When my friends and family visit me from the mainland, they want "the Hawaii experience" and a trip to my local Kailua neighborhood California Pizza Kitchen just doesn't cut it. Here's where I like
to take them in Waikiki:
Duke's has everything: A beachfront location, inside and outside dining, live music, and great food. Going there just feels like an experience you will always remember. It's my number one
recommendation for "the place to go in Waikiki".
An excerpt from their website: "It's what you came for - authentic Waikiki. You are invited to experience old Waikiki at Duke's, the world-famous restaurant named for our favorite son, Duke Kahanamoku. Right between two of our most spectacular grand hotels on Waikiki beach, the Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawaiian, Duke's has been a driving force in reinvigorating Waikiki with Hawaiian culture and lore. Our staff invites you into our ohana (Hawaiian for family) as we offer delicious original Hawaiian-influenced cuisine, a generous helping of Aloha spirit, and one of the most famous views found anywhere. With the sun-setting, dinner at Duke's is less like a meal and more like a dream. With the surf crashing before you, and the palms rustling together, the Lilikoi sisters stroll from table to table singing and playing the gentle rhythms of old Hawaiian songs."
Good food and great ocean views from the rooftop lanai makes Tiki's a sure bet. Check out their webcam.
An excerpt from their website: "Tiki's has the charm and aura of the old tiki bars from the 1950s and '60s. The interior features palm wood flooring, fish nets hanging from the ceiling, with rock, plus 50 hand-carved masks, statues and war clubs from different regions around the Pacific and original framed art flanking the dining room walls. Tiki's offers lanai seating with beautiful sunsets on Kuhio Beach. The menu celebrates the flavors and ingredients of the islands. Tempting signature appetizers include Coconut Shrimp, Calamari Katsu and Kalua Pig Quesadillas."
This is a good place to go if you have kids and have not been to any of the other Jimmy Buffett restaurants. It's loud, flashy, and memorable. There are floor-to-ceiling screens with crashing waves,
and beautiful sunsets; a lava-themed bar; and ocean wave booths. Be sure to check out their free surfer museum.
An excerpt from their website: "Local residents and travelers alike are welcome to carve out their own island adventure in our family friendly restaurant. Sip margaritas, Mai Tai’s or signature Boat Drinks on the open-air Lanai, in the "Hot Spot Bar,” a dramatic homage to the molten lava formation of the Hawaiian Islands; or kick back in one of the Ocean Wave booths inspired by the towering waves found on Oahu's North Shore. Each spot is a great place for you and your party to relax and dine from a tasty menu of regional cuisine, fresh seafood, steaks, burgers and chef’s specialties."
One of the sources I like to use when deciding where to go for dinner is
the Honolulu Star Advertiser's annual Ilima Awards guide.
Here are the 2012-2013 Waikiki Top Restaurants:
"Azure's assertive entrees are complemented by a variety of small plates and a seafood salad so fresh each bite is a new thrill".
Chef de Cuisine Jon Matsubara has crafted a menu where fish and the freshest fruits de mer are the restaurant's forte. Daily at 5:30 am, the ringing of a brass bell announces the opening of the Honolulu fish auction. And it is here that our chefs begin their quest for the freshest morning catch. Obsessed with quality and driven by excellence, they handpick the best of the best. Offering you, our discerning patrons, the tastiest seafood on the island and an experience beyond compare. Azure website
"It's hard not to start gushing superlatives as you're led to a table in what could be the most picturesque fine-dining rooms in Honolulu."
The inspiration is French, the fresh ingredients are Hawaiian, and the taste is simply divine... Perhaps nowhere is the Halekulani spirit captured more than at La Mer. It is Halekulani's finest and Hawaii's only Five Diamond Restaurant. The internationally-acclaimed menu features Neoclassic French cuisine expertly crafted and served amid majestic ocean views. Indigenous ingredients are uniquely blended in dishes inspired by flavors from the south of France. La Mer website
"Sushi and sashimi are of the highest quality, while other menu items reveal the chef's affection for surprising combinations and precise technique."
Morimoto Waikiki features high-quality, fresh ingredients, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, and a seasonal and ever-changing selection of seafood sourced from local waters and markets around the world. The menu blends signature Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto dishes with his interpretations of traditional Hawaiian delicacies, such as Poke, a raw yellowfin tuna salad, and Moi, the most historically desired fish of Hawaiian royalty. Morimoto Waikiki website
"Nobu makes fine dining for special occasions a memorable experience".
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – known to the world simply as “Nobu” – is the acclaimed and highly influential chef proprietor of Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants all over the globe. World renowned for its award winning innovative "New Style" Japanese cuisine, Nobu continues to offer savvy diners across the globe a culinary adventure. Nobu Waikiki is yet another canvas for Chef Nobu Matsuhisa to display his legendary dishes, such as Black Cod with Miso and Yellowtail Jalapeno. Nobu website
Roy's Waikiki - Nowhere else will you find a culinary experience quite like the flavors, textures and colors created in Roy's kitchens. Combining the freshest local ingredients with European sauces and bold Asian spices, each creation leaves you with the feeling that you've just found paradise. Roy's features the finest seafood, with a focus on delicacies from the oceans surrounding Hawaii. You will find such offerings as Ono, Opakapaka and Onaga in addition to an array of hand-cut meats, sushi and fresh shell fish.
Orchids - Orchids is Halekulani's casually elegant oceanfront restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner amidst a abundance of brightly-colored tropical orchids. Innovative creations are presented throughout the day in a relaxed, idyllic setting. Specialties include ahi-seared sashimi with Cajun spices, island-raised moi with hearts of palm, and oriental style steamed onaga.
House Without a Key - Sunset cocktails & Hawaiian music - the essence of Oahu. Immortalized in a 1925 Charlie Chan novel, House Without A Key is Halekulani's popular indoor/outdoor gathering spot for informal breakfast, lunch, cocktails, appetizers and entertainment. One of the favored traditions of the original Halekulani - cocktails and Hawaiian music under the century-old Kiawe tree - has been faithfully preserved here.
d.k Steak House - What could be better then cutting into a juicy dry aged steak and taking in the view of one of the world's most famous beaches?" thought D.K. Kodama when he created d.k Steak overlooking Waikiki beach. With rich, succulent steaks that are full of flavor, and classic side dishes like their enormous baked potato, creamed spinach, and jumbo shrimp cocktail, d.k Steak is an American classic in Waikiki.
The Cheesecake Factory - The Cheesecake Factory is a unique, upscale casual dining restaurant offering more than 200 menu selections including Appetizers, Pizza, Pasta, Seafood, Steaks, Salads, Sandwiches, and more. The menu also features specialty dishes like Chicken Madeira, Miso Salmon, Cajun Jambalaya Pasta, and The Factory Burger. Save room for dessert! Try one of the 50 delicious cheesecakes and desserts with a cappuccino or espresso.
Hula Grill Waikiki - This charming plantation style restaurant is located at the water's edge and in the spectacular Outrigger Waikiki Hotel on Waikiki Beach. We are hau'oli (Hawaiian for happy) to offer you a perfect vantage point to watch the morning light play on Diamond Head or take in a fiery sunset. Whether you would like to start your day with pineapple pancakes for breakfast or begin your evening with a dinner of delicious Hawaii regional seafood and prime steaks, including fresh fish and locally grown produce.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar - Contemporary sushi and new wave Asian inspired dishes served in a lively setting is what makes Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar a critic's favorite. Sansei's sushi chefs are known for their highly imaginative creations, like their signature Panko Crusted Ahi Roll, and the famous Kapalua Butterfly Roll, a colorful delight of salmon, crab, shiromi, and fresh vegetables. Sansei's Asian Shrimp Cake with Ginger Lime Butter, is a delicate shrimp cake encased in crispy Chinese noodles
Hy's Steak House - Hy's charming Main Room and Broiler Room resemble an old English mansion and possess all the ambience of a private gentlemen's club. The centerpiece of the Broiler Room is a custom-made, brass and copper caldron which serves as an open hearth for the house specialties broiled over native Hawaiian kiawe wood. Tuxedoed waiters still expertly prepare Caesar Salad, carve Chateaubriand for two and flambè delicious desserts (like Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee ) tableside.
Michel's Michel's oceanfront restaurant, once named "the most romantic restaurant" by Robin Leach's Rich & Famous, opened in 1962, Michel's remains one of Hawaii's longest-standing and finest restaurants, offering delectable dishes celebrating the rebirth of classical French cuisine. Delectable culinary masterpieces incorporating fresh island ingredients and an extensive wine list provide for the most unforgettable dining experience.
Lewers Lounge - The redesigned Lewers Lounge is the rebirth of a great lounge with fabulous cocktails, tempting appetizers and desserts, and live entertainment. The perfect spot for early evening cocktails or after-dinner drinks.
The Beach Bar - Located just steps away from the beautiful sands of Waikiki Beach, the oceanfront Beach Bar is an ideal setting for enjoying the Waikiki scenery while sipping on your favorite tropical beverage, or nibbling on delicious grilled pupus.
One of the best things about going on vacation is experiencing the local cuisine. Hawaii has a lot to offer in that category. For a glossary of food terms you are likely to encounter while on your vacation in Hawaii, click here.
When you return home from your trip to Hawaii, one question that you almost certainly will be asked is "Did you go to a luau?" Trust me on this one. Everyone thinks everyone who goes to Hawaii goes to a luau. Here is some information about luaus located on the island of Oahu.
I've gone on the Star of Honolulu lunch cruise several times and I've sent some of my visitors on it also. From May to mid-December the lunch cruise offers a decent buffet, lei making, ukulele and hula lessons, a Hawaiian cultural video, and a hula show. From mid-Dec through April, it becomes a whale watching cruise with a guaranteed whale sighting or you cruise again for free. One of the reasons I like this particular cruise is that it is only two hours long (I'm not much of a boat-person) and you get a really nice view of Waikiki and Diamond Head. It's a great way to get into the "Aloha-spirit"! You catch the boat at Aloha Tower Marketplace. They also offer some fancy dinner cruises too. Check the website for times and prices.