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chow worthy eats in Honolulu for solo chowhound on the cheap

I have a last-minute trip to Honolulu for 5 days at the end of the month. I have to seriously budget for this trip!!! I don't want to be relegated to tourist chains for my meals. My needs are pretty simple:
1)cheap
2)no chains
3)fish or vegetarian fare
4)comfortable for a solo female diner

I am open to all kinds of food as long it falls under #3. Not a red-meat eater and I can eat chicken/turkey anywhere.

I won't have a car, so access to dining needs to be either walking distance from Hilton Hawaiian Village or access via The Bus. I didn't want to rely on TripAdvisor suggestions since I usually don't like their recs, anyway. I'm an independent traveler and TA seems to be more Herd-oriented tastes. I've always liked my CH recs, so I'm hoping I can get some more for this last minute, on a serious budget trip. I really don't want to eat Saimin at Mickey D's everyday :-)

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  1. Go to thebus.org and learn the routes and special deals. The system is relatively efficient. Then you can get to a wide variety of non-chain, cheap, good places over most of the island, as described in many other posts. I don't know of any places that serve good food where a single woman would be unsafe. Just plan your trips carefully.

    1. Nothing is really cheap at HHV, but if you're not really fussy about your coffee you can forego the 2 on-site Starbucks and get a passable cup for $2.00 at the ABC Store by the parking garage elevator; the coffee tastes wonderful when sitting by the ocean. ABC also carries a variety of prepared sandwiches and bentos which are reasonably priced. The Wailana Coffee Shop accross Ala Moana Blvd. from HHV is very popular with tourists as well as locals.

      Any bus that stops on Ala Moana Blvd. will get you to the shopping center in minutes so you can try the food court downstairs or the interesting offerings of Japanese dishes on the second floor of Shirokiya. It's also an easy walk.

      1. Nico's at Pier 38 is about a 30 minute bus ride, but should fit all of your needs. Fatty's Chinese in the back (sort of) Intl Market Place should offer vegetarian choices in Waikiki...don't recall them, but most Chinese restaurants do...that is certainly walkable. A longer walk from HHV is Diamond Head Market and Grill on Monserrat..."healthy" plate lunches featuring fresh fish options. Sat morning at KCC market many choices, and stock up on fresh fruit, etc. Same produce options at Ala Moana shopping center FM Sat morning and Tues afternoon, but not as much prepared stuff.

        Agree with Honu about Shirokiya, but the only choice I like in the main food court is the Don Don donburi. On the opposite side of the center, Foodland Market has a salad bar and lots of deli salads to go.

        2 Replies
        1. re: macaraca

          Poke bowls are also available at Foodland. Given the high market price for island fish, I think ahi poke is probably the cheapest way of eating fresh island fish.

          Also would recommend Tango Market, which is an offshot of Tango restaurant, in Ward Center for salads and bread.

          1. re: honu2

            Thanks all! When this trip presented itself, I knew it had to be done on an absolute shoestring. I appreciate the tips. I always believed that there is a way to have quality food cheap, so I think this will test that theory for me!

        2. Happy hours in Waikiki are some of the best and drinking $4 mai tais and eating $6 calamari at Hula Grill or Dukes at the Outrigger which is a local chain but it rocks.
          Sansei, Top of Waikiki, Duke's, Hula Grill, Rumfire, Shorebird are my fave's.
          You can eat at the International marketplace across from Moana which has tons of small kiosks to eat.
          The bus is an awesome deal and you can go and dine at Giovanni's in North Shore for the best garlic shrimp with 2 scoops.

          www.internationalmarketplacewaikiki.c...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Beach Chick

            I just did the Sansei Sun/Mon 1/2 price food yesterday. It was great. We got there about 5 and joined the line. They did a first group seating so as to not overwhelm the kitchen. Then we got in with the second round. We had so many things it was just amazing. The seafood pasta was just a triumph. There were 4 of us and I think we had 8 things plus drinks. They did not rush us in our ordering so the friends we were with who had never been before could read the menu and make their decisions without feeling hurried. We had this great table by the window that was one of the elevated heights with stools that had comfortable backs which was great for viewing the gorgeous sunset.

          2. If you take the cheap bus trip from Honolulu around the Saet and North shores and back, consider timing to drop you off in Haleiwa around Luibueno's Happy Hour for half-price fish tacos. Find out how long the bus transfer allows you to linger.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Joebob

              Great suggestion, but if you choose to do this, make sure you know the bus schedule for the round-the-island bus to get you back to Honolulu. The schedule has recently been cut back and you don't want to be stranded on the North Shore without a way back into town.