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Oahu, HI City Guide {UPDATE}

by Grace Bonney

Today’s Honolulu & Oahu City Guide update comes from Kailua resident Hannah Estelle. Hannah blogs at Frugal Bon Vivant and Comma Happy, and is a healthcare communications manager. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Hannah is now proud to call Hawaii home. She loves living on the windward side of Oahu, and today she shares her top picks for the island. Thanks, Hannah, for this wonderful update! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

Aloha and welcome to paradise! Many visitors to Oahu don’t venture beyond Waikiki, but there is so much more to see, eat and do just a short drive or bus ride away. Although Waikiki is pretty amazing and has some of the best restaurants and beaches, there is more to experience.

After my first visit to Oahu, I was certain that my future Hawaii trips would be to less populated islands. Now that I live here, I’ve found that there are many sides to the island and that my most memorable experiences have been outside the bubble that is Waikiki. Even if your ideal vacation is spent next to a pool, drink in hand, plan to spend a day or two adventuring and experiencing Oahu. There’s something to be said for the slower side of island life.

Oahu is the most populated Hawaiian island, with nearly 1 million people, and about three-quarters of them live in Honolulu. The island of Oahu is about 600 square miles. For comparison, that’s about twice the land area of New York City, but with only 5 percent of the population!

This guide is split into three areas: Honolulu (beyond Waikiki), the North Shore (Haleiwa) and Kailua (windward Oahu). See the entire guide on this Oahu City Guide Google Map. There is so much to take in, I’ll probably still feel like a visitor years from now. If you have favorite spots you’d like to share, add them in the comments. Enjoy!



Owens & Co.
Venture to Chinatown for a well-curated collection of home decor and accessories and a small selection of furniture and art. One corner of the shop has rustic horizontal paneling that is drool-worthy.
1152 Nuuanu Ave., 808-531-4300

Pacific Home
Daydream about what your future beach house will look like as you peruse beachy, modern furniture and home accessories. The shop also carries brands like Heath Ceramics and Dwell Studio. This is my top pick for home decor on Oahu.
420 Ward Ave., Honolulu, 808-596-9338

Red Pineapple
The perfect place to browse for unique Hawaiian gifts. My favorites are the dried fruits and Molokai sea salt by Kahala Fresh or perfume from Saffron James. This is also one of the only places on the island to get Dean and Deluca if you need a fix.
Ward Center — 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 808-593-2733

Trends Jodphur
It’s unlikely that you have a shipping container at your disposal to transport your shopping loot back to the mainland, but this shop is worth browsing if you’re nearby. They carry large furniture items including wood bedframes, vintage chests and other intricately carved items from India. Located across from Red Pineapple.
Ward Center — 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 808-593-9601

Honolulu Design Center
Their “INspiration” showroom is full of modern, albeit pricy, furniture and lighting. The center has a restaurant, bar and cafe, and hosts frequent comedy and open mic nights. Not a place for the average tourist, but good for those on an extended stay.
1250 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu

Sand People
Another great choice for island and beachy home decor and gifts. They stock a fun collection of vintage-styled wooden beach signs and wall art and have several shops around the islands. A favorite gift item is the Malie soy candles and tropical cream perfumes.
Ala Moana Mall — 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, 808-955-8883

Small boutique with clothing, swimwear, accessories and jewelry. Go for the dresses and beachy jewelry. Limited hours.
3434 Waialae Ave. #4, 808-284-1177

Somace Lifestyle
Save room in your suitcase for at least a few throw pillows from designer Kaypee Soh. Prints are bold, bright and modern, and this independent shop is a fun place to browse for pillows, rugs and artwork. Soh also has a new line of trays and coasters in the same amazing prints.
1016 Kapahulu Ave., #100, 808-593-8780

South Shore Paperie
Satisfy your letterpress cravings at this stationery shop. They carry a variety of cards and notes, and specialize in weddings and events. You are likely to find note cards with messages of “aloha” or “mahalo.” Isn’t it so much more fun to write mahalo notes rather than thank you notes?
1016 Kapahulu Avenue, #190, 808-744-8746

Part consignment shop, part local crafty goods and some furniture. This shop is often hit or miss but worth checking out if you’re in the area.
1137 11th Ave. #101, 808-739-2263

A cute and tiny shop in Kaimuki that sells whimsical gift items, paper goods and party favors. A great place to find handmade and local items. The owners are graphic designers, and they specialize in weddings and other events.
3434 Waialae Ave. #3, 808-447-9233


Nico Pier 38
A favorite among locals and tourists, this French-meets-Hawaiian restaurant recently expanded to keep up with demand. It’s a great lunch spot, and the fish sandwiches are delicious. They also have a fresh fish market where you can get to-go items and amazingly fresh poke (raw fish salad) in a variety of seasonings. Poke newbie? Imagine a spicy tuna hand roll without the rice and nori wrap.
Pier 38 — 1129 N Nimitz Hwy., 808-540-1377

Burgers on the Edge
Not your typical fast food restaurant, this one has creative gourmet burgers with names like BB&B, Thai-rific, Antidote and King Arthur. They serve Kobe beef burgers and an award-winning veggie burger that has quinoa, macadamia nuts and black beans fried in a panko crust. Delicious. Don’t forget the fries — they have sweet potato and the ever-popular truffle oil with parmesan and parsley.
890 Kapahulu Ave., 808-737-8866

Morning Glass
A hip spot to pick up coffee or grab breakfast on the weekend. Menu is limited but includes individual skillet items like an omelet with Hamakua mushrooms, gruyere and caramelized onions. Great Hawaiian and world coffees. As a former Portlander, this is where I come for my Stumptown fix. Be forewarned that Morning Glass can have a bit of a hipster, unfriendly feel to it, but the coffee is worth it.
2955 E. Manoa Rd., 808-673-0065

Shimazu Store
Shave ice with out-of-the-ordinary flavors like red velvet, peanut butter chocolate, creme brulee or mojito. Servings are huge.
330 N. School St., 808-371-8899

Town Kaimuki
The place everybody loves to love, and rightly so! This restaurant by acclaimed Honolulu chef Ed Kenney operates on the mantra “Local first, organic when possible, with aloha always.” Their menu changes based on what ingredients are fresh and in season, but they usually have good hand-cut pastas, steak, vegetarian entrees and so many sides to choose from. They can get super busy for dinner, so you usually need a reservation, and service can be slow. They also serve breakfast, which is simple and delicious.
3435 Waialae Ave., 808-735-5900

Soul de Cuba Cafe
Cuban homestyle cooking with a Hawaiian twist. Come here for great food in a cozy atmosphere. They have so many options for appetizers and entrees. You can also do a prix fixe option dinner for two, and at lunch they serve “bocadillo” sandwiches. Their flan is very popular, but I’d go for the guava or mango empanadas.
1121 Bethel St., 808-545-2822

Alan Wong’s Restaurant, Morimotos, The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong, 3660 On the Rise, Hoku’s, Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas
Interested in eating award-winning food by award-winner chefs and/or have some cash to burn? These are all great options for a classy dinner out. Your guidebook or Yelp will describe, so I won’t attempt to.


  • Eat the Street — A gathering of food trucks, music and more. The last Friday of every month, 4–9 p.m.; location varies, but usually held at 555 South St.
  • First Friday Honolulu — A self-guided walk of galleries, studios, art exhibits and entertainment. The first Friday of every month, 5–9 p.m.; around downtown and Chinatown.
  • Saturday Farmers Market — The area’s largest farmers market with exclusively Hawaii-grown and made products. Every Saturday, 7:30–11 a.m.; Kapiolani Community College — 4303 Diamond Head Rd.


(To know: pronounce the W as a V.)


Pineapples Boutique
A cute shop loaded with beach dresses, jewelry and accessories, along with a few gifts and home accessories. They carry jewelry from many local designers. On my last visit, I was coveting some handmade pieces from local shop Pure Joy Adornments.
66-200 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-8477

Soap Cellar
Handmade soaps and bath products. The store also has a selection of gifts, locally crafted jewelry and vintage signs. Look for their small box of historical photo prints dating from the 1880s, including iconic surfing shots and classic Hawaiian scenes.
66-218 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-9088

Clark Little Gallery
Amazing place to check out ocean and wave photography from Clark Little. Clark is a surfer turned photographer. In just a few short years, he has gone from amateur photographer to having his work exhibited at the Smithsonian and on magazine covers. Clark has a unique perspective, as most of the photos are shot from inside the wave. A must-see.
66-165 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-626-5319

My favorite little North Shore shop carries fun beach clothing, swimwear and accessories from brands like LA Made, Free People, Splendid and Ella Moss. It’s well curated and affordable. A go-to spot for swimwear, beach blankets and leather clutches. They also have home accessories and gifts, including spa items from Maile, a Kauai company. My pick would be an organic soy candle — the coconut scent is heavenly.
66-165 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-9670

Kai Ku Hale
Everything for your seaside home — browse for art, home decor, mirrors framed in driftwood, home design books, glass floats and vases. They also carry large statement pieces like Koa wood paddles. This shop has some unique furniture, including chairs made in Indonesia with reclaimed wood from painted canoes and boats.
66-145 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-636-2244

Bali Moon
Another spot to check out coastal furniture, gifts and art. This shop has more furniture and large items including tables, chairs made of reclaimed wood, rugs and other textiles. They import goods from Southeast Asia, including their namesake island.
66-145 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-6666

Global Creations Interiors
The third shop in a row that stocks beachy decor and accessories! This one is best for hand-crafted jewelry made from sunrise shells and beach glass. They also have an assortment of beach art, vintage signs, pillows and even ukuleles.
66-079 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-1780


Opal Thai
Easily the best Thai food on Oahu at this food truck turned restaurant. The owner is super friendly and likes to chat up the customers — he might even order your meal for you. It’s like a short interview to gauge your tastes and spice level, and then the rest is a surprise. But don’t worry, you can order on your own, too. Everything here is delicious — the fried tofu with garlic sauce and crispy fried basil leaves, green curry, pad thai, or anything with eggplant in it. You can’t go wrong here.
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-381-8091

Waialua Bakery and Juice Bar
Stop in for a cookie, dessert bar or bread. Also a great spot for a quick lunch — there are a variety of sandwiches and smoothies, and everything is reasonably priced.
66-200 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-341-2838

Beet Box Cafe
Delicious vegetarian and vegan restaurant — perfect for a quick lunch. They also serve breakfast all day. Popular items are the Beirut burger with falafel patty and the burrito babe, which has sauteed veggies and tofu in a Thai peanut sauce. They also carry cookies, smoothies and juices — try the Freddy’s or Pipeline smoothie. Located inside the Celestial Natural Foods store.
66-443 Kamehameha Hwy, 808-637-3000

Universe Juice
Nothing too special here, but a fine spot to grab juice, a smoothie or a panini.
66-145 Kamehameha Hwy, 808-228-0491

Matsumotos Shave Ice and Aoki’s Shave Ice
While Matsumotos has the claim of being older, both shops sell great shave ice. I’d head to the one with a shorter line! In addition to classic shaved ice in a cone topped with syrup, you can get yours with azuki beans, ice cream or condensed milk. My favorite flavor combo is lilikoi, coconut cream and green tea.
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-4827

Lanikai Juice
Best smoothies on the island! Lanikai Juice makes juices, smoothies and acai bowls from locally grown fruit, 100 percent juice and mostly organic products. The menu can be overwhelming, but you really can’t go wrong! My favorites are the pineapple power smoothie, the ginger ono juice and the monkey bowl. So delicious.
66-215 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-7774

Grass Skirt Grill
A good stop for a reasonably priced plate lunch with fresh fish or an ahi burger. Burgers are served on taro buns. The fries here are fairly popular.
66-214 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-4852

Shark’s Cove Grill
Convenient for a post-snorkel snack. This is one of my favorite food trucks on the North Shore, but I typically only grab a smoothie and then head to Haleiwa for lunch. They have a decent menu though, including an ahi sandwich, teriyaki chicken skewers and a vegan taro burger.
59-712 Kamehameha Hwy.

Coffee Gallery
Iced coffee and blended coffee drinks for when you tire of shave ice. They brew coffee from all over Hawaii and the world. Don’t forget a pastry or dessert. This is one of the only places on the island to get a French macaron. They are a bit oversized, and come in flavors like lilikoi, pineapple and ling hi mai.
66-250 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-637-5571


  • Watch big wave competitions in the winter — Waimea Bay to Sunset Beach
  • Snorkel in the summer — Pupukea Beach Park or “Shark’s Cove”
  • Hike to Kaena Point nature reserve to see monk seals and albatross
  • Go on a tour of the Lost filming sites — Search online for tours. If you choose a self-guided option, know that many filming spots are on private property and others require you to pay a fee to look around. Be courteous.
  • Take a surfing or stand-up paddle boarding lesson — Haleiwa




Bali Boo
Follow an old quarry road for a few miles and you’ll stumble upon a warehouse with three floors of Indonesian and Hawaiian furniture. The trip is worth the chance to ogle furniture made from koa, mango, coconut and lychee wood. On the first floor, you’ll find smaller items like coconut trays and glass floats.
905 Kalanianaole Hwy., 808-263-8400.

Sand People
The newest edition for this 20-year-old chain of stores selling coastal and nautical decor. This location seems to carry a little more clothing and accessories than the ones in Honolulu, but it still has a great selection of beachy home decor and gift items.
600 Kailua Rd., 808-261-8878

Lily Lotus
Almost like a local Lululemon, but exclusively for yogis. In addition to comfy yoga wear and accessories, you’ll find jewelry and small art pieces from local designers.
609 Kailua Rd. #102, 808-888-3564

Kailua Beach Walk
This is a classic beachy shop with clothing and accessories. It’s worth a stop if you’re shopping your way through Kailua.
602 Kailua Rd., #102, 808-263-1082

Muse Room
A very girly-girl boutique with clothing, accessories and spa items. Go for their cute dresses and jewelry.
332 Uluniu St., 808-261-0202

Olive Boutique
A fun, small shop with a well-curated selection of clothing, accessories and hand-crafted jewelry. I end up wanting everything here! One of the only spots on the windward side of the island where you’ll find high-design items like sheets of wrapping paper, note cards, candles and handmade wooden picture frames.
43 Kihapai St., 808-263-9919

Red Bamboo
A fun new store with coastal home decor and accessories. Along with the typical carved wood items and vintage signs, you’ll find brightly colored pillows, wall art, dishes, lanterns and books. This is a great spot to pick up gifts.
602 Kailua Rd., #101, 808-263-3174


Camille’s on Wheels
A bright, cheery food truck with fish tacos to die for. You can’t miss Camille’s aqua food truck parked in Kailua. She also visits Honolulu a couple days each week. She keeps her fans updated on her location and hours via Twitter, or you can follow her GPS location on FoodTrucksHawaii.com. She received some much-deserved press by the Food Network and Honolulu Monthly magazine. Don’t miss the homemade pie — it’s amazing.
Location/days vary — latest spot is on Uluniu Street, behind Walgreens

The Grove
This is a great choice for lunch or dinner. The Grove has traditional dishes with a global twist. Popular items include the grilled hamakua mushroom or warm Brussels sprouts salads, grilled flatbreads, paella and steak. They have fantastic desserts. It’s upscale but relaxed.
33 Aulike St., 808-262-2898

He’eia Pier General Store and Deli
Grab a casual bite at this reinvented general store turned upscale deli. It’s traditional plate lunch with an organic and local twist. Popular items are fish, burgers and guava chicken. Order inside the tiny shop next to bait and supplies, then pick up your food at the window outside and find a spot on the pier. Don’t forget to try the ice cake.
46-499 Kamehameha Hwy., 808-235-2192

Kalapawai Cafe & Deli
A convenient spot to grab lunch or coffee, and in the evening they serve a great dinner. My favorite menu items are the Kahuku corn pizza and the eggplant bruschetta. They also have creative sides highlighting local ingredients, and you can’t go wrong with their fish of the day or other daily specials.
750 Kailua Rd., 808-262-3354

Lanikai Juice
Best smoothies on the island! Lanikai Juice makes juices, smoothies and acai bowls from locally grown fruit, 100 percent juice and mostly organic products. The menu can be overwhelming, but you really can’t go wrong! My favorites are the pineapple power smoothie, the ginger ono juice and the monkey bowl. So delicious. This is the original location.
572 Kailua Rd., 808-262-2383

Prima is a new, trendy addition to Kailua from seasoned Oahu chefs. They have a frequently changing menu of pastas and “share plates” that make for a great family-style meal. The highlight for me is always a wood-fired pizza. Save room for dessert — they are incredible.
108 Hekili St. #107, 808-888-8933

Sweet Home Waimanalo
This place is all about organic, local ingredients, so much so that they have a garden on the roof! They have amazing barbecue plate lunches — choose ribs, chicken or tofu — and the guava chipotle sauce is delicious. Side dishes are great, especially the bok choy slaw and the purple Okinawan sweet potatoes. The honey ginger lemonade and hibiscus tea are also yummy.
41-1025 Kalanianaole Hwy., 808-259-5737

Uahi Island Grill
A great place for lunch or dinner after a day-trip to Kailua. With sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with either the furikake tofu, smoked fish or tamarind beef. My absolute favorite item is their seared ahi salad with ponzu dressing. They also have great dinner entrees, including an amazing fried fresh fish in a red curry sauce.
131 Hekili St., 808-266-4646


  • Kailua Beach Park — A good option for an afternoon of activity. Walk the two-mile stretch of sand, try boogie boarding, watch kite surfers, or rent a kayak and head out to Flat Island or the Mokulua Islands. Other great beach options are Waimanalo Beach or Bellows Beach — check a map or guidebook.
  • Kailua Farmer’s Market — A fun mix of produce, artisanal goods, food and flowers. Stop by the OnoPop stand for a delicious paletas-style popsicle made from local ingredients. My favorite flavors are lilikoi cheesecake and kalamansi-coriander. Every Thursday, 5–7:30 p.m.; Kailua Town Center parking garage between Longs Drugs and Macys.
  • Take a hike — There are some amazing hikes on the windward side. Short favorites are the Makapuu Lighthouse trail and the Lanikai “Pill Boxes.” Check out your guidebook or Yelp.


Hotel Renew
A modern 70-room boutique hotel close to Waikiki Beach. It was totally renovated and reopened in 2008. You can usually find deals, and some upper floor units have an ocean view. This hotel seems to fly under the radar of good places to stay. It is set back just one block from the beach — the location can’t be beat.
129 Paoakalani Ave., Honolulu. 808-687-7700.

The Modern Honolulu
True to its name, this hotel is very modern and cool. The wall behind the reception desk is an art piece made up of broken surfboards from pro surfers. The hotel has 353 rooms, many with ocean views. The hotel launched in 2010 as a partnership between boutique-hotel founder Ian Schrager and Marriott, but changed hands to the Aqua Hotels chain in 2011. The hotel houses Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant — Morimoto Waikiki, a bar and a nightclub. Standard rooms seem really big here — about 400 square feet. The hotel has two pools: the sunrise pool and the sunset pool. In case you forget your iPad, they will lend you one (a weird but memorable perk). The Modern Honolulu is in a great location at the north end of Waikiki near the yacht clubs. It’s a 5–10 minute walk from both Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Beach Park.
1775 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, 808-943-5800

The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
A boutique hotel at the base of Diamond Head on the far end of Waikiki Beach. It has views of Diamond Head and Waikiki. Rooms are small and most could use an update, but the location and price are great. A great choice if you want to be near Diamond Head, Kaimuki or Kahala.
2863 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, 808-923-1555

The Royal Hawaiian
Often called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” it was built in 1927, making it one of the first hotels on Waikiki. History lesson: part of the property was once used by King Kamehameha I. The Royal Hawaiian is an icon and a top luxury resort. The hotel has 528 rooms and sits on 14 acres. Of note, the hotel has a relaxation pool, and it shares a new “super pool” with the Sheraton that has a water slide. If you aren’t staying here, you should at least tour the grounds. Design lovers will enjoy the amazing lighting, historical details and outdoor spaces. You can usually catch live Hawaiian music at the Mai Tai Bar.
2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu. 808-923-7311

Turtle Bay Resort
Turtle Bay is the only hotel or resort on the North Shore. It’s expensive, but the location is worth it, especially if you’re wary of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. The hotel is on a secluded bay near Kahuku at the north tip of the island. Rooms are modern, but with more of a traditional Hawaiian feel. Anyone can visit their popular beachfront restaurant, Ola. They focus on local ingredients like Hamakua mushrooms, fresh fish and North Shore Cattle Co. beef. If happy hour is more your style, check out Surfer, the bar (yes, just like Surfer the magazine). Check the website for music and “talk story” or spoken word events.
57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku. 808-293-6000

Famous people with ties to Oahu

  • AOL founder Steve Case
  • Actor Henry Ian Cusick
  • Actor Matthew Fox
  • Musician and surfer Jack Johnson
  • Actress Nicole Kidman
  • Actor Jason Scott Lee
  • Actress and singer Bette Midler
  • Actor Jim Nabors
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Kelly Preston
  • Singer and actor Nicole Scherzinger
  • Musician Jake Shimabukuro
  • Golfer Michelle Wie

Suggested For You


  • Thanks for posting this! As a born and bred Hawaii girl living on the mainland, I love to learn about the places to visit (and shop!) whenever I go back home to visit.

  • this is such an amazing post! I was born and raised in hawaii, now living in cold portland, oregon! I’ve been to many of the places on the Oahu list and recommend all of them! (now heres my shoutout)–My older sister has her own blog about hawaii and works at the Design Within Reach at Ala Moana. Her website about weddings in Hawaii and New Zealand will be out in early 2009…she’ll be excited to see this!

  • Ugh, this is totally not what I needed this morning. Now I will be crying at my desk all afternoon, dreaming of the lunch I had at Mama’s Fish House. My boyfriend and I talk at least once a week about how we could theoretically move to Hawaii from NYC. *sob*

  • Thanks for this post! This is very helpful! I do have to let everyone know that the Little Village Noodle House is the best Chineese food that I have ever eaten so it is exciting to see it mentioned here! Also, Mama’s Fish House in Maui is awesome, too.

  • Thanks for the post! We really appreciate naming us. Now I get to go try all these other cool places you mentioned!

  • Fighting Eel is an absolute must.

    On my recent trip to Hawaii, I visited Fighting Eel’s cute studio and came away with 6 beautiful dresses for about $300. Amazing! It was such a great deal!

  • Kehei Cafe in Kehei had delicious Loco Moco as well as a Hawaiian fried rice plate- think jazzed up fried rice with garlic, scallions, bacon, peas, carrots, and gravy and fried egg on top. Such a rich breakfast, but delicious and cheap.
    Three cheers for Mama’s Fish House! The best meal we had while in Maui, worth every penny of the $275!!!

  • Whenever you go to Hawaii, pick up the Andrew Doughty book that applies to the Island….they’re SUCH a helpful guide! We depended on our Maui Revealed book when we were there. I agree that Mala on Maui was amazing (plus we saw Mick Fleetwood there)

  • I have always checked out your City Guides and I never thought you would do one on our little state of Hawaii. I live on Maui and My mom always drops her super cute clothes off at Rainbow Attic so I bet there are some cute things there right now. Thank you so much for this. I am emailing it to my mom right now.

  • I sure wish you’d do a guide on Paris… I’ve been living there for five years and have just found out about a nice (not affordable – It’s Paris) shop which sells products from the 60’s.

    Please ?

  • I totally echo Meg when she says that Fighting Eel is a must … the dresses are cute, cool, comfy and just awesome! They might need some layering with other pieces when worn on the mainland, but they are wonderful. Can’t forget Liliha Bakery Coco Puffs either though!

  • One more thing…..it is also Devocean……not Devotion. Super cute store!!!!! My fav. is Biasa Rose in Paia

  • i had the best meal of my 29 years at mama’s fish house. aaaaaamazing. i wish i was on maui right now! agh.

  • The absolute BEST fish tacos in Maui is Jawz Fish Tacos in Kihei. They also have a mobile bus on Makena Beach. Plenty of veggie options and an enchilada pie to die for!

  • I grew up in Hawaii and am living in NYC and am now seriously homesick. One thing that Hawaii does better than any other place I’ve been to is really great soaps and lotions. They’re everywhere you turn, and admittedly there are some that are better than others.

    My favorites:
    At Chemistry, you can rent out the store space for a private party with a scent-expert, and they’ll mix you a custom scent for all of your bath and body products. http://chemistrybathandbody.com/
    Malie Kaua’i Organics (maybe coming with the Kaua’i guide)

  • What a great guide to Hawaii! I completely agree on Mediterraneo and the Rainbow drive-in as great restaurants. But, I was surprised that you didn’t mention two of my favorites – Alan Wong’s (http://www.goplanit.com/dining/13749/alan_wongs_restaurant) for a nice romantic and upscale meal. And, Boots and Kimo’s (http://www.goplanit.com/dining/39132/boots__kimos_homestyle_kitchen) for the most amazing Hawaiian breakfast. Their macadamia nut pancakes are simply amazing.

  • Hooray! Since moving to Oahu about 6 months ago I’ve already frequented several of these places, but I’m glad to know there are more treasures to be found. Thank you, thank you!

  • For those of you who moved to Hawaii, how did you do it? I’ve been trying to read up from others’ experiences on how to make the plunge, but just wondered what people’s personal stories are in terms of how they’ve relocated. It’s always been a dream, but my stubborn sense of Midwesternness prevents me from doing it without a REAL reason / justification! :)

  • yay, shaunna, for such a wonderful guide!

    one note, ma on kapahulu is now known as ka’u but still stocks many of the same designers.

  • How fun! It’s nice to see Hawaii on the design radar :) My favorite place on Oahu that was not mentioned is the Honolulu Academy of Art. They have a gorgeous cafe that serves up delicious food (you have to try the ginger lemonade!), and around Christmas time, the buyers for the museum’s shop showcase large tents of international finds.

  • this is for jill contemplating moving to hawaii…..just do it! i’ve been on maui almost 1 years now. being the over analyzer that i am, there comes a time when you have to forget all the “what-ifs” and follow your heart. so what if it doesn’t work out?? well, you move back and got the opportunity of a lifetime anyway! ;)

  • Nice post! There are lots of great food places I would mention, too. Side Street Inn, Lewer’s Lounge for Mai Tais, Bangkok Chef for Thai in Oahu, Pake’s on the Windward side, Lucy’s for the Tower of Ahi, Sushi Sasabune, Mitch’s and Yohei for unreal sushi, Elua for very nice continental, Town, Downtown and 12 Ave. Grill for nice contemporary bistro-style fare with lots of local ingredients, Ola at Turtle Bay for fab on the beach dining, La Mer at the Halekulani for most romantic setting, and on and on.

  • I am a Maui girl myself, born and raised in Upcountry Kula! My goodness you really did hit all the best spots! Excellent sleuthing skills. Design Sponge “No Ka ‘Oi!”

    *”Design Sponge is the best!” *

  • Thankyou for posting this guide
    as I am going to hawaii for a holiday in two weeks. Looking foward to visiting all the places

  • As I said above, i’m going to hawaii in 2 weeks which is mid-january. I know it’s their winter, but is the experience not as good during that time because it’s the rainy season, and not their summer? I know hawaii has more to offer than great weather, but i would love to enjoy paradise weather too so i can lie by the
    pool and beach all day :)

  • in maui there is also Friends of the Library, behind the sugar mill, where almost all books are 10cents. i haven’t been here long, I moved from CA a year ago and boy am I homesick. Anyways I got married, packed everything up, found out i was pregnant and moved to Maui (where my hubby is from), stayed with inlaws and found a place in Kihei. A 2bedroom for the same price as a 1bedroom in San Diego, plus we have a yard. My big caution to people moving over is be prepared, most everything is more expensive: milk, gas, electricity, and shopping for an afforable crib was a nightmare (whats on display is not always in stock and replacing stock isn’t always quick). The resources here aren’t nearly the same as the mainland but it is beautiful and I can walk across the street for a picnic on the beach!

  • My husband just landed a job with Teach for America in Oahu and I’m so excited to check out all these wonderful places in my new hometown! Thanks for a great guide!

  • I wish I would have had this guide when i was in Maui last spring! Lucky for me I managed to experience Mala ocean tavern and Sansei. Both were absolutely amazing! Sansei’s butterfish melts in your mouth, as do many other dishes on the menu. Order a lot and share so everyone can try as many things as possible! Mala is enchanting. The sea turtles swim right outside the deck of the restaurant. We were lucky enough to have as our server the owners daughters boyfriend who was kind enough to tell us all about the family and the story of the tavern. The family also owns many other great spots on the island like the popular Maui Taco, if memory serves correctly. The best part of Mala was getting to leave with the reciepes for the foods we ate in the Mala cookbook!! The beet salad with fried panko crusted goad cheese is phenomenal!! and the view from the four seasons is unbelieveable.

  • Maui is our favorite destination — have been going there for 15 years and never tire of it.

    Paradise Living (near Mind’s Eye) is a furniture resale shop in Lahaina that we have found to be worthwhile over the years.

    One restaurant well known by locals in the Wailuku business district is not likely to be found by vacationers, but is well worth the drive. Our not-to-be missed GREAT find is in an out of the way business district in Wailuku on Main Street, called the Main Street Bistro. They are crowded with the office workers at breakfast and lunch and have a tapas menu at night, but they are only open until 7:00 p.m. MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. The food is plentiful, beautifully presented and VERY reasonable. It is a tiny place, but the chef/owner (Tom) will treat you like family and will try to prepare specialties for you if not busy from the lunch/dinner menu even if it is not the right time of day. Prior to opening his own restaurant, Tom paid his dues as a top chef with hotels on Maui – the fruits of his labors will be instantly apparent to you. Tell Tom that the people from Cincinnati sent you! You can review the menu on their web site: http://www.msbmaui.com or call them for directions AND HOURS at Tel: (808) 244-6816.

    You might couple this trip with a scenic journey to ‘Iao Valley, which is just up the road (take a jacket–can be windy and cold!). And also visit Maui Tropical Plantation (on Honoapillani Highway) just outside of Wailuku toward Lahaina. The nursery grows all sorts of tropical plants/trees and offers tours of the property (purchase a ticket or look around yourself). There is a gift shop there (free) and it is also worthwhile to walk behind the shop and up the path to see the monkeys and the beautiful pond behind the monkey cages. Bring quarters to feed the fish/ducks. Kids love it here. If it is a sunny day, try waving a purse or something over the water and watch the fish DIVE (they must think the shadow is a bird trying to make them a dinner catch).

    Five Palms Restaurant ( S. Kihei Rd.) — wonderful view of an ocean “cove” and indoor or outdoor seating. Our favorites there are breakfast (try the baked pancake — huge) and lunch, but dinner is wonderful, too.

    We also love Kihei Café (cash only) and Stella Blues in Kihei for breakfast/lunch. It’s a noisy, open air, casual sports bar setting, but LuLu’s upstairs (near Bada Bing and the outdoor bazaar) makes a mean cheeseburger and good drinks.

    Mulligans Irish — in Wailea at one of the golf courses — great food and perfect for sunset ocean views.

    Kimo’s is also very popular (in Lahaina) for drinks/food and water setting.

    If anyone is looking for a very cheap happy hour, Moose McGillicuddy’s in Lahaina (now in Kihei, too!) is the cheapest we’ve run across – also good cheeseburgers. Sharing the building in Kihei is a very good and reasonable Mexican restaurant with the catchy name of “Fred’s” – crowded but good food and reasonable prices (huge portions – you might consider sharing at first). Look for special’s on certain nights.

    We love the hamburgers at Cool Cat Café in Lahaina (upstairs at the Wharf Shopping Center), across from the famous full block of Banyan tree – photo op!

    BJ’s pizza in Lahaina is also very popular (somewhat noisy when their live music begins).

    Kids/family like Bubba Gumps in Lahaina — seafood and fun atmosphere.

    Cheeseburger in Paradise is front and center for location on the water in the middle of Lahaina. Casual (big) burgers — we like the calamari sandwich there. If you aren’t going to Lahaina that day, there is another C in P at the Shops at Wailea toward the ocean back side of the center. Somewhat less crowded, but they’ve lost their ocean view due to a high rise being built at the ocean. If you go to the shops at Wailea, look at the menu for Longhi’s restaurant. It is famous/expensive and their main, traditional location is in Lahaina.

    And — don’t miss near Cheeseburger and Longhi’s at the Shops at Wailea the beautiful and unusual art gallery of Elan Vital. There are many fine restaurants in this shopping center, an ABC store, and a small grocery/souvenir shop called the General Store.

    The Shops at Wailea has free entertainment every Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

    In Paia, we second your fondness for Des Amis. Also try casual Charlie’s (Willie Nelson has been known to wander through occasionally).


  • Off to Maui and excited to visit all of these great places, but I’d love to get reco’s on where to stay off the beaten path! Thoughts? Mahalo.

  • Must agree…the GAZEBO (in Napili on Maui) is THE best for breakfast!! Banana Pancakes No Ka Oi! (Nom! Nom! Nom!)

  • Not a bad list but I lived in Honolulu for 20 years, recently moved back to Maui where I grew up. I have a few more to add to this list.

    For Oahu, Dolce in Ward Centre is my go to clothing boutique. The owner Christi has a fantastic eye for relaxed, elegant contemporary clothing. She carries Calypso, Lauren Moshi, Kain, LNA and Linea Pelle, just to name a few. Its a small space but incredibly well edited. Then for yoga or loungewear, Lily Lotus is fantastic. She not only carries her only line but other fantastic lines that can be used for yoga or just for casual wear. Always has a great selection of jewelry too. Her and her mom are complete dolls and a joy to chat with.

    For Maui, La Jolie Maison is a consignment furniture/home accessories boutique in Kihei. I’ve purchased a beautiful black maple desk with beautiful curved legs (very regency), crystal and wonderful vintage inspired wooden trays. She also carries beautiful, mirrors, credenzas, china. I’d also add Nest, also in Kihei. The owner does staging and also sells her pieces in this adorable little boutique. The overall theme is modern beach cottage/shabby chic but the all wood rustic dresser/credenza I bought from her brought just the right amount of texture to my otherwise modern living room. She’s also got wonderful lamps, accessories galore and curtains. Many pieces with reclaimed wood. She’s got an incredible eye.

  • I’m moving back to Oahu after a 5 year absence so this updated guide couldn’t come at a better time.

  • Now after reading my comment 4 years later, Its exciting to see new shops/eateries that have opened! Going back home soon, cant wait to hit up Town and have a fantastic meal, and hike the pill boxes in lanikai at dusk. Great update!

  • I had the opportunity to live on Oahu for 3 years and totally enjoyed my time there-when you get into the rhythm of the islands life couldn’t be any better. Around Waikele we loved the food truck that served malasadas-don’t remember the name of the truck but I do remember that the malasadas were fantastic!

  • Hi Grace,
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable. We’d be honored to feature it on our site.
    Drop me a line at Jane (at) Dwellable (.com) if you’re open to it!
    Really hope to hear from you :)

  • A another just as good as Leonard’s malasada shop is my fave Champion’s on Beretania! (Oahu) Closed Mondays.

  • Thank you so much for this article! My husband, son, and I are moving to Oahu in April, due to him being in the Navy. I’m not excited for the moving process, but now that I’ve read (and bookmarked!) this article, I am looking forward to our new adventure ahead of us! I can’t wait to explore Oahu! We will be living on the Windward side.