Where to Eat Affordably in Waikiki
Hawaii’s most famous beach has a multitude of dining choices. Are there any affordable options? During my many trips to Waikiki, I have done the grueling research to find out the best places to send my clients who are visiting… and want to watch what they spend.
Many places offer reduced rates for early dining-happy hour. I have a permanent date with the daily sunset and don’t stray from that rigorous schedule often, but there are many happy hour offers out there; just look for the signs.
The International Marketplace is close to the center of Waikiki. The main feature here is the enormous banyan tree. There are hundreds of shops and stalls throughout the two levels, including a truly international food court. Burgers, Chinese, Greek, ice cream, Japanese, Korean, seafood, Vietnamese, fresh fruit smoothies… there is something for everyone. They have been making improvements here over the past few years. This is a great spot to feed many people with diverse tastes, and they even have a hula show a few nights a week.
The Shorebird in the Outrigger Reef hotel has the most affordable oceanfront dining (cook your own steak). They offer a late afternoon happy hour for Mai Tais and beer. There is also a late night happy hour from 10pm-midnight. Draft beers are just $3.50/pt and a small dining menu with beef sliders, Mahi sliders and Chicago dogs.
The food trucks and streetcarts can be a good bet for snacks and quick meals. I like the falafel truck that can usually be found on Kuhio Ave between Royal Hawaiian and Duke’s Lane, as well as the one selling Philly cheesesteaks in the same area.
Best early morning special? Ono Cheese Steak, on Kuhio near Nohonani, has great made-to-order egg sandwiches. I get the spinach and mushroom sandwich and a cup of coffee for $2.50. They’re open almost 24/7, but the real value is their morning egg sandwich.
The best shave ice in Waikiki can be found at the back entrance to the market on Kuhio at Hula Dog; they also sell hot dogs and veggie dogs with some creative tropical toppings.
The best happy hour deal is found at the upscale wine bar/Italian restaurant called Il Lupinos located in the Royal Hawaiian center. Their patio overlooks the Royal Grove, the historic site of the old coconut grove of the Ali’i, where it is said there were 10,000 trees there in the days of King Kamehameha. Now it’s a landscaped gardem, a real place of refuge amongst the concrete jungle side of Waikiki.
You are not required to dress up, but it is a place where even I will give up my sunset and gussy up a bit. Make a reservation for the patio, at the end of happy hour (3pm-6:30) and order as soon as you enter. There are only 5 items for $5.00 each; they offer a few drink specials and some of the divinely wonderful wines are also available for $5.00/glass in the finest crystal. All the items feature the same scrumptious pomodoro sauce, pizza, calamari and polenta—and it is all truly finger-licking good. If you do it on a day when the Grove is having their hula show, it is even more fun.
The best late night dinner special is found on Friday and Saturday at Sansei at Marriott Beach Hotel. This is a great Japanese restaurant with a very unique and award-winning menu. Karaoke starts at 10:30pm on Friday and there is the equivalent of open mike on Saturday. You can bring an instrument to play or you can sing with the musician; it’s not really karaoke because there are no words that come up. A bit of a challenge for karaoke fans who want to up their game a bit!