Labelled “The Heart of Hawaii” or “The Gathering Place”, Oahu is the state’s most populous and well-known island. A melting pot of Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian and western...
Honolulu’s dining scene is distinctly diverse, influenced by Oahu’s nature as a melting pot of ethnicities. Restaurants and eateries prosper, dishing up everything from traditional and modern Hawaiian fare, to international-style cuisine.
Traditional Hawaiian food is theatrically enjoyed at a laua. The Royal Hawaiian hotel, The Polynesian Cultural Center and Paradise Cove offer Oahu’s most famous lauas; celebrating royal Polynesian feasts with award-winning displays of traditional song and dance.
Over the past two centuries Hawaiian food has grown from traditional Polynesian fare and cooking techniques, to encompass Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, and Portuguese cuisines. Immigrants from these countries arrived in Oahu between the mid-18th century and early-19th century and brought with them culinary methods and ingredients that now make up integral parts of Hawaiian cuisine. A number of stand-alone ethnic eateries exist throughout Oahu, while others restaurants incorporate elements from a number of fares to showcase exciting fusion food.
In recent times, Oahu’s food scene has become particularly influenced by a variation of Pacific Rim fare, known as the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement. The modern culinary movement combines fresh and local ingredients with flavours from around the world and prepares them in a healthy manner – i.e. grilling, stir frying or steaming. Four of the original chefs behind the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement have restaurants in Honolulu: Alan Wong (Alan Wong’s Restaurant and Pineapple Room), Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s Waikiki and Roy’s Hawaii Kai), George Mavrothalassitis (Chef Mavro), and Sam Choy (Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab). Restaurants in resort areas of Waikiki and throughout Honolulu also feature the unique flavours of the movement.
Oahu’s dining scene – including international chains and franchises – is mainly focused around Waikiki with a spattering of restaurants located on the legendary North Shore and along the east side at Hanauma Bay.
When it comes to shopping, Oahu has it all… locally owned markets and stores, national retail chains, upscale boutiques and major shopping malls, sell everything from local handicrafts to globally-imported merchandise.
Waikiki is the island’s retail hub. The beachside neighbourhood’s main strips, Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues, feature a multitude of shops and boutiques, perfect for finding the ultimate holiday mementos. The open-air International Market Place is also a souvenir hunter’s paradise, presenting a labyrinth of market-type stalls. Shopping centres like the DFS Galleria and the Royal Hawaiian Center offer a variety of uniquely Hawaiian products, such as ukuleles and Hawaiian arts and crafts. While surf shops and designer flagship stores abound, highlighting local fashion.
The North Shore isn’t just home to the island’s (and the world’s) best surfing breaks, it also hosts a dynamic shopping scene. Hale'iwa holds most of the area’s retail trade, with shops housed in plantation-era buildings offering locally-made surfboards, surf apparel and swimwear, hiking and outdoor accessories, precious gems and pearl, souvenirs, home furnishings, and a wealth of one-of-a-kind treasures.
Located in Laie, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki, The Kahakii Gallery at the Polynesian Cultural Center (a top Hawaiian attraction) features original contemporary works by Hawaiian artists. The centre – along with other major tourist attractions i.e. Iolani Palace and Pearl Harbor – has on onsite souvenir shop, which sells great cultural keepsakes.