Foodies abroad: say aloha to Oahu | The Gourmand & Gourmet

Foodies abroad: say aloha to Oahu

From epic surf breaks to sunset Mai Tais and the sweet sounds of the ukulele...

Naturally, wherever we go, we’re all about the food, and Hawaiian cuisine’s not all pineapple and poké. The locals are also obsessed with… Spam. Yep, they even have a festival dedicated to the canned gelatinous meat, and Spam musubi is a thing (like a Spam sushi roll).

Either way, we lava us some authentic eats, so we’d skip the Cheesecake Factory and touristy luau and fill up our Hawaiian eatinerary with these places to eat, drink and stay instead.

Koko Head Café 

You’ll be Waikiki-cking yourself if you don’t veer off the beaten track to this popular local brunch spot and discover the most inventive menu on the island. Chef Lee Anne Wong juggles a busy café with her duties as executive chef at Hawaiian Airlines like a boss. Get experimental with breakfast bibimbap and loco moco, or try the life-changing cornflake French toast with billionaire’s bacon, creamy black pepper maple and frosted flake gelato.

Chef Chai 

Former Hawaiian Airlines executive chef Chai Chaowasaree serves some of the best Hawaiian-Asian fusion cuisine on the island, and Chef Chai and is a great celebration spot for groups. This contemporary eatery delivers ten-out-of-ten service just ten minutes from Waikiki.

Morimoto Asia Waikiki 

Morimoto is the signature restaurant at Alohilani Resort by acclaimed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, who delivers a pan-Asian dining experience, showcasing dishes inspired by his travels. Feast on an eclectic mix of Asian flavours including Morimoto Peking duck and Singapore laksa noodles – best enjoyed outdoors on the lanai amongst mind-blowing sunset views.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck 

Hire a Mustang convertible and take a scenic drive to Oahu’s North Shore, where you’ll find incredible street food, with roadside stalls and food trucks lei-den with local delicacies. Giovanni’s is the original and best; in the biz since 1953, Giovanni’s now has two locations – Kahuku & Haleiwa, both serving their beloved shrimp drowning in garlicky, lemony goodness.

Matsumoto Shave Ice 

Also on the North Shore at Haleiwa Store Lots, a breezy open-air shopping precinct, you’ll find the island’s best shaved ice. Devour these rainbow coloured treats fully loaded with condensed milk, mochi and azuki beans – the balmy weather, big waves and small-town vibes are the perfect distraction from inevitable brain freeze.

Honolulu Coffee 

Yep, it is possible to find good coffee in the US, and Honolulu Coffee serves a satisfyingly strong dose of Java juice (just be sure to ask for a double shot). Honolulu Coffee is a local artisan roaster, farming beans from their Kona coffee farm on the Big Island, roasting, brewing and serving the good stuff throughout Hawaii.

Beach Bar at Moana Surfrider 

With a front-row seat to the powder-soft sands of Waikiki Beach, settle in under the iconic Banyan tree, sipping fruity cocktails, listening to the idyllic strains of a ukulele and watching graceful hula dancers. (Seriously, is this place real life?)

Mai Tai Bar 

If you didn’t Mai Tai, did you even Hawaii? Slurp umbrella-topped drinks at the legendary Mai Tai Bar, home of the island’s favourite rum cocktail. This oceanfront joint is another stellar spot to watch the sunset and soak up the tropical vibes.

SKY Waikiki 

For a different perspective of Waikiki, head to SKY Waikiki a rooftop bar with panoramic views of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and the glittering city lights of Honolulu. Perfect for sunset drinks, it’s the only rooftop bar, restaurant and nightclub in Hawaii with live music and DJ lounge beats for chill holiday vibes.


Paradise Helicopters

Soar along the coastline and Jurassic Park landscape, Hawaii Five-0 style with Paradise Helicopters. Feeling invincible? Book a doors-off tour of the valleys and waterfalls of Kohala, the birthplace of King Kamehameha. Go on, do it for the ‘Gram.

Bishop Museum 

Hawaii isn’t all sunsets and cocktails (just… mostly). Embrace the local culture and history with a pitstop at Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, a beautifully curated history of the Hawaiian royal family and the descendants of King Kamehameha.

Ukulele Puapua 

Underneath the Sheraton Waikiki, you’ll stumble across Ukulele Puapua, spreading the gift of music through the joy of playing the ukulele via free lessons daily at 4pm. Pretty darn cute.

Liljestrand House 

Keen for a chronic case of self-induced house envy? If you’re a fan of mid-century furniture and architecture, head to the dreamy Liljestrand House in the Hawaiian Hills. The perfectly preserved house by architect Vladimir Ossipoff is open to the public for tours on request or exclusive functions via event organiser Current Affairs.


Hawaiian Airlines has direct flights from Brisbane and Sydney. Optional upgrades to preferred seats offer extra legroom, priority boarding and an amenities kit to make the flight more comfortable.

The Laylow Waikiki 

This Insta-worthy boutique hotel is where midcentury modern meets aloha style. A block from the beach, smack-bang in the middle of the dining and shopping hub, gather your mates for cocktails around the fire pit at Hideout Bar. What the rooms lack in views, they make up for in space and style with a welcome basket of snacks and cool hotel thongs (did someone say snacks…?).

The Royal Hawaiian 

Book the iconic ‘Pink Palace of the Pacific’ for a memorable stay in Waikiki. With a range of lavish suites, the Historic Wing is a favourite for its bold design and dreamy beds, in contrast to the Mailani Tower with its contemporary design and dazzling ocean views. The theme is all pink everything, right down to picture-perfect pink pancakes at breakfast.

Moana Surfrider

Considered the first lady of Waikiki, Moana Surfrider is beloved for its historic colonial charm and beachside vibe. Rocking chairs line the port-cochère while inside, the whitewashed lobby and grand staircase are fancy as heck. Rooms are more simply furnished, but the sea views are as good as they come. Balance out your freshly conceived food baby with complimentary morning beachside yoga.

Head to Hawaii for serious sips, stunning scenery, and slip, slop, spam.

Words by Sally Scott
- the writer who was a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaii Tourism.