We've eaten our way from one end of Oahu to the other in search of the best, family-friendly choices!
The island of Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place.” And there’s no place better to gather than around a table with your family. We’ve searched the island for the very best eats - from gourmet dining to local favorites - and sampled more shave ice than we care to admit, so that we can recommend the best of the best. The food on Oahu is delicious, the portions are large, and the shave ice is king.
Photo courtesy: Waiola Shave Ice
3308 Kanaina Ave., Honolulu
You won’t find a horde of tourists at the Rainbow Drive-in, because it’s a yesteryear Hawaiian joint loved and revered by the local crowd. There’s a great kids’ menu; my kids devoured the hamburgers and fries. The Loco Moco is worth every last calorie, and the slush float (think cherry slurpee with soft-serve, vanilla ice cream) is delicious, too. Rainbow Drive-in serves awesome Hawaiian food at budget prices; nothing on the menu is more than ten dollars.
Photo courtesy: Rainbow Drive-in
Haleiwa, Kailua & Honolulu
Drop into Kono's and take your taste buds on a ride of a lifetime. With a quirky menu, the eatery is known for its breakfast bombers and handmade milkshakes. The most popular bomber is the Chun’s, offering pulled pork and bacon with eggs, potatoes, and cheese, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla. The Chun’s was so good, we went back twice! Be prepared to wait a bit for food since everything is made to order, and don’t expect many places to sit inside the North Shore and Honolulu locations. Just grab it to go and enjoy.
Photo courtesy: Kono’s
3/Barefoot Beach Cafe
2699 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu
Not only does this casual, beachfront restaurant serve great food, the view is breathtaking. When you dine here, you literally are eating at the beach. The cafe is located on Queen’s Surf Beach at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki in Kapiolani Park, right at the local surf spot known as “Publics.”
There’s a great keiki (kids’) menu, and the breakfast menu is filling and budget-friendly. The pineapple smoothie is served in a real pineapple, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Try Barefoot Beach Cafe's Friday Night BBQ when the owner and his staff barbecue on the beach. You’ll have a great view of the fireworks show that happens every Friday night on Waikiki Beach.
4/Hank's Haute Dogs
324 Coral St., Honolulu
This is a place that the whole family will love. The foundation of Hank's Haute Dogs is the authentic, Chicago hot dogs; it even has the neon green relish that Chicago hot dogs are famous for. Then the menu really takes a twist with regional and specialty sausages, including Portuguese sausages and lobster and shrimp sausages. In addition, Hank’s has a hamburger on the menu that my 9-year old devoured in record time. If you go during the lunch hour on a weekday, be prepared to wait, but it’s worth it.
Duke’s Waikiki is a throwback to old Hawaii. When you walk in, you’ll feel as if you entered a time capsule that took you to 1950s' Waikiki. And the view! Duke’s serves a breakfast buffet each morning that is full of fresh fruit, island favorites, and traditional bacon and eggs. Kids aren’t forgotten at Duke’s; among other choices, there’s all-you-can-eat Fruit Loops! We liked this place so much that we even came back for dinner with the kids. Grown-ups can get a good meal (and a great Mai Thai!), and the kids’ menu satisfies the needs of even the pickiest of eaters. Live nightly ukulele music plays while you enjoy the sunset and the old Hawaiian vibe.
Photo courtesy: Duke’s Waikiki
933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu
A trip to Oahu isn’t complete without a stop at Leonard’s. This family-owned bakery has been making malasadas since 1952. A malasada is a Portugese doughnut without the hole. At Leonard’s, the staff fries generously-sized balls of dough until golden brown on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside; then they top them with sugar. The doughnuts are heavenly! The malasadas are made-to-order, so they come to you hot and fresh out of the oven. There always seems to be a line at Leonard’s (at least there was every time we went, and yes, we went more than once), but don’t worry. The folks at Leonard’s know how to move a crowd, and even when the line is out the door, you won’t wait for more than 15 minutes. Once you taste one of these mouth-watering treats, the wait will be a distance memory.
Photo courtesy: Leonard’s Bakery
7/Wailoa Shave ice
2135 Waiola St., Honolulu
Waiola Shave Ice's motto is “serving the best shave ice in Honolulu.” But if you ask my family, the motto really needs to be “serving the best shave ice in the world.” I have never experienced shave ice quite like this. The only way to describe the texture is creamy; you can literally lick it like an ice cream cone. We found Waiola Shave Ice by chance, and I lost track of how many times we went back after that. The staff at Waiola is quirky, and they’ve got “how to order” rules posted. Just go with it! The shave ice is worth it! Oh, and bring cash, as they don’t except credit cards or checks.
Gemma Gaudette is a former television journalist, wife, and mom to two boys, who tend to give her gray hair. She uses a lot of hair color!
Photo courtesy: Waiola Shave Ice
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.