From beloved diners serving the world’s finest taco rice to breweries reinventing the Hawaiian pizza – these are the Aloha State’s best restaurants for 2023.
Hawaii’s got more incredible dining experiences than you can poke a bowl at. The state’s rich melange of Japanese, Mexican and American influences perfectly intermingles with traditional island recipes and exceptional local produce, putting it at the forefront of the world’s culinary scene. From offbeat food trucks by the beach to Honolulu’s electrifying fine-dining scene, join us as we explore what’s cooking in the Paradise of the Pacific.
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Mama’s Fish House, Paia, Maui
It’s the setting that strikes you first at Mama’s Fish House – you're greeted by spectacular views over Ku’au Bay and the island’s idyllic northern shores. Step inside and introduce yourself to Maui’s unquestionable leaders in aloha, working alongside traditional fishermen to provide seafood of remarkable quality. Settle in, order yourself a drink (the signature Bali Hai makes the perfect aperitif) and see where your heart takes you – the bouillabaisse, a traditional Provencal fish stew, sings with saffron and scallops. Be sure to reserve your table far in advance – Mama's Fish House is one of the busiest eateries in the country.
Alaia, Kahuku, Oahu
Located within the magnificent Turtle Bay Resort, Alaia celebrates the rich culture of the islands by utilising unique, local ingredients – most harvested from its own private farm – to elevate humble Hawaiian comfort food. First-class ahi poke is tossed in a simple dressing of sesame oil and soy sauce; caviar is served atop smoked marlin mousse and toasted Japanese-inspired milk bread. From the shoreline to the sea, Hawaii’s bounty is masterfully prepared – clams, lobster, heirloom tomatoes and watermelon are mainstays on the menu. For dessert, it would be criminal to miss Alaia’s signature banana bread, a glorious mess of vanilla bean gelato, chocolate, sea salt caramel and cinnamon toffee.
Duke’s Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu
In 1917, legendary Olympian Duke Kahanamoku paddled out to Steamer Lane, where he caught a monster wave so huge, he rode a full mile into shore. It was an event so momentous, it immediately entered Hawaiian mythology; today, the iconic Duke’s Waikiki rides a wave of success so powerful it may outshine the original. Go for the ultra-fresh local seafood – the ahi with a chilli oil and truffle unagi glaze is delightful – or tackle the mango-glazed pork ribs, served alongside bok choy macadamia slaw and mashed potatoes. Whatever you order, it’s best appreciated with a coconut mojito as you soak up Waikiki Beach’s inimitable romance.
The Pig & The Lady, Honolulu, Oahu
One of Honolulu’s most acclaimed venues, The Pig & The Lady serves Vietnamese cuisine with plenty of signature Hawaiian style. The banh mi alone is well worth the visit – the venue’s signature sando is stuffed with slow-roasted beef brisket, topped with holy basil chimichurri, sauteed bean sprouts and onions, and served with a cup of pho. It’s great, but then so’s everything else. For a lighter bite, try the house Burmese tea salad – slices of green papaya and dates are tossed in a fermented tea dressing to create a bowl that’s equal parts zing and bling – or order the pate toast, a humble Hanoi classic.
Merriman’s Big Island, Waimea, Big Island
Waimea’s premier farm-to-fork restaurant carefully balances Hawaii’s hallowed dining traditions with plenty of playful mischievousness. Though Merriman’s decor artfully evokes Hawaii’s glamorous past, the food is marvellously forward-thinking – think tiny tako octopuses, served ‘a la escargot,’ with country bread and cognac-garlic butter, or organic taro hummus with plenty of fixings, all sourced from nearby farmsteads. We recommend washing it down with a mai tai – Merriman’s house cocktail utilises homemade macadamia orgeat, honey and passionfruit to offer a uniquely layered sip.
Ethel’s Grill, Honolulu, Oahu
Six decades of eclectic culinary brilliance on a plate – that's what Ethel’s Grill, beloved by locals and the late, great Anthony Bourdain, offers its customers. Proudly scrawling its ever-evolving menu on paper, Ethel’s plates dance between Tokyo, Okinawa, Mexico and the United States, with dishes like the ‘Kim Chee Ahi Donburi’ even crossing into Korea. But the diner’s real draw is its authentic taco rice – steamed rice is topped with salad, smothered with cheese, fresh salsa and steaming spiced beef mince, and garnished with a whole fried egg. Feeling brave? Let your tastebuds surf uncharted flavours with a side order of Ethel’s house-fermented natto (soybeans).
Fete Hawaii, Honolulu, Oahu
The country’s glorious ‘New American’ dining revolution has reached the Aloha State – with restaurants like Fete showcasing traditional techniques, clever fusion and local collaboration, it’s a good time to be hungry in Hawaii. Expect a celebratory atmosphere and plenty of inspired twists on established classics – the smoked ono club sandwich channels the archipelago’s unique spirit to swerve around your expectations. The drinks are just as spectacular – you owe it to yourself to try the house mai tai, blending single-barrel agricole, mamaki-infused rum, banana jam and lime to create a drink that’s so Hawaii it hurts.
Kona Brewing Company, Kailua-Kona, Big Island
Kona Brewing Company offers yet another reason to fall in love with Hawaii’s staggeringly soulful Big Island. The brewery-pub, inspired by the traditional canoe houses of old, gleefully pours paradise by the pint – specialty beers have names like ‘Longboard Lager’ and ‘Wailua Wheat’, and are brewed using the island’s abundance of local produce, including mango, passionfruit and prestigious Kona coffee. Match it with a bowl of spicy ahi poke or savour a steaming slice of summer with your ice-cold beer – the pub’s signature Hawaiian pizza is hand-tossed and covered with housemade, red ale-infused barbecue sauce, slow-cooked Kalua pork and zesty pineapple salsa.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Kahuku, Oahu
You can’t go wrong with any of Oahu's legendary prawn purveyors – but Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck stands proud as one of the very best. Operating since 1993, the refurbished bread van has quickly become an iconic part of Kahuku’s living folklore – its white exterior, covered in thousands of locals’ scribbled signatures, a promise that a mouthwatering plate of pan-fried scampi is just moments away. Served with a heaped scoop of white rice, slathered in lemon garlic butter and best enjoyed with a little hot sauce, there’s no better post-surf snack.
Ready to escape? Discover our collection of Hawaii offers here.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out Maui to Moloka’i: How to Pick Your Perfect Hawaiian Island.