by Santorini Dave • Updated: November 16, 2017
The 25 Best Hawaii Restaurants
- Mama’s Fish House • Maui • $$$$
Fine dining, yet casual, open-air seafood restaurant just east of Pa’ia. The fish here is incredibly fresh, and the name of the fisherperson who caught it that morning is listed on the menu. What’s on the table changes daily, depending on what they are able to catch, but it usually includes ahi, ono, opakapaka, and mahi-mahi, among other things. Their cocktail list includes modern favorites plus a few island classics from the turn of the past century. Nautical-themed décor is over the top but charming, with fishing nets, glass floats, and even the hull of a sunken ship. Casual dress, easy parking, and a varied menu make it popular with locals and travelers, couples and families alike. Reservations recommended, especially on weekends and near sundown.
- Lahaina Grill • Maui • $$$
Fine dining restaurant for steak and seafood, perfect for romantic dinners and special occasions. This restaurant is known for its rich flavors, elegant plating, extensive wine list, and impeccable service. Leave room for dessert; if you’re having trouble deciding which sweet treat to top the meal off with, they do allow half-and-half splits. Atmosphere is upscale, but like most places in Maui, dressing up is not required. Parking can be difficult on the street, but there’s a paid lot behind their building, the same historic location as Lahaina Inn. Do make reservations, or be prepared for a long wait.
- MW Restaurant • Oahu • $$$
Stylish restaurant in downtown Honolulu serving contemporary fusion cuisine. MW’s focus is on locally sourced ingredients, giving traditional Hawaiian foods a cosmopolitan spin. Dinners can be ordered a la carte or as part of a multi-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings. Sensational cocktails are made with unusual ingredients, like green tea, beets, and lemongrass. Valet parking is available; street parking can be crowded. Reservations recommended.
- Holuakoa Gardens and Café • Big Island • $$$
Romantic, farm-to-table American restaurant in the Kona Mountains. Ingredients here are sourced locally (within five miles), grown organically, and cooked lovingly. There’s a well-curated list of biodynamic and organic wines and a full bar. This is slow food, so plan on spending some time here. All seating is outdoors in the garden on their covered patio; with the elevation, it can get chilly here at night. Relaxed ambience with lots of rustic, local charm. They do have a lot behind the restaurant, but the side street leading to it can be hard to find; paid parking is a couple of blocks away.
- Town • Oahu • $$
Locally grown ingredients and Hawaiian canoe crops shine on the menu of this farm-to-table restaurant. Town features truly innovative dishes, highlighting Hawaiian ingredients with New American and Italian flair. The food menu changes daily, depending on what’s locally available. Their outstanding cocktail menu, which changes weekly, is a collaboration between the bar and kitchen using different fresh purees. The vibe here is urban cool, with industrial décor. Located in the trendy Kaimuki neighborhood, parking can be tough; there is a municipal lot nearby if street parking is full. Reservations recommended.
- Art Café Hemingway • Kauai • $$
The best restaurant on Kauai. This is a cozy little spot serving locally sourced ingredients with a French twist, very different than anything else in the area. They are famous for their brunch, especially their egg dishes, and an ever-changing menu means that dinner here is innovative and exciting. (black pepper soufflé for dessert!) The dining experience here is not one to rush through – it’s relaxed and European-style, with a casual, artsy ambiance. Reservations are recommended.
- Sweet Home Café • Oahu • $$
Delicious hot pot restaurant where diners build their own soup and cook it at their tables. Extensive selection of rich broths and thin-sliced proteins on the menu, plus three refrigerators of veggies, noodles, tofus, and more to stir in the pot, and a sauce bar to add some punch. All orders come with a free Taiwanese-style shave ice dessert, with boba, coffee jellies, fruit, and sweetened condensed milk. The atmosphere here is fun and relaxed, making this a popular place to catch up with friends and family. The restaurant is small, and the parking in the lot is limited, though street parking is free. They do not accept reservations, so the wait can be long, but as the diners queued up outside will say, it’s entirely worth it.
- Da Poke Shack • Big Island • $$
Tiny restaurant serving nothing but poke bowls, a traditional Hawaiian food made of cubed raw ahi, seasoned with various spices, over rice. House specialties include Pele’s Kiss, with Hawaiian chili and habanero peppers, and the Wet Hawaiian, with sesame and kukui nut oils. This is a no frills takeout restaurant with limited seating, two chairs inside and a couple of picnic tables outside. Named the best restaurant in the U.S. by Yelp in 2014, this casual spot is easy to miss, located in the parking lot of a condo complex three miles from downtown Kailua-Kona. Come early for the best selection; once a particular side or fish has run out, it’s done for the day.
- Star Noodle • Maui • $$
Lively Asian restaurant serving house-made noodles, fusion dishes, sake, and specialty cocktails. Flavors are bold, and most plates are big, designed for sharing. They are best known for their garlic noodles, hapa ramen, and Vietnamese crepes, but everything on the menu is stellar. Star Noodle has an amazing sake selection and a full bar; their Asian pear cocktail is the most popular drink. Atmosphere is warm, casual, and sometimes boisterous. Do make reservations, and book them in advance. They book up quickly, especially on weekends.
- Cream Pot • Oahu • $$
Delightful breakfast and brunch spot, known for their soufflé pancakes, rolled French omelets, and their twists on eggs benedict. The food is a French-Japanese-Hawaiian fusion, while the décor looks more like an English country garden. Portions are small, so diners can try a few different plates. Bring your own champagne for mimosas. Ambience is fun and casual. Adjoining the Pacific Monarch Hotel, parking in their lot is free with validation.
- Heavenly • Oahu • $$
Sweet little café serving breakfast all day. The focus here is on local, organic foods that are healthy and delicious, all with Pacific Rim flair. The menu is varied, serving light fruit bowls and egg breakfasts, along with Hawaiian and Asian favorites like loco moco and Hainanese chicken rice. The ambience is casual, upbeat, and family friendly. Parking is in the trade center across the stand; make sure to have the host validate the ticket.
- Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers • Big Island • $$
Annie’s is an amazing little burger joint with its own farm next door, producing nearly all of the ingredients for their burgers, sides, and drinks. The beef itself is raised on nearby Parker ranch. Flavors highlight local ingredients, such as their taro bun or lilikoi spritzer. All burgers are listed with a suggested beer or wine pairing, and there’s a full bar with cocktails made from fruits grown onsite. Vegan and vegetarian options, too. Relaxed feel with lots of fun, funky art on the walls. Free parking in the lot.
- Keoke’s Paradise • Kauai • $$
Tropical-themed restaurant serving Hawaiian and American food. This place looks like a tourist trap, and yes, they serve piña coladas out of hollowed out pineapples, but the food is amazing. Fresh poke, perfectly cooked seafood, juicy kalua pork, and outstanding cocktails. If the Hawaiian décor indoors is too kitschy, head outside – their al fresco dining offers great views of the garden and water features. Fun, family-friendly vibe with easy parking and no need for reservations.
- Pa’ia Fish Market • Maui • $$
A casual diner, specializing in fresh, locally caught fish. Pa’ia Fish Market serves easily the greatest fish burgers in Maui, though their fish tacos and fish ‘n chips are also great choices. Their best burger, the Big Obama (grilled Cajun ono with wasabi butter) is not listed on the menu; just ask! Beer and cider is on the menu here, but no full bar. Seating is family-style with large communal tables. Parking is difficult here; there is a free lot a few blocks west, if street parking is full nearby.
- Daylight Mind Coffee Company • Big Island • $$
Daylight Mind is wonderful, oceanfront café and bakery serving brunch, dinner, and happy hour. They are best known for their innovative brunch menu, which includes plenty of meat and vegetarian options, as well as their signature coffee, roasted here under the direction of a PhD coffee scientist. Stunning views of the Kona coast from the lanai. The vibe here is refreshing, laid back, and family-friendly. Paid parking is available below, and they deduct the total from the bill at the end.
- Hana Ranch Provisions • Maui • $$
Upscale restaurant in Pa’ia serving new American foods, sourced from their own sustainable and organic ranch and farm in Hana. The menu changes regularly according to availability of fresh ingredients, but burgers and sandwiches are always featured. Thier fantastic pastas and lilikoi goat cheesecake, when available, are a sure bet. Full bar showcases fun cocktails made with local fruits. Vibe is lively and casual. Parking can be difficult in Pa’ia; there is a free lot next door, though it’s often full. Bonus: if driving the Road to Hana, guests might spot their silver burger truck; tours of the ranch are available there, too.
- Palate Wine Bar and Restaurant • Kauai • $$
Intimate, upscale stop for wine and tapas. The focus here is simple dishes done well. Cheese, charcuterie, and made-from-scratch flatbreads round out the menu. The wine selection is eclectic, featuring bottles from boutique vineyards all over the world. The ambiance is free and easy with casual dress. Free parking is available in the lot out front.
- Fatboy’s • Oahu • $$
Local, fast casual, chain diner for Hawaiian-style food. The dishes here are delicious and filling, and a great value for the money. Breakfast offerings include local favorites – choose loco moco, fried rice, or a combination of the two, the Ali’i Fried Rice, which is topped with a hamburger patty, corned beef hash, and an over easy egg. Plate lunches (two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad, and an entrée) are a staple here, the most popular being kalbi and garlic chicken. Relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. Four locations in Oahu.
- Hilo Bay Café • Big Island • $$
Contemporary Hawaiian-American restaurant with excellent sushi and a stunning view of Hilo Bay. Food served here is seasonal and organic with lots of vegetarian options. Their fish of the day can be prepared in a variety of styles, and no matter what it happens to be that day, it will come out prepared to perfection. Their full bar features fun cocktails, craft beers, and a great wine selection. Fun, lively atmosphere. For the best views, reserve your table in advance and request to be seated on the lanai. Parking here is easy and free.
- La Spezia • Kauai • $$
Superb yet understated restaurant for breakfast, brunch, and Italian dinners. For breakfast, their stuffed French toast (both bacon/brie and blueberry) is out of this world. Brunch service showcases a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Dinners feature homemade pastas and breads with perfect wine pairings. Make reservations if dining during peak hours. Free parking in the lot to the side.
- Sam Sato’s, Inc. • Maui • $
The source of Maui’s dry mein obsession, Sam Sato’s is best known for their version of saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup dish similar to ramen. Here, noodles are pan fried and served with a small cup of broth on the side, meant for dunking each bite. Vibe is cozy, casual, basic, a taste of old Hawaii. This place is rarely visited by tourists – come here to feel like a local. Open for breakfast and lunch only. They don’t take reservations, just sign in and wait to be called; service is fast, so wait times are short. Free parking in the lot.
- Tin Roof • Maui • $
Takeout shop for Hawaiian comfort foods owned by renowned Chef Sheldon Simeon. This little restaurant with big flavors flies so far under the radar, they don’t even have a sign! Working with nearby farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, they serve only what’s fresh and local, so their menu changes daily. Their most popular dish, though, the mochiko chicken is always available. Make sure to order an extra dime bag, their name for their house blend seasoning pack. Laid back vibe, limited seating, and free parking. Order online to avoid the wait!
- Marukame Udon • Oahu • $
Gorgeous Japanese udon and tempura in the heart of Waikiki. All noodles, broths, and condiments are made fresh, in-house with ingredients grown in Japan. The kitchen is an open style, and noodles are all cooked to order right in front of the diners – they pair well with a soft boiled egg on top. Casual vibe in this fast-paced, cafeteria style restaurant. Don’t be fooled by the long line spilling onto the sidewalk; it moves fast! Street parking only; no restroom.
- Frostcity • Oahu • $
This can’t miss little dessert shop serves Taiwanese-style shaved snow – which is not the same thing as the island-ubiquitous shave ice! Though the flavor lies somewhere between shave ice and ice cream, the texture of shaved snow takes it over the top. Fluffy, light ribbons of cream pile high and dissolve instantly in your mouth. Servings look bigger than they are, because they’re so airy. Flavors include fun pairings, like pineapple basil, and are topped with mocha, fruits, and sweetened condensed milk. Casual, fun atmosphere, family friendly, easy parking.
- Da Crack • Kauai • $
Best Mexican food in all of Hawaii. The menu is simple – mostly tacos and build-your-own burritos – and the taste is heavenly. Portions are generous, filling, and inexpensive. This tiny restaurant is literally a hole in the wall, smaller than your average food truck. Take out only; no seating; no alcohol. Plenty of parking.