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.
Straight from the Beach
Waikiki is a modern, professional neighborhood, but let’s be honest: You won’t be the only person strolling from beach to bistro in your bikini or tropical print trunks. Chill out at these easygoing venues with casual vibes and to-go menus or al fresco seating. Meet your vacation entourage at Barefoot Bar at Duke’s Waikiki, located between Dukes Lane and Kanekapolei Street. We love the stunning views and Duke’s bright spin on pub grub and signature drinks. Come for lunch or dinner, devour Duke’s famous Cajun fish tacos or Korean steak street tacos, and sip the original South Swell cocktail for the perfect combination of surf, turf, and tequila. Our favorite thing about Duke’s? Stopping in for a late-afternoon snack and live music rocking the house every night.
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.
When you aren’t buried knee-deep in the sand at low tide or hiking behind waterfalls, spruce up in time for your reservations at fine dining restaurants on Kalakaua Avenue. Hau Tree Lanai at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel offers a sumptuous breakfast menu served on the breezy beach patio. The options are truly extensive, but we recommend going straight for the eggs benedict, available in many inventive incarnations, from classic to foie gras-infused. Top off the decadent morning with a cold glass of guava juice and fresh Kona coffee. Located on Kaimana Beach, near the War Memorial Natatorium.
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.
All About the Drinks
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…