Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Hawaii >
May 9, 2011 09:30 AM

Eating on a drive around of Oahu

Hi from a complete newbie to eating on Oahu and alot of Hawaii for that matter (tho we did eating on Kauai justice!). I am coming next week and would like some suggestions on planning an eating trip of Oahu. We will be staying in Waikiki for a week and will venture out and about on Sat and Sun. No chains please. And many thanks for any advice and input. I have been reading many of these post and its a little overwhelming - but I am a fast learner.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. A tediously long reply.

    It can be overwhelming, and eating your way around the island is overwhelming too. How long you want to take, how many places you want to visit, how much you want to taste and move on figuring its ok not to finish it all, do you want to go clockwise or counterclockwise. If you start out heading toward diamond head, you will have the ocean on your right, if you start headed ewa (west) when you reach the ocean then the ocean will be across the highway on your left. If you head ewa, you will be driving through the center of the island first, then along the ocean for the last part of your trip. Over the years I find that more and more I tend to head ewa first, especially for a food trip. Eat earlier, feel less rushed at the end. So based on that premise...

    Head up Kapahulu from Waikiki. Wistfully pass rainbow drive-in (or not) and the loco moco or sweet bread french toast. Instead stop at Leonards Bakery for Malasadas. I like the original best, but get one or two of the custard fllled ones for 'dessert'. From there onto H-1. Get off at School Street and head up two blocks to Liliha Bakery, get a few Coco Puffs to snack on in the car. Unless there are a bunch of you do not get a dozen. This is only your second stop. Circle back to Nuuanu so you can get back on the freeway. The next bit is the longest stretch for a while, all freeway, although there are certainly other places you could stop....

    Take the H2 towards Mililani/Wahiawa. About half way up the H2, take the Mililani Mauka off ramp (5a?) and after heading mauka, turn left after mc donalds and head over to the Poke Stop (open at 8am.) Some of the best poke on the island. Yes, I know... raw fish for breakfast. get some rice to go with it, or order one of the plates.... And unless you want a scolding from Joebob (a blogger here) you better try the eggplant fries.) Leaving Mililani, head towards Wahiawa. Ever since Big Way burgers closed (famous kim chee burger) there isn't much foodie wise in Wahiawa, although some people swear by Dot's (hamburger steak), an old fashioned Hawaii kine coffee shop/diner. (meh... sorry folks, i've never been impressed.)

    Instead head on down to Haleiwa, the heart of the north shore. Now here things get tricky. Too many choices, and you have already had malasadas, coco puffs, and poke. The original Kua Aina burgers was in Haleiwa and they still have a store there. The burgers and other sandwhiches are great, and if you aren’t there during the lunch rush the fries are still the bomb. Not as good as they used to be blah blah blah. If you aren’t into Burger kine food, then perhaps Opal’s Thai Lunch Wagon (food truck), or one of the very few mexican restaurants worth eating at, Luibuenos. Something a little more relaxed? Go over the historic bridge and get a table on the lanai at Jamesons, sit and watch the tourists driving by getting sunburnt in their rented convertibles, realize...hey, thats me! Looking out over the ocean with the Waianae mountains and possibly some rain squalls offshore, a few palms in the foreground.... nice. From here you would have to backtrack a little to Matsumoto’s for shave ice. Yes, you can skip it, but don’t blame me if no one ever speaks to you about your Hawaii trip. It is not the only great shave ice on the island, but if this is your first trip here, it is one of the few HAVE TO items on the list. Go ahead, be a tourist. Get the rainbow, but also get the ice cream and sweet bean (azuki) under it. If you don’t like it, just let it sit quietly in the bottom of the paper cone. Matsumoto’s is still technically a general store, but I don’t think anyone has touched the goods on the shelf in like 20 years.

    OK, by now you are in a food induced and sugar topped coma, so you can enjoy a leisurely drive down the north shore towards sunset beach. It’s summer, so what during the winter can be 40 foot waves that crash over the highway now looks like a lake. Flat and glassy, the two most dreaded words in surfing. But a few of the die hard surfers will be out there. Its been 15 or 20 minutes, so you better make a food stop at Ted’s pies and get one of their famous chocolate or haupia (coconut) or ..... cream pies. Wouldn’t want to snap out of that coma too quickly. Maybe you should have grabbed a styrofoam cooler somewhere along the way and some ice... hummm?

    Another 20 minutes or so past more stunning scenery and beaches and you will be headed into Kahuku. There may be a stand or two with fresh corn... its good. But more importantly you are in shrimp country. On the left (ocean) side of the highway are the shrimp ponds, along with probably half a dozen shrimp trucks. There are a few threads on the choices. Giovani’s is arguably the oldest and best known. Go read up on the various trucks. Garlic shrimp is the ‘traditional’ preparation. What? Not hungry? Hey, in Hawaii we don’t eat till we are full, we eat till we are tired, besides, its been at least 20 minutes since you bought that pie you didn’t think you were gonna eat. And honestly, although only half way around the island we are winding down the list here.

    From here back towards Kahaluu there really isn’t any place remarkable to stop, at least food wise. In Kahaluu is the old Hygienic store. It’s what matsumoto’s used to be before they became famous for their shave ice. No real reason to stop here unless maybe you want some water or something. At this point you can either follow the Kamehameha highway around the coast, or short-cut along Kahekili Highway toward the Like Like Highway. Oddly Kaneohe has very few noteworthy places to eat. If you are going the long way around (past Kailua and through Waimanalo) there are still not a lot of places to stop. Manomin would be the best source of information on windward eating. Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop (malasadas and pies), and Cinnamon’s are good (Cinnamon’s closes at 2pm) If you have been really driving slow, maybe cocktails or an early dinner at Buzz’s in Kailua could be very nice, maybe hang out on Lanikai beach for a while before dinner (4:30-9:00). Buzz’s is right across the beach, great view, indoor outdoor feeling. A local favorite. Good food, not exceptional.

    If you decide to bypass Kailua and head through Waimanalo both Sweet Home Waimanalo and Keneke’s might be worth checking out. SHW is only open for lunch, but Keneke’s closes at 5:30, they are well known for their local style plate lunches. From here it is a short drive around Makapuu point and back towards town. Unless you want to really go over the top and end at Roy’s original restaurant in Hawaii Kai, that pretty much does it.

    So more confused now than you were? I hope not.

    6 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      Good won Kman!!!

      He'll never make it past da 2nd place. He'll be to full, not tired, to keep eating. Will need to stop at a beach and play in da surf and sand, lie down in da sun to get mo hungry so he can continue on.

      Nothing like eating a plate lunch at the beach or eating macadamia nut ice cream in a hollowed out pineapple watching the sunset wit the waves licking at your feet in a beach chair........

      Either direction he goin, he en up da same place he wen start from...

      1. re: KaimukiMan

        KMan is THEMan when it comes to providing Oahu eating info. (even if we don't always agree).

        1. re: Joebob

          Hey, he DID mention the eggplant, and I would have missed that...



        2. re: KaimukiMan

          How one Earth do you expect any of us to follow up after that?!?!

          I see no problems, other than the potential for overeating along the way.

          Luibueño's for lunch would be a good choice, in my book. Just do not let the server pour your white wine into a frozen glass. Ask for a room-temp red wine glass instead. Neat little wine list, with some varietals that you have likely never experienced. All will work with the food.

          I am also a fan of Jameson's by the Sea in Hale`iwa, but it's not that unique, and is too close to where you just ate. Pass it by this time.

          At one time, the Chart House just outside of Kane`ohe was good, but it is now a Hale`iwa Joe's, and I was not impressed by the one in Hale`iwa, so do not know if this location is better, or not.

          Only stop at Crouching Lion to park (maybe look over the trinkets in the store) and pause across the highway to take in the views. I hear that back when Duke Kahanamoku was a child, the food was good. For me, it has not been for 20 years, though because of the location, I have kept trying. [Frown]

          Absolutely nothing else to add, but ENJOY!


          PS - I think that this K'man post needs to be made into a sticky, like so many others need to be. Put about 3 - 4 of them together, and no visitor to O`ahu need look beyond them for recs.

          Jameson's by the Sea
          77-6452 Alii Dr, Kailua Kona, HI 96740

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            Time to pick up that gauntlet!! Okay He is really a she and she with her husband can probably eat at every place listed. What a great list - thank you soo much - beyond what I ever hoped for. Let me just say that I have been dreaming about those darn shrimp trucks. I will report back after we make the trip and let you know Truthfully what we were able to accomplish.
            Many many thanks to all of you fabulous Chowhoundsters!

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              YUM. My personal additions would be Gulicks Delicatesstan in Kalihi for local kine Okazukya after the Liliha Bakery stop (go early for best selection), the in conjunction with the poke stop run, I'd head to Shiro's saimin heaven for some excellent Saimin (local noodle soup) with a teri beef stick. I always stop at the Haleiwa coffee gallery for a nice iced coffee and to pick up some beans. In Kaneohe, I've been reading the He'eia Pier General Store and Deli - their food looks killer. In Kailua, I love island snow for some shave ice.

              When you drive around from Kailua to Waimanalo, keep a look out for the vans on the side of the road selling corn, dried fish, etc. Local dried fish jerky can be pretty tasty. Make sure you drive around the Sea life park/sandy beach area during daylight. It's gorgeous to see, and can be pretty scary driving at night. At Kokohead marina, check out Bubbies for some mochi ice cream, and Kona Brewing for a snack and a pint, if you're in to that (although my stops are usually Zippy's and Kozo sushi, but that's just nostalgia).

            2. Aloha..
              K man just kills it on the advice...hard to follow but I will add Giovanni's shrimp truck in the North Shore for the best garlic shrimp over sticky rice and the sauce is so good..
              Then head to Matsumoto's for shave ice..

              For happy hour in Waikiki..Duke's..Hula Grill..Top of Waikiki are quite good..
              Don't forget the food court at the International Market and Roy's next to the Royal Hawaiian is one of the best and make sure you see the best damn GM on the planet, Diva...she has so much Aloha and will make sure you are taken care of..
              This Roy's is so much better than the other Roy's around the world..imho.
              Have a great time!

              1. You are all much too kind - except Joebob, but he has a reputation to maintain (and actually we agree more often than not.) I am always sure there must be something worth stopping for between Kahuku and Kaneohe, but no one ever mentions anyplace. And I really need to get to know Kaneohe and Kailua better. I always forget about Formaggio, etc.

                Hunt, what was Jameson's too much like? Poke Stop?

                Keep filling in the blanks folks, and again, thanks.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  O.K. here in Kaneohe we have a most excellent branch (their 2nd) of "Fresh Catch" always full of locals and lots of great seafood and lunches. They also sell poke of many many types by the pound as well as marinated meats ready for the grill. They have a board of daily specials as well as other things, pastele daily which is a great thing! I also like Sumo Ramen by the Safeway. Windward Mall has an architecturally beautiful food court with some good choices across from the Safeway. Also in the mall parking lot most days is the Leonard's Malassada truck serving hot fresh malasadadas and espresso. Kailua has Formaggio which had a good happy hour but food is not "unusual" it is good with Italian influence and some very good pupus. For lunch in Kailua I like Assaggio and either there or Baci for dunner.

                2. What about Mike's Huli Huli Chicken (in Kaneohe or Kahalu'u, depending on where he parks??) and He'eia Pier General Store?

                  1. All Great Choices. LOL When we're fishing Lake Wilson in Wahiawa, we park the boat behind Kemoo Farm and walk up to the Lakeside Tavern/Bar. ( the place where hundreds of motorcycles park on Sundays) Great sandwiches and burgers. (cash only)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Stan Wright

                      Thanks! Stan - that is good to know! I've always wondered what they served they sure are busy!