrée standouts include the miso salmon and Korean-fusion Beach Bim Bop starring fiddlehead ferns, kimchi Brussels sprouts, and Ali’i mushrooms from Hawaiian grower Hamakua. Save room for its tour-de-force finale: A “dessert tree” with small bites of everything from macarons to red-velvet cheesecake.
83-5308 Mamalahoa Hwy # B, Captain Cook, HI 96704, USA
Hit this classic joint for a quick bite after snorkeling at Two Step or exploring Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park. It has a lot in common with the nearby (and popular) Da Poke Shack, but Big Jake’s has its own following—and rightly so. Go for the delicious pulled pork or meaty, succulent ribs done Kansas-style and slathered in a sharp, spicy, fruity sauce (ask for it on the side if chili heat’s a concern). Combo specials include coleslaw and smoky baked beans. This roadside attraction has no indoor seating, but diners can snag a seat at the picnic tables.
1585 Kapiolani Boulevard
Local restaurateur Hide Sakurai—also the force behind Shokudo next door—brings healthy grab-and-go options to the heart of Honolulu’s Ala Moana, the state’s largest shopping center. An artisan café and pinot wine bar, Bread & Butter seats around 50 and serves three meals a day. Argentine chef Arnaldo “Masa” Gushiken adds hints of Spanish and Japanese cuisine to the otherwise very locavore American menu. Highlights include the beet-peach-arugula salad and the house-smoked-ahi sandwich, balanced by the bright crunch of pickled vegetables in its side salad. Regulars also rave about the single servings of paella, the bell-pepper-goat-cheese dip, and the decadent truffle chicken starring an entire game hen.
76-6246 Ali'i Drive
This tiny joint on the Big Island serves what many consider the planet’s best poke (raw-fish salad). In fact, Yelp ranked it No. 1 among America’s top 100 places to eat in 2014. Go traditional with just salt, limu kohu (seaweed), and inamona (a roasted-candlenut relish) for toppings. Or opt for a more contemporary twist with anything from onions to avocado aioli, perhaps paired with a side of crisp kimchi cucumbers. Be forewarned: This casual spot runs on island time so don’t expect exact adherence to business hours.
2335 Kalakaua Ave #116, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku grew up here, and you can dine amid his memorabilia at this kitschy Waikiki classic. Pair one of the restaurant’s signature mai tais with a pupu (appetizer) like ahi poke or panko-fried calamari. Move on to dishes such as Korean-style steak tacos or a fish sandwich on Hawaiian sweet bread. Leave room for the Hula Pie: macadamia nut ice cream heaped atop a chocolate-cookie crust! Duke’s Waikiki remains one of the best venues in Oahu for traditional music, especially on Sundays. The eatery also is typically involved in springtime’s Waikiki Spam Jam—a celebration of the state’s favorite canned meat—and, in the summer, Duke’s OceanFest, which honors the sports dear to its namesake waterman.
123 Lihiwai St
In a new(ish) location overlooking the bay, this perennial Big Island favorite weaves local, organic, and free-range produce into culinary alchemy. Deceptively simple dishes dance on the taste buds; the rich umami of the mushroom potpie and the spicy ahi poke do a particularly fabulous fandango, along with the jalapeño-hamachi-belly sushi roll. The peppered beef carpaccio has a dedicated following, pairing soft grass-fed beef with sea salt and fried capers—as does the half-pound burger that comes topped with Gorgonzola. Even vegetarians can indulge here, starting with the cauliflower grilled with black-garlic aioli and moving onto a taro-quinoa veggie patty beside hand-cut fries. Make sure to save room for the legendary chocolate lava cake!
845 Front St a, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
This airy, oceanfront restaurant can get crowded, so expect a wait whenever you go. It’s worth it, however, for the stellar menu of Hawaiian seafood dishes, plus the tropical cocktails. Pair a ginger mojito or strawberry piña colada with pupus (appetizers) like macadamia-crusted calamari and soy-ginger ahi poke, topped with local Surfing Goat Dairy cheese. Then move on to entrées like citrus-herb grilled fish tacos or the coconut-crusted catch of the day. If you’re not one for seafood, there are also excellent burgers and a teriyaki sirloin on the menu.
50 Sand Island Access Rd, Honolulu, HI 96819, USA
Honolulu’s last great tiki bar is tucked behind a row of warehouses, six miles northwest of Waikiki. Set on the edge of Keehi Lagoon, it shelters under plumeria and coconut trees—and will be familiar to fans of Hawaii Five-0. La Mariana defies the kitsch label: All those shell chandeliers, puffer-fish lights, and fishing floats suspended in nets are the real deal, with most items dating back to 1957. Carved tikis abound, alongside high-gloss tables fashioned from koa, the rich-hued wood from endemic acacias and the source of weapons and voyaging canoes for ancient Hawaiians. Go for the ambience and strong mai tais; the menu is straight-up, old-school surf and turf, perfectly tasty but uninspiring.
412 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Superstar chef Ed Kenney tucked his fourth restaurant inside the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, a funky Waikiki outpost that pays homage to the area’s 1960s scene. The eatery sits beside the pool, where period films screen (sometimes against a background of live music or a DJ spinning albums). The vibe hits all the right notes, from the Hawaii Potters’ Guild bowls to the custom Tori Richard fabrics for the banquette cushions. Kenney—a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist—serves elevated home cooking that draws upon the best of local farms as well as sustainably caught seafood. Fan favorites include a tangle of bright veggies topped with perfectly charred he’e (octopus) and deep-fried avocado on tacos with smoked yogurt, shishito peppers, and pickled red onion.
1 Manele Bay Rd, Lanai City, HI 96763, USA
In 2012, one of the world’s richest men—Oracle founder Larry Ellison—bought 97 percent of the island of Lanai. The single sweeping deal (reputed to cost $300 million) included the exquisite Four Seasons Resort, overlooking a marine reserve. The resort’s dining experience par excellence is Nobu, where celebrity chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa presides over the perfect marriage of Japanese dishes and Peruvian ingredients. Kick things off with crispy Brussels sprouts or scallops with jalapeño salsa, then move on to sushi, hand rolls, or Wagyu beef. Save room for the Bento Box dessert with green tea ice cream and chocolate flourless cake. Or go old-school, if it’s on the menu, and order the mochi pound cake backed by yuzu-cherry jelly and peanut butter ice cream.
83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
Started as a farmers’ market stand, this superb spot in Honolulu’s Chinatown serves contemporary Vietnamese food with global accents. Andrew Le—a 2014 James Beard Rising Chef of the Year semifinalist—brings Culinary Institute of America chops, while his mother Loan “Mama” Le contributes inspiration from her youth in Ho Chi Minh City. In addition to running an award-winning kitchen, the two have created drinks like the Redivider (pisco, pandan two ways, and coconut water) and the Cobra Commander (avocado mezcal, Sriracha ice, Pamplemousse Rose, and lime). Nonalcoholic delights include coconut horchata and a shrub made from pear, ginger, and cinnamon. Reserve ahead for a spot in this bustling, exposed-brick space, full of communal tables and funky light fixtures.
75 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
One of Honolulu’s most hyped restaurants, this Chinatown nook has powerhouse parents: Local boy Chris Kajioka of Vintage Cave and U.K.-born Anthony Rush of Fera at Claridge’s met working at New York City’s Per Se. The name Senia plays on the Greek word xenia (hospitality). Belly up to its live-edge chef’s counter, carved from monkeypod lumber, for a splendid multicourse tasting menu. The $185 feast might include gems like delicate Kusshi oysters with green apple, a regional venison tartare, or a duck leg wrapped in cabbage. The relaxed exposed-brick dining room also serves à la carte inspirations like mahi-mahi Wellington or Kauai shrimp ravioli with sweet corn and jalapeño.
2330 Kalakaua Ave #330, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Upscale food halls are having their day, and here celebrity chef Michael Mina weighs in with 13 stations of flavors from around the globe. The Street serves up everything from sustainable poke to Tokyo-style ramen, Maui onion burgers, and Mediterranean cuisine drawn from the James Beard Award winner and Michelin-starred chef’s Egyptian heritage. Of special note is Aloha Ice, a sweet stop by Honolulu’s own pastry queen Michelle Karr-Ueoka. The hall sprawls inside Waikiki’s International Market Place, bridging glitzy Kalakaua Avenue and up-and-coming Kuhio Avenue. Lift a drink to toast its success—and to skipping longer wait times at other trendy eateries—whether that drink is tap kombucha from Indie Girl or a cocktail from Myna Bird, a spot inspired by Don the Beachcomber, the joint (and its owner) that kicked off the 1960s tiki craze.
3674 Baldwin Ave, Makawao, HI 96768, USA
Opened in 1916, this Upcountry Maui icon draws hordes of locals and savvy tourists with its racks of sweets, including legendary cream puffs and amazing stick doughnuts. The menu here also features pies, rolls, bread, cookies, cupcakes, turnovers, and irresistible guava malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts), but the bakery is best known for its Long Johns—yeast-risen pastry bars coated with glaze or icing. Go early, as the crowds pick the trays bare by 10 a.m., and be sure to check out the memorabilia of bygone eras tucked among the postcards, pantry staples, and fishing gear for sale.
790 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761
Once a delicacy of Japanese royalty, shave ice went mainstream in the 1920s. The refreshing treat then crossed the Pacific with immigrants—workers bound for the sugar plantations and pineapple fields of Hawaii. Now a classic way to cool down in the islands, this sweet is more than a mere snow cone. Ice made from filtered water is shaved instead of ground, so the texture resembles a delicate snowfall in your mouth. Ululani’s goes a step further by using pure cane sugar and premium purees made in-house. Among its most popular blends are the Haleakalā (coconut and Leche topped with cream) and the Sunset Beach (guava, mango, passion fruit, and orange). The chain has six outlets around Maui, including one at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort, and one in Kailua-Kona on Hawai’i Island.
92-1001 Olani St, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA
This surf-style restaurant elevates local food-truck fare at the new Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. Expect ahi poke, wild-boar hot dogs, and the coolest French fry innovation out there: A heaping platter of slender spuds topped with Parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and wilted arugula for that “It’s healthy, really” feeling! Wash it all down with kombucha on draft—with flavors like pineapple ginger or liliko’i (passion fruit)—and cocktails such as the Castaway, featuring melon vodka, coconut water, and lime juice. Come prepared to lounge outside, as the Waterman wraps around the family pool and also serves its exclusive beach. Food is served 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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