Before you read my handy healthy restaurants Honolulu guide, I advise you to lay down, wrap your white and blue striped Hilton pool towel around you, order a mai tai (two cocktail umbrellas, two chunks of pineapple, two cherries), and brace yourself for this tropical storm.
I have a confession to make. I love stopping in Hawaii on my way home from Japan- it’s a true privilege. But to be completely honest, when I board an exhaust-perfumed blue wiki wiki shuttle bus outside the terminal with a load of Japanese tourists, there are two things that I don’t look forward to. One, waiting around for a “convenient” and/or “speedy” airport shuttle to get me to Waikiki. And two, the food– specifically, finding non-touristy ($$$), healthy places to eat in Waikiki (tourist trap).
Cheeseburger in Paradise?
One person’s paradise is another person’s not so favorite place to eat. If you are gluten-intolerant, on a low carb diet, vegetarian, or just want to eat healthy, you may have one heck of a time finding a non-sandwich for lunch on your first visit to the “Sandwich Islands”.
On this stopover, boy!, was I pleasantly surprised. Hawaii is like that. You get out of your airport shuttle, palm over a tip, the rain clouds part and you look up to see your first double rainbow.
I hope this ‘Healthy Restaurants Honolulu’ guide will help you find your paradise in Hawaii. Follow it like a rainbow to lead your way your pot of eternal happiness or at least some organic loco-moco with kale salad.
Healthy Restaurants Honolulu Guide (2023 Update)
This is for real. It’s not Photoshop; I only airbrushed an “imperfection” on my thumb.
The girl working the AM shift — super nice — made this special for me. Leaning up to the order window, I asked which location had the banana soft serve inside a banana peel. She politely explained that it was only a promotional photo; it wasn’t “very conducive for eating”, but if I come back tomorrow she’d make me one.
She remembered me. “Oh yah, you’re the food blogger! Just let me go in back to find a good banana for you.” The bananas they make the soft serve out of are fully ripen with brown spots, like what you’d use to make banana bread. Firm bananas jam up their machine.
Healthy, dairy-free, fresh, local ingredients, farm to table (and table to farm), compostable cups and straws, really personable staff, Banán was the place that inspired me the most.
It turns out that nature’s imperfections, is what makes it sweet.
This was the healthiest lunch I’ve ever eaten- no contest.
I rode here on my Biki rental bike– it’s an easy 10 minute ride from Waikiki across the canal, up Kapiolani past Citron and Lime Street. Went to town on the salad bar (all natural, vegetarian with vegan/gluten-free options) and had a “powerful protein” smoothie. Some sugar, either agave or honey, is added to their smoothies. Now that I go out of my way to cut added sugar out of my diet, I noticed even at the healthiest supermarket in town, sugar is added as an ingredient. Ah-ga-ve sounds natural and healthy, but it’s still added sugar.
Last night I finished watching Fed Up, the documentary on Netflix. Apparently, out of the 600,000 + food products on the shelf in the U.S., 80% contain added sugar. In the U.S., the average person consumes 126 grams of sugar daily. That’s about 25 teaspoons. The average in Japan is 57 grams, or about 11 teaspoons- less than half the amount as the U.S. (Source: www.washingtonpost.com)
But heck, I’m here on vacation. Gotta live. Mmm-m-m, smoo-o-o-othie.
Warning: Down to Earth is dangerously close to Leonard’s Bakery. You gotta go to Leonard’s once for an original warm, sugar-coated malasada.
Down to Earth
2525 S. King St. (and other locations on Oahu and Maui)
This was the best avocado I’ve ever had.
I’m not huge into sprouts, but they did serve as a protective nest for the perfectly sliced luxurious fingerlings of avocado. The mildly sweet carrot dressing was refreshing on the local “morning salad”.
I have no doubt that this place is Japanese-owned. The clues: 1) mostly Japanese on staff 2) salad on the breakfast menu 3) no sugar added to dressing 4) when I asked to substitute an egg for wheat or taro muffin I received a firm no 5) the food presentation, balance of color and avocado sliced by a highly trained samurai chef 6) Disney character- sounding restaurant name.
For Waikiki, Goofy gives off local Hawaiian vibes: tradewind breezes with open windows on the second floor, ceiling fans, Jack Johnson playing, well-waxed surfboard mounted on the wall. Still, I felt a little bit rushed– maybe it was the egg substitution denial.
This place deserves the line out the front door. But the moment you put on Jack Johnson, dude, you gotta chill.
This is my new favorite spot for breakfast/lunch in Waikiki.
If I wasn’t writing this blog post, I would have eaten here every other day and spent more time at the beach. I had the local eggs flat omelette with mushrooms, taro, avocado, cherry tomatoes, greens, and a green smoothie both times I ate here. The second time my salad greens were blowing away on the front terrace but managed to get a quick snapshot while my eggs were still warm.
I really like their Hawaiian islands map that shows where all their local ingredients come from. By the way, did you notice anything about my omelette toppings?
Avocado déjà vu?
Later, I did some research online. Surprise, surprise, Heavenly owner is the same owner as Goofy and Aloha Table: giant Tokyo-based restaurant group Zetton Inc.
From what I read, the same Japanese chef creates the menus at Goofy and Heavenly. With another 70 restaurants, bars, cafes, and beer gardens around Japan, I think it’s fair to say that Zetton Group has a pretty good idea of what tourists from Japan in Hawaii want to eat.
This includes me.
Just clicked now.
Finally realizing that the name of this place, Tucker & Bevvy, is Aussie lingo for food (“tucker”) and beverage. If you’re American, it maybe sounds more like a law firm.
Their concept is picnic food, reasonably priced grab n’ go sandwiches, wraps, salads, smoothies, and cold-pressed juices, all perfectly located right on the corner of the park and Waikiki beach. Their food is generally pre-made or pre-packaged for convenience, but everything is made fresh with local, organic ingredients.
Skip the Macca’s burger and fries, mate! This is your best choice on Waikiki beach for “real” fast food.
Wahda ya reckon?
(Now I’m hungry for their breakfast wrap and feel like watching old episodes of Kath and Kim on YouTube and listening to Kylie Minogue.)
The tucker here = almond chicken organic green salad with Asian dressing and vegetarian chili.
Best lunch for 10 bucks?
Right here. Whole Foods.
Spinach-based salad, edamame, pickled daikon and celery, Asian sesame dressing, topped with a ⅓ pound of poké: half-and-half spicy ahi and ginger shoyu. The tuna for the poké is sustainably sourced, local caught, and will make you wanna hula dance with your chopsticks flopping side to side and up and down.
Getting to Kahala Mall by public transportation is a time commitment, time away from the beach. Always think twice about going, but every visit I remember it’s worth it. And I get to see the church where my parents ‘happily’ got married 39 years ago, directly across the street from the bus stop. Waiokeola Congregational Church on the black marque out front and lots of plumeria trees- they’re still my mom’s favorite flower.
Justin, guy on the bus who lent me a dollar on the way back (Hawaii public bus = $2.50 – no change given), told me the story of when he got mercury poisoning from eating poké twice a day for two months on Maui. Whole Foods poké for $16 a pound– I don’t think most of us need to worry about getting toxic levels of heavy metal in our blood. Priced for consuming in moderation.
Town in Kaimuki was the biggest challenge to get to without a rental car. I sat near the bar, where a garage door opens up to some patio seating, and ordered a “big salad” with fresh ono, a local firm white fish. On the way in I noticed a sticker on the door indicating that my fish was caught sustainably.
Hook. Line. And Sinker.
I knew I came the right place for my kind of food. Mia, the server, was also very nice. She told me about Superette restaurant (same owner) kitty-corner to Town and Leahi Health across the rode. The smoothies looked great but I was full after a “big salad”.
I really liked the poppyseed dressing; went really well with the orange.
Growing up eating pancakes Saturday mornings, had to go for macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup for my cheat day breakfast. I could eat 3 out of 5 plus two bites. Felt mildly sick from the overdose of pancake. Once a year is just right.
Once you’ve digested your pancakes, the next morning I’d head back to Banán for a cleansing smoothie. The staff say #14 is the best. I agree.
I love that there’s grains of sand on counter in this picture. That’s how close the beach is!
The Newest Healthy Restaurants Honolulu Guide (2019 Update)
There are more healthy places in and around Waikiki you won’t want to miss! I have some new favorite spots from this year’s Hawaii trip! !
–> Click *here* to read my new healthy restaurants Honolulu guide to the best, healthiest restaurants in and around Waikiki. –> (Just like a sand castle, it’s free.)
MAHALO! Thank you so much for reading my healthy restaurants Honolulu guide! Please leave me a note if you know of any good places that I missed. And if you have any questions, I can find out. Just leave a comment below. Are any of these places your favorite or would-be favorite? Please share your story.
“Local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.” -on the receipt at Town restaurant.
Special thanks to the nice girl at Banán, Mia at Town, Crossfit Oahu, Alain, and Justin who showed me the meaning of aloha.
*This information should be correct at the time of writing. If you notice any mistakes or changes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1)What restaurant has the healthiest menu?
If you want healthy food but still want to go out at eat at the best restaurants on your vacation, I recommend these ones for nutritious meals and natural ingredients (local and organic when possible):
1) Peace Cafe - 100% vegan restaurant". Overall, they have a healthy menu but there's only plant-based protein.
2) Heavenly Island Lifestyle - "Local Ingredients First, Organic Whenever Possible"
3) Goofy Cafe and Dine - "We are always standing by healthy and natural foods." Sister restaurant of Heavenly.
2)What is the most famous food in Honolulu?
You may want to skip the loco mocos at Rainbow Drive In.
We're talking two hamburger patties served on two scoops of rice, topped with special gravy and accompanied with a scoop of macaroni salad. It's not exactly a healthy choice, if that's what you're looking for.
In Honolulu, you can also try plate lunches at Rainbow Drive In or from a food truck.
For most of the famous food in Honolulu, you can expect something heavy, barbequed, and high in calories. The portion sizes are big, so you may want share.
Poke, is the other famous dish. It's one that I never skip when I go to Hawaii. If you stop in Foodland and Ala Moana Mall, you'll easily spot the poke counter. There's almost always a crowd and a line for a poke bowl at lunch or dinner.
Besides the pancakes topped with fruit and whip cream at Eggs and Things, acai bowls would probably be the most famous breakfast option to try.
Though having a sugar-coated malasada at Leonards is also top on my list. Leonard's is the perfect place to forget your healthy diet.
3) Where can I eat organic food in Honolulu?
If you have a car, there's the option of buying directly from local farmers at the farmers' market. You can still get to these by rental bicycle or public transportation.
These three are relatively close to hotels in Waikiki.
Honolulu's Farmers' Market Wednesdays Hours of operation: 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm Location: Neal S. Blaisdell Center 777 Ward Ave., Honolulu, HI 96814
Kaka'ako Farmers' Market Saturdays Hours of Operation: 8 am - 12 pm Location: 919 Ala Moana Blvd & 210 Ward Ave.
KCC Farmers' Market Saturdays Hours of Operation: 7:30 am – 11:00 am Location: Kapiolani Community College – Parking Lot B
After that, the best places to find organic food are my two favorite supermarkets: Down to Earth and Whole Foods. There are more than one location for both of these options. I love the newer locations in Kaka'ako. I always eat at an outdoor table on the patio. It's not fancy but the warm breeze is a wonderful luxury!
If you want to eat healthy on a budget, I highly recommend eating most of your meals right at the grocery story.
These are the "farm to table" restaurants I found that use locally grown and organic ingredients when possible. You can also see my guide to the best healthy restaurants in Waikiki.
1) Moku Kitchen 2) Merriman's 3) Farm Cafe I haven't been here yet but it looks worth checking out! 4) Kaimuku Superette 5) Cafe Kaila 6) Alan Wong's (upscale restaurant $$$)I haven't been here but I've seen it highly recommended.
4) What's healthy to order at a restaurant in Honolulu?
Honolulu is a melting pot of food cultures. You can go to restaurants like Helena's Hawaiian Food to try delicious traditional dishes.
Poke can be a reasonably healthy choice, if it's not a mayonnaise-based one. I also don't go overboard with poke because of the mercury content in tuna. You may also want to avoid the gluten in soy sauce-marinated poke.
And nowadays, there's more and more health food cafes and restaurants. You can get smoothies, acai bowls, salads, and something that you can eat on a keto or Paleo diet.
5) Where can I find vegetarian food in Honolulu?
My first answer would be the grocery store!
Down to Earth Supermarket is heaven for vegetarians. I've eat their black bean and roasted beets burger lettuce wrap for breakfast for days in a row. It's a supermarket, so you always get fresh ingredients.
The salad and hot bar have lots of veggies, fresh tofu, plant-based burritos, lasagna. Definitely try the Okinawa sweet potato salad and the papaya seed dressing.
After that, I recommend trying the banana-based ice cream and smoothies at Banan. If you're like me, you'll want to go back again. The Mana smoothie is my favorite. Chocolate Mac smoothies is my second favorite.
6) What's the best vegan restaurant in Honolulu?
If you've never tried vegan sushi before, check out Tane Vegan Izakaya. Caroline from Pickled Plum recommended it to me. My favorite was the avocado sushi, which inspired me to make my own recipe for avocado sushi.
For best quality, 100% vegan food, I remember the bibimbap at Peace Cafe being really good. The vegan tempeh or tofu katsu I've always found very intriguing. My guess is it's really good too.
7) Who has the best acai bowls?
I only have acai bowls for breakfast on a special occasion. I love tropical fruits, especially mango and papaya.
The one I go to is near Whole Foods in Kaka'ako called Nalu Health Bar. I tried the Nalu Bowl because I had never tried bee pollen before. Yum. It was on the sweet side for me. The smallest size was enough.
8) What's the best coffee shop with healthy options?
Island Vintage Coffee uses fresh, local ingredients. They have vegan and vegetarian options too. The only downside is that this place can get long lines of tourists. It's Waikiki and this place is popular for a good reason.
I also go to Nalu Health Bar, which is popular with locals. In Waikiki, Dean and Deluca is my go-to cafe now. I go to the one in the Ritz Carlton building. They have some healthier options and outdoor seating with an amazing breeze. The soup is pretty good.