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Oct 1, 2012 10:43 PM

Help with Aulani (Ko Olina) Trip

We are going to be staying at Aulani for 6 nights. I've heard the food is pretty weak (okay, that might be an understatement!) at the resort, and really no better at the Marriott next door. We will definitely make some trips to the Island Market/ABC Store across from the hotel, and know that there are grocery stores in Kapolei. So here's what I'm looking for:

- Someplace casual and kid-friendly to stop for dinner on the way from HNL to Aulani. My 4 year old will be tired after a long flight, so please, nothing fancy :-)

- Family-friendly dinner recommendations in/around Ko Olina so that we don't have to eat at the resort every night.

- One special-occasion type restaurant for an anniversary dinner without the 4 year old, also near Ko Olina (but we will have a car, so any reasonable distance will work). Note that we are from Los Angeles, so a reasonable drive could be 45 minutes or so.

The kiddo likes Japanese, Italian, and American...but is not too adventurous with much of anything else.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I have no knowledge of Aulani food. There is a Japanese buffet in the Marriot that is OK IF (1) you want to eat a lot (or let the kid eat a lot of desserts), and (2) you have a half-price coupon. Also in Ko Olina is Roy's, but the weakest link in the chain. The only big grocery stores in Kapolei are Costco and Safeway until 10/17, when Foodland opens, plus Down-To-Earth and Target, both off the H-! at the first Kapolei exit.

    What day and time will you land?

    There is a good lunch place in a biodynamic farm up the Waianai Coast. If you see people grilling chickens (Huli-Huli chicken) by the road, STOP and buy some. Kapolei has all the usual suspects e.g. Chili's plus Boston and Brick Oven pizzas and some local rests. discussed below.

    The best rest, in the Western half of Oahu probably is Thai Lao in Kapolei. It is family/child friendly and offers what I am sure is pleasing fried chicken (and breaded, deep-fried calamari strips) as well as excellent Northern Thai cuisine (if you're into that sort of thing). It is also small, occasionally crowded (so take-out), and upscale e.g. linen napkins and real flowers the last time I looked. Also notable in Kapolei is Julie'Z Filipino.

    In 45 min. you should be able to get into town e.g. Alan Wong, Mavro, etc. nearly any time of day (except A.M.), but probably not over to Le Bistro in Hawaii Kai.

    Any questions?


    1. I agree that the buffet (only certain nights of the week) at Ushio Tei is fine/OK but when are you going? The Ihilani is currently closed for renos until mid-November.

      Recent reports of that Roys indicate a possible improvement in food quality.

      Monkeypod Kitchen is supposed to open later this year.

      It's pretty slim pickin's out here. I'll be at Beach Villas later this month and will report back.

      Is this the farm?

      What does everyone think of Highway Inn?

      1. Thanks for the info. We will be visiting the first week of November, so it sounds like the Ihilani is not an option.

        Our flight arrives on a Saturday at about 2:00PM local time. While it will be in between lunch and dinner times, it will be 5:00 for us...and my son will be getting hungry! So if there's something anywhere in between the airport and resort, that would be great.

        Unfortunately, Thai and Filipino won't work with our group. I know about Roy's. Every time I go (at least in California), I wonder why I just spent so much money on food I didn't really enjoy. I was hoping it would be better in HI!

        So...still looking for the Saturday meal, and maybe Italian, Japanese or American near the resort.

        I've been to Alan Wong...could go back, but was thinking maybe we'd try someplace we haven't been. Mavro? I'll look into that one :-)

        4 Replies
        1. re: WestsideLisa

          I'm with you on mainland Roys. Every time I go to one, I leave wondering why I just ate there. I would say that the Ko Olina one is or used to be on par with mainland ones. However recent reports have led me to be hopeful :)

          We've enjoyed our meals at Mavro but it's been a few years since we were last there.

          1. re: WestsideLisa

            For quick family dinner, there is Denny's at Kapolei Commons - just off the freeway before Ko Olina.

            In Aulani, there is Ama-Ama fine dining, expensive. Then there is Makahiki with Disney character, Smaller casual ones are by the pool and beach area with some lounges for your tropical drinks.

            In Kapolei (6 miles away) there are Chinese rest. (4), Thai, Vietnamese (2), Italian, Filipino, Japanese noodle house, Japanese curry house, several restaurant and fast food chains, local grinds (at least 3) and several pizza place, organic deli (Down to Earth) and several smal take outs -- endless place to eat.

            Hope this helps and welcome to West Oahu.... :)

            1. re: WestsideLisa

              I don't know of any really good Italian rests. on Oahu, and all of the good Japanese rests. are East of the airport. Mavro is a good choice for an elegant dinner.

              1. re: WestsideLisa

                We walked by the Ihilani today and were surprised to find people by the pool. Found out they re-opened this week (Sun to Sat) for a group of 500. After Sat they close again until Nov 17. I also found out that Ushio Tei never closed and Azul is open on sporadic days (mainly weekends). The spa never closed either and is offering special prices through Nov 20. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have gone to the spa at Aulani yesterday although I have to say their spa was very nice.

              2. I would definitely stop at Nico's or Helena's on the way to Ko Olina from HNL. Both will be open when you get into town. Nico's is about 3.5 miles from the airport and Helena's is about 4.5 miles from the airport. They are both necessary stops for us every time we are in HNL.

                Nico's is know for their seafood and all of their dishes we have had are great but their Chicken Katsu and Loco Moco are some of the best we have ever had. This is a very casual place but our meals there have been more satisfying then many Fine Dining meals we have had.

                Helena's is "Hawaiian" style food and several must not miss dishes they have are the Pipikaulau and Chicken Long Rice with several dashes of fire water tossed in.

                If you will be spending any time in Waikiki during your trip, you must stop at Diamond Head Market for their blueberry cheese scone. Unlike any scone you have probably had before and just awesome.

                1 Reply
                1. re: HNL

                  I'm not sure the 4-YO would like Helena's.

                2. What? You didn't believe me over on TripAdvisor? :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scottca075

                    Hey, are you following me?! Ha ha. I just like to cover all of my bases.