Hawaii is fast becoming a popular destination for Kiwis. Just an eight hour flight to Honolulu and incredibly cheap fares make it particularly appealing for families.
If you’re taking the kids, get ready for some unique dining experiences that you won’t find at home. Waikiki offers a blend of traditional local fare, international cuisine and lots of the popular fast food chains the kids are going to want to try.
Top tip #1 - the portion sizes are large. If the kids aren’t big eaters, go with an entree instead of a main. It’ll still be plenty of food.
Top tip #2 - the meal prices seem cheap but they’re in USD. If you’re on a budget, work out the conversion rate first. You might not be thrilled to find you’ve just paid $53 NZD for the kids’ pizza.
Here are our top 10 not so fine dining options for the kids.
Leonard’s Bakery - Love doughnuts? You’re going to want to get in line at Leonard’s Bakery. This place is a go-to for both locals and tourists and there is often a line for their famous malasadas - a Portuguese doughnut without a hole - but it moves pretty quickly. Choose a plain malasada with a dusting of sugar, or filled with custard or macadamia nut cream. We suggest grabbing at least half a dozen, the kids will be after more for sure ( and you’ll want to Instagram them too).
The Cheesecake Factory - if you’ve seen The Big Bang Theory on TV then you’ll know all about this mega-popular American chain. Penny made it famous with her appalling waitress skills but the real life experience is anything but that. Exceptional service with a huge range of meal options, and ALL THE CHEESECAKE, in a family-friendly setting make this a winner for the kids. In fact, the adults will love it too, even if you haven’t seen the show. They also do the cheesecake to takeaway.
Mahaloha Burger - grabbing burgers to take away is a godsend for any busy family on holiday and this over-the-counter option is not only reasonably priced, but good quality too. Created by local Hawaiian Jesse Aguinaldo, Mahaloha Burger offers burgers made with quality grass-fed beef and fresh, natural ingredients. Try the pink lemonade - it’s a total novelty and totally delicious! The store in the Hilton Hawaiian Village is right next to the beach, head there with your burgers for a picnic on the sand.
Marukame Udon Waikiki - for a more interactive dining experience, get Marukame Udon onto your list of places to try. The lines are long but the food is cheap. Once you’re in, you choose your udon (they make them in front of you), add your choice of tempura or musubi and top with soup or condiments. It’s a bustling environment - fun, hot, loud and friendly - and makes you feel like you're in Japan. If your kids are adventurous eaters, they’ll love this place.
IHOP - if breakfast foods are more your thing and the kids watch anything American on YouTube, they’ll probably have heard of IHOP. The International House of Pancakes has literally thousands of restaurants in 50 states and there is one conveniently located in Kuhio Ave in Waikiki, open day and night. They pride themselves on inviting you to be yourself and enjoy special moments with family and friends, how perfect. And don’t worry, pancakes aren’t the only thing on the menu.
Hard Rock Cafe - smack bang in the heart of Waikiki, the restaurant is located on an upper level, open air balcony. The weather is warm and the food is classic american. It also seems to be the place where everyone celebrates their birthday and your meal is often interrupted so you can all sing Happy Birthday to a stranger. It’s tradition. They cater well for the kids too with meals served on guitar-shaped plates and drinks adorned with an array of plastic animals.
Slice of Waikiki - Do your kids often fight over what kind of pizza to order? Slice of Waikiki will sort that right out. This hole in the wall outfit sells pizza by the slice, making snack time a breeze. They do all the classic flavours and a couple of random ones (keep an eye out for the Green Monster) for $5 or $6 a slice or you can buy a whole pizza. If you’re thinking they do pies too, they don’t. In America they call a pizza, a pie - who knew.
ABC Stores - when you’re heading out for the day to do one of Hawaii’s famous activities and need to grab a few snacks for the kids, the ABC Stores are a great option. They’re located on almost every corner and have fresh food like sushi, salads, wraps, sandwiches and fruit. Similar to a convenience store, you can also pick up drinks and other nibbles. The kids will love trying iconic American treats like Cheez-Its, Twinkies or Pop Tarts. Throw it in your day pack and you’re good to go.
Taco Bell - Hola! Don’t forget about this champion chain. Who doesn’t love a bit of Mexican. These guys have the whole family covered with their huge range of nachos, burritos and tacos or for the more health conscious, a protein power menu bowl. For those not so health conscious, grab some cinnabons to finish off this cheap eat. And if it’s been a full on day and you can’t face leaving your hotel, pop your zip code into their website - they just might deliver.
Basalt - not super fine dining but not fast food, Basalt will satisfy the parents just as much as the kids. With internationally and seasonally inspired small plates, you can enjoy a range of beautiful dishes here. Even the kids burger is made with wagyu beef! Located in Dukes Lane Market & Eatery, Basalt is a great place to sit and relax after a day of sightseeing. And unlike most of the other options on this list, Basalt has a bar. So order yourself a drink, you’ve earned it.