I’ll just cut right to the chase: whether you’re a foodie traveling to O’ahu or someone simply looking for a good place to eat in Waikiki, you can’t go wrong with anything in this guide to the Best Restaurants in Honolulu.
In no particular order, we’ve highlighted the best places to eat in the city and spotlighted what they are known for, below. This way, you can easily bookmark this list for easy reference when traveling around the city.
For the record, Honolulu wasn’t always such a foodie-friendly city. Historically, people came for the beach, not the eats. However, in the last decade, the city’s culinary IQ has risen significantly, as the farm-to-table movement, Instagram food aesthetics, and an increasing immigrant-rich and ex-pat-filled population have begun to shift the local taste.
Fresh fish and tropical fruits are readily available, as are an increasing number of international cuisines. This has set the table for some really promising culinary innovations.
While the Hawaii state capital still lags behind New York, Paris, London, and Los Angeles in terms of depth and variety of dining options, Honolulu is nevertheless emerging as a world-class food city– and the restaurants below are leading the charge.
Whether you’re a local or a tourist, these are the Honolulu restaurants you shouldn’t miss. Aloha and enjoy!
House Without A Key (For Sunset Mai Tais and Live Music)
House Without A Key is a Waikiki staple that even locals go to when they want to watch the sunset over drinks. This waterfront restaurant at the ritzy Halekulani Hotel is delightfully casual. Plus, the restaurant has exceptional views of Diamondhead and Waikiki Beach.
Come evening, they are known for their delightful ocean breeze and iconic mai tai cocktails. If you’re looking to dine in one of the best, most quintessential restaurants in Honolulu, this is it.
Also, around 5:30 PM each night, live ukelele musicians begin playing a long set accompanied by a professional hula dancer, who usually performs just after sunset. Go here around 5 or 6 PM for happy hour and live music. Then, stay for pupus under the stars.
The restaurant serves upscale Hawaiian staples like short rib, Hawaiian snapper, and local fish tacos which you can enjoy while listening to waves crashing just a few feet away.
For dessert, try their famous fluffy coconut cake, another local favorite. (We also love the Brownie Bread at the Halekulani Bakery across the street, but that’s a different story for another time.)
Merriman’s (for Cocktails, Oysters, and Chic Decor)
Merriman’s is an award-winning modern Hawaiian gastropub, helmed by Peter Merriman, a locavore chef who helped pioneer Hawai’i Regional Cuisine as we know it. Be sure to get the Kalua Pig Quesadilla with mango chili sauce and house-made kimchee. Or, opt for the “Bag o’ Biscuits” served with fresh honey butter. (They’re excellent.)
The seafood specials are also reliably divine, and the signature smoked oysters (when available) are some of the most unique you’ll ever try.
Cocktail lovers should not miss Merriman’s famous Mai Tai. Made with handcrafted macadamia nut syrup and honey liliko’i (aka yellow passionfruit) foam, it’s easily the best cocktail on the island.
The decadent foam on top is expertly cradled in a fresh pineapple slice. Accordingly, you’ll likely see its picture in every thread about the best restaurants in Honolulu. This drink is SO gorgeous– much like the checkered tile floor and plant-filled decor of the restaurant itself.
MW Restaurant (To Witness Creative Genius)
MW Restaurant is one of Honolulu’s best restaurants and one of my favorite restaurants in Kako’ako, showcasing excellent Pacific Rim cuisine by husband and wife duo Chef Wade Ueoka and Pastry Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka.
For dinner, ordering the mochi-crusted Kona Kanpachi is a must. This unique and delicious fish preparation is what made Wade famous and put the restaurant on the map. Served with seasonal local vegetables and a brightening vinegar-based sauce, it’s recommended for those who want to try the quintessential menu item.
We also love the quotations-bearing “Fried Chicken” (a play off of traditional Chinese pressed duck) and the gorgeously plated Ahi Poke Nachos. However, you should also leave room for dessert, as Michelle was a James Beard semi-finalist– which is why they even serve dessert during lunch service.
Ultimately, the excellence of flavor and seasonality at MW stems from the synergy of Wade and Michelle’s unique, complementary skills. (Even the restaurant logo– one fork facing up, another fork facing down– symbolizes the yin-and-yang “W” and the “M” of their names.)
For dessert, try Michelle’s signature Tropical Fruit Creamsicle Brûlée, which features liliko’i sorbet and liliko’i custard, tapioca pearls, tropical fruits, and a gorgeous burnt sugar brûlée cap. Liliko’i (aka passionfruit) is a distinct flavor of the islands.
^ This was the item that won Michelle James Beard recognition. As a result, it won’t be going off the dessert menu anytime soon. Lucky for us! It’s so, so good.
Mud Hen Water (For Hipster Hawaiian Tapas)
In the increasingly foodie-friendly Kaimuki neighborhood, Mud Hen Water serves excellent Hawaiian-style small plates served family-style.
The rotating menu changes often, but signature staples include classic Pohole (Hawaiian fern) salad; baked banana with bacon, peanuts, egg, and curry butter; curry chicken rice croquettes; and elevated Hawaiian-style BBQ spare ribs served with a fresh lime salt dipping dish.
In general, Mud Hen Water is walk-up friendly, as long as you’re willing to sit at the bar or a high top. Otherwise, feel free to make a reservation. Be advised, however, that parking in Kaimuki can be tricky. Plan to street park, and potentially walk a few minutes to get to the restaurant. (There are also a few paid parking lots in the area, for those who don’t mind the fee.) Either way, the excellent, hipster fare at Mud Hen Water is worth the hassle.
Be sure to save room for Mud Hen Water’s famous Pineapple-Polenta Upside Down Cake.
However, those looking for a super special sweet treat should order the Chocolate Kiawe Bean Brownie. Served with black sesame gelato and mac nut toffee, it’s one of the most divine and unique desserts on O’ahu, made from local kiawe bean flour. (Unless you visit a local natural foods store like Down To Earth, you’re unlikely to be able to try this unique native food at any other restaurant on the island!)
The Pig and The Lady (For Fun Pho)
The Pig and the Lady serves excellent Vietnamese in Chinatown, and many young local foodies regard it as Honolulu’s best restaurant at the moment. We love the Burmese Salad and the creative Pho 75 (the signature’s signature pho).
Dine here for creative, vegan-friendly vegetable dishes and tasty Vietnamese spice combinations inspired by Hawaiian Regional cuisine.
This hybridization of culinary genres is partially what makes this restaurant so unique. Because finding parking in Chinatown is not easy (and it’s not very walkable from the rest of Honolulu) we recommend taking an Uber here. Stop by nearby Lucky Belly for happy hour ahead of time (we love the San Francisco-inspired cocktail menu).
You may also see a food tent for The Pig and The Lady at many O’ahu area farmers markets, like KCC or KailuaTown. They offer an abridged version of the same menu they offer in the restaurant, so if you can’t make it to the brick-and-mortar location, you can still experience the food in a more casual setting.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food (For Traditional Hawaiian Cuisine)
Though it isn’t fancy, Helena’s Hawaiian Food is a Michelin-starred local haunt that is world-famous for codifying traditional Hawaiian cuisine as we know it. They won a James Beard award in 2000 for outstanding regional cuisine, a distinctive award that designates them as serving truly authentic cuisine of a place.
Today, Helena’s is one of Honolulu’s most prized restaurants. Specifically, Helena’s is the place to go if you’re interested in experiencing traditional Hawaiian food as Hawaiians historically ate it. Throughout the years, Helena’s has stayed true to their purist roots, never straying from tradition to follow trends.
For example, Helena’s is one of the few places on the island where you can still get opihi, a local delicacy shellfish that at one time sold for $100 an ounce.
Today, the restaurant is known for its squid luau, a classic Hawaiian dish made from luau leaves, coconut milk, calamari, and butter. (Think of it as Hawaii’s answer to Indian saag.) Yum!
Piggy Smalls (For Swaggy Puns and Asian Flavors)
Piggy Smalls, as the excellent pun entails, is all about good pork. Portions are huge and the flavors are generous and bountiful, reflective of the island’s fusion-immigrant culture. Here, you’ll enjoy Hawaiian takes on Pan-Asian classics like Mochiko Chicken and the table-mixed Burmese Salad, which is excellent.
Piggy Smalls also does local originals like Pacific Rim-inspired chicken and waffles and Truffle Katsu Burgers. If you like street food and hip-hop, this is the restaurant for you. Simply put, it’s one of the tastiest places to eat Asian food on the island.
The restaurant was founded by the same group behind The Pig and the Lady, which is why the dishes feel similarly modern. We love the crispy-skinned pork belly, the Brisket Pho French Dip sandwich with clams, and the seasonal King Salmon dish.
After dining, you can shop for aloha shirts in the nearby Ward Village Shops, or head across the street to Merriman’s for a late-night cocktail.
Monkeypod Kitchen (A Locavore Classic)
Monkeypod Kitchen in Ko Olina is another Peter Merriman restaurant– great for families, cocktail lovers, and people who want to experience classic farm-to-table and ocean-to-table food on O’ahu. They do excellent pizza, steak, and local fish specials, and are famous for their Kauai shrimp potstickers and homemade cream pies.
These come in a variety of flavors like banana and coconut, as well as seasonal flavors like gingerbread around the holidays. Each pie comes in a local macadamia nut crust with a generous layer of fresh whipped cream. (It isn’t a cream pie without cream, after all).
Monkeypod Kitchen is named after the iconic Hawaiian monkeypod tree, which is endemic to Hawaii. (You see them all over the North Shore and lining several streets in downtown Honolulu).
While the Ko Olina location of Monkeypod Kitchen feels very resort-like (because it’s Ko Olina), the restaurant still manages to feel home-y. The service is reliably good and families love it. Plus, when they have live music, it’s always excellent.
We recommend sharing one of their pizzas as an appetizer; if you’re going to get Hawaiian pizza in Hawaii, this is the place to do it. The fish specials are also always very exciting, as they use the freshest local ingredients; we recommend ordering at least one fish special for the full experience.
Roy’s in Hawaii Kai (A Waterfront Staple)
Roy Yamaguchi is one of the OG Hawaiian chefs responsible for putting Hawaiian fusion cuisine on the global culinary map. At the original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai, guests have enjoyed fresh Hawaiian fare in a contemporary setting with stunning views of Maunalua Bay for the last 25 years.
Today, there are dozens of Roy’s around the islands and on the mainland. Nevertheless, the original Roy’s remains a truly buzzy Honolulu restaurant that stands the test of time.
The Waikiki location is popular, but Roy’s in Hawaii Kai has a better view. We recommend getting the excellent short rib or the Misoyaki butterfish as entrees. For appetizers, you can’t go wrong with the purple sweet potato bisque and a few fresh salads.
As for dessert– be sure not to miss their gluten-free chocolate soufflé and the signature pineapple upside-down cake, which takes 30 minutes to make. Roy’s is open for dinner only, and they are good at accommodating kids.
Morimoto Asia Waikiki (For Iron Chef Lovers)
The flagship of Iron Chef Morimoto’s Hawaii arm is Morimoto Asia Waikiki, a pan-Asian dim sum, sushi, and large plates restaurant known for its exceptionally good take on a Bronzino (they butterfly the fish like it’s a piece of origami paper).
Come for sunset around 5:30 PM and be sure to order the signature sticky ribs as an appetizer; the duck caesar salad is also great. Downstairs, Morimoto’s ramen and sake bar, Momosan, is a lesser-known, cheaper option for a fairly-priced, casual dinner.
Despite their location inside the new ‘Alohilani Resort, both restaurants draw a casual, mixed crowd. Families, business lunchers, and tourists from all over Waikiki dine here. As a result, the dress code is pretty lax. Come as you are– even after a day on the beach.
(PSA: All restaurants in Waikiki are pretty chill about the dress code. However, this is not usually the case at other Morimoto restaurants.)
Hoku’s (For Scenic Views)
Hoku’s Restaurant at the Kahala Hotel is the epitome of luxury. The stylish waterfront restaurant inside the Kahala Hotel offers a delicious, elegant dinner menu. However, they’re known for their decadent Sunday brunch, which includes everything from rack of lamb to Alaskan king crab.
I recommend making a reservation for brunch on a Sunday around 1 PM. This way, you can watch the dolphins do tricks in the hotel’s private salt-water pool afterward. It’s so fun and cute!
For an ideal dining experience, make a reservation around sunset. (This is usually between 5 and 6:30 PM, depending on the season.) Either way, arrive early. Sit in a rocker overlooking the dolphin pool and enjoy a long, leisurely cocktail before dining.
When you’re ready, head inside for dinner. The menu consists mostly of upscale seafood– but what you’re really paying for here is the view of the beach. Hoku’s is a side of the island that most people don’t usually get to see unless they’re staying at the Kahala. It’s pricy, but a nice experience.
Duke’s Waikiki (For Local History and Fresh Ahi)
Duke’s is another Waikiki classic that’s right on the beach. It’s one of the best places to eat when you’re coming from the airport and don’t have a reservation anywhere.
Duke’s is named after the famous surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, who invented surfing as we know it. He effectively put Hawaii on the map for the sport. Today, Duke’s legacy carries on through a number of local restaurants and retail stores named in his honor.
Duke’s Waikiki is a local chain that specializes in macadamia-nut crusted ahi tuna, which is surprisingly great. They also have an economical salad bar option and a wonderful chocolate haupia macadamia nut pie. (I highly recommend this for dessert. Get ready for some Hawaii-style portions!)
The vibe at Duke’s is super casual, so it’s great for families and those eating on a budget. And, the Waikiki location has the best view of Diamondhead and Waikiki, right on the beach! As a result, both food snobs and even the tackiest tourists love eating here.
Koko Head Cafe (for Kaimuki Style Brunch)
Koko Head Cafe is an “island style brunch house” that’s popular among locals for their cornflake-crusted french toast (with french toast ice cream and billionaire bacon– what?!?), as well as their savory scones and skillets. It is easily one of the best places to get breakfast or brunch in Honolulu, but it’s open until 2:30 PM so it’s a great option for lunch, as well.
Run by celebrity chef Lee Anne Wong, Koko Head Cafe is an ideal place to get brunch in Kaimuki, which has a few cool local, “hipster”-leaning shops that are worth exploring.
The restaurant is open from 7 AM to 2:30 PM and they don’t take reservations. If there’s a wait, run across the street to Gecko’s to marvel at their insane archive of comic books and collector’s items. (They also have air conditioning when it’s extra hot outside.)
Korean food lovers should be sure to get the Breakfast Bibimbap, which consists of bacon, Portuguese sausage, heritage ham, soy-mirin shitake mushrooms, on choy, sesame carrots, bean sprouts and sunnyside up eggs served over crispy garlic rice in a skillet. Either way, all of the skillets are popular.
Even the scones here are also super inventive. A recent Kimchee Bacon Cheddar Scone, for example, was served with sour cream and chives. (Think “elevated biscuit” with a Pacific Rim influence.) I love it!
For the best morning brunch experience, I recommend going here after hiking Koko Crater.
Related: The 8 Best Breakfast Spots on O’ahu.
Senia (For New American Fusion)
Senia was easily one of the most closely watched restaurants in Honolulu when it opened in 2017. At the time, national news outlets and food magazines feverishly covered the grand opening of this New American/Hawaiian fusion hot spot. And their enthusiasm hasn’t abated since.
Senia is a collaboration between British Chef Anthony Rush and local chef Chris Kajioka, who are both veterans of Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City (one of the finest restaurants in the world).
Senia’s excellent rotating menu dazzles with seasonal treats like Kusshi Oysters and Maui Venison Tartare. Their unique handling of local delicacies– seasoning with finesse, elevating when necessary– has earned Senia a consistent moniker as one of the best restaurants on O’ahu. (And Mimi Mendoza, a notable Filipino chef on the island, currently helms the dessert menu and makes the most dazzling, beautiful treats.)
We also like that Senia offers both ala carte-style snacks and family-style dishes. They’re also a great lunch spot because you don’t need a reservation to enjoy their prix fixe menu. However, reservations are required if you’re interested in experiencing the Tasting Menu at the Chef’s Counter, which I definitely recommend for a special occasion.
(Senia is also conveniently located right next to The Pig and The Lady in Chinatown. Reservations are recommended for both restaurants, but if you walk up to either restaurant last minute and you can’t get a table, you can always try the other.)
Eating House 1849 (for Great Ribs)
Eating House 1849 is another one of Chef Yamaguchi’s creations, serving haute Hawaiian “plantation cuisine” inspired by Hawai’i’s past. We love the Kiawe Smoked BBQ Pork Ribs and the Ahi Kale Salad. The signature burger features Makaweli beef, Big Island wild boar, Portuguese sausage, cheese, tomato, and bacon jam.
Conveniently, Eating House 1849 sits atop the International Marketplace in Waikiki. The outdoor seating is luxe and spacious, surrounded by raised beds of local Ti leaves. On an ideal day, you’ll get a nice trade wind breeze. This is a great place to stop for lunch in the busiest part of the city.
Parking is available onsite inside the International Marketplace. There are also great Happy Hour specials. (E.g., 50% of all food between 5 and 6 PM, last we checked.)
The portions here are generous as far as Waikiki goes, but that doesn’t mean they skimp on quality. The flavors here can really kick. No matter what you order, you’ll want to lick the plate.
Azure at The Royal Hawaiian (For Fancy Beachfront Dining)
Any list of the best restaurants in Honolulu wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Azure at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The seafood is excellent and as fresh as it gets, the bar is lively, and the view is incredible.
The Royal Hawaiian is the gem of Waikiki, one of the first major hotels built right on its shores. It’s famously the hotel that captivated everyone from Franklin Roosevelt to Joan Didion. As a result, Azure is THE place to “see and be seen” at one of Waikiki’s most iconic hotels.
In addition to seafood, they also do excellent steak and have a great wine list. Perhaps for these reasons, Azure is not very family-friendly. But the Royal Hawaiian itself is so lovely that parents might not care.
Dining at Azure is also a nice opportunity to wander through the Royal Hawaiian’s iconic property. As the stomping grounds of diplomats and Hollywood celebrities, it’s something you might not otherwise see unless you stay there. The food and service are both excellent, if a bit pricey. (Such is the resort experience in Waikiki!)
Moku Kitchen (for Family-Friendly Pub Fare)
Moku Kitchen highlights Hawai’i’s Farming and Ranching scene, in yet another notable restaurant in the SALT at Our Kaka’aka complex. The team behind Monkeypod Kitchen and Merriman’s (above) have done it again. This time, serving refined but accessible upcountry cuisine by Peter Merriman.
The seasonal fare focuses on highlighting whatever local produce and veg looks good to the chef at the time. This can include everything from roasted squash ravioli to Asian-style stir-fried green beans. The menu features great local salads– but also pizza, tacos, and french fries to please the entire family.
For a perfect diner’s night out, head next door to Butterfly Creamery for some Poi Banana Bread, Black Sesame, or Kona Coffee ice cream after dinner.
Mariposa (For Great Salads and High Tea)
Mariposa has a beautiful lanai overlooking Ala Moana Beach inside the Neiman Marcus at Ala Moana Center. As such, it’s one of the best “hidden” restaurants in Honolulu. It’s super popular with locals looking to get elevated New American eats with a view of the harbor.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How good can a restaurant inside a department store be?!”
The answer: Very good! Get the Chambord sangria and try one of their excellent salads for a perfect light lunch. The desserts– like the above-shown frozen lilikoi soufflé– are also wonderfully inventive. (And perfect for photographing.)
Mariposa also recently introduced Sunday Haute Tea, which quickly became daily Haute Tea due to popular demand.
Most days, it’s easy to walk up and get a seat in between shopping. However, the Haute Tea service here can fill up quickly. Book your table in advance for lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, or afternoon tea here.
Island Vintage Coffee (A Go-To Waikiki Favorite)
Island Vintage Coffee is one of the best restaurants in Honolulu and Waikiki, and should be on any tourist’s itinerary.
Whether you’re looking for breakfast in the cafe, or dinner that their newly-expanded wine bar, the food never disappoints. As a result, it’s popular with repeat travelers and locals. I take everyone who visits me in Hawaii to Island Vintage Coffee at some point.
The food is locally sourced, super fresh, and flavorful. It’s fairly priced with huge portions. Also, they can accommodate those with allergies better than most places in Waikiki. (Unfortunately, Waikiki is a difficult place to eat out if you have something like a gluten allergy.)
Everyone loves Island Vintage’s upscale poke and the hearty, robust salads. They also serve a Wagyu beef burger that is one of the best on O’ahu. And of course, the coffee is always excellent.
There’s indoor and outdoor seating at their Waikiki location, and a convenient second location near Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa, on the North Shore. There’s also an Island Vintage in Ko Olina. The menu here is voluminous, so you’ll never run out of options.
In fact, many people choose to make repeat visits. We suggest you make at least two trips– one for the coffee, and one for the food. Enjoy!
Also Related: These are the 10 Best, Most Unique Restaurants on Maui.