Honolulu’s endless beaches and waterfront dining can come with a price tag as epic as they are. However, with some careful planning, eating the best food in Honolulu doesn’t have to bust your budget. After all, the Aloha State is known for Spam musubi, loco moco, and the mixed plate lunch—all famous cheap eats.
So, where can you get the tastiest cheap eats Honolulu has to offer? Keep reading and visit Honolulu like a foodie!
Where do locals eat in Hawaii?
Locals in Hawaii are all about unique eateries with lots of history and character, and folks in Honolulu have plenty of great options. Just like your favorite hometown café, these local haunts stand up to time and say, “Come and get it!”
Helena’s classic Hawaiian cuisine has won a James Beard Award, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay fine dining prices. This hometown legend, run by Helen Chock and her family members, has been feeding locals since 1946. All a la carte items cost less than $9. Psst! The short ribs are famous all over Oahu.
Since 1947, the Toguchi family has served quintessential Hawaiian cuisine at Highway Inn. Their menu is true to Hawaii’s culinary roots and among the best cheap eats Honolulu locals love. You can try their signature dishes at three locations throughout Oahu, and the Kaka’ako location near downtown Honolulu is especially convenient for sightseeing and beach-hopping.
Rainbow Drive-In is as cool as it gets. The original location on Kanaina Avenue has been slinging affordable Oahu comfort food since 1961. Just look for the rainbow-splashed exterior and follow the scent of macaroni salad and mahi mahi. The classic mix plate is under $10 and it’s the most “expensive” plate on the menu—so get ready to eat.
What are the best places to get cheap takeout in Honolulu?
Some of the best cheap places to eat in Honolulu serve go-to meals. With gorgeous weather like Honolulu’s, of course you’ll want to order takeout while you explore the seaside city.
Come here to order fresh pastries and any meal on the go. For the ultimate cheap breakfast, Honolulu-style, order the coconut pancakes with a side of fried rice. For lunch or dinner, the kim chee burger shows your taste buds what fusion food is all about.
IYASUME may not have invented Spam musubi—that was Barbara Funamura’s brilliant idea—but they have certainly made it their own. Most menu items cost less than $3 and they’re wrapped to go. The flavor combinations might surprise you…in a good way. The avocado bacon egg Spam stack will easily make you a musubi fan.
Honolulu’s Asian heritage is an important part of the city’s contemporary culture and cuisine. You’ll taste, smell, and hear those cultural roots at the Japan Village Walk Shirokiya. Eat your way through the local vendors in the ramen plaza (yes, a plaza just for ramen), sip refreshing drinks in the beer garden, and watch a live show on the Shirokiya Stage.
Is there any cheap food in Honolulu by the beach?
Yes, there are cheap eats in Honolulu right on the beach. Enjoy the views from a patio or window table, or order your meal to go and have a beach picnic in Waikiki Bay.
If you think steak and a walk on the beach is too expensive for your budget, float on over to Steak Shack in Waikiki. In a neighborhood full of luxury resorts and designer boutiques, Steak Shack stands out. Order a double portion of roast steak or chicken with rice and salad and walk down the pier for an easygoing vacation date.
Located on the east side of Waikiki, Barefoot Beach Café is something different. You can’t find vegan loco moco at most eateries, but the gravy-smothered brunch dish is a staple for anyone eating in Hawaii on a budget. Come one, come all. This lovely local spot serves several vegan options alongside the classics.
When you want good cheap eats in Honolulu, don’t forget the street food! Gilligan’s Beach Shack is usually parked at Kahanamoku Beach and the garlic shrimp is a crowd favorite. Plus, can you really say you’ve been to Honolulu if you haven’t turned your tongue blue with shaved ice? Gilligan’s can help with that.
Where are the best Honolulu happy hours?
Eating from the happy hour menu is a great way to save on an early—or very late—dinner. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to build an affordable meal from flavorful small plates. It’s the perfect way to explore some of the best cheap eats in Honolulu!
There are so many reasons to love Moku Kitchen. For starters, it’s big and bright with plenty of tables, and it’s located in the heart of Kaka’Ako, Honolulu’s downtown district. When 3 p.m. rolls around, it’s your mission to order as many half-price small plates as you can for the next 2 hours and 30 minutes. The menu includes roasted wings, truffle fries, ravioli, and more (poke is the only exclusion)! And if you catch yourself craving a late-night pizza—hey, you’re on vacation—pop over to Moku Kitchen between 10 and 11 p.m. when pizzas cost just $10. As for happy hour libations, beers and wine are $2 off and craft cocktails cost just $9 (about $4 off the regular price).
For cheap eats in Honolulu with fine dining flair, you need happy hour at MW Restaurant. On weekdays from 2 to 5 p.m. in the dining room and until 6 p.m. at the bar, several small plates and drinks cost just $5-7. Don’t expect the usual suspects—order gorgeous salads and hot dishes for $5 and pupus like scallop tempura and ahi tartare for $7. Pair your gourmet meal with sake, beer, wine, or signature cocktails, all for—you guessed it—$5!
It turns out that some of the best food in Honolulu costs five bucks. You read that right. The menu at Nomu is written in Japanese and English and includes a huge selection of yakitori, otsumami, and other delicious dishes. And we haven’t even mentioned happy hour yet. Every day from 2 to 6 p.m. and from 10 p.m. until closing, your favorite cheap seafood costs just $3. By the way, there’s no karaoke cover charge every Friday and Saturday night!
Where to experience a traditional luau in Honolulu
Attending a traditional luau is one of the best ways to encounter Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and cuisine. Many hotels in Honolulu host these events for guests and visitors. Here’s where you can find them:
- Germaine’s Hawaiian Luau includes an imu ceremony, delicious dinner buffet, shell lei you can take home, and more.
- Paradise Cove Luau features a flower petal shower, imu dinner, and activities like lei-making and games.
- Ali’i Luau Dinner at the Polynesian Cultural Center is accompanied by some daring entertainment like fire walking and spinning.
Now that you know where to eat in Hawaii, Honolulu attractions are next on your list of things to discover. Fill your itinerary with fun and let local eateries fill your getaway with flavor. Enjoy Honolulu on a budget, and aloha!
Header image: Via Izabela23/Shutterstock.com