Seeking Recs & Feedback on Oahu Picks
First, thanks to everyone who posts on this board - reading all of your recommendations helped shape the first half of our upcoming trip!
We're coming from Los Angeles to celebrate our anniversary in mid-November - spending the first few nights in Waikiki and then heading to Hauula for the remainder of the trip. I think we've got Waikiki covered (though always open to feedback) with plans to hit the following places:
Hau Tree Lanai (early anniversary dinner)
Drinks at HWAK to catch the sunset
Side Street Inn
Pineapple Room or Morimotos for lunch
Others we may hit if in the area or have time: Diamond Head Grill (before/after hiking), Leonard's, Liliha Bakery, Mai Tai Bar, Duc's Bistro, Rainbow Drive-In
Though we're planning to see a lot of the island while there, Hauula will be our homebase for starting day trips or wrapping up in the evening for the second half of the trip. Looking around, I didn't see a lot of food options mentioned close to that area and would appreciate any feedback on breakfast/lunch/dinner spots nearby.
Also, our actual anniversary is while we're staying there, and though we don't need anything fancy - hence, the earlier dinner at Hau Tree Lanai - we'd love suggestions for a place where we could sit down, get good food and maybe some wine/cocktails, but doesn't require much driving. Not sure if anything fits the bill...
1188 Maunakea St, Honolulu, HI 96817
3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI
Diamond Head Grill
2885 Kalakaua Ave Fl 2, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
So I am very late in creating a post-trip review, holidays and such got in the way, but I did want to thank everyone again for their input. We had a fantastic time and ate very well, though we didn't even come close to hitting the majority of our food list - perfect excuse to return.
Here's a quick list of some of the places we did manage to hit.
IYASUME - Turned out this place was literally a block from where we were staying. We stopped by every morning we were there to pick up some musubi to go. They were the tastiest versions I've had, and we enjoyed the variety they offered. We typically stuck with the spam version, but also ventured into those with egg and bacon or cheese. Very tasty, great for taking to sit by the ocean in the early part of the day.
BOGART'S CAFE - Hit this one by accident after hiking to Diamond Head. We ended up going back a few times, as it was comfortable and the food was tasty (terrible coffee, though). I stuck with the breakfast bagel w/Portuguese sausage and the hub stuck with his acai bowl.
PUKA DOG - Admit this was not necessarily recommended, but we had it before in Kauai and get a craving now and then. Since we weren't really that hungry we just got one to split - Polish sausage, mild, coconut relish with lilikoi mustard. Tasted just like the one in Kauai, which was a winning combo for us.
MAI TAI BAR (Royal Hawaiian) - We went here just for drinks, but our seat was right next to the ocean with such a spectacular view of the ocean, sunset and Diamond Head... we ended up staying to eat. Drinks were very strong. I got a ginger version of a Mai Tai, no missing the ginger in that, and hub got the original. Food was just so-so, as expected. The tuna appetizer was actually pretty good, the fish was fresh and the flavors were nice. We also shared a pizza that had zero flavor despite the inclusion of cheese and fresh basil. The view was so nice we didn't really mind.
HAU TREE LANAI - This was our splurge meal for our time on this side of the island. We had a table right by the ocean, so again, totally winning view. Service was incredibly attentive and friendly, and we definitely felt he steered us in the right direction for our selection. I also appreciated we weren't rushed in any way. For appetizers we had the Ahi Sashimi and the Island Style Duck Breast. The fish was fresh and very good, but the duck was the standout of the night. Really great combination of flavors, salty, smoky and sweet, and the meat itself was incredibly tender. Very rich, though, it was good we shared. For my entree I had the crab crusted mahi mahi, which was good, but not as flavorful as I was expecting. Hub had the cajun styled opah, which was excellent. Overall, an exceptional meal and experience.
HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY - Hands down this was one of the highlights of our time here. Had we realized just how special this place was, we would have gone there on our first night in Waikiki, not our last. As recommended, we only went for drinks and appetizers on the lawn, which was great. I can't remember what we ate, but it was fine. The drinks were great, as was the service and music. Watching the sunset as we sipped our cocktails was the perfect way to spend a few hours relaxing before heading out to the North Shore the next day.
SECOND HALF OF TRIP
On the North Shore we were staying in an area without many immediate food options in the area (as many of you noted). We spent time running around during the day, but stayed close to our rental in the evening. That said our evening food was actually pretty good, just repetitive. We ate at Surfin' Tacos for several dinners, simply because we could walk there and bring our food back to eat at our rental while listening to the ocean. We boringly stuck to the veggie burritos, but they were actually pretty tasty and we liked the green sauce (I'm guessing some cilantro blend) that came with them. Nothing fancy, but it did the job. The other place in the same vicinity was Papa Ole's Kitchen. We really liked the teri beef dish, but be warned on portions - the smaller size was enough for us to share and be full. They were really friendly and even gave us a complimentary dessert that was some sort of peanut butter biscuit-like thing. It was very good, though incredibly sweet. We weren't able to finish it, but very much appreciated the gesture.
KUA AINA SANDWICH SHOP - Stopped here while running around. We got the ahi sandwich. Very fresh and tasty, but with a ridiculous amount of lettuce on it. We scraped most of that off. I heard later their burgers are pretty good, but didn't get to check it out this time around.
KOA PANCAKE HOUSE - Stumbled upon this place while in the area and checking my phone for a nearby place to eat. Only saw the menu, so we sort of took our chances. Glad we did. Breakfast was very good with the Portuguese sausage & eggs always a staple of mine. But hub's Vinha D’Alhos & Eggs was worth a second visit. Unusual vinegary pork dish that really turned out to be kind of addictive - if you like that sort of thing.
FUMI'S - Though we passed the shrimp trucks multiple times a day, the only one we made it to was Fumi's. Got the garlic shrimp plate to share. Thought it was pretty good, but my favorite part was actually the rice soaked in the sauce. Good snack and the shrimp were fresh. The wait wasn't too bad when we hit it, but I did see lines when we drove by at other times.
TURTLE BAY RESORT - We stopped here twice for drinks near the pool area. Nothing special about the drinks, but watching the surfers and the sunset was what brought us back. Good way to wrap a busy day. Didn't try the food, so no comment on that.
TED'S BAKERY - Stopped for breakfast. Not much of a wait. Got my usual Portuguese sausage and eggs. They were as good as any of the other places we stopped. Hub went with Spam and eggs and thought it was actually pretty good - saying something for a guy who only likes Spam in his musubi. Didn't get to try any of the baked goods, so I'm afraid we missed out on the full experience.
OLA - This was not one of the recommended, in fact, everywhere I looked pointed to 21 Degrees North as the far superior option. That said, it was our anniversary dinner and we decided we'd go with the view over food quality for this one. We were pleasantly surprised as we must've hit them on a very good night. To be fair, the hostess was a bust, as she stood talking to two other employees and completely ignoring the fact we were standing there - not a good start. But it was rescued by our very attentive waiter and the quality of the food. By the time we got our appetizers, we'd pretty much forgotten about our lack of a greeting and we were seated with an unobstructed view of the ocean and sunset. Appetizer was the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps. These tasted really good initially, but I found them to be a tad sweet after a while. Hub did not, so it might've just been my palate. For our entrees we both went with the butterfish. Very happy we did because that dish was delicious and I would not have wanted to share. I love butterfish (sable fish/black cod... whatever you want to call it), but this was one of the best versions I've ever had. It's a shame this place hasn't been more consistent based on other reviews I've seen, because when they get it right they can really be outstanding.
Anyhow, thanks again to those who responded. I hope to try any recommendations we missed on a future visit. I also hope this can maybe help those planning trips now. Look forward to a return trip.
Ha, yes, my husband said the same thing regarding my food memory, but I really wanted to try to keep track of everything to report back. Just sorry it took so long to have the time to do it. Speaking of memory, I did forget to mention we hit the He'eia Pier General Store for breakfast one day. Unusual spot and the food was solid. I had a fried rice dish, which was so filling I didn't eat again until dinner. Ultra-casual and easy to miss if you only see the boats given it's at the end of the road, so to speak.
Another spot we hit that I enjoyed was in the International Market Place. I can't remember the name, but it was a Korean BBQ place. I remember the food being very good, we shared the Bulgogi plate with some sides, but it was also the first place we hit after landing and we were starving... could've colored my perception.
Thanks so much for the detailed feedback. I'm particularly glad to hear such good things about Hau Tree Lanai and House Without A Key, all the CH'ers seem to be in agreement with you, but a report from someone who was just recently there holds a lot of value, so thank you! You also mentioned a few spots I'd not researched yet, which is also helpful. With all the combined good reports, I'm feeling more and more confident about choosing Hau Tree as our splurge dinner on Oahu this summer.
HWAK was really what I think most people envision when thinking of Hawaii. Truly lovely. We got there earlier than the sunset to make sure we had a seat. It wasn't crowded at all when we arrived, but was absolutely packed by the time we left.
As for Hau Tree Lanai, I think the food ranges from solidly good to outstanding, depending on the dishes you order. If you go in with the mindset of having good food with a great view, you shouldn't be disappointed and might even be pleasantly surprised by some things. I think it's the overall combination of the view, the service and the dishes we really did love that made it such a great experience.
The pics are from Hau Tree (tiki torch) and HWAK (diamond head).
Thanks for the photos and I think the view/outdoor/beachside settings with reasonably good food and/or drink that you describe is exactly what we are after on this trip. That's why we are not considering many of the spots that aren't on the water/beach for the two days we will be in Oahu before moving on to Kauai for the majority of the trip.
Thanks all! Your input has been very helpful and I appreciate the warm welcome. The suggestions around the area sound great. I do think I'll scratch Morimotos off the list in favor of a more laid back lunch experience. I actually have more places I'd love to try than time I'll actually have to do it at this point - good dilemma, though.
I'll take a look at dining at 21 Degrees North. Even if we just had one glass to toast our anniversary at the top of the meal, that'd be sufficient for us. We've been on some of those kind of roads on the other islands, so I know exactly what you're talking about and appreciate the heads up.
From Hauula, you might think about 21 Degrees North, at the Turtle Bay Resort. Just did two meals there, and they are the real "gem" at that resort. Though a bit of a drive, I would go light on the wines, and dine there. Just my opinion.
Enjoy, travel safely and much aloha,
re: Bill Hunt
I do agree, and feel the same way about Hanalei, just up the road from Turtle Bay. We are more inclined to "stay on property," when on the North Shore, but then we love our wines!
We do not want a dark, rural 2-lane, and neither do the locals, when a couple has had two bottles of nice wine.
re: Bill Hunt
Well DUH! I had another thread in my head, and even missed the correct Island!!!!
Mahalo nui, as without your correction, I would seem to be the major dunce. As it is, I am hoping for the "minor" dunce award.
Got a laugh out of my faux pas, though.
Mahalo, and aloha, as usual,
Your choices in Honolulu are pretty solid except for Morimoto IMHO, I think it is over hyped and as a result overpriced. I think Yohei, Mitch's and Imanas Tei are better Japanese restaurants and sushi bars.
Kin Wah Chop Suey in Kaneohe is pretty solid and in Kailua, Crepes No Ka 'Oi is great for breakfast and Teddy's Bigger Burger for lunch.
If you are there on a Saturday, hike Diamond Head that day, as early as you can, before 7AM or so (take water with you) and stop at the Kapiolani Community College Farmer's Market afterwards.
Imanas Tei Restaurant
2626 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826
Kin Wah Chop Suey
, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Dean's Drive Inn, in Kaneohe is very popular. Their ahi cakes and teri beef get lots of good comments. It's a bit of a drive from Hauula, but still on the Windward side, so if you go to Honolulu, you'll either go through Wahiawa or Kaneohe. They're closed on Saturdays.
There really isn't much in the Hauula area. There is a place that was on Man vs. Food, Hukilau Cafe in Laie. I've never been, but it gets at best mixed reviews. I'm guessing that its probably OK, but you don't want to be there during a rush. It's only open breakfast lunch, keep that in mind. A little further up the road is Kahuku. Best known for shrimp trucks (numerous threads) there is also the Fiji Market and Curry Shop in the old Sugar Mill 'complex'. Again someplace I've not yet been, but it gets consistently good reviews. There is also a place that sells shrimp in that complex, I don't think its as good as some of the shrimp trucks, but its slightly more civilized. Sorry, can't remember the name or hours. Maybe someone else does. It did have good coconut shrimp. Finally further up the road is the Turtle Bay resort, formerly known as Kuilima. Hopefully Bill Hunt will chime in as he recently returned from a trip to that part of the island. He did not recommend Leonardo's, the others I gather were pretty OK or better.
Hope this helps some. Oh, one more thing, sadly in spite of its charming exterior and great view of the ocean, Crouching Lion Inn at Ka'a'awa hasn't gotten a decent review in decades. I don't know how they keep the doors open. So sad.
55-662 Wahinepee St, Laie, HI 96762
Crouching Lion Inn
51-666 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaaawa, HI 96730