Foodie Neighborhoods: 4 Gems for the Culinary Explorer
Take a culinary tour of the islands.
Consider a day exploring Hawaii’s neighborhoods akin to a foodie treasure hunt. Each neighborhood is rich with gems awaiting inquisitive diners ready to explore.
Downtown Honolulu, Chinatown and Kaimuki, Oahu
Wander the historic buildings of bustling downtown Honolulu, its neighboring Chinatown district and urban Kaimuki neighborhood long enough and you’ll need to take a break to refuel. In Chinatown, be sure to stop at The Pig and The Lady for local-focused food with modern Vietnamese flair. When you get to Kaimuki, check out the industrial vibe and farm-to-table ethos of Town restaurant, then head to award-winning 12th Avenue Grill, whose menu features modern takes on local cuisine such as Big Island Lime Gulf Shrimp a la Plancha and Waialua Root Beer-Braised Maui Cattle Co. Beef Cheeks.
Honolulu’s Chinatown is packed with markets and dining spots, a huge draw for tourists and locals alike.
Kihei and Paia, Maui
Laid-back beach life awaits in Kihei and Paia. With easy access to the catch of the day for restaurants in both Maui towns, expect stellar fish and seafood when you’re ready to eat. Don’t miss Mama’s Fish House for the freshest mahi mahi (dolphin fish), ono (wahoo), ahi (yellow-fin tuna) and more, brought directly to the restaurant by fishermen whose names are listed on the menu. Paia Fish Market is a nautical-themed spot with indoor picnic tables, well-known for its fish burgers and plate lunches. A local approach to comfort food, the typical plate lunch features a choice of an entrée, generally accompanied by white rice and macaroni salad. Housed in a former pineapple plantation store, the Hali'imaile General Store features modern takes on traditional cuisine and an impressive vegetarian menu.
Chef Bev Gannon’s Hali'imaile General Store offers award-winning Hawaii regional cuisine.
Waimea and Hilo, Hawaii Island
Waimea, Hawaii Island’s largest interior town, is known for its ranching and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture. Nestled bayside in the shadow of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, Hilo is Hawaii Island’s biggest town. For big-appetite breakfasts and lunches in both towns head to Hawaiian Style Café and tuck into a menu stocked with traditional American and Hawaiian dishes such as massive pancakes, kalua (meaning cooked in an underground oven) pork hash and a variety of plate lunches. Hilo’s Ken’s House of Pancakes, a traditional, 24-hour American-style diner with Hawaiian flair, offers a menu featuring macadamia pancakes and loco moco bowls, the latter a favorite Hawaii comfort food dish classically crafted with white rice, topped by a hamburger patty and fried egg, and smothered with gravy. Ken’s offers loco moco in several inventive variations.
Hawaii Island’s biggest town provides stunning views along with plenty of local favorites like loco moco.
The Kauai oceanside town of Poipu – its Hawaiian name refers to the crashing of waves – is breathtakingly beautiful and relatively unpopulated. Head to Poipu Shopping Village to cool off with handmade scoops of gelato in Hawaiian flavors at Papalani Gelato, or find an entirely different kind of refreshment at Koloa Rum Co., a distillery specializing in single-batch rum made from local sugar cane. The Sheraton Kauai Resort is home to RumFire Poipu Beach, an oceanfront restaurant known for its fresh seafood, seasonal dishes and four-course prix fixe menu.
Head to the oceanside town of Poipu on Kauai to sample single-batch rum made from local sugar cane at Koloa Rum Co.
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is your main gateway to Oahu and all of Hawaii, but airports are available at each island for you to easily explore the entire state. Fly into Hilo (ITO) or Kona (KOA) international airports on Hawaii Island, Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui, Lanai Airport (LNY) on Lanai, Molokai Airport (MKK) on Molokai and Līhue Airport (LIH) on Kauai.
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