When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending too much money for food. Luckily, local demand for cheap places to eat in Honolulu keeps things real. As long as you’re willing to put in a little more effort to find that hidden cheap eats gem, Honolulu offers plenty of inexpensive grub.
The Best Cheap Eats in Honolulu
Looking for inexpensive and delicious? Look no further than this list of 10 best cheap eats in Honolulu.
Cheap Eats in Waikiki
Musubi Cafe Iyasume
The perfect little spot for grab ‘n’ go, Musubi Cafe Iyasume in Waikiki is part walk-up counter, part knick-knack store and cafe, and one the best cheap places to eat in Honolulu. A local treasure for its inexpensive and delicious spam musubi, it’s easy to go bit overboard here because there are 35 different types of musubis to choose from.
The cafe also sells affordable bento boxes, onigiri (rice balls), fried tempura items, and a myriad of typical everyday lunch items like rice bowls with miso soup. Iyasume is so popular, it has three other locations around Honolulu.
An udon chain from Japan, Marukame Udon is one of the ultimate cheap eats in Honolulu. For approximately $10, you can feast on a bowl of steaming hot udon noodle soup with side options like shrimp tempura or sliced fish cakes. In fact, if you only order plain udon, your tab will ring in at less than $5.
The typical cafeteria setup lets you choose your soup and noodle base, watch as the cooks prepare your order in front of you, place your bowl on the cafeteria tray, then follow it down a buffet line to choose a la carte side dishes like shrimp tempura or onigiri rice balls. At the end of the line, you pay. Economical and oh-so-tasty, Marukame has strong following. Expect a wait if you come during peak hours.
Tucked the away on the second floor of a beachfront building next to Outrigger Reef Beach Resort in Waikiki, the Steak Shack is exactly what its name suggests: a shack serving steaks. And in terms of Waikiki prices, it’s right up there with the cheapest of the cheap eats in Honolulu.
The standard steak plate, which comes with rice, salad, and six ounces of grilled sliced steak on top, still rings in under $10. Though the limited menu also offers a chicken plate, combo plate, and choices for larger cuts of steak, the big win here is the classic steak plate. Top it off with some teriyaki sauce and go to town. Cash only.
Cheap Eats in Honolulu’s Chinatown
Hidden in the corner of the Kekaulike Market in Honolulu’s Chinatown, it would almost be impossible for you to accidentally stumble upon the humble Maguro Brothers fish stall. But such is the quality of their product that foodies the world over are willing to make the trek for their extremely affordable, fresh-off-the-boat slices of pristine o-toro fatty tuna, salmon and whatever fish they have on special. To get the highest quality fish, owner Junichiro Tsuchiya attends the Honolulu Fish Auction at 5 a.m. each morning, purchasing whole, locally caught fish that he brings back and breaks down the same day. The result: hyper-fresh, glistening sashimi, chirashi and poke without the price tag.
Cheap Eats in Kahili
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
A favorite of locals and visitors alike, you’ll have to veer off the beaten path to find Helena’s Hawaiian Food, but the reward is worth it. Helena’s specializes in traditional Hawaiian preparations like kahlua pig, poi, Pipikaula short ribs, and lomi salmon. Most dishes on the a la carte menu ring in under five dollars. Combo plates (there are four menus) feature three meats, plus a side and two scoops of rice. The establishment is old school and no frills, and cash only, but the warm atmosphere and affordable menu make this a true local treasure.
Cheap Eats in Kaimuki
Widely considered the best spot for poke in Honolulu, this small shack in Kaimuki has been a local favorite for years. With a reputation for large portions and fresh fish at cheap prices, Ono Seafood is the place to go when you want to sample authentic Hawaiian poke without paying a tourist premium. Poke can be purchased in bulk in quarter pound increments, or as a poke bowl. Poke bowls come in large and small size, with a choice of rice and up to two poke flavors. Note that the tiny restaurant only has two picnic tables outside, and lines can get long during lunchtime.
Diamond Head Market & Grill
Fresh, delicious food at great prices—that’s what you get at Diamond Head Market & Grill, a favorite of locals and visitors for fantastic cheap eats in Honolulu. From the hefty breakfast plates to the burgers and gorgeous plate lunches topped with everything from grilled chicken to hamburgers and grilled shrimp, this Kaimuki gem handily delivers. More of a take-out counter than a sit-down eatery, there are a few picnic tables outside for those who want a quick bite sitting down. Inside, there are bento boxes for a quick grab ‘n’ go, as well as an enticing display of house-made cakes and scones.
A casual deli-style counter service restaurant, Fresh Catch offers more than a dozen options for poke, seafood, and plate lunches. Like many to-go places, the food here is served in Styrofoam takeaway containers, but the portions are generous and the everything is fresh and delicious. Cheerful aqua blue bench-style seating and great service are other reasons why this is a bona-fide Honolulu cheap eats gem.
Cheap Eats in Ala Moana Center
Shirokiya Japan Village Walk
Styled like a monzen machi Japanese temple town, the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, located in the Ewa wing of the Ala Moana Center, is like a mini Japanese village filled with food vendors. At the high end, you’ll find bistros selling higher ticket items like lobster or grilled unagi (eel). At the low end, however, the place is a wonderland filled with authentic Japanese cheap eats in the form of ramen, bento boxes, tempura, gyoza, kakigori shaved ice desserts, and more. To top that off, you can easily find beer for just one dollar.
Cheap Eats at Pier 38
Nico’s Pier 38
For fresh seafood with a water view, Nico’s Pier 28 is a local hidden treasure. Located right next to the Honolulu Fish Auction on Pier 38, this about as close as you can get to true ocean-to-table cuisine. Fish are purchased from the auction the same day that they’re served for an ultra-fresh and affordable meal. Plate lunches—which include a piece of grilled fish, rice, and a side salad—are a steal, which is one reason why lunchtime here is always packed. No time to wait? Head to the small storefront to the side of the restaurant for an excellent and inexpensive selection of fresh poke to-go.
– Original reporting by Mai Pham