Kapahulu Honolulu, Oahu is a thriving area in Honolulu, the largest city in the island of Oahu. While there, you should not miss going down Kapahulu Avenue. Known for it’s festive atmosphere and almost daily luaus, the place is actually a long line of eating places , restaurants and food shops that range from the most exclusive and upscale to mom and pop diners that offer anything from traditional Hawaiian food to the best of Western cuisine. Aside from food, the avenue is also the perfect place for anything vintage and is the best place to shop for souvenirs for the people back home. If only for the diversity of products and foods that you will see there, you should not miss the avenue.
Kapahulu Avenue is one route to the freeway that leads to the airport but it’s never a good idea to just make a quick stop before leaving the island. This is because with so many places along the avenue to explore, a day will not be enough to see all the sights and see everything that this tiny strip of Honolulu holds. Like many other tourists who have just arrived, you are sure to have a good time passing through the avenue on your way to Waikiki, which is considered a larger tourist destination.
Food places that are worth a look include the following the Ono Hawaiian Food, Leonard’s Bakery, and Tokkuri-Tei, to name a few.
The Ono Hawaiian Food is the perfect place to sample the traditional Hawaiian pork delicacy the kalua pork, roasted on fiery hot coals while covered in banana or taro leaves. If you are like most tourists, you would have gotten your fill of kalua pork on traditional luaus but if you missed it there, this is the next best thing. For the whole experience, you can choose to have the flashier version of the kalua pork, where it is served right out of the imu, the underground pit where it is cooked covered with taro leaves. The place is a favorite of local celebrities and important people on the island, making it a must-see for tourists.
The Waiola Bakery and Shave Ice is another place where you can savor other Hawaiian delicacies. Among them is the island-famous shave ice, which is their version of the snow cone. You can also try other mouth watering pastries such as their sweet azuki bean rolls.
The Rainbow Drive In is a good place to try a sumptuous plate lunch, a good meal option for those planning to go on a hike or a short picnic at the beach.
Yet another place to try is the Irifune restaurant, a small hole-in-the-wall hang-out that is a favorite of locals. Favorites include the fried oyster with tonkatsu sauce on top as well as the seared ahi. Other dishes that you should not miss trying are the garlic ahi and veggie tempura veggie special with potato, eggplant and broccoli. However, expect that parking can be tricky because the place is small. Going there early, at around 5:30 in the evening when they open is often the best way to find the perfect parking spot.
Tokkuri-Tei is another local spot that is famous for its Japanese dishes. Small but bustling, Tokkuri-Tei boasts of an extensive menu and casual, laid-back attitude, perfect for college students or tourists who want something to drink and eat after a day of strolling at the beach. Favorite dishes include the pork gyoza, maguro and hamachi. The sashimi and the poke dishes are also crowd favorites.
If you crave for a great dining experience, another option is Sam Choi’s Diamond Head Grill. Owned by famous chef Sam Choi, it differs from the typical island eating place with the typical ocean view and open dining spaces because The Diamond Head Grill is located up a flight of stairs in one of the avenue strip's malls. It is known for its fried poke appetizer and the oven roasted duck. You will also enjoy the nightly presentation of flaming woks by the grill’s chef and owner. Prices can be a tad expensive, but it is worth it for the fine service that you get and the fine food by a celebrity chef.
When you start missing standard American fare like cheeseburgers and fries, no need to worry. Jack in the Box restaurants features the Double Bacon and cheese Ciabatta burger, which is double the weight, size and fillings of any McDonald’s burger in the mainland.
A testament to the real diversity in food choice on the island is The Pyramids located at 758-B Kapahulu Avenue. The establishment offers Mediterranean and Egyptian cuisine. Lamb, chicken and beef dishes marinated in exotic spices are only some of the reasons why The Pyramids is one of the best places for Middle Eastern fare in a tropical location. Other favorites include stuffed grape leaves, shish kabobs, and falafel. More common fare like shawarma and kalamari are also very delicious. There, sumptuous Middle Eastern dinners can be enjoyed with traditional Middle Eastern entertainment such as belly dancing and exotic Arabian music.
For the best lilikoi malasada on the island, Leonard’s Bakery is the place to go to. With an amusing slogan that says ‘Destroying diets since 1952,” this bakery features an extensive menu of pastries. Try it and find out why the malasada’s are loved by tourists and locals alike. Malasadas are Portugeuze donuts that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are best eaten hot, especially the sugar malasadas which tend to change in texture after a few hours. It is perhaps impossible to stroll through Kapahulu without stopping by Leonard’s sugary treats. Favorite variants include the haupia, custard and dobash malasadas.
And finally, for the best cold treats, you can head to Dave’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Parlor which offers various kinds of ice cream in local flavors. Known to serve the best ice cream in Hawaii, Dave’s Ice Cream Parlors boasts of the blueberry cheesecake ice cream and green tea ice cream, just two of the local favorites. Ube and taro ice cream are also hits.
If it's shopping and not food on your checklist, there are a lot of places in Kapahulu for that too. These include the well-known Bailey’s aloha shirts, where tourists can get aloha shirts worth anywhere from $4 to $4,000. Vintage lovers will love the shops’s extensive collection of vintage aloha shirts dating back to the 50s and 60s, as well as other vintage collectibles such as Elvis Presley, Coca Cola and other vintage finds.
Another vintage store worth your peek is Peggy’s Picks. This shop sells anything from half eaten apples, coconut bikinis from the Philippines to vintage Hawaiian masks. The store is only just across the street from Ono, and is well worth a short dash while waiting for the evening’s orders.
Another interesting place to visit is Sweet Blossoms, the local flower shop. Although not a typical tourist place to visit, Sweet Blossoms is still worth a look, good for those who want to adopt the Hawaiian tradition of giving flowers as a sign of friendship and togetherness. Sweet Blossoms cater to every occasion that requires the cheerful blossoms of native Hawaiian flowers for weddings, birthdays, and other occasions.
The avenue also boasts of a number of specialty shops from tattoo parlors to sporting goods stores. The Hawaiian Tattoo Co. is the perfect place for those who want to express their creativity with a tribal tattoo or two. The Running Room is a popular sporting goods shop that sells rugged hiking and camping stuff for those planning to rough it on the island. The Running Room is known for its very good customer service and good selection of sporting good products. Another specialty shop is Go Bananas, which sells water sports equipment.