116 Best Restaurants in Oahu, Hawaii

Island Snow

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This hole-in-the-wall has been creating shave ice perfection in its tiny original spot since 1979, but when two young girls named Obama discovered the luscious flavors in 2008, it was really put on the map. A favorite spot for both locals and storied visitors (and these days lots of regular tourists), it makes a mean shave ice, whether you stick with standard flavors like cherry or go for lilikoi (passion fruit) guava with a snowcap on top. The original is right by the beach; there's a second location in the Kailua Shopping Center. Buy one of the popular shirts and hats while you're there.

130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, HI, 96734, USA
808-263–6339
Known For
  • The best shave ice on the windward side
  • The Obama girls, who grew up on this stuff (look for their photos on the wall)
  • Long lines of locals and tourists

Island X Hawaii

$

Recharge for more adventure with coffee, chocolate, shave ice, and boba drinks at family-owned and operated Island X Hawaii, in an old sugar mill garage. Chocolate and coffee come from the neighboring fields, and the owner crafts the all-natural syrups with organically grown mango, papaya, pineapple, and passionfruit.

Izakaya Nonbei

$$$ | Kapahulu

Teruaki Mori designed this pub, one of the most traditional of Honolulu's izakayas, to make you feel that you're in a northern inn during winter in his native Japan. Dishes not to miss include aji tataki (seared, vinegar-marinated jack mackerel topped with ginger); karei karaage (delicate deep-fried flounder); fried gobo (burdock) chips; and crab, avocado, and bacon salad. And don't forget to try the frozen sake: the menu item that brings locals back begging for more.

3108 Olu St., Honolulu, HI, 96816, USA
808-734–5573
Known For
  • Great happy hour and late-night spot
  • Tiny spot with a huge menu
  • Long waits (reservations strongly recommended)
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Kalapawai Cafe & Deli

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This one-stop, green-and-white, Mediterranean-leaning café, wine bar, bakery, and gourmet deli is the creation of the Dymond family, two generations of restaurateurs who have shaken up the windward food scene. Come in on your way to the beach for a cup of coffee and bagel, and stop back for a gourmet pizza or bruschetta for lunch or a candlelight dinner at night. The breakfast and lunch menus are a mix of sandwiches, salads, and other creative offerings; the place transforms at night, with table service, candles, and a frequently changing menu of freshly grilled fish and turf offerings. The original Kalapawai Market, a grab-and-go spot, is right at Kailua Beach.

Kalapawai Market

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Generations of children have purchased their beach snacks and sodas at Kalapawai Market near Kailua Beach. A Windward Oahu landmark since 1932, the green-and-white market has distinctive charm. You'll see slipper-clad locals sitting in front sharing a cup of coffee and talking story at picnic tables or in front of the market. It's a good source for your carryout lunch, since there's no concession stand at the beach. It also has one of the better selections of wine on the island. There's a sister Kalapawai Cafe with a sit-down menu in the center of Kailua.

Kamehameha Bakery

$ | Iwilei

This well-established bakery offers both old-school classics and newer treats, some of which have become cult favorites. You'll salivate as you stare at the cases filled with inexpensive pastries, doughnuts, cookies, and breads. Items are often unlabeled, so point and ask if you want to know what is what, and the counter attendants will cheerfully explain. The poi-glazed doughnuts/malasadas are a phenomenon, but the Chantilly Roll (poi roll filled with black sugar and topped with Chantilly frosting and walnuts) is to die for.

Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks

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Why not stop for shave ice like President Barack Obama did while visiting the island after the 2008 election? This spot in Koko Marina Center serves fluffy shave ice, açai bowls, bubble drinks, ice cream, and more.

7192 Kalanianaole Hwy., Hawaii Kai, HI, 96825, USA
808-396–8809
Known For
  • Shave ice with syrup flavors such as strawberry, coconut, and lilikoi (passionfruit)
  • Bubble drinks
  • Acai bowls

Kua Aina Sandwich Shop

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This North Shore spot has gone from funky burger shack (it first opened in 1975) to institution, with crowds of tourists and locals standing in line to order the large, hand-formed burgers heaped with bacon, cheese, and pineapple. Frankly, there are better burgers to be had around the island, but this place commands a truly loyal following.

66-160 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712, USA
808-637–6067
Known For
  • A pilgrimage stop on the North Shore surf circuit
  • Tourists by the busload
  • Decent burgers and fries
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Reservations not accepted

La Mer

$$$$ | Waikiki

With spectacular Diamond Head views and an elegant, art deco–tinged interior, La Mer is a romantic, second-floor restaurant, where windows open to the breezes and the sounds of the ocean and Halekulani Hotel's nightly hula show. Three-, four-, or seven-course dinners might feature kampachi (amberjack) ceviche with ginger caviar fennel, roasted John Dory with artichokes barigoule (braised in white-wine broth), or tomahawk steak (rib eye) with vegetables. For romance and fine dining without the staggering price tag, visit the restaurant’s L'Aperitif bar, where sophisticated cocktails can be paired with gourmet bites.

2199 Kalia Rd., Honolulu, HI, 98615, USA
808-923–2311
Known For
  • It doesn't get more romantic than this
  • Impressive wine list and a sommelier to match
  • Classy bar with cocktail and small-bite pairings
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No lunch, Reservations essential, Long-sleeved, collared (or aloha) shirts required for men

Legend Seafood Restaurant

$ | Chinatown

At this large Chinatown institution, the dim sum cart ladies stop at your table and show you their Hong Kong–style fare. If you come for breakfast dim sum, arrive before 9 am, especially on weekends, if you want to hear yourself think. There are also à la carte lunch and dinner menus.

Leonard's Bakery

$ | Kapahulu

Whether you spell it malasada or malassada, when you're in Hawaii, you must try these deep-fried, holeless Portuguese doughnuts. Leonard's Bakery is the most famous of all the island establishments making them and was the first island bakery to commercialize their production. Expect to stand in a long line outside the original Kapahulu location to get a signature pink box or bag filled with the piping hot treats. You can also order from one of the red-and-white-stripe Malasadamobiles parked at several shopping centers on Oahu. Leonard's makes breads, cookies, muffins, and other sweets, too, but let's be honest, you're coming here for the malasadas.

Liko’s Tap & Table

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This open-air, upscale taproom puts a local spin on classic American dishes and has an excellent waterfront view from its otherwise nondescript strip-mall location. A long beer, wine, and cocktail menu includes locally sourced drinks. The food portions are large, and TVs around the restaurant make for good game-day viewing or distraction for the kids. Stop here for lunch in between south and windward shore activities.

Livestock Tavern

$$ | Chinatown

Livestock Tavern scores big with its seasonal offerings of comfort foods and craft cocktails and its cowboy-minimalist decor. Although meat, including some of the best burgers in town, commands the menu, offerings like burrata, creative salads, sandwiches, and fish round out the possibilities. Note the seasonal drink specials with creative names. Weekend brunch is also served.

Local Joe

$ | Chinatown

Local Joe is a great spot to stop for coffee and a light bite before or after your explorations in the Aloha Tower, Chinatown, downtown, and historic Honolulu. The coffee shop roasts its own beans and has a latte art "printer" that leaves detailed designs on your drink.

110 Marin St., Honolulu, HI, 96817, USA
808-536–7700
Known For
  • Convenient location
  • Nice presentations
  • Delicious coffee
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.

Lucky Belly

$$ | Chinatown

A hip local crowd sips cocktails and slurps huge bowls of noodles with a modern twist at this popular fusion ramen bar known for its savory broth and its trendy small plates, such as pork belly buns and oxtail dumplings. The service here is unpretentious and attentive if you eat in, but you can also order your food to go, and late-night hours make it a great stop after shows at the Hawaii Theatre or when dinner elsewhere didn't quite do the trick.

50 N. Hotel St., Honolulu, HI, 96817, USA
808-531–1888
Known For
  • Steaming hot pot dishes
  • Small but unique cocktail menu
  • "Belly Bowl" with smoked bacon, sausage, and pork belly
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. No lunch

Makahiki — The Bounty of the Islands

$$$$

The buffet restaurant at Disney's Aulani resort offers a wide variety of locally produced items, as well as familiar dishes from stateside and the rest of the world. You'll find sustainable Hawaiian seafood, Asian selections, familiar grilled meats and vegetables, and a kids' menu; an à la carte menu is also available. Arrive early for dinner and have a drink at the adjacent Olelo Room, where the staff are fluent in Hawaiian; you can get a language lesson along with your libation.

Mariposa

$$$ | Ala Moana

Yes, the popovers and the wee cups of bouillon are available at lunch, but in every other regard, the menu at this Neiman Marcus restaurant departs from the classic model, incorporating a clear sense of Pacific place. The breezy, open-air veranda, with a view of Ala Moana Regional Park, the twirling ceiling fans, and the life-size hula-girl murals say "Hawaii." It's still a spot for ladies who lunch, but it also welcomes a more casual crowd.

Matsumoto's Shave Ice

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For a real slice of Haleiwa life, stop at family-run Matsumoto's Shave Ice for cool treats that are available in every flavor imaginable. For something different, order a shave ice with adzuki beans—the red beans are boiled until soft, mixed with sugar, and then placed in the cone with the ice on top.

Maya's Tapas & Wine

$$$

A cozy, romantic space with a slightly sophisticated (for the North Shore) vibe, Maya’s serves up classic Spanish and Mediterranean dishes with island twists. Here, seafood paella is made with local line-caught fish and shrimp, a burger showcases Kunoa beef, and hand-tossed flatbreads come with roasted local veggies and macadamia nut pesto. Sit indoors at a table or the bar or on the patio overlooking the scene at the North Shore Marketplace.

66-250 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, HI, 96712, USA
808-200–2964
Known For
  • Craft cocktails and sangria
  • Savory paella and other specials
  • Popular happy hour and Sunday brunch
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. No dinner Sun.

Mei Sum Dim Sum

$ | Chinatown

In contrast to the sprawling, noisy halls where dim sum is generally served, Mei Sum is compact, shiny, and bright—it's also favored by locals who work in the area. Be ready to guess and point at the color photos of dim sum favorites or the items on the carts as they come by, or ask fellow diners for suggestions. It's open daily and is one of the few places that serves dim sum from 8 am all the way to 9 pm.

Merriman's Honolulu

$$$ | Kakaako

This is fine dining without the fussiness, where cordial, well-trained servers present your "Bag O' Biscuits" or smoking oysters on the half shelf with equal aplomb and know all the details of each menu item. The large Hawaiian-French bistro has floor-to-ceiling windows and native wood accents throughout, and chef-owner Peter Merriman focuses on farm-to-table food, using Oahu-sourced ingredients as much as possible. In addition to other branches of this restaurant on neighbor islands, Merriman operates the more casual Monkeypod Kitchen and Moku Kitchen on Oahu.

Michel's at the Colony Surf

$$$$ | Waikiki

This romantic restaurant on Waikiki's tranquil Gold Coast features beachside sunset views and traditional French fare. It opened in 1962, and the surroundings reflect this, with lots of wood and stone, bow-tied servers preparing lobster bisque and steak tartare table-side, and a charm that's beloved by old-time locals but sometimes lost on younger diners. Among the French classics (garlicky escargots, mustard-crusted rack of lamb) are local twists, such as yellowfin ahi tartare with tobiko (fish roe) and Hawaiian salt or steamed mahimahi. Brunch is served the first Sunday of every month. For a premium table with a jaw-dropping view, reserve weeks in advance.

2895 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI, 96815, USA
808-923–6552
Known For
  • The sound of the surf and live music most nights
  • Classic French cuisine with some local twists
  • A pricey experience and a retro vibe
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No lunch, Reservations essential

Mitch's Fish Market & Sushi Bar

$$$$ | Mapunapuna

This microscopic sushi bar is an adjunct of a wholesale seafood market. The fish, air-freighted from around the world, is ultra-fresh, well-cut (into huge pieces—to the regret of those who follow the one-bite rule), and prepared for the serious sushi lover. You can spend as much or as little as you like—from $5 veggie sushi to the $120 omakase menu. Off the beaten path even for residents, the place has a sort of cult following. Rest assured, it's unlikely you'll run into anyone from your hotel here, and locals will be mightily impressed you ventured so far. (Barack Obama has been know to drop by when he's in town.) The final seating is at 7:30, so plan (and make reservations) accordingly.

524 Ohohia St., Honolulu, HI, 96819, USA
808-837–7774
Known For
  • Hole-in-the-wall atmosphere
  • BYOB
  • Otoro (fattiest part of tuna)
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Reservations essential

Mitsu-Ken

$ | Kapalama

The garlic chicken may haunt your dreams, so it's worth the trek to a downscale neighborhood to find this unprepossessing joint. Line up, order the plate lunch with rice and salad, and sink your teeth into the profoundly garlicky masterpiece drizzled with a sweet glaze. Obsessed locals line up at dawn to get takeout for lunch.  To avoid the wait, call the day before to place your order, then head to the cashier at the "phone order pick-up line."

Moku Kitchen

$$ | Kakaako

In the hip SALT complex, Moku appeals to both foodies and families with authentic farm-to-table cuisine and a laid-back, urban setting. It's one of legendary chef Peter Merriman's restaurants and focuses on upcountry farm fare cooked in the on-site rotisserie; pizzas, salads, and sandwiches; and craft cocktails. Happy hour and evening music can sometimes get really loud, so if you want to chat, ask to be seated away from the entertainment.

660 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI, 96813, USA
808-591–6658
Known For
  • Happy hour
  • Impressive list of craft cocktails, wine, and beer, including the signature monkeypod mai tai
  • Live music

Monkeypod by Merriman Ko Olina

$$$

Local farm-to-table guru Peter Merriman is known throughout Hawaii for his inventive and popular restaurants, and this one captures his creativity and locally inspired food mantra perfectly. Local slack-key guitar music and the gentle buzz of diners kicking back make this a nice stop for a leisurely lunch—that could easily slide into happy hour.

Morimoto Asia Waikiki

$$$$ | Waikiki

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto serves classics and new fusion favorites at his second-floor restaurant—a sleek space with a lanai, a gorgeous bar, and a dining room designed for entertaining clients or celebrating with friends. Enjoy some Morimoto specialties, including ishiyaki buri bop (yellowtail seared tableside with pickled daikon, royal fern, and egg yolk) or spicy black pepper steak, as well as dim sum, sushi, and creative specialty rolls. Downstairs at street level is the smaller, more casual Momosan Ramen, which also serves lunch and has a patio and a beer garden.

2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI, 96815, USA
808-922–0022
Known For
  • Attentive service and great food
  • Casual elegance in a lovely spot
  • Asian-fusion menu with enough classics to draw loyalists

Mud Hen Water

$$ | Kaimuki

The name of this restaurant is the English translation of waialae (meaning a gathering spot around a watering hole). Renowned chef Ed Kenney explores modern interpretations of the Hawaiian foods he remembers from his childhood with an ever-changing locavore menu. Sit at the bar, on the lanai, or in the casual, homey dining room. Spread out and talk story with your neighbor. That's what inspired Kenney to open the place, after all.

Mugen

$$$$ | Waikiki

Food lovers in the know—including the Obamas, who ate here on a recent visit—recognize that chef Jason Yamaguchi's (Roy’s nephew) tiny, French-Japanese restaurant offers a truly memorable Waikiki dining experience. Although the perfectly plated dishes on the 11-course tasting menu change seasonally, standouts have included the duck with farro risotto and huckleberry and the veal with persimmon; desserts are incredibly delectable as well. Book well in advance, and note any dietary restrictions when doing so.

Murphy's Bar & Grill

$ | Downtown

Located on the edge between the financial district and Chinatown, Honolulu's go-to Irish bar serves Guinness on tap and an Irish-American menu of pubby favorites such as spicy chicken wings, jalapeño poppers, fish 'n' chips, corned beef and cabbage, and grilled New York steak—without that Waikiki price tag. But probably the most popular menu item is the Blarney Burger, gooey with Guinness-infused cheddar cheese. The list of daily specials is worth hearing, and while the comfort food is its trademark, the specialty salads are noteworthy and inventive. And pie day, every Friday, brings in rabid fans looking for their favorite slice. The restaurant has been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. The dining room's booths attract business big wigs, journalists, and staff from the nearby Kumu Kahua Theatre. Meanwhile, the young and restless play darts and shuffleboard in the bar. It takes over the block for Saint Patrick's Day, and it's the go-to spot for after work pau hana (after work) gatherings and a quick bite before a show at the Kumu Kahua Theatre.

2 Merchant St., Honolulu, HI, 96813, USA
808-531–0422
Known For
  • Stick-to-your-ribs Irish fare
  • Creative salads that add diversity (and heart relief) to an otherwise heavy menu
  • Fun setting that has you smiling on the way out the door
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Credit cards accepted