Not far from the golden beaches and world-class shopping of Waikiki, close to where the city of Honolulu gives way to lush forest reserves, is a neighborhood that very few tourists ever visit: Kaimuki. 

While this part of the city was a local secret for decades, in recent years the neighborhood has been getting a (sugar) rush of attention. With an abundance of bakeries, gelato shops, and diners—many on a single block—Kaimuki is becoming renowned as Honolulu‘s new sweet spot.

On a recent visit, we walked the two miles from bustling Waikiki (burning far fewer calories than we needed to) to sample the decadent desserts and uniquely Hawaiian flavors being served up in this increasingly vibrant part of town. Here is what we found.

Via Gelato. It really doesn’t get more local than Via Gelato. Ingredients are sourced from around the islands and include yummy items such as juicy lilikoi (passion fruit), toasty macadamia nut, ripe mango, and elegantly floral lavender. These goodies provide visitors with an opportunity to discover the flavors of Hawaii in the sweetest possible way. 

Via Gelato

Chocolate and Vanilla. This 12th Avenue bakery is known for having the best Parisian macarons on Oahu. While the perfectly airy-but-chewy sweets might be decidedly French, flavors such as strawberry macadamia nut, Haupia (coconut milk pudding) chocolate, and mango capture the taste of the islands and provide a real sense of place.

Sconees. Don’t let the slightly rundown building that Sconees shares with Chocolate and Vanilla scare you away; the flaky, buttery scones for which Sconees is famous don’t need a showroom because they stand on their own. The handmade-every-morning blueberry and apple-cinnamon scones truly are worth waiting for, and many other customers come for the sweet-and-tart lilikoi, lemon, and guava bars lightly dusted with powdered sugar. 

Koa Pancake House. Named for the warm Koa wood interiors that decorate the island chain’s multiple restaurants, this restaurant serves up plate-sized pancakes and other breakfast yummies. If pancakes aren’t your thing, consider more savory island favorites like Mahi Benedict or fried rice with spam.

Otto Cake. For something much different than the over-the-top, über-dense cheesecakes offered by national chains, give Otto Cake a try. Light, chiffon-like cheesecakes come in an assortment of flavors unique to the shop. Some of the most popular flavors at the Kaimuki store include strawberry basil, orange poppyseed, and Lehua honey. As if luscious cheesecake isn’t enough of a reason to stop by Otto’s, the cozy little bakery also serves up decadent whoopee pies and crumbly coffeecake. 

Which island desserts are you most interested in trying?