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5 Cities with the Best Restaurants in Hawaii

Here's what you need to know...
  • Many wonderful and unique restaurants can be found all across the state of Hawaii
  • Hawaii is a popular destination for food tourism
  • If you will be taking a food tourism trip through Hawaii, consider the pros and cons of driving your own car, renting a car or using a service like Uber
  • If you will be driving your own car or renting a car, be sure you have the right insurance coverage to protect you

We all think of Hawaii as a tropical oasis. This much is certainly true. However, there is much more to our 50th state.

In its more recent history, the volcanic islands of Hawaii were annexed by the United States in 1900. Its population then saw rapid growth which led to economic growth with the establishment of plantations for growing pineapples and sugar cane.

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In 1941, Hawaii was the place where several hundred Japanese fighter planes completed a surprise attack mission on the Pearl Harbor naval base which destroyed 20 vessels and killed more than 2,000 American soldiers. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii officially became a state.

Hawaii stands out as a place rich in culture, nature, history, and even food. Many interesting facts set Hawaii apart from other areas of the United States and even the world, including:

  • With an average of about 460 inches of rain each year, Mount Waialeale, located on Kauai Island, is one of the wettest places on earth.
  • Thanks to its naturally rich volcanic soil, Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee. In fact, one of the world’s most expensive coffees comes from Hawaii at about $34 per pound.
  • The tallest volcano in Hawaii is Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet above sea level. It also extends 19,680 feet into the surface of the water. This makes it the world’s tallest mountain standing a total of 33,476 feet. In comparison, Mount Everest is 29,035 feet.

Cities with the Best Restaurants in Hawaii

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Hawaii is a haven for those who are in search of the best foods in the world. The following cities are well-known for their culinary experiences.

Kalihi

– Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Since 1946, Helena’s Hawaiian Food has been serving Hawaiian cuisine to locals and travelers alike. This family owned and operated business serves a la carte dishes as well as small, medium, and family sized portions.

Diners here can enjoy a variety of traditional Hawaiian foods such as Kalua pig and cabbage, Luau squid, Lomi salmon, boiled butterfish collar, Pipikaula short ribs, and, of course, rice. Adding to the appeal of Helena’s Hawaiian food is the fact that meals here generally run under $10.

– Dillingham Saimin

The Tanaka Family opened their Dillingham Saimin restaurant on Boulevard Saimin in 1956. Famous for its saimin, fine local cuisine, and Ohana style serves, this restaurant is not to be missed. If you prefer to stick to American fare, try the cheeseburger platter, homemade hamburger steak, or garlic steak.

The Saimin Special is a favorite here with large Won Ton Min and two Shrimp Tempura. Be sure to try one of the Puffed Daddies, also known as the best-puffed rice cakes on the planet. You can expect to spend about $10-$12 per entrée at Dillingham Saimin.

Kaimuki

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– Fukuya

Fukuya, Oahu’s most popular okazuyas (Japanese delicatessen) since 1939, lets you pick and choose the items you want. This family-style deli, owned by Arrison Iwahio, is a favorite amongst tourist and locals.

With high-quality meals and catering, it is no wonder Fukuya is a popular place to eat.

Loved bento items to tempt your taste buds include crab cakes, fried ahi, shoyu pork or kalua pig, fried chicken, chow funn, potato hash, noodles, salad, and even spam. Fukuya even features a kids’ menu for smaller appetites.

Very reasonable prices also attract customers to this local deli. Plates run about $10 or less with a la carte menu items ranging from nearly $2 to just over $6.

– W&M Bar-B-Q Burgers

In 1940, Wilfred and Mary Kawamura created the concept of fast food with their W&M Bar-B-Q Burgers. You will, however, likely find a line to wait in here when ordering food. This is because where there is a line for food, you know the food is good.

The secret, they claim, is in their sauce. Similar to teriyaki sauce, yet with its signature taste, locals know the original when they taste it. A burger will run you just under $4 while fries cost about $2.

– Leonard’s Bakery

Whether you are in search of a quick breakfast or a delicious treat, be sure to try a Malasada from the long-standing Portuguese bakery known as Leonard’s Bakery.

You can choose from plain or fillings such as chocolate, coconut, or vanilla. These Portuguese donuts will run you about $5 a piece but are well worth spending your hard-earned dough on.

– Town

While fairly young regarding other famous restaurants in Hawaii, Town, holds its own with its organic cooking and commitment to farm-to-table foods.

Born and raised in Honolulu, owner, and chef Ed Kenney has been a leader in the Hawaiian food industry for the past decade and is credited with putting Hawaiian cuisine back on the map.

At Town, you can choose from a variety of farm-to-table dishes such as mushroom soup, ahi tartare and risotto cake with balsamic vinegar, polenta, and bitter greens. Soup will set you back about $6, salads under $9 and entrees under $12.

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Moiliili

– Peace Cafe

The founders of Peace Café started with their wish for peace on earth and translated it into a vegan restaurant with home cooked meals that help create a peaceful mind through foods provided by Mother Nature.

On the menu, you will find organic foods such as brown rice, spelt flour muffins, and organic vegetables complete with roots and skin. Local ingredients are a priority as is a peaceful atmosphere where you can feel at home.

– Sweet Home Cafe

Home Sweet Home offers endless possibilities to please nearly any picky palate. It is a hot-pot Taiwanese-style dining destination that opened in 2008.

Here you get an interactive dining experience with your favorite broth, meat, seafood, vegetables, and savory dipping sauces. This family-friendly atmosphere features more than 100 side dishes. Eating your favorite hot-pot dish here will run about $10 for an entrée and $3 for a side dish.

Honolulu

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– Alan Wong’s

In 1995, Alan Wong’s Honolulu opened its doors for the first time. Since then, it has been experimenting with new flavors and ideas. The foods here reflect authentic Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

The dishes are crafted with local foods whenever possible and are inspired by Hawaii’s many ethnically diverse cultures. On the menu, you will find tasteful dishes such as seared Mahi Mahi, garlic black pepper keahole lobster, and macadamia nut coconut lamb chops.

– Chef Mavro

At Chef Mavro’s, you can experience the unique flavors of Hawaii. Some of the most popular items on the menu include lobster, upcountry vegetables, wagyu beef, lamb, pork, and island fish.

George Mavrothalassitis is the chef/proprietor and has won multiple culinary awards and accolades. A six-course meal will run about $152, and you can add five-course wine pairings for an additional $58.

– Little Village Noodle House

In 1984, Little Village opened with 30 seats. Owners, Kenneth and Jennifer Chan, had first stepped foot on American soil only 10 years earlier with only a suitcase and $100. Today, Little Village is committed to delicious food and a pleasant experience in their affordable and family-friendly atmosphere.

Menu favorites here include seaweed tofu soup, pecan spinach salad, duck leg ramen, lemongrass chicken, volcano pork chop and lemongrass chicken. Most entrees here run about $10-$15.

Food Tourism

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According to the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA), “Food tourism is any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage, and culture.”

Food has long been part of the travel experience, however, for some travelers, it is shifting to be the main course of traveling.

From 2006 to 2013, the percentage of travelers who said they vacationed for the culinary experience grew by 11 percent.

Hawaiian food culture is unique in that it blends local flavors and ingredients with those of the Orient, America, and other places all across the globe. It is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture and history.

Traveling Around Town

If you decide to go on your food tourism adventure, you will need to decide how you will get around. If you are driving your vehicle, be sure you have at least the minimum amounts of insurance required in the state of Hawaii. This includes:

  • $10,000 per person personal injury protection benefits for paying medical and rehabilitative costs
  • $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident bodily injury liability
  • $10,000 per occurrence property damage liability

– Positives and Negatives of Driving Your Personal Car

If you decide to drive your own car on your Hawaiian food tourism trip, you may be more comfortable.

You will also have the added benefit of being familiar with your car and how it drives on different roads and terrains.

This can make it less likely that you might experience an accident. However, you will likely add plenty of miles and wear and tear on your vehicle.

If you participate in food tourism or simply drive back and forth to work each day, you need good car insurance rates. You can find the best rates by comparison shopping.

An online price comparison tool allows you to compare multiple auto insurance carriers, policies, and rates all on one platform.

– Positives and Negatives of Renting a Car

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Rental a car for a food tourism trip can have its pros and cons. On the one hand, you can save mileage and wear and tear on your vehicle by renting.

It is an additional expense to tack onto your trip. Some travelers may appreciate the familiarity and comfort of their car, while others prefer to rent and drive something that is more of an upgrade than the car they own.

If you will be renting a car, you should either elect insurance coverage through the rental car company or make sure you have collision coverage on your own policy.

If you have collision on your policy, this benefit will extend to you driving a rental car. Collision covers property damages you cause to the car you are driving in an accident.

– Positives and Negatives of Uber

With Uber, you don’t have to worry about putting miles on your car or if you have one too many drinks with your meal.

However, you will pay a premium in comparison to renting a car. You may have to wait for your ride to arrive at the end of your meal but you will not have to worry about finding or paying for parking.

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