59-158 Kamehameha Hwy., Hale'iwa
A favorite with the early morning surf crew that frequent the North Shore, Sunrise Shack has the basics—injected with the latest in wellness—down. Bulletproof coffee is upgraded with grass-fed butter and fragrant Madagascan vanilla. Refreshing acai bowls (some with blue algae whipped in) are topped with a shocking-pink dragon fruit syrup, toasted coconut flakes for crunch, and sweet bee pollen. The Shack’s three founding brothers grew up on these beaches and know exactly what their fellow Hawaiians want first thing: great coffee, fresh fruit, and cheery local banter.
Koko Head Café
1145 12th Ave., Honolulu
This restaurant is the amalgamation of all the cultures that have melded together on Oahu. And Hawaiian-Japanese-Korean-American-Portuguese fusion never tasted so good. You can get everything from a cornflake French toast to breakfast congee—and all of it is excellent. There is most likely a line snaking around the block, so get here early. And don’t be deterred by the wait. It’s worthwhile.
Hawaiian Crown Plantation
159 Kaiulani Ave., Honolulu
Family-owned Hawaii Pineapple Company is one of the last commercial farms on the island—and they’ve gone above and beyond to create a special surfer snack haven in Waikiki. The acai bowls here contain Hawaii Pineapple Company’s fruit and are also topped with their own macadamia nuts and cacao nibs. If you can find an acai bowl on the mainland that compares, let us know!
3308 Kanaina Ave., Honolulu
The first thing you should know about the Kapahulu drive-in is that it’s an Oahu institution. And the second is that it’s a complete hole-in-the-wall. One that’s been going strong since the early ’60s. But what this mom-and-pop shop lacks in good looks and ritzy ambiance, it makes up for with its local-style lunch plates, piled high with island favorites, like shoya chicken with generous scoops of rice and mounds of mac salad. In fact, everything about it—from the walk-up window to the shared picnic tables, even the iconic rainbow-lit sign—reminds you this is a place with character. Local tip: Order the gravy-smothered loco moco (don’t knock it till you try it) after a day in the waves.
‘Ai Love Nalo
41-1025 Kalaniana’ole Hwy., Waimanalo
A Kailua-local favorite, this expat-run operation is a dream come true for vegans who want to try the local fare. ‘Ai Love Nalo’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shop taps into the farm community in Waimānalo, and all the food is local and organic. Which explains why the tofu poke bowl is the next best thing to a fresh catch.
1240 N School St., Honolulu
Four words: James Beard Award winner. Helena’s Hawaiian has been around since the ’40s and is still part of the fabric of Oahu culture almost eighty years later. Come here, order the Combo Menu D (which includes Kahlúa pig, lomi salmon, pipikaula short ribs, and luau squid) and let loose: You’re on vacation.
324 Coral St., Honolulu
Pull up to the counter at ARVO and you’re bound to make a friend. The staff here not only pours the best cold brew in town but has recommendations for what local place to hit next. As you’re waiting for your drink or avocado toast, scroll through their website for interesting interviews with local creatives.
3750 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea
Owned by Top Chef’s Sheldon Simeon, Lineage’s cuisine is essentially a Filipino luau in a chicly unfussy space. It starts with an amazing appetizer cart that meets you as you sit down, your first indication that chef Simeon puts a premium on local produce and products. Order the chili pepper water and the garden poke bowl—or better yet, let the chef choose for you. The tasting menu is out of this world.
Paia Fish Market
100 Baldwin Ave., Paia
This laid-back seafood restaurant is exactly the kind of place we dream about and can never find. It’s a super chill dive filled with natural light and communal tables, and it serves what many agree are the best fish sandwiches anywhere on the island. Everything on the menu—from the mahi in the fish tacos to the ahi sashimi—is caught locally and prepped the second it’s delivered by local fishermen every morning. If seafood isn’t your thing, the burgers and chicken dishes are all sourced from neighboring farms. You can’t go wrong. (There are two other locations on the island.)
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr., Waimea
A perfect café on the sand, Hau Tree at the Mauna Kea has all the things you want a beachside café to have—club sandwiches and fries and ceviche. But they also know their customers, which is why they also offer smoothies and a superfood salad. No matter what you order, make sure to order dessert. The Ovaltine Froth is legendary—and exactly what kids want before they dash back into the water.
You may also like