Looking for the best restaurants in Kaka’ako near Waikiki? This guide will help you!
Hawaii’s Kaka’ko restaurants offer a great food scene in Honolulu
Food lovers agree that Oahu’s Kaka’ako neighborhood has the best food scene in Hawaii. The Kaka’ako neighborhood is busy, as a lot of new restaurants and businesses have opened in recent years. This area is very close to Honolulu’s Waikiki neighborhood, and has become a vibrant and fun place to go, day or night. You will see mostly locals here, as it’s still considered a bit off-the-beaten-track from the main touristy areas of Waikiki, yet it’s becoming more popular with visiting foodies and those who love to explore.
Kaka’ko: What you need to know
The Kaka’ako neighborhood is easy to get to from Waikiki. It’s located only a few short miles away from Waikiki (and an easy uber ride!) Everything is walkable once you get there. It’s about a 10 or 15-minute drive from Waikiki, depending on the time of day. (Note: rush hour here is busy!)
This cool neighborhood has been transformed from an industrial area into a lively art and culinary destination over the past several years. What’s more, this urban community is now home to many high-rise apartments and condo buildings, along with independently-owned hip boutiques, eclectic shops, bars, breweries, and much more. Kaka’ako is sophisticated, yet still edgy. So there’s a lot to see and do in this exciting area!
If you’re still planning your Hawaii trip, read about how to choose the best island for your Hawaiian vacation! And if you’re seeking to book a hotel in Waikiki, read my post about some of the best hotels and resorts right on the beach!
The Kaka’ako neighborhood’s restaurants are some of Hawaii’s best
Oahu’s Kaka’ako neighborhood has the best food scene across the island. The best place to start exploring this part of town is the SALT at Our Kaka’ako complex. It’s home to a number of bustling restaurants, specialty stores, coffee shops, and casual cafes. This is a list of several top dining destinations for foodies in Kaka’ako. I’ve visited this neighborhood a number of times and have personally dined at all the restaurants in this post!
One of the newest and most talked about restaurants in the Kaka’ako neighborhood is the fabulous and memorable Margotto Hawaii restaurant, where I had the opportunity to dine in late 2021. This award-winning restaurant’s cuisine is an unforgettable fusion of Japanese with an Italian and French flair. This exceptional food-lover’s destination features a truly unique, multi-course tasting experience where truffles are the star of the show. So, if you love truffles and are ready for an incredible dining adventure — Margotto is not to be missed!
Margotto Hawaii’s menu is filled with delights accented with a variety of rare truffles, sourced from Italy and other destinations. The delicacies here are carefully prepared by the award-winning chef duo, the Kayama brothers, who will tantalize your taste buds with incredible textures and flavors. One of our favorites (pictured below) is the cacao e pepe with homemade tagiolini with butter and cheese. Be sure to choose the wine pairing, as the wines are perfectly matched to this unforgettable menu. Margotto Hawaii is an authentic experience meant to be enjoyed and savored, so be sure to add this to your must-visit Hawaii experiences.
Another popular Kaka’ako restaurant is Moku Kitchen, and it has a menu filled with authentic upcountry specialties. This stylish eatery has a robust menu with many favorites, including Kalua pork and pineapple hand-tossed pizza; fresh island fish tacos made with mahi-mahi; and steak with house-cut fries. Don’t skip the sides, as the Jalapeno mashed potatoes are a best-seller. The house-made desserts include strawberry cream pie and chocolate mac nut. (And this family-friendly spot has a children’s menu as well).
Moku Kitchen has a great happy hour with food and drink specials, so be sure to check it out!
Redfish Poke Bar
Redfish Poke bar by Foodland is another Kaka’ako restaurant with an assortment of inventive Fresh poke bowls, salads, and other fresh dishes, as well as signature cocktails and more. Chef Reid Matsumura, an Oahu native, serves up a contemporary version of island classics. Several popular dishes include okonomiyaki fries, made with scallions, furikake and pickled ginger; miso shiso wings with lemon and miso glaze; and lechon kawali, pork belly with onion, soy, nuoc cham sauce and tomato.
Highway Inn Kaka’ako
For a traditional taste of the islands, check out Highway Inn Kaka’ako, a family-run restaurant that’s been in business since the 1940s. Their signature Hawaiian-style menu features a variety of classic plates, such as their Hawaiian moco, which is pork (or chicken) lau lau with beef stew gravy, topped with an egg and lomi salmon. One specialty is the sun noodle fried yakisoba is a stir fry with locally-made noodles and spam, green onions, and a fish cake. This restaurant’s plantation mixed plate features Pulehu boneless short ribs, grilled chicken, and panko-crusted island fish that’s accompanied by a generous portion of furikaka rice.
Oahu’s Kaka’ako is the best for coffee, chocolate and hot dogs!
Oahu’s Kaka’ako neighborhood has the best food scene, and the best coffee and chocolate destination, too. This hidden gem of a neighborhood has a number of unexpected options, too, such as Hanks Haute dogs, a casual spot with an array of gourmet hot dogs and creative toppings.
Kaka’ako is a great place to find some locally-made favorites to bring home, too, such as tasty specialties from the Lonohana estate chocolate shop with products made with all-natural, organic ingredients; and Morning Brew for fresh coffee, tea, pastries, and more.
Kaka’ako’s beer scene is fabulous
Kaka’ako is home to several breweries within walking distance, including Aloha Beer Company. This neighborhood hotspot attracts repeat customers with a variety of rotating handcrafted offerings on tap made with local ingredients. This brewery restaurant has a friendly ambiance and multiple indoor / outdoor spaces. There is also a big, shaded beer garden with seating for nearly 100 guests — and a “secret” speakeasy with a whimsical, rock n roll vibe.
Hawaii’s Kaka’ako farmer’s market is one of the island’s best
Oahu’s Kaka’ako Farmers Market, is held in Ward Village every Saturday morning. This award-winning market features an abundance of fresh food products (and more) sourced from the local community. This means that it’s an ideal place to get an authentic “taste” of the islands.
You’ll find local fruits, vegetables, and homemade specialties, as well as tasty baked goods and more great food! All of these vendor stalls are owned by locals. These individuals are passionate about sharing their products and honoring native Hawaiian culture through fresh ingredients.
And if you’re up for more shopping, you’re in luck! Ward Village has over 100 stores selling art, jewelry, flowers, clothing, as well as one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Admire Kaka’ako colorful murals around the neighborhood
In addition Kaka’ako’s fantastic food scene and great restaurants, it’s also an art-filled haven for artists. Visitors will immediately notice the many massive and memorable colorful murals painted on the sides of warehouses and other businesses. This is courtesy of Pow Wow Hawaii, a collective led by founder Jasper Wong. This innovative group invites artists from the islands and around the globe to decorate the structures annually, and it’s always an exciting event!
Currently, there are many splashy murals adorning the sides of buildings. So, you can easily spend a few hours wandering and admiring the art. It’s an exciting way to stroll the neighborhood, as you’ll always be surprised with the variety of artwork that’s just around the corner.
Oahu’s Kaka’ako is a beachfront location
Although Kaka’ako is an urban neighborhood, it’s a quick walk to the waves. So, if you wish to take a beach break while you’re enjoying the area, just walk over to the Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. There, you’ll find wide open space and a great spot to relax, have a picnic, and enjoy the lovely Hawaiian scenery. You can see the hotels and skyline of Waikiki in the distance, too.
It’s adjacent to the Ala Moana Beach Park, which is also popular with SUP paddleboarders and kayakers who use this area as a launching pad.
Summary: The best way to visit the Kaka’ako neighborhood
When you’re visiting Oahu and wish to see something outside of Waikiki beach, the Kaka’ako neighborhood is a fantastic place to explore! Ideally, it’s a spot for a half-day of fun. In the morning, you can start with breakfast at a local Kaka’ako cafe, and check out the murals and shops. Or, visit in the afternoon, where you can stroll around and admire the many murals, browse around the many independently-owned shops — and then plan for a fabulous dinner (and after-dinner drinks, too)!
Keep in mind the neighborhood is popular, especially in the evening, so be sure to make your restaurant reservations in advance!
An earlier article on this topic was written by Marla Cimini for USA Today in 2021.