One of my favorite things about Oahu is the wide variety of great places to get a meal. You’ll get a lot of quality options for East Asian cuisine, fried chicken, sweet treats, and seafood. Fans of traditional American (hamburgers, pizza) and European foods are going to have a harder time finding something amazing but there are still solid options. I really wish there was an Argentine steakhouse or Georgian restaurant here, but life isn’t fair. Here are my favorite places across some different food categories.
[updated Nov 19, 2023]
- Noodles and Soups
- South of the Border
- American Southern
- Fried Chicken
- Fried Chicken Sandwich
- Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
- No Labels
- Quick Bite
- Breakfast and Brunch
- Shave Ice
- Ice Cream
- The Hibachi (Kailua)
Not a surprise to most poke lovers that someone would say this is the best poke on Oahu. The Hibachi has a reputation for fantastic poke with good fish and fresh & straightforward flavors. Their spicy flavors will have a bit heat and the other more gentle flavors will be noticeable but won’t hide the fish.
- Off the Hook Poke Market (Honolulu – Manoa)
Another popular poke spot, their flavors are bold without being overpowering. The sauces here will be creamier than some other poke places, but again, won’t overpower the flavor of the fish itself.
- Redfish (Honolulu – Kaka’ako)
This choice may leave some people shaking their heads, but Redfish brings a nice counterbalance to the other choices on this list. The strength of Hawaiian poke is the simplicity of just having high quality fish in a sauce with rice. Poke on the mainland tends to add more ingredients to a poke bowl and creates a less pure and somewhat unbalanced meal. Redfish avoids that trap and allows you to add many more ingredients and flavors to your poke bowl, while keeping the emphasis on flavors and textures that go well together. This may not be the best example of Hawaiian poke but this is a great example of what mainland-style poke should aspire to.
Aloha Poke in Waianae (ask them for a lemongrass poke bowl, sometimes they’ll make it and sometimes they won’t), Morning Catch in Chinatown, Foodland or Tamura’s supermarkets. Monarch Poke in Aiea has nice poke that is heavily sauced up and their bulgogi bao buns, katsu sandwiches, and pipikaula are very good too.
- Waiahole Poi Factory (Kane’ohe)
Hawaiian food is not a cuisine that I especially like, but this place has very accessible flavors. Nothing is too strong or pungent and I would recommend going here as an initial exposure to the cuisine. The meats are cooked very well and have great texture and flavor. Be warned that the lines here can get very long. If you have a sweet tooth, the Sweet Lady of Waiahole is a must.
- Young’s Fish Market (multiple)
The strength of Young’s is their variety, you can sample a lot of different items all in one meal.
- Highway Inn (multiple)
A nice diner that has a lot of traditional Hawaiian options and also typical American casual options. Not the best for any specific dish, but a solid option when you want to get a mix of different things for a meal.
- Ma’ona Musubi (Honolulu – Downtown)
These guys have nailed good musubi construction. Great texture on the rice, great ratio of rice to filling, and flavorful fillings. Come early because they sell out of the best stuff by lunchtime.
- Komedokoro M’s (Honolulu – Waikiki)
Their strength is in the variety and flavor of their fillings along with using great rice. Again, come early as they sell out throughout the day.
- Got’z Grindz (Kane’ohe)
Do you know how to have a good day? Go here and get a musubi sampler box with their signature flavors like Daddy G’s and Yumi G’s. Their musubi really emphasizes the flavor of the fillings and their flavors are very good and unique. They also have a higher filling-to-rice ratio than other places, which is a nice bonus.
- Sushi Sasabune (Honolulu – McCully – Moiliili)
This is a nice omakase restaurant. What I appreciate about this place is that the chef doesn’t keep it staid and boring, there is a really pleasant and noticeable creativity and energy in the flavors. Some of the glazes and presentations are quite modern and, of course, the quality of the fish is first-rate. This was maybe the first restaurant where I really liked the mackerel, not a type of fish I normally enjoy. Not a cheap place for a meal by any stretch, but I can’t think of a better place to go to celebrate something significant.
- Wasabi Bistro (Honolulu – Waikiki)
Wasabi Bistro does a fantastic job not just with sushi but across all of the options on their menu. Solid sushi, great butterfish, and some really creative options like the papaya motoyaki. Whatever you get here will be very tasty and their prices are a good value for the quality.
- Mitch’s Fish Market and Sushi Bar (Honolulu – by the airport)
Wow, what an amazing sushi restaurant in the middle of a rough industrial area by the airport. While the menu is a bit more traditional compared with Wasabi Bistro, everything on the menu is going to be super solid (like Wasabi Bistro). Very nice sushi, oysters, and ahi belly. They also have options for omakase-style dinners.
- Rokkaku Hamakatsu (Honolulu – Ala Moana Mall)
They excel in two areas. They have great butterfish and very nice pork katsu. For the pork they offer a more traditional cut as well as an extra fatty cut. Both are great but the extra fatty cut is a real treat (for your taste buds, not your heart health). Their breading layer is executed really well, a nice thin layer that offers a very satisfying crunch without detracting from the flavor and texture of the pork.
- Junpuu (Honolulu – by the Honolulu Museum of Art)
Ramen is not one of my favorite types of foods but this place is great, highly recommend it for ramen fans. Junpuu offers somewhat of a modern take on ramen and their flavors really pop. I really appreciate that they also have gluten free options and that their gluten free options actually taste good. Major props to these guys.
- Restaurant Suntory (Honolulu – Waikiki)
This is probably not the best restaurant for any one particular type of Japanese food but they have a nice selection across teppanyaki, sushi, and washoku cuisines. Being a Suntory restaurant, the star here will be the variety of Japanese whiskey and other liquors served in cocktails, highballs, or straight-up. If you are making reservations and undecided about which of their menus you want, the washoku menu is the winner.
- Kyung’s Seafood (Honolulu)
This is a restaurant where there isn’t one specific dish that stands out, but everything that you have will be solid.
- O’Kim’s (Honolulu – Chinatown)
These guys offer a modern take on some Korean dishes. If you like Korean flavors, you should definitely eat here. Everything is tasty and the Korean Old Lady Iced Coffee (yes, that is the real name) is a great iced coffee.
- Hangang (Honolulu – Ward)
There are plenty of options to choose from when looking for Korean BBQ restaurants. There are solid options like Sura and Millions, but Hangang stands out. They have a very clean, modern aesthetic and very attentive service. The meat is of course solid and they have some very tasty options like a cold noodle soup that is definitely worth trying.
Willow Tree in Kailua is worth checking out for their spicy chicken katsu in particular. Just do it, don’t ask questions, and thank me after.
- Fook Lam (Honolulu – Chinatown)
Very simply the best dim sum. This place above all others really understands how to get pleasant textures out of their baked goods, very nicely flavored fillings, and they don’t skimp on the fillings in things like their buns. Their dumplings are also stand-outs. You won’t find a better dim sum restaurant on the island.
- Legend Seafood (Honolulu – Chinatown)
A few doors down from Fook Lam, this restaurant also has a very strong reputation for dim sum. While I haven’t eaten here for dim sum, I can say that their dinner fare is really nice. Unlike many other restaurants, their dishes carry very gentle, simple, honest flavors without being bland or boring. You can really taste the ingredients without being overpowered by any single flavor. As you might expect from the name, their seafood soups and other dishes are strong. I was less impressed with their beef dishes. I wish more Chinese cuisine could be this balanced.
- Season’s Ice and Eatery (Honolulu – Chinatown)
Great place for Taiwanese classics like beef noodle soups and popcorn chicken.
Noodles and Soups
- Adela’s Country Eatery (Kane’ohe)
It should be illegal to make food that tastes this good. You’ll find a wide variety of noodles here. They have half a dozen options for what kinds of noodles to use (breadfruit flour, ube flour, etc.) and a dozen options for what kinds of flavors you want in your noodle dish. Seafood, tomato sauce, coconut cream, curry sauces that you can mix and match with toppings like seafood, veggies, chicken, braised beef. This is a must-eat place on Oahu. Expect to wait for quite a while between ordering and getting your food but every minute of waiting is worth it.
- SingMaTei (Honolulu – Ala Moana Mall)
This is a very personal preference because I love love love Malay/Singaporean laksa. If you’ve never tried laksa before, this is a solid introduction. Very nice flavor profile and a generous portion. I also appreciate that they can serve it to you with only rice noodles and omit the flour noodles if you ask for it to be gluten free. They also have solid rice plates with lemongrass chicken/pork or curries.
- Pho Que Huong (Honolulu – Chinatown)
I don’t really enjoy Vietnamese food in general but I love Bon Bo Hue soup. This place has the best Bon Bo Hue on the island. If you are craving that in particular, go here without hesitation.
- Shiro’s Saimin Haven (Ewa Beach)
I had to find a spot here (borrowed from the South of the Border section) to call out a very unique and classic local place to get a classic local dish. Saimin is a hardy noodle soup, get the Dodonpa to get a mix of everything. This is a super satisfying meal.
Kopi Café in Kailua serves laksa on Saturday mornings. Go there, try it, period.
South of the Border
- Coquito’s Latin Cuisine Restaurant (Waianae)
A nice little place with very flavorful dishes. They have a nice mix of South American and Caribbean dishes, all are really high quality. Portions are on the smaller side and a bit pricey.
- La Casita (Waipahu)
I’m a big fan of pupusas and this is the (only?) place to get them!
RIP (Rest in Pasteles) – Mama’s Place in Waianae. I was sad to see this place close down, they had the best pasteles stew. If you know of another place with a great pasteles stew, let me know!
- Sunset Texas BBQ (Honolulu – Kaka’ako)
Maybe I am delusional, but this place does BBQ meats better than many of the places that I tried in Texas. These guys have hit the right balance of creating tender, moist meat and seasoning it well. Many other BBQ places fail in doing both at the same time. Not a cheap place to get a meal, but the quality and effort really shine through in the food. The brisket and links are the standouts for me.
- Soul Fusion (food truck)
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried their gumbo brisket loco moco. I’ll leave it at that.
- Hughley’s Southern Cuisine (Aiea)
As Southern as it gets. Solid fried catfish and chicken and all of the staples like green beans, collard greens, grits, hush puppies, and a bunch of other stuff.
I failed, I couldn’t choose just 3 places for fried chicken. I’m sorry. There’s a lot of really good fried chicken on Oahu. I’ve borrowed spots from other sections, so it all balances out…
- Broke Da Mouth Grindz (Kapolei)
Congrats, you’ve found the best place to eat on Oahu. They have the best fried chicken, period. Fantastic beef spare ribs and pork adobo dishes too. And the best friend chicken. There is a wide selection of housemade lemonades and slices of ice cream cake for dessert. Fantastic all around and the best fried chicken. Great options for sides, their kimchee is really nice and the sweet potato salad is a unique touch. And the best fried chicken.
- Queen St. Café and Grill (Aiea)
Come for the firecracker chicken. Stay for other reasons like the salmon and the tasty mashed potatoes as a side. The food takes a while to come out so it is worth it to order ahead.
- Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering (Waipahu)
This is an iconic Oahu restaurant. While they are best known for solid seafood, their nanban chicken is super good as well. Get a mix of the nanban chicken and some poke and you will have a good day.
- Forty Niner Restaurant (Aiea)
The garlic chicken is really nice here. If you want more of a breakfast meal, get the garlic chicken and waffles. Lots of other great options like pancakes, burgers, and loco mocos.
- Sugoi (Honolulu – Kalihi)
I love this place because their chicken is very tender and juicy and very versatile. You can get it Korean fried style, garlic fried chicken, katsu chicken, and more options too.
- Chicken and Brisket (Honolulu – Kalihi)
The brisket does not stand out, but the chicken is fantastic. A great, laid-back place to have a very satisfying fried chicken meal with well executed sides.
Fried Chicken Sandwich
- Eighty Chicken (Kahuku)
This is simply the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. Completely lives up to the hype. Completely worth getting there 20 minutes before the opening time to get in line. This is a one-man-show run out of a small trailer at the Kahuku food trucks. The self-described “stay at home dad with a passion for fried chicken” only runs his stall on Saturdays and Sundays. He makes 80 and only 80 sandwiches every day, he closes up shop when he sells out. Get there before opening time to guarantee yourself a sandwich, you’ll be lining up by the table on the other side of the walking path and not in front of the stall itself. The sandwich itself is very very juicy, very well spiced and flavorful, and very messy. Bringing your own wet wipes or wetted paper towels to deal with the aftermath is advised. His fries are standouts too.
- Hank’s Haute Dogs (Honolulu – Kaka’ako)
While I wouldn’t recommend eating here in general, they have a very tasty Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich. If that’s what you want, get one from here.
- BB.Q Chicken (Honolulu – Kahala)
There are many option for Korean fried chicken and some of them are really disappointing. This place delivers the goods and the chicken is not dried out and flavorless like some other places in Honolulu.
Chicken (not fried)
- Mean da Chicken (Nanakuli)
Two guys who set up their Huli-style chicken in the parking lot of Nanakuli Super for lunch on Fridays. They are usually good-to-go around noon and stay until they sell out (around 3ish PM). Their chicken is extremely most and juicy, they give you a very generous portion, and the price is very reasonable. Get a lunch plate to get a bit of salad and rice to soak up the sauce and juices from the chicken. If you are on the west side on a Friday, you should get lunch here.
- Chammoro Grindz (Waikele Outlets)
This is a non-descript food truck permanently parked on the western end of the Waikele Outlets in Waipahu. They serve cuisine from the island of Guam and their chicken definitely has a unique flavor. It is a little bit vinegary and matches perfectly with the red rice they serve along with it.
- Kiani’s Original Guava Chicken (Wahiawa)
Don’t be afraid, the chicken is not actually guava flavored. This is delicious Huli-style chicken served with some nice sides like a standout mac salad. If they sell out early for a day, they close up shop.
- Mina’s Fish House (Ko Olina)
A fancy restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel at Ko Olina by celebrity chef Michael Mina. It’s really simple; you will get a perfectly cooked, beautiful piece of fish in a beachside setting. Excellent sides like mushrooms and broccoli too. One of the best chocolate desserts that I’ve ever had.
- Nico’s Pier 38 (Honolulu)
Nothing too fancy, but there are some solid dishes here. They have a fantastic swordfish and some nice sides. It can get lively and busy with live music for dinners.
- Mike’s Fresh Fish (Waianae)
Mike is one of the nicest dudes that there is and I’m super happy to support an awesome guy who also happens to make killer food. This is a food truck that can be found around different beaches in the Waianae area. To find where on a given day, find Mike’s Instagram. His hours are whenever to whenever. What you’ll find here is a really nicely done pan grilled ahi and the best fish tacos on the island. If you stop by and he has his kim chee poke that day, you absolutely must get it and consider yourself lucky.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
- Shaloha (Honolulu – Waialae)
The Yelp rating is about a star too low. This is some really good Israeli food. Their pita has a great fluffiness and chewiness to it. The meats are prepared very well. The sides like the white and red cabbages and the hummus are really well done also. For the price, the portions are really generous as well and a plate can easily be 2 or more meals.
- Casablanca (Kailua)
Again, the Yelp rating is a star too low. This Moroccan restaurant is a very different dining experience compared with anything else on Oahu. The interior is inspired by the aesthetic and functionality of a tent and you can choose to sit around a table on regular bench seating or on cushions on the floor. The prix fixe menu will come with several courses and every single item of every single course is very well done. From the soup to the baked goods to the main course, every part of the meal is exceptional and unique for Oahu.
- Doner Shack (Honolulu – Chinatown)
Solid place for a quick lunch. Whether you get a wrap, plate, salad, or sandwich, you’ll be happy here.
No Labels, Good Food
These places don’t fit into any of the categories I created but they all deserve recognition.
- Hau Tree (Honolulu – Waikiki)
I don’t think I’ve eaten somewhere on Oahu that nails every aspect of the dining experience like Hau Tree. It’s a nice restaurant in a nice hotel, but not too nice. Really nice service, but also a bit of a casual atmosphere. The interior design and the dining space is modern while being warm and inviting. The food is delicious and their drinks are great. Just an all-around solid place across the board. The steak, lamb, and their appetizer spread dishes are very nice.
- Scratch Kitchen (Honolulu – Kaka’ako)
Another choice where everything on the menu is very satisfying. Great pasta dishes, nice roasted potato sides, nice ribs glazed with a sweet lilikoi sauce, a fantastic burger, and even escargot are all solid options.
- Olay’s Thai (Honolulu – Chinatown)
Oahu has a good selection of Thai restaurants, but not a lot of really good Thai restaurants. This place stands out. Everything that you would expect to be solid like noodle dishes, skewers, fish patties, etc. is really good and they have some surprises on their menu like an amazing sausage.
Sometimes you aren’t looking to sit down for a meal but need to grab something pretty quickly. You can still get some really good food on the go.
- Aiea Manapua and Snacks (Aiea)
Manapua is another term for dim sum buns and this place is a solid option to get a box of dim sum to go. They do a nice job of keeping their steamed items moist and fluffy, not dried out and tough. Tasty fillings too.
- ‘Olena by Chef Ron Simon (Honolulu – Kalihi)
Super tasty food from a take-out (you can sit down to eat at the food court) place at the Cannery. They are best known for their beef stew and beef brisket, but everything from the banh mi to the fish and chips is really good. For dessert, their banana breads are great and their coffee with condensed milk is very smooth. The salted caramel cupcakes are also something else, maybe the best cupcakes I’ve had. These need to be ordered ahead of time and a minimum order of a dozen is required, but if you need cupcakes for some event, get these cupcakes.
- Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory (multiple locations)
This is a local chain for noodles, manapua, and greasy Chinese food that is one or two levels above Panda Express. Their noodles (especially their udon) are tasty, the main dishes are pretty good (the lemon chicken is a good one, the guava bbq pork is pretty darn good), and they have manapua that’s better than most. They do a good job making their manapua soft, most, and flavorful. Avoid the pork hash here, pure disappointment.
Breakfast & Brunch
- The Surfing Pig (Honolulu – Kaimuki)
If you want a bacon themed brunch, you’ve found your place. Drinks? Yes, with bacon. Food? Yes, with bacon. Bacon? Yes, but only with bacon. Tasty food and tasty cocktails, including a very solid Bloody Mary.
- Koko Head Café (Honolulu – Kaimuki)
This place is very popular, and for a good reason. Making a reservation, especially on a weekend, is recommended. Very flavorful and creative food and some creative mixed non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks too.
- Nami Kaze (Honolulu – Kalihi)
Every single thing you’ll get here will be fantastic. Whether you get something savory or sweet or leaning towards Japanese or more classical Western breakfast, you will have a fantastic meal here. Probably a good idea to make reservations in advance.
Breakfast and Brunch Bonus:
Koa Pancake House is a local chain and has a wide variety of solid options. But… your mind will transcend to a higher level of existence if you try their vinha d’alhos loco moco. If you are near Waikiki, Goofy Cafe is solid and has tasty acai bowls, benedicts, and bibimbap.
Unfortunately, the sandwich culture is very weak on Oahu. Someone please come and open a Mr. Pickle’s or Ike’s here.
- Aloha Subs (Honolulu – Downtown)
If you want a sub-type sandwich, this is your best bet. Good mix of meats and veggies, really tasty dressing, and not too “bready”.
- Bocconcino (Honolulu – Ward)
I believe that this place is also known as Heaven. This is an Italian deli that offers meats, cheeses, and some upscale food goods like olive oils and pastas. They also have ridiculously amazing sandwiches using their deli meats and other ingredients like veggies and sausages. The sandwiches are packed with flavor and high quality ingredients. They are also very substantial. Even those of us with outsize appetites will be very full after one sandwich. Those with smaller appetites are getting two meals out of a sandwich. You can pair your sandwich with an Italian soda, coffee, or a housemade tiramisu if you like.
- Ohana Sub (Aiea)
Solid sub-style sandwiches with options like bologna, pepperoni, salami, ham, and turkey. Very tasty dressing. A large sandwich will feed 2-3 people, get a regular size for one person. The Paradise sandwich is the one to get.
I’m still waiting for In’n’Out to come to Oahu, but until then, these are your best bets.
- Seven Brothers (multiple)
You get a Paniolo Burger and you’ll have a very good day.
- Teddy’s Bigger Burger (multiple)
Teddy’s is a local franchise that does live up to its name and offers pretty darn big burgers. The burgers are solid and offer a lot of room for trying different styles. They have a dozen different ways that you can order a burger and you can upsize it up to three patties.
- Get fried chicken instead.
- Bocconcino (Honolulu – Ward)
Heaven shows up in two sections??? Yes, their pizzas are fantastic in addition to having great sandwiches. Again, very high quality ingredients, good flavors, the pizza itself isn’t greasy, and the pizzas don’t have structural issues of being too thin like other Italian style pizzerias. If you want a pizza, you should get it from here.
- Pizza Mamo (Honolulu – Chinatown)
This is a place where nothing stands out as being exceptional, but everything is very good. They offer solid, traditional American-style pizzas with good flavors, good texture for the toppings and crust, and good structure to the crust. If you want to dive into the deep end, they also offer Detroit-style pizzas, which are not very common.
- Get fried chicken instead.
RIP (Rest in Pizza) – Stewbum and Stonewall in Chinatown. This was a great place that had a lot of creative options (reuben pizza with sauerkraut, pastrami, and dressing? Fantastic) and also offered a gluten-free cauliflower crust. If you know of another great GF pizza, let me know!
- Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (Honolulu – Aina Haina)
This is by far the best traditional shave ice on Oahu. It is not even close. This is like Michael Jordan slam dunking on a middle school basketball team. There really isn’t any reason to talk about other traditional shave ice places if Uncle Clay’s is an option. Superior flavors, combinations, toppings, and a good ice cream base. Please go here and don’t waste half your life waiting in a line at North Shore for terribly overrated shave ice.
- Jejubing Dessert Café (Honolulu – Ala Moana Mall)
Different from the traditional Hawaiian/American style of shave ice, this is a Korean shave ice (bingsu) place. The ice will be ground more finely and the flavors won’t be aggressively sweet. I appreciate the amount of fruit that you get as well as the large portions here.
- Meet Fresh (Honolulu – Ala Moana)
Now we get to a Taiwanese shave ice place! The ice will be finely ground like Korean shave ice but there is a wider selection of toppings (get the taro balls!) and sauces and the flavors are sweeter in general. There are also a lot other tasty Taiwanese desserts here as well.
- Liliha Bakery (multiple)
A very classic Oahu bakery, this place delivers the goods and the history. The cream puffs are a stand out and you can’t say that you’ve even been to Oahu unless you eat a Coco Puff. If you want a malasada, which are the most overrated things in the Pacific, Liliha’s malasadas are better than those from Leonard’s and you won’t have to spend half of your day waiting in line. Other baked goods like danishes, donuts, rolls, and pies are all on the menu too.
- Honu Bakery (Honolulu – Kalihi)
If you are looking for a cake, look no further. Their cakes are very light, fluffy, and have very delicate and crisp fruit flavors without being too sweet. They also have other pastries like cupcakes, cookies, chocolate cakes, tiramisu, etc. Their non-dessert baked goods are also very solid and the baked curry puff is a personal favorite of mine.
- Pipeline Bakeshop (Honolulu – Kaimuki)
It is always hard to choose for sweets, but this is probably my favorite place to get some treats. Their ice cream is fantastic and the chocolate flavors are very chocolatey. The stars of the show are the cake bombs. Indescribably soft, moist, fluffy, and the glazes are fruity and flavorful. They are also known for their malasadas – not something I’ve tried personally but probably clears the low bar of being better than Leonard’s.
Aloha Donut Co in McCully-Mo’ili’ili stands far, far above any other donut shop. They have both traditional cake donuts and mochi donut options. Their glazes really stand out. The glazes really, really taste like the actual fruits they are made from and convey both the sweetness and tartness of the original fruit.
- Ted’s Bakery (Haleiwa)
This is an iconic North Shore spot and well worth the wait in line. This is now the only place to get their pies as they are no longer sold in the supermarkets here. Getting a slice of the chocolate haupia pie is a must and their plate lunches (one of the better BBQ chickens on the island) are very good too.
- Hawaiian Pie Company (Honolulu – Kalihi)
If you need to pick up a really good fruit pie, this is where you need to go. They utilize fruits like mango, guava, and lilikoi as well as more traditional berries and apples. Make sure to order ahead.
- Get fried chicken instead.
- Wing’s Shave Ice and Ice Cream (Honolulu – Chinatown)
An ice cream shop with a lot of very unique and unusual flavors. This is an excellent place to exercise your taste buds. There are some very nice, smooth, mellow flavors like rose water and chrysanthemum. There are also some very strong flavors like black sesame and pineapple Thai basil.
- Kalo Bombs (Waianae)
What makes this place special is the pa’i’ai they place on top of the ice cream. This is taro root that is pounded to be half-way between the state of completely smooth (poi) and raw. It adds both flavor and texture to a cup of ice cream. The ice cream itself is great as it is Dave’s Ice Cream, a locally made and very tasty ice cream. Definitely go for a Hawaiian ice cream flavor like haupia, kulolo, or ube.
- Sweet As (Haleiwa)
You choose what base you want (vanilla ice cream, yogurt, coconut) and what fruits you want and then you watch it get blended together for you before your eyes. Very cool and very tasty.
Sweet Treat Bonus:
Black Sheep Cream for more traditional ice cream, like a better version of Coldstone. Magnolia Ice Cream for Philippino style treats like halo halo. If you are feeling like eating your ice cream in pie or cake form, don’t go anywhere else except Slice by HB Baking off of Kapahulu.
- Choco L’ea (Honolulu – Manoa)
This is not just the best chocolatier on Oahu. I haven’t tasted anything better on the Mainland. If you have any sort of sweet tooth at all, you must absolutely prioritize getting something from here. I still wake up thinking about a fall seasonal special set they made; truffles filled with Japanese whiskey. Even if you miss out on an extraordinary seasonal special, their regular truffles and chocolate dipped fruits and nuts are extraordinary.
- Diamond Head Chocolate Co (multiple)
They offer a wide variety of truffles in 2 sizes and many flavors. In addition, they have a wide variety of other treats like chocolate covered nuts and fruits. My personal favorites are the chocolate covered marshmallows and chocolate covered caramels. I also appreciate that they stock European sweets like marzipan from Germany.
- Lonohana (Honolulu – SALT @ Kaka’ako)
The best local chocolate bars. The product is VERY pricey, but worth it for chocolate lovers. You will find two brands here, the Lonohana brand and the Onomea brand. The Onomea brand is at a lower price point and should unfortunately be avoided. It completely lacks the smoothness, subtlety, and quality of the more premium Lonohana bars.
Manoa Chocolate is the 800 pound gorilla and the most dominant local chocolate manufacturer. Their products can be found in many store and they have a tasting room in Kailua. Definitely try some if you see it.
- Lao Sticky Rice (Waianae)
Very original and creative brewed teas. Flavors include things like blue papillion, sorrel flower, and passionfruit teas. Additional ingredients like honey, basil seeds, and calamansi really add a lot of depth and flavor to the teas. The pineapple honey black tea is a very solid choice. Their Thai Coffee and Tea are not their strength. This place should not be missed if you are on the west side and thirsty.
- The Alley (Honolulu – Ala Moana Mall)
A rare case of the product living up to the hype. You’ll encounter long lines here but items like the brown sugar boba or ube teas are really solid. The drinks are thick with lots of flavor and a nice smoothness.
- Rabbit Rabbit Tea Hawaii (Aiea)
Rabbit Rabbit stands out to me because of their buckwheat flavored teas. Try either an original or buckwheat strawberry tea and enjoy the blend of creamy and roasted flavors.
It’s Tea in Ward and their taro milk tea is super good.
- Obake (Honolulu – Chinatown)
The smoothest matcha latte I’ve ever had anywhere. They use an exceptionally gentle, smooth, and not bitter matcha and they have a selection of different types of sweeteners and milks to let you really make your drink in your own way. Try it sweetened with honey and using oat milk, thank me later.
- Daily Whisk Matcha (Honolulu – Kaimuki)
If you are a matcha lover, go here. The hapa latte drink (a mix of matcha and hojicha) is really nice.
If you are a matcha lover and find yourself in Waikiki, Nana’s Green Tea and Matcha Cafe Maiko will make you happy. Both offer matcha ice cream in addition to drinks and are very close walking distance from each other.
Word of warning; this is coffee advice from someone who doesn’t like coffee. The coffee that “coffee people” enjoy tastes like ashes and charcoal to me. I can enjoy very smooth, light roasts.
- Try Coffee (Honolulu – Ward)
Maybe the best coffee that I’ve had. A single-shot latte is very very light. Very smooth, very even and balanced flavors without a hint of sourness or acidity. Great job with the milk also and incorporating it into a very pleasant texture and buttery smoothness.
- Mirage Art and Coffee (Honolulu – Kaimuki)
This is a special place and unique for the island. You can get regular coffee drinks like lattes or frozen blended drinks but the stars here are the Turkish coffee and Saudi Arabian coffee. Both are very light roasts and mixed with cardamom spice. The Turkish coffee is sweetened and the Saudi coffee is unsweetened but eaten with dates to add some sugar. A really great experience and this coffee shop also has some good baked goods like their baklava and the housemade lemon cake.
- Kopi Café (Kailua)
I have a soft spot for all things Singaporean/Malay and their coffee is no exception. Great pastries too and if you arrive at the right time on Saturday mornings, you can treat yourself to their very good laksa for breakfast.
Island Vintage Coffee, Local Joe, Crema Café, Egghead Café (Tiramisu Latte).
Coffee Lover Bonus:
The Honolulu Coffee Experience center has coffee that to me tastes like asphalt and moldy feet in addition to ashes and charcoal. So if you are a “coffee person”, you might like this place.
- Inu Island Ales (Kane’ohe)
While they don’t make my favorite beers, I can appreciate these guys for the creativity and uniqueness of their creations. If you are a fan of reds or sours, this place is a MUST visit.
- Hana Koa (Honolulu – Kaka’ako)
Nice beers and very cool, trendy place to spend some time. Upstairs the vibe is more like an upscale bar and they have some nice craft cocktails if it’s not a beer type of night for you.
- Paradise Ciders (Mililani)
I’m a fan of ciders and this is the only cider brewery on the island, so it makes the list by default. The siders are mostly good and really embrace the flavors of tropic fruit. Beer, seltzer, and cocktail options are also on the menu.
- Ko’olau Distilley (Kailua)
This place rocks! The distillery tour was the best that I have gotten at a whiskey distillery. The guide (Ian, the co-owner) was really informative and did a great job of explaining what happens at each stage, why it needs to happen, and what can go wrong. Filling and labeling a bottle was pretty fun too. Their whiskey is very nice but their gin and barrel aged gin are the real knockout.
- Ko Hana Distillers (Kunia)
I learned a lot about the rum making process by taking the tour here and the rum tasting was very interesting, I didn’t know there was such a wide variety of flavor profiles for rum. Pro tip: get the rum barrel aged honey. If there’s a better honey on Earth, I haven’t tried it yet.
- Get fried chicken instead.
- Bar Leather Apron (Honolulu – Downtown)
It might be passé to put the Beard Award winning cocktail bar on the list, but it is celebrated for good reason. Get the bar seating if you can, the bartenders make great conversation and their drinks are all elite. Order a smoked drink to make the most of the experience. You will be making reservations 1-2 months ahead of time and it is extremely unlikely you will be seated as a walk-in.
- Chinatown, Hotel Street between Smith and Nu’uanu Streets
I’m definitely cheating a bit here. But all in one little area you get your choice of dive bars, a nice upscale bar with rooftop seating (Tchin Tchin), a bar with a nice outdoor area (Bar 35), a nice bar with good live music and good drinks (The Manifest), and others. If you are thirsty for an adult beverage, there’s a place for you in this area.
- The Nighthawk (Honolulu – Chinatown)
If you have to go to a dive bar, this is the one you want to go to. The people who work here actually have a very friendly and positive attitude (I previously thought those things were illegal at dive bars) and the food is quite good.