Visit a nightclub
Many dancing venues in Waikiki are restaurants that convert into dance clubs at night. Most of them are very casual (you’ll see people in there with shorts and rubber slippers) and there are usually a lot of college students and military patrons. The nightclub scene in Waikiki is fairly erratic, with clubs being completely cycled out every 3-5 years, so anything you read here or online may be obsolete later.
Here are some good spots: Addiction Nightclub, located in The Modern Honolulu (ranked #2 in Tripadvisor’s Waikiki hotels). Addiction is upscale, so no shorts, slippers, or hats. It’s a lovely place and you always head over to the hotel bar if you want to have a quieter conversation. Sky is a nice restaurant lounge on the 19th floor that turns into a nightclub. Another great spot is District Nightclub, which also has Salsa Dancing night on Thursdays. I’ve been to this and it’s quite fun (though I’m quite bad). Finally, for those who are young and Asian, you might enjoy Ginza Nightclub, just a stone’s throw away from District. Ginza is also a great spot for late partiers, as they close at 4am. Most close 2am.
If you want a more laid-back night out (aka you can get your freak on in shorts and slippers) you can visit Lulu’s (across the street from the zoo), Nashville Waikiki (if you want to hang around a bunch of country-loving college kids). For those who like “dive bars” you can try Play Bar Waikiki, a run-down place that has cheap drinks and plays hip-hop music.
And if you are gay, there are 2 spots in Waikiki for you. One is Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, which is across from the Zoo (look for the rainbow flag). The other is Wang Chung’s, which is a small karaoke and bar, but boasts an uncanny 4.5/5 stars on Yelp. Finally, the last choice is not in Waikiki, but rather, in the business district: Scarlet Nightclub, which is extremely popular and wild (from what I’ve heard).
The greatest thing about Waikiki is the concentration of great restaurants located in one area. There’s also a tremendous variety of food, which include Japanese noodles, falafel, cheese steaks, local-style plate lunches, Asian-fusion, and a lot more. Waikiki is such a great place to eat that you’ll see locals swarming into Waikiki during dinner-time.
Expect to wait for a table.
One thing you should know is that many restaurants do not offer reservations. Waikiki restaurants get so much foot traffic that they use a waiting-list system to operate more effectively. During dinner time, this means 25 – 50 minutes of waiting, depending on how popular the restaurant is. You should consider casual dining or eating dinner early (like 4pm) if you do not like waiting in line for food. Waits get even longer during the weekends.
One of my favorite restaurants, Yard House, offers a priority waiting list. You call in before you arrive to get on a waiting list. You then arrive and they will give you a portable buzzer to alert you when a table is ready. You don’t have to stand in line, so you can walk around or browse shops while you wait for your buzzer to buzz.
The Cheesecake Factory however, operates strictly on a “first-come, first-served” basis. There is no waiting list, so you must stand in line (there is a bench though). 45 minutes is a typical wait for them. I hate waiting for food, so I have never been to this restaurant. Despite their long wait though, they are actually one of the most popular restaurants in Waikiki.
• inside the Outrigger Waikiki
• reservations by phone
• ask for a table by the beach!
• breakfast buffet = $15.95
• lunch buffet = $14.95
Wailana Coffee House
• 1860 Ala Moana Blvd.
• 24/7, except Wednesday
• $6.25 = unlimited pancakes!
I generally never recommend buffets because people pay more to eat more than they need. As a result, the satisfaction from eating diminishes at buffets. However, if you are set on stuffing your face, I recommend paying a little more to enjoy high-quality food.
Hakone Restaurant in the Hawaiian Prince Hotel has a good-quality selection of salad, seafood, and sushi (raw fish). Their dinner buffet leans heavily towards Japanese-style food (which you will learn to love in Hawaii ;-)), but you will find typical buffet items as well, such as ribeye steak. The price is a lot more than casual buffets ($54 for adults, $27 for kids), but the quality of food is higher as well and it’s fresh.
Cheap Eats in Waikiki (<$10)
- International Market Place food court: great if you want to be able to choose from a variety of food in one area.
- Food Pantry: this is a convenience store, but in the front are several eateries and a coffee shop.
- Fatty’s Chinese Restaurant: Located on the right side of Miramar Hotel on Kuhio Ave. Order off the menu, avoid the food on the heater.
- Marukame Udon: It’s right on Kuhio and there’s always a line outside of it. They serve noodles and tempura (Japanese deep-fry). Cash only.
- Kokoro-Tei: My personal favorite in Waikiki! Fresh bentos (Japanese plate lunches) for $6+. Behind Marukame Udon.
- Iyasume Musubi: For a a large selection of cheap musubis, go to this hidden gem. It’s located on 2410 Koa Avenue (which is between Kuhio and Kalakaua), down the street from King’s Village. You should be able to see a sign on the street with a cartoon musubi. This place is located in the alley.
- Me’s BBQ: Korean BBQ with large portions (almost makes 2 meals for me). Best thing about Korean BBQ? They come with seasoned vegetables on the side! Located on Uluniu and Prince Edward (opposite end of the block from King’s Village).
- The Sandwich Shop: Great place to pick up regular sandwiches. $2.75 – $4.50 sandwiches. Musubis and soup also available. Located in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza food court (2250 Kalakaua). 10am – 3pm. Cash only.
- Steak Shack: Cheap steak plates. It’s a shack right on Fort DeRussy Beach Park. $6.25 gets you a a good amount of steak, rice, and tossed salad. Guaranteed to fill you up. Not high-quality steak parts though.
- Are you on a vegan diet? It will be a challenge for you to find a vegan meal in Waikiki for < $10. I would recommend getting a falafel sandwich from Da Falafel King kiosk in the Waikiki Trade Center on Kuhio. Also try Marie’s Health Foods – Organic Cafe in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza food court for a vegan wrap. Otherwise, just go to Ruffage Natural Foods. It’s on Kuhio in the pink building. They have the best variety, but your meal will be more than $10.
The award for “Most Touristy Restaurant” goes to…
Top of Waikiki. It’s the revolving restaurant at the top of the Waikiki Business Plaza. The food is okay, but portions are small. The main draw is that the restaurant revolves, about once every 2 hours. For the price, I would rather dine at other places in Waikiki.
For special occasions, go to…
Roy’s. They have steak, but also a lot of dishes with Asian-fusion mixed with local flavor. Great restaurant. If you’re not a fan of creative cuisine, just go to Michel’s instead for seafood and contemporary French. Michel’s is also a beach-front restaurant. If you can get a reservation for Friday evening (plan ahead!), you’ll be able to see the Hilton Hawaiian Village fireworks at 7:45pm.