Hawaii is not only known for its great weather and pristine beaches, but it’s also known for its amazingly comforting food. I’ve been to Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Kauai and have had great food all over. Honestly, maintaining a beach bod in Hawaii is tough, because all I want to do there is eat all the things I can’t eat on the mainland!
Whether you’re island hopping or just visiting one island, I’m sure you’re thinking about where to eat in Hawaii, given that there are tons of food options. Well rest assured, you’ll rarely have a bad meal in Hawaii. Everything is fresher, juicier, and tastier. Here, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite restaurants, food trucks, juice/coffee shops and dessert joints across all the islands of Hawaii. Pick a few off this list of where to eat in Hawaii; you won’t be disappointed!
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WHERE TO EAT ON OAHU
One of our best hole-in-the-wall finds. Come here if you want a local experience of Honolulu, good Korean/Hawaiian food, and homemade soju smoothies! The sashimi platter and the poke are great options, but the meat jun is the real star here. Do not leave the restaurant without ordering the meat jun.
Boots and Kimo’s
Boots and Kimo’s are well loved for their pancakes with macadamia nut sauce (or go one step further and get the banana pancakes with mac nut sauce), but also serve other delicious breakfast items and plate lunches. If I can give you any tip, get here as early as possible or be prepared to wait in line. My personal favorites: the Banana Pancake with Macadamia Nut Sauce and Mochiko Chicken.
Moke’s Bread & Breakfast
One of my favorite brunch/breakfast places in all of Oahu. The Lilikoi Pancakes really steal the show here. The loco moco is equally as good (you can even get it with fried rice) so if you’re looking for something savory to balance out the sweetness, definitely order this dish. But seriously, the Lilikoi cream sauce is out of this world.
Wondering where to eat in Hawaii? At some point, I implore you to make a stop here. Hawaiian-style fast food. Oh man, do I wish we had fast food like this on the mainland. Korean chicken with rice and mac salad? Mixed plate with chili over rice? Yes and yes. A must-try establishment. It’s one of the only options for late-night food on Oahu, but I’m not mad about it.
Treat your tastebuds to some of the most authentic poke you’ll ever taste. Most of the stuff in the US mainland are garbage compared to what you’ll experience in Hawaii. With each bite of the poke at Ono Seafood, I couldn’t get over how tender and fresh the fish was. The many different flavors give you options (shoyu, spicy, sweet; salmon vs tako vs tuna, etc). The service is efficient and the pricing is great. Warning, this is a small space with limited seating and the parking is extremely limited. Park on the street, grab your poke, and eat it elsewhere.
Yama’s Fish Market
If you’re looking for no-frills Hawaiian cooking, look no further. Their portions are huge, which is great on the wallet since you can share the plate with another person. There is a wide variety of plates to choose from– laulau, kalua pork, grilled ahi, poke, beef stew, etc. There are also ala carte items such as haupia and squid luau. You must get their haupia sweet potato pie.
I’m talking about their haupia pie and their taro pie. If you like coconut or taro, you really need to try these. I get them at least twice every time I go to Hawaii, and my boyfriend brings them home in bulk and freezes them to enjoy at a later date. Yes, they’re that good. McDonald’s can be found on every island, good for us!
After biting into a hot fluffy malasada, your life might be changed. Leonard’s malasadas are the real deal! All of the malasadas are made-to-order so you know they’ll be piping hot when they hand them to you. The menu is very simple with a few types of pastries and a wide variety of different malasadas. My recommendation if you could only order 2: the original and the haupia cream filled malasada. The custard filled malasadas are incredible, but it may not be for people who don’t like custards.
Matsumoto Shave Ice
A trip to Oahu isn’t complete without some shaved ice. This is a local favorite that’s also a popular stop for tourists when visiting the North Shore. Although the line may look long, it goes by fast! They have combos which taste great together as well as a good variety of toppings (rice balls, azuki beans, ice cream). And… the battle of shave ice continues between Waiola and Matsumoto (see below). At Matsumoto, the blade itself is a bit coarser than at Waiola, but the syrups were more varied and flavourful.
Waiola Shave Ice
I scoured the island looking for the best shave ice. To my surprise, one of the best shave ice joints happened to be the easiest to get to and the most accessible. This is a cute little mom and pop shop not too far from Waikiki. The shave ice is light, fluffy, and super affordable. My favorite topping is the mochi here (it’s not the prepackaged powdered kind, it’s the one they boil before serving to you, so delicious). Cash only.
WHERE TO EAT ON THE BIG ISLAND
Da Poke Shack
At Da Poke Shack, they specialize in Yellowfin “Ahi” Tuna. The furikake over rice and the seaweed salad that comes with a poke plate is a great touch. Fish and meats rotate daily and once it’s gone for the day, its gone. So come early if you want to have the best selection! This is a tad pricier than other poke places on the island, but delicious nonetheless.
Pine Tree Cafe
The best place to stop for breakfast or lunch after flying into the Kona airport or before heading there! Pine Tree Cafe has really good and simple food any time of the day. So much so, that we went their twice on our short Kona trip. For breakfast, opt for the french toast, which comes highly recommended. For lunch/dinner, your possibilities are so endless. Plate lunch combo options include spicy garlic fried chicken, short ribs, chicken katsu, loco moco, beef stew, poke, etc. They are conveniently open 6am for the early flights.
Kona Grill House
A super low key seafood restaurant with just about the best fresh fish and lobster cake you will ever have. Even though this place looks like a complete hole in the wall, it was one of the more memorable meals we had in the Kona area. Trust me, the lobster cake is a must. Its creamy, slightly crispy, and there’s definitely no shortage in flavor there. Other specials include the lobster mac n cheese and their catch of the day in just about any form they cook it in.
Super fresh poke at reasonable prices in a typical hole in the wall location. What more can you ask for? There’s a great flavor selection and chill outdoor seating that is definitely worth the visit if you are in the area. The kalua pork comes highly recommended as well. As this is a family-owned restaurant, food quantity is limited. Even though the restaurant closes at 5pm, poke and rice usually run out at around 4:30pm, so get there before it’s just slim pickings!
Ululani’s Shave Ice
Of all the shave ice places I’ve tried, Ululani’s might be my favorite of all time. Unsuspectingly nestled inside of the Courtyard Marriott, this could be considered a “hidden” gem. The syrups here made out of natural ingredients such as real fruit and sugar cane, which made their flavors authentic-tasting and extremely flavorful. They poke holes into the shave ice so that the syrup really penetrates all the way through the ice. They carry the usual toppings including super fresh hunks of mochi as well as a haupia cream that is rich and heavenly. Get the haupia cream!
Two Ladies Kitchen
I have two words for you– unforgettable mochi. Crowds swarm for this mochi, and rightfully so because it’s that good. Two Ladies produces almost two dozen types of mochi, with flavors including lilikoi (passionfruit), sweet potato and butter. One of the bestsellers includes the strawberry mochi, filled with an entire strawberry inside (consider pre-ordering it or lining up early, as this guy tends to sell out quick).
Hawaiian Style Cafe Hilo
You must stop here if you’re looking for a breakfast place! The portions are crazy big and you can tell it’s all homemade. Some notable menu items: The haupia cream pancakes and the loco moco. This place is worth returning to… try more things on their menu.
Suisan Fish Market
Come hungry for gigantic portions of fish fresh off the boat, which are accompanied by your choice of rice and veggies. The spicy ahi tuna is a popular and classic pick, but there’s a large selection to choose from (feel free to try some other flavors out before picking). I highly recommend this place if you like poke or even want to try poke for the first time. However, I am not responsible if after you try this place and cannot find another poke place like this…
This is the only Zippy’s on the island! For those of you new to Hawaii, this is the best fast food a person could ask for in life. Seriously, why don’t we have this on the mainland? It’s phenomenal fast food and I’d take this over hamburgers any day. If you’re on the Hilo side, make sure to stop at Zippy’s for the Korean Chicken and the Chili Rice (Pro Tip: Get hotdog in your chili rice, it’s a local favorite)
WHERE TO EAT ON MAUI
Geste Shrimp Truck
Geste Shrimp Truck is a Maui favorite for shrimp since 2007. For $15, your order comes with a dozen shrimp (doused in your choice of sauce), a side of crab mac salad, and rice. Cash only and limited outdoor seating (picnic friendly–they provide the mats!).
The Gazebo Restaurant
The food here is unreal, worth the wait any day. The banana macadamia nut French toast special is like a piece of heaven coming from the skies of Maui. Other notable, signature items are the Big Kahuna Omelette and the Mac Nut Pancakes. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch and close at 2pm every day. I would recommend taking your order to-go unless you really want to eat at the restaurant (and in that case, be prepared to wait 30 minutes to an hour or so).
Da Kitchen Cafe
One of the best spots I’ve eaten at on my trips to Maui. Any plate lunch combo is good, but the deep friend Spam musubi is the winner, which tastes comforting and delightful, and that’s coming from someone who’s not the biggest fan of spam. The moderately priced dishes are served with really huge portions, so you can get a meal for 4 people for relatively cheap. 10/10 would recommend!
The Fish Market Maui
They have the best fish tacos on the island, but my absolute favorite is the crab cake sandwich! And, the beauty of this place is how simple it is. You order at the counter and the menu is self-explanatory. After eating out at many overpriced restaurants, it’s nice to find a place with good food at a reasonable price. While the tables are limited both inside and outside the restaurant, the service is fast so seating opens up quickly.
Local Boys Shave Ice
Yet another great shave ice place that Hawaii does well. Second best recommendation for Maui, closely following Ululani’s Shave Ice (as described above in the Big Island section).
WHERE TO EAT ON KAUAI
This is a casual grab and go, no-frills kind of place. I have one thing to say here: try Mark’s famous mixed plate: chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, and beef stew served with rice and potato macaroni salad. So much deliciousness in one platter. Flavorful, plentiful, and affordable food–what more could a tourist want?
You know you’ve found something good when you stumble into a hole in the wall market style food joint. Pono Market is a staple in the community serving up some of the best poke on Kauai in my opinion, and at a good price! Beloved by many locals and some lucky tourists in the know, it can get busy during lunch, but the line moves incredibly fast. A rotating specialty menu changes daily, but I can assure you that everything’s good here. Poke is always fresh, fried chicken is bomb, shoyu chicken is flavorful, and kalua pig is tender & juicy. Can’t go wrong any way you order!
Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Company
If you are trying to decide where to eat near Poipu or on the way to Waimea Canyon, this is the perfect place! The setup is counter ordering and then you pick where you sit. It gets busy inside so be prepared to fight for a table when one opens up.
Meat lovers adore Nom Kauai. This small restaurant offers Southern-style Hawaiian fusion, with the buttermilk fried chicken being one of the top sellers. If you’re a big fan of fried chicken, grits, or biscuits like I am, this should most definitely be on your list of places to eat in Kauai!
Koloa Fish Market
Line up with the locals at this no-frills hole-in-the-wall that serves outstanding poke in all kinds of flavors, as well as Japanese-style bentō, sushi rolls, and seaweed salads. Really, the poke here is to die for! Hawaiian and local plate lunches are also available and grilled to order. They also offer specials of the day, moist brownies and cookies and have a small beverage selection.
Yes this is a more touristy place, but what I wanted to call out were two things: (1) the Aloha Hour from 3-5pm and 9:30 – 10:30pm at the bar and (2) the Chef’s Tasting Menu, available daily from 4:45 – 5:30pm: $26 for three courses. What a deal! They also have non-intrusive live music, giving it that “Hawaiian” ambiance, so if you’re looking for something more formal and relaxing, this is a good stop.
This food truck is so different from what you’d traditionally find on the Hawaiian islands (move over, shrimp trucks, Porky’s is here). Try their most popular dishes, the #1 / #3: Pineapple sausage with caramelized onions and Kalua pork smothered on top / grilled cheese mixed with pulled pork. Stop by on the way back from hiking Waimea Canyon, it’ll be a perfect way replenish those calories burned.
Any other recommendations on where to eat in Hawaii that’s not on this list? I’d love to hear from you!