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A table full of dishes, including multiple noodle soups, maki rolls, gyoza, and uni appetizers
A full meal at TsuruTonTan
TsuruTonTan [Facebook]

The 12 Essential Restaurants in Waikiki

From bowls of chewy udon and impeccable sushi to Spam musubi and superior shave ice, here’s where to eat in Honolulu’s vibrant beachfront neighborhood

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A full meal at TsuruTonTan
| TsuruTonTan [Facebook]

It’s tempting to leave Waikiki to the tourists. But you’d be missing out on Oahu’s most famous beach: two miles of white sand where there’s never a bad view of Diamond Head or the sunset over the warm, clear blue water. Constant new development shares space with some of the best places to eat on the island, so even locals come by for a bite. It’s also the most walkable neighborhood in Honolulu, a city that at times feels aggressively anti-pedestrian. Couple that with the oceanfront location, which provides easy access to the beach and food at all times, and you get a dining destination that’s hard to pass up. (For more essential eating on Hawai‘i’s islands, check out the full Eater Guide to Hawai‘i.)

Update June 2021:

The pandemic left Waikiki a ghost town, but in 2021 tourists have come back in full force, seemingly overnight. At the moment, Japanese travelers, who made up a big share of Hawai‘i’s tourism, are largely missing from the mix, which means some places are easier to get into than ever before (steakhouses in particular). Even with that drop-off, some previously hidden gems are now packed, so be sure to make reservations as far in advance as possible anywhere that takes them — and cross your fingers on the rest.

Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit One Oahu.

Martha Cheng is a writer and editor based in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Cream Pot

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444 Niu St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 429-0945
Visit Website

Cream Pot claims to have invented the souffle pancake that’s popular in Japan and, more recently, in the U.S. The brunch spot has been serving them since 2009, and they’re still wonderful, fluffy clouds. None of the imitators have the darling “hobbit home meets French cottage” atmosphere of Cream Pot. On the savory side, the clear winner is the maguro eggs Benedict: raw ahi on poached eggs and rice, like breakfast sushi. Make sure to get here early. Thanks to TikTok, this once hidden gem now garners lines around the block.

A plate of thick wobbly pancakes surrounded by sliced strawberries and topped with whipped cream and a leaf of mint. The plate sits in the middle of flower bushes
Souffle pancakes with strawberries
Cream Pot [Official]

2. Katsumidori

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100 Holomoana St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 946-7603
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Inside the Prince Waikiki hotel, you’ll find the only outpost of the Katsumidori chain outside of Japan. This location ditches the model train that delivers orders to your seat at Japanese locations, but it’s still a good stop for moderately priced sushi that’s a step above your average sushi languishing on a conveyor belt. The most deluxe sushi set (still under $40) includes luxuries such as uni, abalone, and “jumbo eel,” an almost comically long piece of seafood.

Various pieces of suhi on a tray
Deluxe sushi set
Martha Cheng

3. La Vie

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383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 729-9729
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You could come here for the ambience alone. The gorgeous open-air dining room on the eighth floor of the Ritz Carlton provides a serene view over Waikiki, but the modern French cuisine and cocktails would be worth your time even if they were served in a bunker. The menu is choose-your-own three- or four-course prix fixe (you could even pick all desserts if you like, which is more tempting than you would think). Recent standouts on the ever-changing menu include locally grown heart of palm with trout roe and sauce gribiche, local venison paired with mushroom marmalade and lingonberries, and a honey souffle. The restaurant also serves as the entrance to Sushi Sho, another spot on this list.

A tall dining space, seen from the bar where empty stools sit, with tables along a far wall with wide open windows
The open-air dining room at La Vie
La Vie [Facebook]

4. Sushi Sho

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383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 729-9717
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In 2016, Keiji Nakazawa, one of Japan’s most acclaimed sushi chefs, left Tokyo to open Sushi Sho inside the Waikiki Ritz Carlton. Here, he combines Edomae sushi techniques with local and imported seafood, challenging our notion that fresh is always best, as with an aged, wild yellowtail nigiri. But he doesn’t hew strictly to tradition: The 30ish-course omakase also showcases his creative mind with, for example, a bite-size riff on laulau, and a surf-and-turf of snail roe, caviar, and uni on chawanmushi. Though the space feels formal, with 10 armchairs arcing around the spotlighted sushi bar, the chefs behind the counter invite conversation. Be sure to make reservations far in advance.

5. Tommy Bahama Restaurant

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298 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 923-8785
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It would be a mistake to not include a single place that serves coconut shrimp on this list. One of the best renditions is, surprisingly, at the restaurant of resort-wear brand Tommy Bahama. You’ll find a tropical-American menu of guava baby back ribs, blackened mahi mahi tacos, and of course that cliche-but-still-delightful coconut shrimp, fried to a perfect crisp. Plus, the rooftop bar and fire pits in the sand are hard to beat.

An outdoor seating area with cushioned couches and chairs, and four-top tables, beneath a sunset sky with palm trees and tall buildings visible in the background
The deck at Tommy Bahama Restaurant
Tommy Bahama Restaurant [Official]

6. Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

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255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 926-8082
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Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, the only U.S. location for the Japanese chain, makes eating fried pork feel like a light, elegant affair. The choices are streamlined — regular or premium kurobuta, thick or thin cut — and the cabbage salad is bottomless. If you’ve never thought of wanting seconds (or even firsts) of cabbage, you’ll rethink that here, where the heavy, crude vegetable is transformed into a fluff of almost gossamer-thin shreds. Don’t miss the minimalist tonkatsu sandwich: Served on marshmallow-soft white bread and cut into crustless finger-sandwich lengths, it’s the chiffon cake of fried meat sandwiches.

Shrimp and tofu croquettes
Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin/FB

7. Marugame Udon

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2310 Kuhio Ave #124
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 931-6000
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The line at Marugame Udon is almost always intimidatingly long, but it moves quickly, as bowls of udon are turned out with fast-food-level efficiency. In 2011, this location was the Japanese chain’s first foray into the U.S., and its success has spurred the opening of more locations in California. Each bowl is simple — the fresh, house-made noodles are boiled to order, and are available in a variety of hot and cold options. Nothing is over $10, making this a solid option for budget dining in Waikiki.

8. Kona Coffee Purveyors | B. Patisserie

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Kuhio Avenue Mall Entrance - International Marketplace, 2330 Kalakaua Ave #160
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 450-2364
Visit Website

After 30 years in the coffee business, including starting (and eventually selling) the Honolulu Coffee Co. chain, Raymond Suiter began Kona Coffee Purveyors to focus on Kona-grown beans. Find the brand’s single-estate Kona and other Hawaiian coffees at this cafe in Waikiki, along with treats from San Francisco’s B. Patisserie. If you come just for coffee, good luck passing on the pastries and desserts, which could include a strawberry guava kouign amann or a black sesame tart.

A pastry counter, with workers on the far side of a glass barrier
Pastries from b patisserie
Martha Cheng

9. TsuruTonTan

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2233 Kalakaua Ave B310
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 888-8559
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For upscale udon, head to TsuruTonTan, a restaurant chain from Japan, here in the Royal Hawaiian Center. Giant bowls hold fresh, chewy udon in hot, thick sesame tan tan soup or cold soup topped with ikura or uni. You’ll also find sashimi, sushi, and rice bowls topped with fresh fish.

A table full of dishes, including multiple noodle soups, maki rolls, gyoza, and uni appetizers
A full meal from TsuruTonTan
TsuruTonTan [Facebook]

10. Island Vintage Wine Bar

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2301 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 799-9463
Visit Website

In a kiosk adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian Center, Island Vintage serves some of the best shave ice on the island, with servers dousing cups in pulpy syrups made of real fruit. Not far away, Island Vintage applies the same level of detail to its casual second-floor wine bar, where tasting pours of 40 bottles are available to accompany impeccable poke and steamed Hawai‘i Island clams. You can also order from the adjacent Island Vintage cafe, which offers acai bowls topped with liliko‘i and, when in season, fresh lychee.

A six-top wooden table with small plates beside a railing and thick trees beyond
Patio tables at Island Vintage Wine Bar
Martha Cheng

11. Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Aqua Pacific Hotel)

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2427 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 921-0168
Visit Website

Musubi Cafe Iyasume crams a lot into a tiny space, as does its musubi. Fresh rice is packed around fillings of fried chicken or salmon and salmon roe, and there’s an entire menu of Spam musubi variations. Get it plain, pressed with shiso, or loaded with avocado, bacon, and egg — the musubi equivalent of a breakfast sandwich. Turn a snack into a meal with two musubi and a miso soup for just $6. (There are two locations in Waikiki: The one inside the Aqua Pacific Monarch Hotel makes musubi to order, while the Seaside spot is grab and go.)

12. Double Fat Ice Cream

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2490 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

Tucked behind the Alohilani Resort, this little ice cream stand scoops flavors like yuzu creamsicle, honey furikake, and hojicha. Go all out with the crack seed sundae, a nod to the salty, sweet, savory, and sour preserved fruits that make locals’ mouths water. Scoops of sweet cream and strawberry ice cream are sprinkled with dried plum pieces, rice crackers, and a dusting of puckery li hing powder. 

A cup of several flavors of ice cream with crunch topping on a white outdoor table
Crack seed sundae
Martha Cheng

1. Cream Pot

444 Niu St, Honolulu, HI 96815
A plate of thick wobbly pancakes surrounded by sliced strawberries and topped with whipped cream and a leaf of mint. The plate sits in the middle of flower bushes
Souffle pancakes with strawberries
Cream Pot [Official]

Cream Pot claims to have invented the souffle pancake that’s popular in Japan and, more recently, in the U.S. The brunch spot has been serving them since 2009, and they’re still wonderful, fluffy clouds. None of the imitators have the darling “hobbit home meets French cottage” atmosphere of Cream Pot. On the savory side, the clear winner is the maguro eggs Benedict: raw ahi on poached eggs and rice, like breakfast sushi. Make sure to get here early. Thanks to TikTok, this once hidden gem now garners lines around the block.

444 Niu St
Honolulu, HI 96815

2. Katsumidori

100 Holomoana St, Honolulu, HI 96815
Various pieces of suhi on a tray
Deluxe sushi set
Martha Cheng

Inside the Prince Waikiki hotel, you’ll find the only outpost of the Katsumidori chain outside of Japan. This location ditches the model train that delivers orders to your seat at Japanese locations, but it’s still a good stop for moderately priced sushi that’s a step above your average sushi languishing on a conveyor belt. The most deluxe sushi set (still under $40) includes luxuries such as uni, abalone, and “jumbo eel,” an almost comically long piece of seafood.

100 Holomoana St
Honolulu, HI 96815

3. La Vie

383 Kalaimoku St, Honolulu, HI 96815
A tall dining space, seen from the bar where empty stools sit, with tables along a far wall with wide open windows
The open-air dining room at La Vie
La Vie [Facebook]

You could come here for the ambience alone. The gorgeous open-air dining room on the eighth floor of the Ritz Carlton provides a serene view over Waikiki, but the modern French cuisine and cocktails would be worth your time even if they were served in a bunker. The menu is choose-your-own three- or four-course prix fixe (you could even pick all desserts if you like, which is more tempting than you would think). Recent standouts on the ever-changing menu include locally grown heart of palm with trout roe and sauce gribiche, local venison paired with mushroom marmalade and lingonberries, and a honey souffle. The restaurant also serves as the entrance to Sushi Sho, another spot on this list.

383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815

4. Sushi Sho

383 Kalaimoku St, Honolulu, HI 96815

In 2016, Keiji Nakazawa, one of Japan’s most acclaimed sushi chefs, left Tokyo to open Sushi Sho inside the Waikiki Ritz Carlton. Here, he combines Edomae sushi techniques with local and imported seafood, challenging our notion that fresh is always best, as with an aged, wild yellowtail nigiri. But he doesn’t hew strictly to tradition: The 30ish-course omakase also showcases his creative mind with, for example, a bite-size riff on laulau, and a surf-and-turf of snail roe, caviar, and uni on chawanmushi. Though the space feels formal, with 10 armchairs arcing around the spotlighted sushi bar, the chefs behind the counter invite conversation. Be sure to make reservations far in advance.

383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815

5. Tommy Bahama Restaurant

298 Beach Walk, Honolulu, HI 96815
An outdoor seating area with cushioned couches and chairs, and four-top tables, beneath a sunset sky with palm trees and tall buildings visible in the background
The deck at Tommy Bahama Restaurant
Tommy Bahama Restaurant [Official]

It would be a mistake to not include a single place that serves coconut shrimp on this list. One of the best renditions is, surprisingly, at the restaurant of resort-wear brand Tommy Bahama. You’ll find a tropical-American menu of guava baby back ribs, blackened mahi mahi tacos, and of course that cliche-but-still-delightful coconut shrimp, fried to a perfect crisp. Plus, the rooftop bar and fire pits in the sand are hard to beat.

298 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815

6. Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

255 Beach Walk, Honolulu, HI 96815
Shrimp and tofu croquettes
Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin/FB

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, the only U.S. location for the Japanese chain, makes eating fried pork feel like a light, elegant affair. The choices are streamlined — regular or premium kurobuta, thick or thin cut — and the cabbage salad is bottomless. If you’ve never thought of wanting seconds (or even firsts) of cabbage, you’ll rethink that here, where the heavy, crude vegetable is transformed into a fluff of almost gossamer-thin shreds. Don’t miss the minimalist tonkatsu sandwich: Served on marshmallow-soft white bread and cut into crustless finger-sandwich lengths, it’s the chiffon cake of fried meat sandwiches.

255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815

7. Marugame Udon

2310 Kuhio Ave #124, Honolulu, HI 96815

The line at Marugame Udon is almost always intimidatingly long, but it moves quickly, as bowls of udon are turned out with fast-food-level efficiency. In 2011, this location was the Japanese chain’s first foray into the U.S., and its success has spurred the opening of more locations in California. Each bowl is simple — the fresh, house-made noodles are boiled to order, and are available in a variety of hot and cold options. Nothing is over $10, making this a solid option for budget dining in Waikiki.

2310 Kuhio Ave #124
Honolulu, HI 96815

8. Kona Coffee Purveyors | B. Patisserie

Kuhio Avenue Mall Entrance - International Marketplace, 2330 Kalakaua Ave #160, Honolulu, HI 96815
A pastry counter, with workers on the far side of a glass barrier
Pastries from b patisserie
Martha Cheng

After 30 years in the coffee business, including starting (and eventually selling) the Honolulu Coffee Co. chain, Raymond Suiter began Kona Coffee Purveyors to focus on Kona-grown beans. Find the brand’s single-estate Kona and other Hawaiian coffees at this cafe in Waikiki, along with treats from San Francisco’s B. Patisserie. If you come just for coffee, good luck passing on the pastries and desserts, which could include a strawberry guava kouign amann or a black sesame tart.

Kuhio Avenue Mall Entrance - International Marketplace, 2330 Kalakaua Ave #160
Honolulu, HI 96815

9. TsuruTonTan

2233 Kalakaua Ave B310, Honolulu, HI 96815
A table full of dishes, including multiple noodle soups, maki rolls, gyoza, and uni appetizers
A full meal from TsuruTonTan
TsuruTonTan [Facebook]

For upscale udon, head to TsuruTonTan, a restaurant chain from Japan, here in the Royal Hawaiian Center. Giant bowls hold fresh, chewy udon in hot, thick sesame tan tan soup or cold soup topped with ikura or uni. You’ll also find sashimi, sushi, and rice bowls topped with fresh fish.

2233 Kalakaua Ave B310
Honolulu, HI 96815

10. Island Vintage Wine Bar

2301 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
A six-top wooden table with small plates beside a railing and thick trees beyond
Patio tables at Island Vintage Wine Bar
Martha Cheng

In a kiosk adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian Center, Island Vintage serves some of the best shave ice on the island, with servers dousing cups in pulpy syrups made of real fruit. Not far away, Island Vintage applies the same level of detail to its casual second-floor wine bar, where tasting pours of 40 bottles are available to accompany impeccable poke and steamed Hawai‘i Island clams. You can also order from the adjacent Island Vintage cafe, which offers acai bowls topped with liliko‘i and, when in season, fresh lychee.

2301 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

11. Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Aqua Pacific Hotel)

2427 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Musubi Cafe Iyasume crams a lot into a tiny space, as does its musubi. Fresh rice is packed around fillings of fried chicken or salmon and salmon roe, and there’s an entire menu of Spam musubi variations. Get it plain, pressed with shiso, or loaded with avocado, bacon, and egg — the musubi equivalent of a breakfast sandwich. Turn a snack into a meal with two musubi and a miso soup for just $6. (There are two locations in Waikiki: The one inside the Aqua Pacific Monarch Hotel makes musubi to order, while the Seaside spot is grab and go.)

2427 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

12. Double Fat Ice Cream

2490 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
A cup of several flavors of ice cream with crunch topping on a white outdoor table
Crack seed sundae
Martha Cheng

Tucked behind the Alohilani Resort, this little ice cream stand scoops flavors like yuzu creamsicle, honey furikake, and hojicha. Go all out with the crack seed sundae, a nod to the salty, sweet, savory, and sour preserved fruits that make locals’ mouths water. Scoops of sweet cream and strawberry ice cream are sprinkled with dried plum pieces, rice crackers, and a dusting of puckery li hing powder. 

2490 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

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