Honolulu is a great place for brunch and breakfast. There’s nothing like a beautiful morning and a tasty Oahu breakfast featuring tropical fruits and local flavors of Hawaii.
It is easy to get a typical American breakfast: waffles, French toast, eggs, breakfast meat, potatoes. It’s also fairly easy to get a Japanese breakfast. But breakfast in Hawaii includes some interesting local favorites.
- POG: this is a combination of passion fruit (lilikoi), orange, and guava juices.
- Linguiça: this Portuguese sausage came to Hawaii through the Cape Verde islanders that came to work in Hawaii. It’s also popular in other fishing-tradition areas, such as Rhode Island and Cape Cod. The sausage is dark and spicy with garlic and paprika. It will remind you of andouille or Polska kielbasa.
- Hawaiian sweet bread: another food of Portuguese origin. You can find it as a large round loaf or rolls. Some recipes use pineapple juice as one of the sweeteners.
- Papaya: Almost every restaurant offers half a ripe papaya as a breakfast fruit. The taste of a local, sun-ripened papaya with a squeeze of lime is tropical heaven.
- Rice: A scoop of white, Chinese-style rice is often served with breakfast (and lunch, and dinner.)
- Fish: You can almost always get fish for breakfast, often mahi or even ahi tuna.
- Loco moco: This local grindz was created in the late 1940s in Hilo. A typical loco moco has a bed of rice, a large hamburger, fried egg, and brown, savory gravy on top. It’s huge! You will see variations on the standard with mahi or steak.
The Gardener and I love breakfast. Here’s a roundup of our favorite 9 Oahu breakfast spots.
- Koko Head Cafe is Chef Lee Anne Wong’s Kaimuki brunch house. This friendly neighborhood café features daily dumplings. There are so many sweet and savory menu choices, many with local flavor such as biscuits made with poi, poke omelet, portuguese sausage, and kimchi. The famous French toast is breaded with cornflakes. Also, the bacon is nice, thick cut, the maple syrup has black pepper. And to top it off, the topping is gelato made with Sugar Frosted Flakes!
- Café Kaila is in the Market City Shopping Center on Kapiolani Boulevard (right before you cross the H1.) You can park in the parking lot or take the No. 14 bus. Café Kaila is a small, homey place that has won several Hale ‘Aina Awards. They have barista coffee and Belgian waffles, omelets, scrambles, and wraps. I like the breakfast quesadilla. And you can add avocado to anything!
- Liliha Bakery: The original Liliha Bakery has been operating on North Kuakini Street (right off Liliha) since 1950. The bakery produces fantastic chiffon cakes, cookies, and other goodies and has a single diner counter worth waiting in line for. The wait staff is efficient but will really take care of you and it’s fun to watch the experienced cooks work the griddle. Pancakes and egg dishes are great here, but a special favorite are the grilled sweet rolls served with “atomic” hot pink jelly. I’ve not been able to verify the flavor of the jelly, but my vote is guava. Liliha is famous for their coco puffs, a beautiful puff pastry with coconut crème and chocolate. I recommend buying 6 and snacking on them all day! Parking is on the side of the building or you may have to look for a spot on the street. Liliha has a 2nd location on Nimitz Highway across from the City Mill store. The counter here has a view of the bakers. It has good parking, more seating, and a modern, calm décor.
- Mahina & Sun’s is in the Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club on Lewers Street in Waikiki. Chef Ed Kenney has put together a casual style bistro with lots of local flavors. The menu is reflective of Hawaiian local flavor with locally sourced foods and international flair. Chef Kenney has made a serious commitment to ocean-friendly seafood sourcing, following the Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.
- LuLu’s Waikiki: LuLu’s is on the 2nd floor at the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues at the Park Shore Waikiki. It’s open on two sides, with a bar facing out on those sides allowing you to sit looking out at Waikiki (Kuhio Beach) or Kapiolani Park. LuLu’s is surrounded by plumeria trees, so it’s really spectacular when they are blooming. Open from 7 am to 1:30 am, LuLu’s has a surf vibe and many of the wait staff are surfers. Some of our favorite dishes are the omelet featuring portuguese sausage and the stuffed French toast made with sweet Hawaiian bread, macadamia nuts, and pineapple-lilikoi marmalade. We usually walk to LuLu’s if we are staying on Waikiki. [Note: LuLu’s has live music every evening, so it’s fun for dinner too!]
- The Hau Tree Lanai is in the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue down near the War Memorial. Be sure to make reservations here. Hau Tree has won several Hale ‘Aina awards. The restaurant is mostly outdoors, facing Queen’s Beach, under the beautiful spreading branches of ancient hau trees. They have great, inventive benedicts and pancakes made with poi for tenderness and purple color. This place is elegant with china and linens, so you may want to dress up a little (collars are required). The view of the beach and the snorkelers is outstanding.
- Cinnamon’s Restaurant is in Kailua on the Windward side. Another Hale ‘Aina award winner, Cinnamon’s has a huge menu, including benedicts, eggs, and pancakes. They are known for their cinnamon macadamia nut roll and their many breakfast meats. Guava chiffon pancakes a la mode, anyone? Cinnamon’s has a Waikiki location in the ‘Ilikai hotel (and in Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Yokohama, too!)
- Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu is a must-stop for malasadas. Leonard’s is owned by a family with Portuguese roots and you’ll find Portuguese treats in the cases. Malasadas are a traditional Shrove Tuesday fried pastry, similar to a beignet or doughnut. When you go to Leonard’s, be prepared to take a number and stand in line. You will eat on a bench outside or in your car. But it’s worth it! The malasadas come dusted with sugar, cinnamon sugar, or li hing mui (dried powdered plums). You can also get them with a creamy filling, custard, chocolate, haupia (coconut), or the flavor of the month. We were lucky to get guava – heavenly tropical sweet gooey-ness!
- Ted’s Bakery is in Sunset Beach on the North Shore. They have a bakery, grill, and coffee bar. Order at the counter and then sit inside or outside and watch North Shore life go by on the Kamehameha Highway. Breakfast sandwiches and egg dishes are available along with Ted’s famous chocolate haupia cream pie. Haupia is an egg-less coconut pudding that has to be patiently stirred at the stove to get the right smooth coconut texture. The haupia is layered with a chocolate cream in the pie. There are lots of other delightful offerings with guava, macadamia, pineapple, chocolate and other delicious tropical flavors. You’ll have to visit several times!
Why do we enjoy breakfast on Oahu so much? The time zone change from home on the East coast means that we are up very early, ready to watch the sunrise and get going. Fortunately, we’ve always found memorable things to eat at these Oahu breakfast spots that fuel our adventures in paradise!
- LuLu’s Waikiki
- Liliha Bakery
- Koko Head Cafe
- Café Kaila
- Mahina & Sun’s
- 2015 Hale ‘Aina award winners
- Hau Tree Lanai
- Cinnamon’s Restaurant
- Ted’s Bakery
- Leonard’s Bakery
- Breakfast/brunch from Honolulu magazine
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Hawaii is my happy place. We like to visit regularly. There is so much beauty, culture, history, and food to enjoy.
I’ll be looking for your comments or contact me at lisa[at]casabouquet[dot]com. What’s your favorite Hawaiian breakfast spot?
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|Koko Head Cafe||Mahina and Sun’s||Hawaii regional cuisine|
Great to know! We have had some small tastes of (some of these) breakfast foods while dining at Disney at their Polynesian resort. My boys loved the sweet bread!
Hey Joanne, I think it’s great there are some mainland places to try Hawaiian food. The sweet bread was originally pao doce, made by Portuguese settlers. In Hawaii, they often use pineapple juice for the sweetener!
Oh thank you so much for this!!! I am pinning this for sure for a quick reference. I can’t wait to try these. Which one is your favorite?
Rev, I would say Lulu’s. We go there the most, and the view of the beach with the plumeria trees all around… just hard to beat! But these are our top 8!