- North America,
- United States
Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a world-renowned culinary style that fuses American, Asian, European, and Hawaiian dishes together with the freshest local ingredients. Hawaii’s ethnic diversity has created a variety of local comfort foods including the plate lunch – everything from mahi mahi to kalua pork with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. The center of nightlife in Hawaii is Oahu. Waikiki offers excellent dining, live music, bars and nightclubs providing you with 24-hours of fun.
Duke's Waikiki, Hawaii
Tel: 808 922 2268
You might scoff at the idea of a surfing-themed restaurant, but Duke's (named after Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku) is actually one of the best bets in town. The food is tasty and fuss-free: macadamia-and-crab wontons, hulihuli (BBQ) chicken, grilled fresh fish, chocolate-and-macadamia "hula pie" for dessert. But the scene is more important here, anyway—beach girls and boys, happy families, daily live music, and the backdrop of Waikiki Beach, with palm trees swaying in the balmy breeze.
La Mariana Sailing Club, Hawaii
Tel: 808 848 2800
Luckily, no ambitious impresario has ruined this authentic tiki bar and restaurant, untouched since it opened in 1957 (balloon-fish lanterns have become so rare). It's set in an industrial area that will make you think you're hopelessly lost, but once you arrive you'll find it worth the search. The inside is cluttered with dusty memorabilia, and the location on the water means bug spray is a must, but settle in and order a delicious snack of ahi poke (a local dish of marinated raw fish) to have with your $3 drafts.
Sunset on the Beach, Hawaii
Visitors often wonder about the 30-foot screen on Waikiki Beach at the spot known as Queen's Surf, across Kalakaua Avenue from the Honolulu Zoo parking lot (believe us, you'll see it). The answer: Since 2001, the city has sponsored free movies here every Saturday and Sunday at sunset, in an attempt to bring locals back to Waikiki. Food vendors set up stalls adjacent to the area, though people often come with their own picnic baskets. You'll see folks staking out spots with blankets and chairs starting in the late afternoon, but it's also possible to wander up and find a place on the sand even after the film has started. The intensity of the crowd depends on the popularity of the movie; family films draw the noisiest masses. See the website for a schedule.
Kakaako Kitchen, Hawaii
Tel: 808 596 7488
Set inside the Ward Center shopping mall, across the street from Starbucks and a giant movie-theater complex, Kakaako is a gentle reminder that you're still in Hawaii. This popular takeout place serves local-style fast food (there are a few tables if you want to sit down), with a menu that changes every six months. The hot entrées are hit-or-miss, but the Chinese pork char sui noodle salad and the sandwiches (try the seared ahi) are always reliable. So are the desserts, including coconut mochi and heavenly bread pudding.
Chef Mavro, Hawaii
Tel: 808 944 4714
One of Oahu's top restaurants is the domain of chef George Mavrothalassitis (who thankfully used his nickname). Set in a residential neighborhood of Honolulu, it attracts a nice mix of local couples, dedicated foodies, and in-the-know tourists ready to have the best meal of their trip. Set menus of three and four courses and an 11-course tasting menu are offered with optional wine pairings. The marbled tako, for example—finely sliced octopus with ponzu sauce, salmon roe, and green-papaya salad—finds its perfect foil in a glass of 2004 Leasingham Riesling. Specialties such as cursinade (sea urchin bouillabaisse) reflect Mavro's roots in Marseille, as well as his love for his adopted home, where he moved in 1988.
Dinner only. Closed Mondays.
Nightlife at the Sheraton Waikiki, Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: 808 922 4422
You've got two pretty great nightlife options at the Sheraton Waikiki: The Hanohano Room, on the 30th floor and surrounded by glass walls, is a restaurant and classic Waikiki nightspot with breathtaking views. It hasn't changed much since the '70s; the nightly live entertainment (which starts between 7:30 and 9) features the same smooth jazz, Hawaiian classics, and boozy lounge standards your parents probably danced to. If your style is more barefoot than dress-up, hit the beachfront restaurant and lounge, Rum Fire, for tapas-style plates of Mexican-Hawaiian cuisine and yummy rum-based cocktails under the stars. Weekend DJs and dancing keep the guests on the lower floors of the hotel up late.—Cathay Che
Hawaii Theatre, Hawaii
Tel: 808 528 0506
This beautiful old theater, a hub of entertainment since 1922, is still the place to go to catch live performances. The nightly shows range from big-name indie bands like Sigur Rós to traditional hula and Hawaiian music; there are also limited runs of Broadway musicals. It's the perfect venue for a romantic date or a cross-generational night out.
Alan Wong's, Hawaii
Tel: 808 949 2526
This James Beard Award–winning chef (who you might have seen on the season finale of the 2006 Top Chef) doesn't rest on his laurels. His dining room may be modest, but his flavors explode. As the locals say, when food is this delicious, it is "broke da mouth" good. Try his five-course tasting menu ($75 per person), or opt for à la carte originals such as Hot California Rolls (baked lobster mousse with crab-avocado stuffing) and the keawe-wood-grilled mahimahi with spicy wasabi sauce.
Waiola Store, Hawaii
Tel: 808 949 2269
Shave ice—the local treat of monster-size snow cones drenched in fruit syrup—makes the perfect refresher after a day at the beach. These days, Waiola, with its 45 flavors, has elbowed out Matsumoto's on the North Shore as Oahu's number-one shave-ice spot. You can add ice cream and other toppings to your cone—and even the most gourmet combo (say, shave ice with coconut and strawberry syrups, condensed cream, and li hing mui, or salted plum powder) will still cost you less than a Frappuccino. There's a second location at 525 Kapahulu Avenue (808-735-8886).