Join the queue outside Koko Head Cafe, the 12th Avenue diner helmed by fashionista-turned-food guru Lee Anne Wong. The menu is eclectic – think cornflake-crusted French toast with bacon, gelato and black pepper-spiced maple syrup or a fabulous breakfast bibimbap. The servings are huge so bring a friend (or two).
Kai Coffee Hawaii hits the sweet spot, with Aussie-friendly brews (yes, you can order a flat white) made with beans from Kona and Maui. There are two locations but the original is in the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach. Treat yourself to the signature kai latte – a macadamia-flavoured coffee topped with macadamia whipped cream and a candied chocolate nut.
Situated at the docks, just east of the airport, Nico’s Fish Market commands the best of the catch from the neighbouring Honolulu Fish Auction so it’s no surprise it has some of the freshest poke in town. Sit in the open-air eatery and team your bowl with one of the many beers on tap or head to Nico’s Upstairs for a more refined experience.
Best restaurant for kids
Get a taste for traditional Hawaiian dishes at the family-friendly Highway Inn at Salt at Our Kakaako. It’s been serving pretty much the same menu since 1947 and specialises in delicious combo plates, such as kalua pig with poi or rice, sweet potato, haupia (coconut pudding), lomi salmon or salad. Turn up between 9am and 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays or Saturdays and you can even see its famous laulau (pork or chicken wrapped in taro leaves) being made.
Best beachside bar
If you’re looking for quiet time, don’t go to Duke’s Barefoot Bar. Right on the beach, this popular open-air haunt serves great drinks and pupus (snacks). Cocktails such as the Coconut Mojito are dressed with fresh herbs from the rooftop garden and you can chase them with a slice of famous hula pie – a chocolate and macadamia ice-cream concoction.
Best shave ice
With two Honolulu locations, Waiola Shave Ice is famous for the fluffy texture of its ice that goes down a treat on a hot Hawaiian day. Go as lurid as you dare (try a blue-, yellow- and red-hued rainbow bowl with condensed milk, mochi balls and ice-cream) or stick to classic fruit or cocktail flavours such as Pina Colada.
Best happy hour
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s popular East-West fusion restaurant Morimoto Asia Waikiki is the place to be between 5pm and 7pm each night. Stake your claim at the bar and take your pick from a cut-price cocktails list and a small but tasty menu of tapas-style dishes, such as Asian-style tacos in fried wonton shells.
Book now if you want to go to Sushi Sho next year because securing a place at the luxe 10-seat counter is worth planning your trip around. The coveted omakase-style experience is as much about skill and show as the (incredible) quality of the fish prepared by renowned sushi master Keiji Nakazawa and his team.
Best fine dining
Feted around the world for flawless cuisine showcasing the finest Hawaiian produce, a visit to Chef Mavro is top of the treat list for many travellers. Settle in for the seven-course tasting menu with matching wines and enjoy classics such as snapper baked in a salt crust teamed with Oahu’s freshest harvest.
If you’re in Honolulu this summer, be one of the first to sample the French-inspired menu at La Vie, an elegant 50-seat fine-diner at the Ritz-Carlton Residences. Serving a superb dégustation menu as well as à la carte, the restaurant is a partnership with the team behind Hy’s Steakhouse. Expect quality ingredients and an excellent drinks list.