It’s nothing flash but multicultural fast-food chain Zippy’s is a fond favourite of Hawaiian families, with 24 locations around the islands. Breakfast is served from 11pm to 10.30am so there’s plenty of time to grab your sweet Spam omelette sandwich or breakfast bento (with or without Spam) before you hit the sand.
When visiting the North Shore, Coffee Gallery is the place to go for a caffeine fix. Hawaiian beans are roasted in-house for the freshest brews but request a macchiato or a small latte if you want a less milky cup. Take your order outside and relax at the picnic tables with a little something from the house bakery.
The west side is home to the largest population of native Hawaiians on the island so do as the locals do and grab some poke along with your groceries at Tamura Super Market in Waianae There’s a daily menu of specials and you can order poke pupu platters if you need to please a crowd.
Best acai bowl
If you’re craving something super-healthy, family-run Waialua Bakery & Juice Bar (66-200 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa; +1 808-341-2838) grows much of its own produce, with the rest sourced locally. Everything is housemade, including the delicious acai sorbet and gluten-free granola in the banana- and honey-topped acai bowl. Want more variety? Customise any smoothie bowl instead.
Best shave ice
The line may be long but the turnover is brisk at Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, a family-owned business in Haleiwa on the North Shore. Eat bright with a Hawaiian mix of blue pineapple, coconut and banana or choose a Japanese-style Ichiban Special with Ramune, yuzu or ume-favoured ice with azuki beans, condensed milk, ice-cream and mochi.
Best food truck
Enjoying lunch from a shrimp truck is a true Hawaiian experience and few do it better than Giovanni’s in Kahuku and Haleiwa on the North Shore. Order the signature shrimp scampi (a dozen garlicky jumbo prawns served with two scoops of rice) and read the messages inscribed on the quirky, graffiti-covered truck while you wait.
With branches in Tokyo and London, Kua Aina (66-160 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, +1 808-637-6067) claims to have the best burgers on the island and they’re not far wrong. Play it straight with a classic cheeseburger or up your game and order the avocado burger with cheese, which comes split and topped with an entire avocado half.
Best beachside bar
With a stunning oceanfront location at the tip of the island, Roy’s Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort is made for lounging. The menu is overseen by celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi and highlights excellent local seafood and bold Asian flavours. Settle in with Roy’s pineapple-spiked Signature Hawaiian Martini or a Spiced Mai Tai and watch the waves roll in.
Best restaurant for kids
If you’re exploring the west coast, stop for lunch at Kaahaaina Café (86-260 Farrington Highway, Waianae, +1 808 697 3488). This open-air timber building also houses a regular craft market and live music and there’s plenty of space for the kids to roam. The menu is short on cost, not flavour – everything’s good but the kahlua pig is some of the tastiest on the island.
Best fine dining
When you’re in the mood for high-end Italian, Noe at the Four Seasons Resort, Kapolei offers elegant dining and a predominantly European wine list. Request a table outside under the lantern-strewn trees and order indulgent dishes such as the signature tagliatelle with truffle and mushroom. Can’t decide? Trust in the four-course tasting menu with matching wines.