Activity Finds: Waikiki

1) U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii

For history buffs looking to take a step back in time, march on over to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i housed on the grounds of Fort DeRussy in Waikiki to experience stories from early Hawaiian warfare through the Vietnam War. Today the museum salutes visitors with a piece of Hawai‘i history without ever having to leave Waikiki.

Constructed in 1911 as a coastal artillery battery known as Battery Randolph, part of the experience of paying a visit to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i is simply seeing the museum itself -- a massive concrete building with a 12-foot thick roof. Built as part of a coastal defense system with 14-inch guns it was transformed into a museum in 1976.

If you've got a free afternoon carve an hour out of your day to check out the museum's exhibits including the Gallery of Heroes -- which honors local soldiers who have been recognized with the nation's most prestigious military awards - or the popular General Eric K. Shinseki exhibit which features information on General Shinseki's bright military career. For those looking to turn the volume up on their visit, the museum now offers audio tours (available in Japanese and English) for rent for $5 each.


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2) Kaimana Beach

Washing up on the shores of Waikiki, Kaimana Beach is splashed out between the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel and the War Memorial Natatorium. Popular amongst beachgoers who call O‘ahu home, Kaimana Beach is the perfect part of Waikiki to float away the day building sandcastles with the kids, snorkeling in the shallow reef or sunbathing along the beach's wide and sandy shores.

In 1902 Kaimana Beach was the historic site for the state's first submarine cable providing a telegraphic link between Hawai‘i and the U.S. mainland. Today, the remnants of that cable still rest on the ocean floor along Kaimana Beach's channel.

For those who aren't strong swimmers, keep your wits (and fins) about you since the current here can be particularly strong, especially after high tide. Make sure to check in with the lifeguard before getting into the water and if you're a weak swimmer or with young children make sure to keep close to shore.


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3) Breakout Waikiki

Breaking out onto Hawai'i's entertainment scene is one of the latest entertainment trends, Breakout Waikiki. A short distance from the main Waikiki strip the live action escape room offers guests a chance to test their skills and cunning to puzzle their way out of room through a series of high intensity, real life situations.

For 60 minutes you and your team can test your wits and problem solving skills in an attempt to break free from any one of Breakout Waikiki's four different rooms. Each of the four rooms are themed and offer a different experience - from The Hatch which is set in an underground bunker on Kauai to Mission Manoa which takes place in a quaint market in Manoa Valley - all push participants to their limits to gather clues, crack codes, unravel secrets and solve riddles to break out before the clock runs out.

Some tips? Rooms can accommodate anywhere from two to eight guests so if you're traveling with a large group plan ahead. You'll also want to arrive around 15 minutes early to sign a waiver and run through the rules with the staff. If you get there late you will likely have less time to plan your escape!

Since unlocking its doors in November 2015, Breakout Waikiki has quickly locked in votes as the number one attraction for fun in Waikiki and become a favorite of game fanatics and travelers alike. Open daily from 8 a.m. - 11 p.m., Breakout Waikiki is located near King's Village off Kaiulani Avenue.

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Food Finds: Waikiki

1) Marukame Udon

An easy stroll along Kuhio Avenue, Marukame Udon is steaming up Waikiki with their bowls of simple and tasty, fresh, house-made udon noodles. This cozy eatery has crowds of kama‘aina (local residents) and visitors lining up to order "cafeteria style" and load their trays with delicious Japanese comfort food.

If you're craving something warm and savory, Marukame Udon is the place to dip in for an affordable meal-on-the-go. "Splurge" and help yourself to a large bowl (for $6.25 a pop) which comes in seven different types including curry, niku (with thinly sliced beef), ontama (with a soft poached egg), kamaage (with a dipping sauce of sesame and ginger, and zaru (cold udon with a light dipping sauce). Our personal favorite is the zaru udon (perfect for a Hawaii's hot humid days) with a side of kakiage (thinly diced vegetables and tempura) and a soft boiled egg.

While you're waiting in line to pick your udon, musubi and tempura, you can get a taste for how your food is made. As entertaining as it is delicious, at Marukame you can watch the chefs roll out your udon noodles, fry tempura and roll musubi with deft hands as you work up your appetite. Grab a tray and get it udon!


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2) House Without a Key

Drink in the beach-chic ambiance of House Without a Key, a popular restaurant at the Halekulani, the Waikiki Parc's sister hotel. Perched at the edge of Waikiki Beach, House Without a Key's ambiance transforms like the colors of a chameleon from a quiet breakfast nook to catch the softly, lapping waves, to a hot and stylish hot spot at sunset.

Arrive early to keep from getting locked out of this popular pau hana place. Get decked out and skip across the street to partake in one of the Halekulani's prized traditions, mai tais and Hawaiian music under the Kiawe tree. While "mai tai" means good in Tahitian, Halekulani's special spin on this exotic drink takes this beverage to a whole new level. What's Tahitian for unbelievable?

Between sipping and savoring (House Without a Key also has an exceptional menu of mouthwatering appetizers) you can drink in the sunset, paired with Hawaiian music and the graceful dancing of former Miss Hawai‘i's Kanoe Miller, Debbie Nakanelua and Lauren Cheape. And make sure to save room for House Without a Key's signature coconut cake - it's the icing on a perfect day.


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3) Waiola's Shave Ice

For a quick and cool treat after a day getting barreled in the surf and baking in the sun, look no further than Waiola Shave Ice, a family owned and operated shave ice stand off Kapahulu Avenue just outside of Waikiki (they also run another stand in Honolulu in McCully). An island favorite since 1940, many an O‘ahu keiki (child) has grown up frequenting this local hot spot.

On a humid day in O‘ahu you'll find dozens of families and kama‘aina (locals) lining up to latch sticky fingers on their favorite shave ice flavors. In the islands the "d" has been shaved off, so in Hawai‘i its shave ice, not "shaved ice" or "snow cones."

When ordering at Waiola you'll want to perfect your cup combo before stepping up to the register (they've got their preferred ordering method clearly placed at the front of the shop in case you forget). We like ours with the works - ice cream on the bottom and condensed milk and mochi balls to top it off.

And make sure to hit up the ATM in advance to shave some time off your schedule - Waiola Shave Ice only takes cash.


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4) Duke's Waikiki

Duke out the long lines of O‘ahu diners and you'll find yourself handsomely rewarded with a seat at the award-winning Duke's Waikiki. This landmark Waikiki restaurant has been serving guests from around the world for dozens of years, evoking redolent reminders of Hawai‘i's brilliant sunsets, Waikiki Beach's gentle waves, swaying palm trees and healthy helpings of Duke's equally unforgettable Hula Pie.

Make a reservation early and kick off your slippers (flip flops) with a drink or two and a few pupus (appetizers) at the Barefoot Bar. Their lineup of live entertainment and parade of patrons makes it the perfect place to people watch, while digging into your dinner of fresh fish and their miles-long salad bar (if you're craving something on the lighter side).

And make sure to save room at the end for Duke's Waikiki's world-famous Kimo's Original Hula Pie (this pie-mazing dessert is one which travelers still wax poetic about years later). Whipped up with macadamia nut ice cream on a cookie crust with fudge, whipped cream and chopped macadamia nut to top it off, it's no wonder that Duke's serves up dozens of these pies daily. We call it our own little slice of Hawai‘i dessert heaven.


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5) Mai Tai Bar

Considered "my bar" by many kama‘aina (locals) the Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana Center's Ho‘okipa Terrace is an award-winning happy hour hot spot. If you're looking for a happening hangout to rub shoulders with the local crowd, head on over to the Mai Tai Bar after 9 p.m. where the pitchers of beer will be flowing and the bar's lanai (patio area) will be pulsing with shorts, tank top and slipper clad residents looking to let loose.

Thanks to Ala Moana Center's plentiful parking, the Mai Tai Bar (just across from California Pizza Kitchen and Bubba Gump's) is almost always packed. Grab a group of friends to enjoy their $5 appetizers, like firecracker shrimp and onion rings, and $9 beer pitchers. With two happy hours daily (early and late) it's a dead tie on the best time to grab a mai tai.

At night, the Mai Tai Bar takes it up a notch, so if you're sensitive to sound, this isn't the place for you. Here, local groups jam away to island favorites, so throw on your favorite dress or aloha shirt, let down your hair and get ready to skank and skip your way over to the dance floor.


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6) Wasabi Bistro

Just a stone's throw from the Waikiki Parc, Wasabi Bistro has made itself at home in the heartbreakingly charming Breakers Hotel. The hotel's indoor-outdoor oasis is at once contemporary, casual and cool, blocking out the loud throngs bustling just outside its doors for the perfect dining escape.

Route your way to this retro restaurant to partake in sushi, sake and some serious teishoku specialties (like chicken katsu, hamburger steak and shrimp tempura). If you're still full from lunch you can dabble in Wasabi Bistro's appetizers (starting at about $5-$7) and share a sushi set, like their signature Wasabi Sushi Roll Platter. Can you say "oishi?"

A popular escape for local Waikiki workers, Wasabi Bistro is a nice escape from the traditional lunch routine. We love treating ourselves to their very reasonable daily lunch special whenever we can take a longer-than-average lunch break.


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7) Ramen Nakamura

When the Hawaiian Islands experiences a rainy day nothing hits the spot quite like a steaming bowl of Ramen Nakamura's noodles. And because they're conveniently located along Kalakaua Avenue you don't have to go far for a satisfying meal that will warm you up without burning a hole in your wallet.

If you're looking for something filling, Ramen Nakamura is known for their ox tail ramen, which is numero uno on Waikiki Parc's general manager, Julie A's list of favorite noodles. We like to order the full combo set, which at $18.99 may seem a little pricey but includes a bowl of oxtail ramen, small plate of fried rice and three pieces of gyoza.

While you're slurping up your meal you can scan through Ramen Nakamura's walls lined with autographed boards. And because they are open till 11:30 p.m. it's the perfect way to end the evening after night club or bar hopping through Waikiki.


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8) Yotekko Ya Kyoto Ramen

Despite a number of new ramen shops steaming up Oahu’s noodle scene, to kama‘aina connoisseurs Yotekko Ya Kyoto Ramen still noodles out the competition. Rolling out bowls of ramen so good you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Kyoto, Yotekko Ya is a kamaaina staple on a cool day. In fact, anytime the temperature dips below 70 we call it a Yotekko Ya night.

Tucked into the second floor corner of McCully Shopping Center, Yotekko Ya Kyoto Ramen is a cozy ramen shop known for their popular Paitan broth and fresh noodles which you can choose to order “local style” (softer) or “Japanese style” (chewy). For those who like to pig out on pork, we’d recommend ordering their Kakuni Ramen – Yotekko Ya’s version of char siu but so soft, it almost melts in your mouth. 


While there are more than 14 different broths the Paitan Ramen is their most popular. The milky-looking soup has a delicate flavor of fresh pork, chicken, vegetables and spices that have simmered on Yotteko Ya’s stove for more than 10 hours. Available only for dine-in guests, there is only a limited amount each day so arrive early to get your Paitan fix. And unlike most ramen broths you’ll encounter, Yotekko Ya’s Paitan soup isn’t just tasty – it’s also good for you. In fact its chock full of collagen which is said to prevent aging in the skin and joints so you can get your ramen fix while turning back the hands of time. I’d say that’s a bowl full!

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9) Sikdorak

Sick of traditional Korean? Those who love yakiniku can't stop yakking about Sikdorak, a yakiniku spot as hot as the grills you cook your food on.

Here, your meat is cooked to perfection. Why? Because you've cooked it! Take control of the grill (and quiet complaints from your significant other that you haven't cooked for them recently!) by serving up perfect, sizzling pieces of their favorite meat. If you're with a large group graze from Sikdorak's meaty selection, which includes tongue, barbeque chicken, short ribs, rib eye, brisket, tripe and spicy pork.

For less than $20 you can pork out on all the meat you can eat, plus your favorite Korean sides. Carry in a case of your favorite cold brew or bubbles (did we mention it's BYOB?) and you've got the perfect place to chill out. The best part is it doesn't even matter what time of day your craving yakiniku. Sikdorak is open 24 hours a day to meet your meat munchies.

A word of advice? This isn't your upscale yakiniku restaurant. Dress down in jeans and a tank. Not only do the grills heat this place up but your clothes will be soaked in Sikdorak's deliciously smoky essence.

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10) Sushi ii

For sushi connoisseurs looking for some of the freshest sushi and a fin-tastic selection of fish, swim over to Sushi ii. Tucked away in the old Samsung Plaza less than a block from Ala Moana Center, Sushi ii (pronounced ee, ii translates "good" in Japanese) serves up sushi that more than lives up to its name.

Owned and managed by local boy Garrett Wong who has some serious sushi street cred, here you'll find a selection of fish that will have you in a raw-food rapture. Enjoy everything from traditional favorites like maguro (tuna) and sake (salmon) to unique fish finds like live baby abalone - still wriggling in the dish - fresh moi, grilled anago (freshwater eel) and more.

If you're looking for a true fish feast order the omakase, which is considered by many the only real way to splash out. The chef's choice, omakase translates in Japanese to "I'll leave it to you," and starts at $60 for 10 pieces. Trust us, after a meal here you'll be happier than a clam.

Oh, and don't forget to tell Garrett we sent you.


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11) Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

If you're craving katsu treat yourself to an authentic Japanese meal at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin. Conceivably the best katsu in Hawai‘i, here even the pricey menu can't keep away pork-loving locals and tourists who continue to come in crowds.

With the taste and feel of a family-owned restaurant, this Tokyo-based restaurant chain offers a thoughtful menu with different takes on tonkatsu (a Japanese style fried pork cutlet). Here everything is steeped in quality, from the rice, which is cooked to the perfect consistency with Bincho charcoal and purified water, to the fresh pork and rich sauces. And no matter which pork you pick - whether its it's the thick cut pork loin katsu, katsu curry, katsu don or katsu loco moco - you'll squeal with delight at the crispy breading and mouth-wateringly most meat middle.

Reservations here are recommended. The compact restaurant can pack a two-hour wait on weekends. Plus, you'll want to arrive early for a chance to dig your snout (errr mouth) into their Kurobuta pork loin katsu. Made with premium-grade pork from Canada, Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin only makes 25 servings of this dish each day. When we can get our hoofs on it we're in hog heaven!


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12) Goofy Cafe + Dine

We don't goof around when it comes to the most important meal of the day. If you're serious about breakfast, fuel up at Goofy Café & Dine in Waikiki, which brings a local twist to the standard breakfast menu. And it's a menu you can enjoy any time of day since Goofy's serves breakfast from 7 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily!

While the name "Goofy" may have you channeling the popular Disney character, the café is actually named after the "goofy" foot surfing stance. And its location, just off Ala Moana Boulevard near Kobe Steak House, means that it's close to many popular south shore surf spots so it's easy to surf on in after catching a few waves.

Here guests can dine al fresco on fare focused on "local first organic whenever possible." In fact, their menu takes local one step farther, featuring a traceability report so that guests can see where their breakfast comes from. Many customer favorites like the Big Island Honey French Toast, Big Island Beef Loco Moco and Goofy's French Toast, all feature local ingredients.

Because Goofy Café doesn't have parking it's best to make the 15-minute stroll from the Waikiki Parc or hele over to the harbor for street parking. And since diners have gone, well, goofy for Goofy Café, prepare to wait for a table (which is also the perfect excuse for a morning stroll along the beach).


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13) Pho Bistro 2

Noodles, spice, and everything nice; that is what Pho Bistro 2 is made of. Located on Kapiolani Boulevard, Pho Bistro offers a pho-nomenal selection of Vietnamese dishes that won't break your budget. Situated near the entrance to Waikiki, diners love its convenient location and the parking available in the building and along Kapiolani Boulevard. Put it this way: If you're pho-nd of pho, this spot is a must-visit.

Just a few blocks away from the busy eateries on Ke'eaumoku Boulevard, Pho Bistro 2 is known for their flavorful broths, chewy noodles and heaping portions. A family-owned business, you'll come back again and again to make your way through their menu of Vietnamese phood-y favorites like the pho with rare steak, oxtail soup, spring rolls, Thai tea and more.

And you'll be bowled over by their delicious prices. An order of pho starts at around $7, which means you can pho-ll up and still have a budget left for dessert -- maybe two.

Pho Bistro 2 is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.


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14) Teddy's Bigger Burger

At Teddy's, their menu is as big as their burgers. Whatever you chew(se) - whether it's a traditional burger, a veggie burger, or even chicken tenders or fish and chips - we promise it will meat your expectations! And of course, after a hearty meal, cool off with a coke float or an extra thick shake. Drinks so good you'll think you're having a dreamsicle.

With eleven locations around O‘ahu, you can easily treat yourself to Teddy's medley of mouthwatering choices. And with a location now in Waikiki, there are no ifs, ands or buns about getting a taste of Teddy's. In fact, only in Waikiki are they open for breakfast, grilling up dishes like the #1 Big Loco Moco, Macnut Vanilla Caramel Cream Pancakes and Pipi-Kaula Benedict.

Vacationing is all about enjoying yourself - so skip the fast food burgers you can find at home and give your taste buds a taste of paradise! 



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15) Musubi & Bento Iyasume

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime in between, a musubi is a great way to roll. And we're not spamming you when we say one of our favorite places to grab one is at Musubi & Bento Iyasume in Waikiki. This hole in the wall is hidden away across from Ross on Seaside Avenue, and offers a wide selection of rice balls with toppings like spam, avocado, bacon, eggs and more!

If spam isn't quite your speed, Iyasume offers a wide selection of other musubi like spicy tuna and salmon ikura. For something a little heartier, pick from their selection of bento, which features everything from noodles and chicken karaage to unagi (sea eel) and curry.

Seating here is very limited but since the musubi and bento are so portable, you'll best enjoy them strolling the streets of Waikiki or even as a picnic on the beach or back in your room. And with prices ranging from $2 - $4 for musubi and $3 - $6 for bento, it's a simple meal that won't cost a pretty penny. See what's cooking at Musubi & Bento Iyasume, open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.


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16) Café Lani

A rising star in the Honolulu dining scene, Café Lani is filling up seats as word quickly spreads about their charming, chic ambiance and all-you-can-eat selection of delectable table breads. The restaurant has freshly sprouted up in Ala Moana Center’s new Ewa Wing, offering a tasteful blend of American and Italian cuisine with a sprinkle of Japanese flair.

Featuring a charming, open-air in-house bakery, there’s no question why this bistro is a hotspot amongst both residents and visitors alike. Guests will delight in the restaurant’s popular bread sets -- featuring an unlimited offering of fresh-from-the-oven breads served with a tray of butter, decadent chocolate syrup, cream cheese and or a berry spread.

And as tempted as you might be to carbo-load, trust us when we say that you’ll want to save room to indulge in one of their exquisite and elaborate dessert parfaits. All are as beautiful as they are delicious and big enough to easily split with two to three friends. The Chocolate Parfait ($9) is a chocolate-lovers dream of chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream, Cocoa Krispies, banana, Hershey bars and Oreos. Or if you’re dining out with a big group, go big (or go home) with Café Lani’s Jumbo Parfait. While it carries a hefty price tag at $30, we promise it is worth every delicious, creamy bite. Café Lani is open daily from 6:30 a.m. till 10 p.m. daily.

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17) Aloha Table

Venture through the streets of Waikiki and get a taste of aloha at Aloha Table -- a casual and contemporary restaurant serving up home-style Hawai'i-Asian-inspired cuisine. Considered by locals as one of O'ahu's best-kept secrets, their friendly prices, hearty servings and welcoming service embody the true warmth and generosity of the islands in every dish.

Leave behind the hotels in Hawai'i for a relaxing meal featuring local favorites like their mouthwatering Loco Moco with Kobe beef  ($18.50) -- a hamburger steak stacked upon a mound of rice and topped off with a fried egg and brown gravy - Local Style Pork Chops ($18) and Ox Tail Soup ($15). After a relaxing day at Waikiki Beach stroll across Kalakaua Avenue and make your way up to this second level restaurant located behind the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.

Very few things will make you happier than Aloha Table's happy hour. Available from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. till closing the menu smiles upon diners with options like Edamame ($3) prepared with your choice of sea salt or wasabi, Spicy Chicken Wings ($5) or their Garlic Shrimp ($5.50) prepared with the shell on and a small scoop of rice it can also double for the perfect light meal or snack. If you're looking for something to cool off with, Aloha Table's happy hour drink menu includes $1 off beers, $4 house wine and $5 cocktails.

Aloha Table is set from 11:30 a.m. till 1 a.m. Monday thru Saturday and open till 12 a.m. on Sunday.


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18) South Shore Grill

A short drive from your Waikiki hotel, South Shore Grill is heating up the O'ahu food scene with fresh, local, grilled grinds. After a morning hike up Diamond Head Crater stroll just four blocks down Monsarrat Ave. and refuel with mouthwatering dishes like their assortment of BBQ plates, fresh burritos, sandwiches, juicy burgers and house desserts.

Surf over to South Shore Grill for some of their whale-y good dishes. Among our favorites are the signature Fish Tacos ($10.50) which can be prepared either grilled or fried, BBQ Chicken Plate ($10.25) with boneless Korean-style marinated chicken thighs or the Steak Burrito ($8.75). All plates also include a dude-licious choice of rice, tuna-mac salad, South Shore slaw or fries and slaw.

You'll be stoked to find out that South Shore Grill is open Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. - 9 p.m. And with keiki dishes and take out options also available, you're sure to find something ono (delicious) for the entire group.


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19) Noi Thai Cuisine

Serving up Southeast Asian dishes to Thai for, Noi Thai Cuisine is a tasty hotspot. In fact, with special dishes like their Crispy Taro Rolls and Ahi Tuna Salad, it’s one of our favorite restaurants to spice your Honolulu vacation activities.

Flaming beyond your traditional, casual Thai restaurant, Noi Thai Cuisine is turning up the heat with Thailand-inspired interior design and a mouth-watering menu that transports guests to the shores of the tropical country. The 5,500 square-foot restaurant features rich, mahogany floors and gold accents, perfect for a romantic evening out on the town.

Seeing Hawaii as the perfect mixing pot to continue her family tradition, restaurant owner Noi Lapangkura expanded her Pacific Northwest restaurant concept to the islands in 2015. And ever since been creating world-class Thai dishes including traditional favorites like Pad Thai, Satay and a selection of curries that are noi-t to be forgotten. If you don’t want to sweat their extensive menu, we’d recommend going with signature dishes like their Bangkok Red Curry featuring red chili paste simmered with coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, basil, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and your choice of chicken, pork or tofu. Another dish we can’t stop squawking about is the Crispy Garlic Chicken, a lightly battered and fried boneless chicken stir-fried in garlic-infused sauce.

Noi Thai Cuisine is conveniently located near your Waikiki beach hotel on the third level of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center above Cheesecake Factory.

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20) Rainbow Drive-In

Looking for some Hawaiian style grinds? Zoom over to Rainbow Drive-In, a favorite Hawai'i eatery that has been serving up local comfort food on the island of Oahu for more than 50 years.

Here, t-shirts and flip flops are the fashion de rigueur. In fact at this cozy drive in you're more likely to find sand-streaked toes and bikinis and board shorts then anything else. And this comfortable, laid-back Hawaiian style is exactly part of the charm that has locals and visitors tooting its praises.

The perfect stop after a day out enjoying your Honolulu vacation activities. Rainbow Drive-In has been parked in the same location since 1961. Located just a few blocks from your Waikiki beach hotel on Kapahulu Avenue, the eatery is known for its colorful menu of ono (delicious) local plate lunch favorites like loco moco ($8.50), chili plate ($7.25), or their always-popular mix plate ($8.95) which includes BBQ beef, boneless chicken and mahi mahi served with a heaping scoop of rice.

As if their tasty plate lunches weren't memorable enough - visit the Rainbow Tiki Gift Shop and pick up a picture-perfect Rainbow Drive-In sticker or t-shirt or a pack (or two) of their chili seasoning and rub to give friends and coworkers back home a taste of the islands. The landmark location is easily recognized thanks to its iconic rainbow sign. The sign has caught the attention of many local residents and out of state visitors over the years, including food show host Guy Fieri -- who has featured the famous drive in on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Inns and Dives."

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21) Pioneer Saloon

Grab your hat, lasso up some friends and strike out from your Waikiki hotel for Pioneeer Saloon. Located off Monsarrat Avenue this cozy restaurant is herding up tasty Japanese dishes blended with local Asian flair.

Where Old West meets New East, Pioneer Saloon flips expectations with dishes you would never expect to find in a typical saloon. Instead of drinks, dancing girls and Western décor, this popular Waikiki eatery has lassoed up a selection of dishes you are more apt to find in a Honolulu plate lunch shop or Japanese restaurant. After a hike up Diamond Head Crater or a morning at Waikiki Beach, giddy up on over to enjoy dishes like the miso butterfish, hamburger pork katsu, curry rice or grilled ahi garlic. Want something to enjoy later? Nothing hits the spot quite like one of their spam and cheese musubis after a day sunbathing by the pool.

The eclectic décor of Pioneer Saloon is as unexpected as its food. Expect to find everything from a mounted Jackalope on the wall next to photos of Waikiki Beach from decades past. And after filling your opu (stomach) with hearty dishes, you can stuff your bag with fun omiyage and trinkets. Pioneer Saloon is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.


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22) Matcha Cafe Maiko


For a tea-riffic snack that offers a cool alternative from traditional iced options like shave ice or gelato, we'd recommend going green. Matcha Café Maiko in Waikiki is known for their authentic, high-quality matcha green tea-infused menu including soft serve, iced teas, lattes, floats and parfaits.   

For desserts that are unmatcha-ed head down Kuhio Avenue. Behind the popular Marukame Udon you'll find an oasis of green tea options. With premium matcha sourced directly from Kyoto's celebrated Harima Garden you can cool off with a cup of matcha iced tea ($3.80) after a day at the beach or grab an iced frappe ($5.60) before exploring the Waikiki strip at night.

If you thought you had green tea before, tea-ink again. Seeped in the mission of providing a premium experience for guests, Matcha Café Maiko makes all of their menu items in house, to order. One of our favorites is the Maiko Special ($7.50) a parfait which screams with vanilla and matcha soft serve ice cream, mixed with kanten jelly, azuki beans, water chestnuts, matcha chiffon cake, cornflakes and mochi.

Since opening their doors earlier this year Matcha Café Maiko has quickly become a matcha-have among local and visiting green tea fans. Planted within walking distance from your Waikiki hotel, Matcha Café Maiko is open 11:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. daily.

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Shopping Finds: Waikiki

1) Mahina

Life's a beach. Or, at least it is when you're shopping at Mahina. This locally owned boutique originated on Maui but has since flown the coop and washed up on the shores Waikiki.

Ditch Waikiki's big box retailers and take advantage of Mahina's effortless cotton dresses, wearable tops, comfy rompers and accessories all at affordable prices. Owners Jody and Joe also operate stores in Kihei and Paia on Maui, and their Waikiki shop continues the tradition of striking just the right balance between on-trend items and effortless island style.

If you have time (and more gifts to pick up for friends and family back home!) be sure to check out the other shops at Waikiki Beach Walk. Here, there are more small shops and boutiques, which offer treasure troves of finds - such as Island Sole and Oasis. And you won't be able to help tipping your hat to the new cap specialty store, Truffaux.


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2) Pineapple County

Enjoy your pick of on-trend clothing and accessories at Pineapple County. A fresh boutique in Waikiki, it's a sweet place to pop into if you're looking for original tees, awesome accessories or the obligatory omiyage (gift) for family and friends back home.

Satiate your fashion hunger pangs with items on the first floor, then top off your visit with a whole second floor stocked with juicy savings. And for those traveling with little ones, they've got accessories and apparel for all ages - from bracelets and bikinis to tanks and tees. This is why we always consider a visit to Pineapple County a fruitful one.

When it comes to parking, back it up to behind the building - a pay-to-park lot is available to the public. But when in Waikiki, the best way to holoholo (cruise around) is always by foot.

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Event Finds: Waikiki

1) Spam Jam

In Hawai‘i residents consume the most spam per person than anywhere else in the United States. So it's no surprise that the state that consumes close to seven million cans of Spam each year also has its own festival for it, and the annual Waikiki Spam Jam -- held every April along Kalakaua Avenue -- is a food festival like no other.

Your opu (belly) will be singing a new tune as you sample spam dishes from some of the island's top eateries who take a local twist on Hawai‘i's favorite canned meat. Our taste buds were abuzz with Spam Jam twists like the loco moco spam burger, spam siu mai, spam street tacos and more. Spam-a-licious.

After filling your stomach on spam, you can jam out at one of the event's two entertainment stages or check out the Spam-themed merchandise tents and Hawaiian craft booths. And while there is no cost for admission to Spam Jam, attendees can make a donation of canned spam (or any other canned food) to the Hawai‘i Foodbank. Because we can all do something to can hunger!

To make plans for next year's spam-a-jama visit


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2) Okinawan Festival

Celebrating Japan's southernmost prefecture for more than 30 years, Waikiki's Okinawan Festival has been bringing together people from all ethnicities and walks of life to honor the Uchinanchu (Okinawan) culture in Hawai‘i. From local Okinawan favorites like the Anda Pop (because very few things in life are as good as andagi - a deep fried dessert - on a stick dipped in chocolate) to getting up close and personal with the Okinawan dragon dog -- this festival offers something for everyone.

If you attended the Okinawan Festival years ago you may remember it at Ala Moana Park's McCoy Pavilion but it has since grown out of those digs and is now held every September at Kapi‘olani Park in Waikiki to accommodate the more than 50,000 guests it attracts annually.

If you can, make plans to check out the Okinawan Festival Bon Dance which is traditionally held on Saturday night, and allows participants of all ages and ability levels to get their bon dance on. In between sets grab a fundagi (or two) for the fam. The Okinawan-style funnel cake, lightly dusted in sugar is only available during the Saturday bon dance and will have you doing a special fundagi-inspired jig.

If you prefer to drive, the Hawai‘i United Okinawa Association - which hosts the event each year and is the beneficiary of all proceeds -- hosts a shuttle bus that runs continuously from Kapi‘olani Community College to the festival. To get all the latest and greatest details on this year's Okinawan Festival, visit


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3) Ukulele Festival

Strumming along since 1971, the Ukulele Festival Hawaii has been bringing the joy of Hawaiian music to island residents and visitors for dozens of years. Striking the perfect note every July, Ukulele Festival Hawaii is the largest ukulele festival of its kind in the world, attracting thousands of spectators as well as guest artists and an enormous ukulele orchestra of more than 800 ukulele students. The complimentary concert at the Kapiolani Park bandstand in Waikiki is now an annual summer tradition for local families who make a day out of it, grabbing their blankets, lawn chairs and coolers for a picnic at the park.

A member of the guitar family of instruments, the ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-leh-leh) is a 19th century instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants where it quickly gained popularity. Ukulele Festival Hawaii organizer and well-known ukulele musician Roy Sakuma and his wife Kathy have dedicated their lives to sharing the joy of this local instrument through lessons, festivals and community events.

Follow your ears and the sweet sounds of the uke to enjoy internationally and well-known celebrity musicians, food booths, ukulele displays, giveaways and lessons. Grammy award-winning artist James Ingram is a regular face at the festival since 1994 when he and Roy Sakuma met and collaborated on the Ukulele Festival Hawaii's theme song, "Come and Join Us," which was later honored with the Hawaii Music Award's single of the year award. While the Ukulele Festival has since taken to the road to include shows on Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui, the original is still considered by many - the best.


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4) Lantern Floating Hawaii

Each Memorial Day, Ala Moana Beach Park lights up with Lantern Floating Hawai‘i - a longstanding local event which invites participants to celebrate the lives of those who have passed. Hosted by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order the event typically attracts tens of thousands of kama‘aina and visitors from around the world who float through Magic Island to participate in the local tradition.

Arrive early to lock in your own lantern. The "lantern tent" opens at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day, but the line lengthens quickly to snap up the paper lanterns, which share handwritten notes of remembrance. For those who hope to share a message or memory of a loved one, all notes submitted online at at least one week prior to the event will be included on the lanterns released during the ceremony. Lanterns are free but donations are accepted on behalf of the City and County of Honolulu.

Pack a picnic and some lawn chairs and spend the day sunning and surfing as you wait for the main event at dusk. Leading up to the lantern ceremony participants also enjoy a bright lineup of entertainment including song and dance. As the sun sets participants release more than 5,000 lanterns inscribed with messages to their loved ones into the Pacific Ocean.


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5) Restaurant Week

Each November, local gourmands get out of the kitchen and hightail it to their favorite restaurants or make reservations at previously unexplored eateries for Hawai'I's annual Restaurant Week. The seven-day celebration highlights the local cuisine scene creating a foodie fantasy filled with never-before-seen dishes, special pre-fixe menus, promotions, and discounts all to benefit the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head.

If you're anything like us you'll want to scour the Restaurant Week Hawai'i website ahead of time to study the complete list of participating eateries and offers. This way you can map out your meals for the week and make reservations well in advance.

For those who don't want to wander far to enjoy great eats, Nobu's (just downstairs) and Orchid's (right across the street) are Restaurant Week regulars. Because with names like Alan Wong's, Azure, Chef Chai, Diamond Head Market & Grill, Rainbow Drive In and more a week full of digging into delicious meals will have you weak in the knees.


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6) Courtyard Cinema Film Series

If you flip for film, you won't want to miss Ward Village's monthly Courtyard Cinema. Taking place every second Thursday of the month at the IBM Building Courtyard, each event features a different Hawai'i International Film Festival (HIFF) flick. Enjoy rotating refreshments, activities and special guests focused on that month's selected film as you enjoy the beautiful weather and backdrop of Honolulu.

For families with kids, Courtyard Cinema is a great way to spend the night. The free screenings won't break your budget and provides an educational opportunity as well since each showing highlights the art of independent films, from intellectually stimulating scripts to family-oriented favorites.

A partnership between Hawai'i International Film Festival and Consolidated Theaters at Ward Villages, all screenings are open to the public. Tickets can be reserved online at

Free parking is available throughout Ward Village and a parking structure is located conveniently just across the street. With a selection of boutiques and eateries you can even shop and grab a plate lunch for dinner before heading over for the 6 p.m. showing. See ya at the cinema!


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7) Charity Walk

Make your morning walk more meaningful by participating in the annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk. The walk is open to everyone looking to spend a morning enjoying food, fun, and local entertainment in support of Hawai'i's nonprofits!

Since 1979 the Visitor Industry Charity Walk has been an avenue for the visitor industry statewide to show aloha for local charities. As one of the few walks where you can actually GAIN weight, keep in mind that those extra calories are for a good cause. And while treating yourself to drinks and snacks at various check points along the four-mile O'ahu route, don't forget to pull over at the Halekulani for a special treat from the Waikiki Parc and our sister property!

On O'ahu participants are asked to make a minimum donation.  In past years thousands of walkers have helped to raise more than $1.8 million statewide to support island communities.  Contact the Concierge for more information.




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8) Honolulu Zoo Summer Concert Series

If you're looking for a roaring good time, zip on over to the Honolulu Zoo's Summer Concert Series. Held every Wednesday evening from June through August, the Wildest Show in Town headlines popular Hawaiian musicians like Willie K., Kapena, and Manoa DNA with zoo residents roaring, squawking and chattering as back up.   

The Wildest Show in Town brings together the sound of animals and the sound of music. Hosted by well-known entertainer Roy Sakuma, the 10-week concert series costs just $3 for anyone over age two. Arrive early and be one the first 30 lucky duckies to register and enjoy a guided-tour through the zoo before the concert!

For families, children age 12 and younger can participate in the Keiki Koloring Kontest or explore the animal-themed legos by HI Lego Users Group.

Swing over to the zoo early when gates open at 4:35 p.m. to hawk out the best spot on the lawn. The music starts at 6 p.m. and we recommend bringing a towel or chair to keep comfortable during the show. And while you can't feed the animals, you can definitely feed your family with food and drinks from participating vendors.

So take a walk on the wild side and get your fill of lions, tigers and bears with a paw-fully good performance of Hawaiian-style music. 



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9) Waikiki Aquarium Summer Concert Series

Beat the summer heat with Waikiki Aquarium's cool Summer Concert Series. The Ke Kani O Ke Kai concert series, which translates to The Sound of the Ocean, provides an opportunity to dive into the sweet sounds of Hawaiian music accompanied by the crashing waves of Waikiki Beach. Perfect for families, the admission fee includes access to the aquarium's exhibits so you get a fish-full of exhibits before spreading out on the lawn for a performance by one of the island's top entertainers.

Taking place each summer from June through August, concerts are held on alternating Thursday nights and feature different celebrated local musicians including award-winning names like Makana, Sean Naauao, Raiatea Helm, Cyril Pahunui, Jake Shimabukuro and many more.

Before leaving the room, pack a few towels and light jacket to ward off the chilly ocean breeze. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and many guests arrive early to kapu (reserve) their spot on the lawn and to give them time to explore the aquarium's displays before the music starts tuning up at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase online and are $50 for adults and $20 for children ages 5-12.  Children under age five are free. 



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10) Aloha Festivals

Ain’t no party like a Hawai’ party. And in Hawai’i the start of the fall season also kicks of Aloha Festivals, a two-month festival that includes hundreds of events across the state. Running from September through October, Aloha Festivals features a number of signature events including the Made in Hawaii show, steel guitar festival, music concerts, hula performances and much more. Much like the Makahiki celebrations of old Hawai’i, Aloha Festivals is a cultural celebration honoring the special heritage and aloha spirit that the islands are celebrated for. Originally called Aloha Week, it was expanded to Aloha Festivals in 1991 and now features more than 300 events and attracts more than a million guests each year. On O’ahu, Aloha Festivals steps out with the annual Aloha Festivals Parade. Each island is represented by a king, queen, prince, princess and attendants of Hawaiian descent and dressed in colorful aloha attire. Another not-to-be missed event is the Waikiki Hoolaulea. Just a brisk walk from your Waikiki beach hotel, the block party is the largest in the state, typically welcoming more than 80,000 guests and featuring live musical performances, food booths, and arts and crafts along Kalakaua Avenue. For an up-to-date list of this year’s schedule of events and more information on Aloha Festivals visit

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Waikiki PARC: Waikiki

1) Waikiki Parc Hotel

If you're looking for a different kind of hotel experience, park yourself at the Waikiki Parc, a boutique hotel folded into the streets of Waikiki.

This affordable oasis is the perfect place to plant yourself for a few days to get a true blue "visitor's experience" snuggling up to Waikiki's sandy shores (the beach is just a stone's throw away) and getting swept up in the hordes of visitors hitting the pavement to check out some of the best of O‘ahu's shopping, dining and entertainment.

We love Waikiki Parc's unpretentious island hospitality, which offers a vibrant alternative to traditional national hotel brands. This new address in Waikiki has it all - from culture and cuisine, to recreation and relaxation. Rooms are dressed in rich mahogany and bold art and European-influenced bed dressings. For those who need 24/7 internet access to load their latest vacation pics, complimentary high-speed WiFi is available property-wide

One of the best perks? You can take advantage of all the fabulous amenities at sister hotel, Halekulani, which is just across the street - including their pool and room signing privileges at their spa, boutiques and award-winning dining options.


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