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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