As you cruise down the palm tree-lined streets of Honolulu, bliss out to the soundtrack of ocean waves and the scent of sticky rice and savory grilled fish. When hunger catches up with you, take a turn down the main thoroughfare of seaside Waikiki for world-class eats and great beachfront atmosphere. Kalakaua Avenue (named after King Kalakaua) runs east to west through the center of Waikiki and features top-notch eateries. Whether you’re swimsuit-clad or wearing your finest threads, you can count on a great meal. Here are our favorite Kalakaua Avenue restaurants below.
In the Outrigger Waikiki shopping center across from Duke’s, stop by Pai’s Deli, Waikiki’s best-kept secret. The team at Pai’s serves up fresh delights with island flair. Grab a turkey and avocado or veggie sandwich with a mango shake to hit the spot after a lazy morning building sandcastles. When you’ve gotta wrap your hands around something hot and juicy, order the Avocado Swiss Burger at Mahaloha Burgers in Royal Hawaiian Center at Seaside Avenue. This mouthwatering, cheap eat is piled high with grilled onions and spicy Dijon mayo; pair it with purple Okinawan potato fries and take it to go—back to the beach, that is.
As the sun sets over the Pacific, the best vantage point includes shoreline views and a decadent wine list, in our humble opinion. Azure Restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian, opposite Dukes Lane, offers the perfect excuse to don your favorite cocktail dress or suit and end the day with seamless sophistication. If you have your heart set on a particular entrée, you may order your choice of savory starters and sides, market-fresh fish, and the delicate lavender panna cotta. Otherwise, opt for a culinary adventure and push your flavor boundaries with the chef’s tasting menu—a seasonal five-course meal with optional wine pairing.
Before you bid farewell to Island Time, be sure to experience happy hour Waikiki-style—our favorite part of the day, second only to dozing in a hammock between two palm trees. For an evening of glitz, sip the eponymous passion fruit and rum cocktail in Top of Waikiki’s revolving dining room at Seaside Avenue. Or, keep it simple with the gin basil gimlet for an elegant aperitif.
Southeast of Paoakalani Avenue, Tiki’s Grill & Bar is an outdoor option for those of us who prefer to stay closer to sea level. While Tiki’s doesn’t feature an official happy hour, the drink prices are very reasonable and the ambiance is unbeatable—smart, casual, and laid-back, with live music and hula dancers. Best of all, Tiki’s is brimming with local vibes, so you won’t feel like you just walked into a kitschy tourist trap.
With millions of visitors each year, Waikiki keeps its hometown cool and traditional flavors, from hotel restaurants to inconspicuous delis. You can’t miss these tasty island treasures—both tall and small. Instead, roll down Kalakaua Avenue and take a bite out of the “Big Pineapple.” Mmm, pineapple…