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The Ultimate Oahu Travel Guide (Part 4): Where to Eat & Shop

Next up in this Ultimate Oahu Travel Guide are my top recommendations on the best places to eat and shop on Oahu.  Now that we've gone over the different parts of the island in Part 1 and you've narrowed down where to stay in Part 2 and planned out your itinerary with things to do in Part 3, the next part of the planning would include adding any must try food items and restaurants, as well as where to find the best shopping while on vacation in paradise.

This family travel guide to Oahu is broken up into five different parts that go over the island, the best places to stay, what you need to experience, our favorite places to eat and shop and how to maximize value for your next trip.

You'll find plenty of different options for exploring Oahu's different regions, the island's many activities, its eclectic restaurants and accommodations. 

No matter where you go on Oahu, you can expect to find amazing restaurants featuring fresh and local foods.  When visiting the islands is the ideal place to enjoy the sunshine, these local delights and Hawaii essentials are a must to try while on vacation:

  • Loco Moco: Contemporary Hawaiian dish and to locals, this dish is comfort food at its finest. What could be better than a hamburger patty topped with gravy and a fried egg, all placed on top of a heaping plate of rice? It’s filling, it’s delicious, and it’s ready to make your day.
  • Poke: Poke is a rich dish full of flavorful, simple ingredients. Most versions use ahi tuna, chopped into small cubes and combined with onions, sesame seeds, limu seaweed and soy sauce. Sometimes, other freshwater fish or even octopus may be substituted instead. The dish is so popular that it has made its way across the ocean, showing up in eateries all along the mainland.
  • Poi: Taro root, a vegetable similar to sweet potato, forms the basis of this classic side dish. The taro is baked or steamed and then pounded, gradually mixed with water until it forms a thick delectable paste. 
    • How do you eat it? The choice is yours! Add it to shredded pork or lomi lomi salmon, eat it by the spoonful, or use it as a dipping sauce.
  • Haupia: Haupia is a traditional dessert made from coconut. The coconut cream is combined with arrowroot powder and then baked in an underground oven. Modern versions often boil the cream and add cornstarch as a thickening agent before chilling in the fridge. Regardless of the method, haupia will surely satisfy your sweet tooth after the main meal.
  • Lomi Lomi Salmon: Although similar to poke with its use of raw fish, lomi lomi salmon is prepared using different techniques. The salted salmon is massaged gently, over and over, and then mixed with onions, tomatoes and hot peppers. The overall flavor combination imparts a tangy yet satisfying bite.
  • Kalua Pua’a: This dish features pork slow-roasted in an underground oven, resulting in meat that practically melts off the bone. The wood smoke used in the oven gives the meat a pleasingly strong flavor without the need for additional condiments. Heaped over rice, kalua pua’a is a meal in itself.
  • Shave Ice: similar to a snow cone and the perfect way to cool off on a hot day

Restaurants

Oahu is home to the metropolitan center of Hawaii and its vibrant dining scene means that it’s an excellent place to find creative and delicious food representing diverse cultures. 

On Oahu, you can eat like a local in smaller neighborhoods or dine in high style at Hawaii’s top-rated restaurants across the island.  Splurge on dinner at one of the buzzworthy high-end spots in Honolulu, or save your vacation funds by finding tasty fare at casual spots, coffee shops and food trucks. 

Some of our favorite restaurant stops over the years include: 

  • Shrimp trucks: Find these food trucks on the North Shore, whose menu offers a variety of shrimp-centric plates.  Giovanni's shrimp truck is one of the more popular food trucks to visit. 
     
  • Monkeypod: Monkeypod Ko Olina is an eatery featuring sustainable Hawaiian food featuring a open-air patio & great happy-hour scene with live music.
  • Eggs'n Things: Be sure to get here early for breakfast as lines and wait times can get very long.  Eggs'n Things is an Oahu instituion that opened back in Waikiki in 1974 and the Ko Olina location was so good we ate there multiple times on our last stay in Ko Olina!
  • Hoku's & Plumeria Beach House: Hoku's & Plumeria Beach House at The Kahala Hotel & Resort is heralded for its innovative fusion fare which melds Hawaiian, Asian, Mediterranean and European flavors. The restaurant’s twist on contemporary Island cuisine ensures that it is consistently ranked as one of Hawaii's best restaurants.
  • Merriman's Honolulu: A pioneer of the “Farm to Table” movement in Hawaii, Peter Merriman brings Hawaii Regional Cuisine to his newest restaurant in Ward Village on Oahu.
  • Hula Grill Waikiki: Perched at the ocean’s edge overlooking famed Waikiki Beach, Hula Grill Waikiki presents diners with spectacular views of the beach and ocean. Open for breakfast and dinner daily plus lunch all weekend long.
  • 'AMA'AMA (Temporarily Closed): Located at Disney Aulani, this idyllic, beachside restaurant and bar serves modern interpretations of classic Hawaiian cuisine.  
  • Makahiki - The Bounty of the Islands: At Disney Aulani, offers both a buffet and a la carte options that feature fresh ingredients and international flavors, served in a festive, open-air dining room.  Also find character dining here most days for breakfast!

  • Duke's Waikiki: Popular option known for its beachfront location, surf 'n' turf, tiki vibe & umbrella drinks.

We've eaten at all of these restaurants and more, but if you need grab-n-go options, you can also find great food options at local coffee shops, Whole Foods and Foodland locations throughout the island. 

And once you've had your fill of all of the great food on Oahu, you can shop in Waikiki or visit many local shops all throughout Oahu.

  • Shop & stroll down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki: The variety of shops on Kalakaua is extensive, from high-end designer boutiques to authentic Hawaiian apparel and souvenirs, as well as popular national brands.

If you're looking for souvenirs or other items, you'll find lots of Hawaii themed items at ABC stores located across the island.  

There are also lots of local shops and island vendors that we love to support and one of our favorites in Ko Olina is CocoNene, where we grab hand-made souvenirs.  

And if you're in need clothing or shoes during your trip, I'd highly recommending checking out Olukai for shoes and sandals and Quicksilver and Roxy for great island wear.

What would you add to this list of places to eat and shop when visiting Oahu?