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Eating reasonably in Hawaii
Old 09-04-2019, 04:21 PM   #1
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Eating reasonably in Hawaii

Have a trip to both Oahu and Hawaii mid Jan 2020 and looking at Yelp was rather amazed at the restaurant prices! Appetizers mostly upper teens, entrees in the mid to high 40's. Plus I have 2 college kids with me.


Should I plan on doing food trucks a few times? Are there local hangouts that are more in the $25/person range? Best ways to find those?


Or just suck it up as the price to pay to eat in Paradise??
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:29 PM   #2
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Hawaii is expensive. Buy fresh fruit at the market and hit Costco for some of the food. Many lodging arrangements come with full kitchens. The better restaurants do tend to have very fresh fish, so worth paying more for. We also ate at a few less expensive popular local hangouts we found mentioned on trip advisor, but we also prepped some of our meals.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:59 PM   #3
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I don't remember specific prices when I was there 2 years ago, but yeah I suggest "suck it up." That was my attitude - I knew we were going to a place notorious for high prices, and heck it was vacation in paradise so I wasn't going to spend time squeezing out a few bucks to save. Whatever it cost us, it was worth every penny. We loved it; I want to go back.
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:09 PM   #4
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:15 PM   #5
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Yes, restaurant food is expensive in Hawaii.

The last couple of times we were there, in the big island then in Maui, we stayed in timeshares with kitchen. Hello Costco!

I have a family trip coming up in less than 2 months. Airbnb this time. The 1st thing we are going to do after landing is to visit Costco. In Maui, Costco is closed to the airport anyway.

We will do some eating out, but having to look for a place to eat for every meal is not desirable to us anyway, let alone cost.

PS. Maui Costco is the place to get gas. The price difference to other gas stations is substantial. Again, it's a good place to fill up before returning the rental car.
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:23 PM   #6
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We were on Hawaii and Oahu 5 years ago. I don't recall Honolulu as being really expensive for meals.... we found a lot of decent restaurants on Trip Advisor.

We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and the restaurants there were outrageously priced. We took the tram to Kings Shops, a nearby mall, and got some food for breakfasts at the grocery store there and also had a few meals at the restaurants in the mall.... I think we had a couple meals at the resort and one of those was a luau.
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:34 PM   #7
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Go where the locals eat. Youíll get more authentic local food and most locals arenít paying anywhere near those prices. Ask around and youíll have a more authentic experience.
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:37 PM   #8
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Perhaps we live in different universes..........is yours a fine dining universe?
I just yelped for seafood restaurants in Honolulu......mostly $ and $$ places came up. Roy's which I would consider more upper class came up as $$$
which is classified as $31-60 and would be more like what you noticed.
$$ is $11-30 and $ is < $10. Seems like you should be able to do it for less than $40 w/o the food truck.

https://www.yelp.com/search?find_des...ulu%2C+hi&ns=1
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:42 PM   #9
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Go where the locals eat. Youíll get more authentic local food and most locals arenít paying anywhere near those prices. Ask around and youíll have a more authentic experience.
Never been to Hawaii, but I agree with eating where the locals go. Got great recommendations in Key West, Pensacola, Panama City Beach, Lake Tahoe, etc. Problem is, as these places get more and more popular, the prices go up and the locals eat at home.
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Old 09-04-2019, 05:53 PM   #10
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Go where the locals eat. Youíll get more authentic local food and most locals arenít paying anywhere near those prices. Ask around and youíll have a more authentic experience.
good point............posters on yelp seem to be mostly visitors but some restaurants have significant numbers of locals.
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Old 09-04-2019, 09:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by kaneohe View Post
Perhaps we live in different universes..........is yours a fine dining universe?
I just yelped for seafood restaurants in Honolulu......mostly $ and $$ places came up. Roy's which I would consider more upper class came up as $$$
which is classified as $31-60 and would be more like what you noticed.
$$ is $11-30 and $ is < $10. Seems like you should be able to do it for less than $40 w/o the food truck.

https://www.yelp.com/search?find_des...ulu%2C+hi&ns=1

What is a $$ designation in Hawaii vs Wisconsin is waaaaayyy more expensive. Just check out Roy's in Hawaii at their $$$ star rating. More like $60/dinner.


Anyway, I can see getting groceries for breakfast, food trucks for lunch and then a few "blow that dough" for dinner with a luau thrown in for fun.
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Old 09-04-2019, 11:04 PM   #12
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We have got to where we stay in apartments in high COL places. And we do much of our own cooking.
There are always places to eat that are not that expensive--including Chinese, etc.
But don't forget Hawaii is in the good ole USA, and there's always fast foods.
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Old 09-05-2019, 12:25 AM   #13
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It depends on what you are looking for but I think a range of food options (instead of just full serve restos) is a great way to go, particularly if you have a kitchenette.

Great suggestions around Costco, happy hour, food trucks, and markets. I love to track down a fish store to buy poke or some fish to make at our rental. I also love tracking down a farmer's market to buy fruit or a snack at a prepared food vendor.

The single $ places can be pretty delicious but you're looking at counter service instead of being waited on.

Similar to other travel destinations, we try to get a variety of recommendations from recent travel articles, travel articles from online newspapers, youtube videos, blogs, etc. For Hawaii, we also try to get the corresponding book from the Hawaii Revealed series which I find has good food suggestions along with all the typical info you'd find in a travel book.

Some budget suggestions via our notes from previous trips to research if they meet your tastes. I did a cursory check to see if they are still open:
Oahu
Kua Aina - Delicious fish sandwich
Matsumoto Shave Ice
L&L Hawaiian Barbeque (various) - Chain

Big Island
South Kona Fruit Stand
Da Fish Place Lunch Wagon
Da Poke Shack
Anuenue Shave Ice
Scandinavian Shave Ice
Killer Tacos - kalua pig tacos
Tex Drive-In - malasadas
Kona Island Brewing - For the beer. Food meh.
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Old 09-05-2019, 12:25 AM   #14
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good point............posters on yelp seem to be mostly visitors but some restaurants have significant numbers of locals.


I like to ask people such as bellboys in hotels, Uber drivers, or wait staff at restaurants. These folks typically arenít making loads of money, so they know the good ďcheap eatsĒ places.
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Old 09-05-2019, 02:53 AM   #15
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King Street Tacos
L&L Drive Inn
COSTCO food court (yeah, lol)
Food courts (Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center), Ala Moana Shopping Center, etc.
Poke restaurants
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Old 09-05-2019, 05:39 AM   #16
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I was there in March. McDonalds and other fast food is still the cheapest.

Burgers are $20 at a regular burger place restaurant.
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Old 09-05-2019, 06:54 AM   #17
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If you are looking for dim sum I highly recommend Won Kee Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown. Mostly locals there. 6 of us went for lunchtime and had more than we could eat and the total bill (including tea and tip) was $75. Amazing.

Also Fresh Catch in Kaneohe if you are on that side of the Island has great fish tacos.
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Old 09-05-2019, 06:55 AM   #18
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Lots of good advice here. During business trips to Oahu, I stay at the Hilton Garden Inn on Kuhio . Right across the street is the International Marketplace. The food court there has reasonable prices for good food beyond burgers. There are Mediterranean, Italian, Hawaiian and Asian fusion choices there. Go to the second floor of the Marketplace and get your fill of prepared Japanese food at Mitsuwa. There is also a Ramen shop inside.

There is a Vietnamese Pho place next to the Hilton and a popular Japanese Ramen restaurant---you will see lines starting right before it opens up in the morning. There is also a grocery store with prepared foods, such as poke, katsu and fresh fruit. You can have a good, filing lunch for about $10 to 12 bucks. Of course the high end restaurants are also in that area when you want to splurge.

Last but not least, make time to find Leonard's Bakery for the best Malassada! It's a hole in the wall bakery and parking might be a bit challenging but worth it.
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Old 09-05-2019, 10:18 AM   #19
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Great suggestions. I forgot about fast food and food courts. Will do some research on them.


Really don't plan on a trip to Costco. Stock owner of it for 20+ years () and go all the time at home, but not blowing 2+ hours of vacation time on it. Both our hotels (Hale Koa and Hilton Waikoloa Village) don't have kitchenettes but do have refrigerators so I can see getting fruit and breakfast stuff at a local grocery.



But this info is excellent. Will certainly go to a few higher end places with the fabulous views and expensive food. But sounds like I can lower food costs a bit and still have a blast (while staying within budget)
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Old 09-05-2019, 10:33 AM   #20
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When we stay at Waikoloa, we do the buffet breakfast, and do early happy hour for dinner. In between, we usually go to the grocery at Kings shops for some light snack items.
However, going with teens, that eating schedule probably will not work!

Waikoloa is wonderful, you will enjoy it!
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