Where to eat in Waikiki can range drastically depending on the size of your party, your goals, and the time of day. When it comes to eating as a family, most restaurants on Oahu are causal and welcome kids! Its harder to find a place that’s NOT a good fit for small children than the other way around.
You’ll need to accept its expensive – even if you eat in your hotel room. The grocery stores in town are pricey too! Your amenities in room will be limited at best. You can always skip a meal, snack a bit and then splurge on a bigger meal later! Unconventional but it works. Or just feed the kids Little Ceasar’s before you go out… speaking from experience!
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Things to Know about Eating in Waikiki
- Culturally Diverse – One thing I wasn’t prepared for our first time in Hawaii was the influence of Japanese culture. Its everywhere from architecture, to language, and of course food! Musubi is very popular with the Hawaiians and resembles nigiri. Of course there’s seafood, American and just about any type of food you could care for in Waikiki. But there’s a huge Asian influence.
- Hawaiian Cuisine – Kalua pig is similiar to pulled pork in the south – slow roasted. If you like BBQ, you should definitely try it! You’ll find it on many menus from breweries to food trucks. Plate lunches are very Hawaiian but you’ll need a car to find that in Waikiki.
- Seafood – Seafood is everywhere! You’ll find Ono (a wahoo), Ahi & Mahi on most menus in Waikiki. Its usually paired with rice. Make sure you try the Poke! Even if you don’t love sushi, you might be surprised!
- Food Trucks – Food trucks are really common in Hawaii. You’ll see many established restaurants with a mobile truck and parking lots full of them both in Waikiki and the North Shore. They range from Leonard’s Bakery (hot malasadas, a modern Hawaii favorite) to pizza, thai, garlic shrimp and coffee bars.
- Reservations – Many sit down restaurants in Waikiki actually take reservations. Duke’s accepts them 6 months in advance! But in most cases you can still get a table with an hour wait time without a reservation. If you know where you want to go, call early in the afternoon to get their advice on when to come. Sometimes you want to get on the list 2 hours in advance, sometimes its just 30 minutes. It never hurts to ask!
- Tipping – Tipping is standared in the US and Waikiki is no different. Tip 15-20% of the bill or more.
- Casual Attire – Its island time, casual attire is welcome just about everywhere. But the definition of casual varies, amiright? (Helllllo missing bathing suit parts! Avert your eyes, boys!) Shoes and shirt are required in many restaurants. (you’ll be surprised how many bathing suit ‘cover ups’ you’ll see!).
- Pricing – Its expensive. Be prepared to spend $20 a person for basic meals and $50 or more for fine dining. Get my tips on eating on a budget here.
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Best Places to Eat in Waikiki on a Budget
Eating on a budget in Waikiki is kind of a joke – #sorrynotsorry. We stayed 5 nights with our family of 6 – 4 boys ages 8, 10, 11, and 13. Finding a place to eat that was less than $20 was nearly impossible! But it can be done – just keep your expectations low!
Tips for eating on a budget
- Eat in the hotel – Have grocery delivery brought to your hotel with breakfast, lunch and snack items. But don’t order too much! Many hotel rooms have very small refrigerators. Microwavable things like oatmeal, Easy Mac, and sandwiches are the easiest
- Pack dry food goods in your luggage – Since you won’t know what exactly is available until you arrive, pack a full meal or two worth of food and snacks in your luggage! For us that’s oatmeal packets, protein bars and even apples. This will get you through until you can either find a store or get a delivery. You may be famished when you arrive with very little options depending on what time of day it is and how tired you are.
- Beach stands – walk up food stands are going to be less expensive than sit joints (baring food trucks of course). There are very few of them. In fact, I only know about 2: Happy Feet at the Hale Koa hotel and Steak Shake.
Where to Eat in Waikiki with Kids
When it comes to eating out with kids, I’m looking for a place where we won’t stick out or be too loud. We want restaurants where we don’t have to keep correcting the kids from being themselves so we can relax some too.
Places we went to and would definitely go back:
- Waikiki Brewing Company
- Maui Brewing Company
- Duke’s Waikiki
- Happy’s Snack bar (cheap!)
- Little Ceasar’s – Yup, not kidding. Then Collin & I went to House Without A Key. Solid choice.
- Leonard’s Bakery (Not a walkable location)
Places we didn’t get to but would definitely try with kids:
- Steak Shack
- Cinnamon’s (breakfast in the Hilton)
- Oahu Mexican Grill (OMG)
- Teddy’s Bigger Burgers
- Musubi from 7/11 – yeah the convenience store!
Where to Eat in Waikiki: Restaurants With A View
There are dozens of restaurants with a view in Waikiki! Some are super causal, most are inside of hotels. Here are my favorite Waikiki restaurants with a view:
House Without A Key – this is one of my favorites. The food is amazing, but the best part is the live traditional music and hula! Bonus – there is a small green space kids gallivant if you want to take them, they’re welcome, just keep the volume down.)
You can also just get cocktails before a meal somewhere else and still enjoy the music & hula from 6-8pm.
- Hula Grill
- Duke’s Waikiki (Kids are easy here!)
- Rum Fire
- Orchid’s (would not take kids)
- House Without A Key (Scope the vibe before you take kids)
Where to Eat in Waikiki: Fine Dining Waikiki
Its a shorter list of fine dining than family friendly. But there are some amazing fine dining restaurants with a view in Waikiki.
Where to Eat in Waikiki Wrap up
Plan to spend money. If you’re on a budget, even the grocery store in town will be expensive. Accept it. Eat in the hotel, pack some lunches for the beach and don’t be afraid to try the 7/11’s Musubi – my friend’s girls LOVE it. When in doubt… maybe just snack splurge on a big meal later.
Its absolutely worth it to take the kids to Duke’s. Going any nicer with kids depends on the number and ages of your crew and your stress level. My four boys would be miserable anywhere nicer than Duke’s!
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I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus. They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!