6 of the best food destinations in Honolulu

We put together this guide of the best food in Honolulu from a local’s perspective. We’ve lived here on and off for the last 20 years, so we know a thing or two about what make this city special. Keep in mind that these places may not be as “exciting” as the typical tourist traps, but they’re definitely worth your time if you want to get a taste of real Hawaiian cuisine and culture.

Our picks for the best food in Honolulu.

If you’re looking for a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience when traveling to Honolulu, then you’ll want to check out some of the city’s best seafood restaurants. While most tourists flock to the well-known spots, these places offer locals an opportunity to enjoy some of the best seafood that the island has to offer. So if you’re looking for a truly Hawaiian dining experience, be sure to check out one of these gems.

Nico’s Pier 38

If you’re looking for a locals-only spot in Honolulu, Nico’s Pier 38 is the place to be. This seafood restaurant is off the beaten track, and it’s definitely not a touristy spot – which is what makes it so special. The seafood here is fresh and delicious, and it’s definitely some of the best in Honolulu. If you’re looking for a unique and delicious dining experience, Nico’s Pier 38 is definitely worth checking out.

vegetable salad on round white plate

As the fish comes directly off the boats at the pier, Nico’s Pier 38 has some of the freshest seafood in all of Honolulu. Whether you’re craving oysters, crab, shrimp, or something else entirely, you’re sure to find it here. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back, making it a great place to unwind and enjoy a delicious meal with friends or family. They often have local daily music specials as well, adding to the fun and festive vibe.

What to order at Nico’s Pier 38

If you are struggling to figure out what dish to select, we would recommend the Ahi poke bowl with shoyu. For those of you who may not be accustomed to raw fish, this is a perfect option to try something new. I never ate fish when I lived in Ohio but after moving here and trying fresh raw fish, it completely changed my mind and life for the better.

Ahi is a type of tuna, and it’s one of the most popular types of seafood in Hawaii. The Ahi tuna is known for its deep red color and its delicious, mild flavor. It’s a popular choice for sushi, and it’s also often used in dishes like poke bowls.

The Ahi tuna is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, and for good reason – it’s delicious! If you’re looking for a tasty and healthy seafood option, the Ahi tuna is a great choice. It’s packed with protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, making it a great choice for a nutritious meal.

Shoyu is a type of soy sauce, and it’s one of the most popular condiments in Hawaii. It’s a versatile sauce that can be used in a variety of dishes, from sushi to poke bowls to stir-fries.

Shoyu is made from soybeans, water, salt, and wheat. The soybeans are boiled and then mashed, and the wheat is mixed in to create a dough. This dough is then used to make the shoyu sauce. The sauce is fermented for a period of time, and then it’s bottled and sold.

Nico’s Pier 38 is located at 1110 Alakea Street in Honolulu

La Mariana Sailing Club

La Mariana is a hidden gem that we love because it’s not overrun by tourists. We lived in the marina next to it for three years, and even though the food isn’t anything special, the atmosphere at sunset is magical.

La Mariana Sailing Club is a historic restaurant and bar in Honolulu that was first established in 1957. The club was created by a group of Hawaiian sailors who were looking for a place to socialize and drink after their long voyages. The original building was destroyed in a fire in 1990, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1991. With its Polynesian-inspired decor and stunning ocean views, La Mariana is a popular destination for both landlubbers and sailors.

La Mariana Sailing Club has been featured in a number of movies and television shows over the years. In 1993, it was used as the set for the movie Rising Sun, which starred Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes. The club also appeared in the Hawaii Five-0 reboot in 2010, and in an episode of Magnum P.I. in 1984.

Remember to check the hours of operation before you go, as things may have changed since the pandemic. And keep in mind, you’re coming for the atmosphere more so than the food itself.

Address: 50 Sand Island Access Rd. Honolulu, HI 96819

Sansei Waikiki

Sansei is a seafood restaurant in Waikiki that my wife and I frequent because we know the owner. The dishes here are exquisitely crafted, making it one of our favorite places to eat on the island.

The head chef at Sansei Waikiki is Keiji Nakazawa. Nakazawa was born and raised in Okayama, Japan, and began his culinary training at the age of fourteen. He has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world, including The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo and The Fat Duck in Berkshire, England.

In 2007, Nakazawa opened his own restaurant, Sushi Nakazawa, in New York City. Sushi Nakazawa quickly became one of the most highly acclaimed sushi restaurants in the United States, and was featured on the show Chef’s Table on Netflix.

Nakazawa’s passion for seafood is evident in every dish he creates. His dishes are simple but flavorful, and always showcase the best ingredients that Hawaii has to offer. If you’re looking for a truly unique dining experience, Sansei Waikiki is definitely worth checking out.

What to order at Sansei

To fully enjoy your meal, we recommend ordering a wine that pairs well with your dish.

Chuck Furuya (And my wife’s former boss) is the wine director at Sansei Waikiki and has been with the restaurant since it opened in 2006. He is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and has been working in the wine industry for over thirty years.

He has curated an impressive wine list at Sansei Waikiki, which features over 250 different wines from around the world. Chuck’s knowledge and enthusiasm for wine is evident in every glass he pours, and he is always happy to share his insights with diners.

The Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort And Spa is a world-class hotel located in the heart of Waikiki. It’s just a short walk from Sansei Waikiki, making it the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a luxurious beach getaway.

Sansei Waikiki is a great choice if you’re staying at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort And Spa – it’s only a short walk away!

Sansei Waikiki is located at: 2255 Kalakaua Ave. Waikiki, HI 96815


We have spent a lot of time in Vietnam and love the cuisine. However, when we returned to the United States, we were deeply disappointed in the Vietnamese food—that is until we found PHỞ HOUSE in downtown Honolulu. The food here is incredible and on par with some of the best food in Vietnam. Just like in America, there is a lot of variation in Vietnamese dishes from North to South, and these particular dishes are more common Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

The restaurant’s decor is minimalistic with stainless steel tables. Keep in mind that this location does not have the American standard of interiors, but we prefer it after our travels. Additionally, please use caution as downtown Honolulu is not a safe neighborhood.

What to order at PHỞ HOUSE

We recommend the #30 Beef Stew with French Bread (Bò Kho) and Cold Vermicelli with Spring Rolls and BBQ Pork (Bún Thịt Nướng Chả Giò). If you’re not a fan of tripe, simply ask for them to leave it out. If they have fresh lemonade, get that as well!

They close early, so go for brunch! Parking is available in the lots behind the building.

The address is: 75 N Pauahi St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Curry House Coco Ichibanya

If you’re looking for a delicious and affordable curry meal, Curry House Coco Ichibanya is the place to go. This popular chain restaurant first opened in Japan in 1978, and has since expanded to over 1,000 locations worldwide.

Curry House Coco Ichibanya is the perfect place for a quick and satisfying meal. The menu offers a wide variety of curries, rice dishes, and side dishes, making it perfect for any taste. Plus, there’s something for everyone on the menu – from mild and creamy curries to spicy dishes with a kick.

The Ala Moana location is one of our favorites – it’s just a few minutes walk from Waikiki Beach and offers great views of the ocean. If you’re looking for a tasty and affordable meal, Curry House Coco Ichibanya is definitely worth checking out.

Our top picks are the Chicken Katsu Curry with cheese and pickled ginger.

Located in the foodcourt of Ala Moana on the ocean side by the doors: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd Honolulu, HI 96822


Sometimes, the simplest experiences are the most memorable. If you’re looking for a truly authentic Honolulu experience and some of the best food in Honolulu, then you need to pay a visit to Zippys. This isn’t health food by any means, but it is absolutely delicious. I can think of few locals in Hawaii who wouldn’t consider this place a staple of their diet. You’ll find these places all over Oahu, but they’re usually empty of tourists.

Zippy’s is a Hawaii institution. It was founded in 1966 by four friends who pooled their money to open a small drive-in restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue. The menu was simple – cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes – but the food was delicious and affordable, and Zippy’s quickly became a favorite among locals.

Today, there are over 30 Zippy’s locations throughout Oahu, and the chain is still beloved by Hawaii residents. The menu has expanded to include breakfast items, salads, and sandwiches, but the cheeseburgers and fries are still the stars of the show.

What makes Zippy’s so special is its sense of community. The restaurants are typically filled with locals, and everyone is welcome. Zippy’s is a place where you can go to relax and enjoy good food with friends. It’s a piece of Hawaii history that locals are proud of, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re visiting the islands.

Zip Pac® - Zippy's Restaurants

The Korean Fried Chicken ZipPac and Chili Frank Plate are always our go-to meal.

To find the nearest “Zippy’s” restaurant, simply search for it on your maps app.


Honolulu’s food scene has transformed since I first visited, drawn in by the waves and gorgeous shorelines. Now, I come back for the amazing food—and locals. Away from common tourist traps, you can find some of Honolulu’s best eats that don’t get nearly enough recognition. They’re not always pretentious or showy, but they more than make up for it with flavor and culture.

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