Food & Drink

Best Brunch Spots in Every Honolulu Neighborhood

Koko Head Cafe
Koko Head Cafe | Courtesy of Chef Lee Anne Wong
Koko Head Cafe | Courtesy of Chef Lee Anne Wong

Brunch options on Oahu are beginning to get way more interesting, with so many restaurants changing up their menus to offer some incredibly diverse options. From a tony buffet of crab legs and prime rib, to Asian inspired chicken and waffles, to just the simple local favorite of Spam musubi, you can’t go wrong. Just relax and hang loose like the locals and enjoy your Hawaii brunch experience.

Any Beach

Any convenience store
Pick up a Spam musubi and head to the soft sands

While posh dining for brunch in Hawaii is a great option, you skip the lines and dine on a dime while sitting on the beach. Head to your nearest convenience store and pick up a couple of Spam musubis, the simple yet satisfying snack loved by locals. Found at any convenience store around the state, the musubi is a strip of cooked Spam atop a rice ball tied together with dried seaweed. Scrambled eggs are often added and others served on seasoned rice. They’re usually wrapped in plastic, relatively cheap, and can be easily carried to the closest beach of choice. Pick up a coffee and get your toes wet as you nosh on a Hawaii classic. While this might not be the most decadent option, you can’t find a better meal offering world-class views. But please remember to carry your rubbish off the beach.  
What you’re getting: Beach-front seating and cheap eats.

Diamond Head

Bogart's Café 
Every color of the rainbow bagels will make your day shine

This café sits in the shadow of Diamond Head, but stands just as tall with its fresh and local take on traditional brunch dining. Dive into a crabmeat and avocado omelet or fall into fresh fruit-topped açaí bowls drizzled with honey. The cafe also offer a rainbow array of bagels with flavors like strawberry guava, taro, and spinach. And just don't settle for cream cheese as you can turn that bagel into breakfast sandwich stuffed with eggs and sausage -- great for taking away for that hike up the crater around the way. This cash-only restaurant is sure to please all brunch diners or breakfast-goers.
What you’re getting: Crabmeat and avocado omelet or a strawberry-guava bagel.

Kaimana Farm Café 
Bears dance in your latte at this dog-friendly cafe

This rustic café gem sits on busy Kapahulu Avenue, but if you brave the traffic and parking struggle, you’ll be rewarded with great brunch options. The vibe feels more Shibuya than Kaimuki, as the owner is from Japan, but many of the ingredients are locally sourced. Enjoy the crowd-favorite Sunny Morning Creamy Potato Skillet or the organic kale Benedict. Watch life go by out big storefront window while sipping a latte adorned with a cutesy bear designed in the foam. (The cafe even provides water bowls for your fur babies.) But anything you order in this spot will surely start your day off right. The cafe stays open until 2:30pm for brunch, but is closed on Tuesdays.
What you’re getting: Organic kale benedict or Sunny Morning Creamy Potato Skillet.

Moena Café
Moena Café

Hawaii Kai

Moena Café 
Great for an after-swim brunch on the east side of the city

Snorkeling all morning at Hanauma Bay got you hungry? Stop by Moena Café in Hawaii Kai for that post-swim brunch. You'll munch down on the banana chantilly pancakes or stuff yourself silly on the Short Rib Loco Moco, a local favorite of sunny-side-up eggs layered over short ribs on top of either white, brown, or fried rice, then all smothered with a demi-glaze sauce. Afterward, you can burn off those extra calories by hiking up Koko Head trail just down the road -- just make sure to get out of the water well before 3pm when the café closes. 
What you’re getting: Banana chantilly pancakes or Short Rib Loco Moco.

Island Brew Coffeehouse
Coffee and brunch served next to a beautiful marina

Serving 100% Hawaii-grown coffee and locally grown and organic ingredients, Island Brew Coffeehouse is a standout in east Honolulu. The restaurant, located along the waterfront in the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, offers great breakfast and lunch options including freshly made flatbreads, pancakes, and fresh vegan and gluten-free pastries. Try a fruit-filled acai bowl, chow down on a classic BEC bagel, or check out its peanut butter and jelly smoothies. Island Brew offers a dizzying array of coffee drinks sourced from Big Island farmers. Try to snag one of the outdoor tables that seat you right on the shores of the beautiful Koko Head Marina. The socially conscious restaurant offers reusable “for here” coffee mugs and glasses, as well as eco-friendly takeout containers. Island Brew has several locations, but only the Hawaii Kai locations offers the astonishing views.  
What you’re getting: Kona coffee, pancakes, and beautiful Hawaiian views.

Liliha Bakery
Liliha Bakery

Liliha

Liliha Bakery 
A last-of-its-kind diner from a time gone by

Nothing beats nostalgia and the original bakery in Liliha is the champion of yesterday's Hawaii -- when cars had fins and coffee was just a few cents. Luckily, not much as changed at this old- time favorite as you sit next to other customers on a long countertop. Liliha Bakery sticks to the basics and does an incredible job. Order fresh hotcakes off the griddle and chow down on a Denver omelet with a side of corned beef hash. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee as you reminisce about Don Ho and the slow Hawaiian rhythms of our grandparents. The bakery side of the café also makes world-famous, chocolate-filled Cocoa Puff pastries that are to die for. The old greasy spoon stalwart of years gone by now has two new locations: one off Nimitz Hwy and the other inside Macy’s at the Ala Moana Shopping Center. While the newer locations offer more seating, the original stays open 24 hours (closed on Mondays) and continues to transport us to the past.
What you’re getting: Hotcakes or Cocoa Puff pastries to go.

Kahala

Hoku's at The Kahala Hotel & Resort 
Come for the legendary brunch, stay for the dolphins

Known as the famous hideaway found at the end of Kahala Avenue, the Kahala Hotel & Resort has played host to everyone from the Obamas, the Queen of England, the Dali Lama, rock stars, athletes, and plenty of other celebrities. The restaurants are also legendary, not only for their dishes, but for their unsurpassed views of the beach and the expanding Pacific Ocean. In particular, the Sunday Brunch at Hoku’s is not to be missed. The pricey buffet offers everything from chilled seafood, made to order omelets, king crab legs, prime rib, and decadent desserts. Don’t miss out on their signature ahi poke musubi, or fish stuffed rice ball, that's available during the buffet. Plan to dress up -- this is not a barefoot bar experience. After brunch, stroll down to the hotel’s ocean water lagoon to see the resident dolphins swim around. Last seating is at 2pm. 
What you’re getting: Everything.

Koko Head Café
Koko Head Café | Courtesy of Chef Lee Anne Wong

Kaimuki

Café Kaila 
Fresh fruit-topped pancakes are worth the wait in this cozy spot

A favorite among Japanese tourists, Café Kaila offers heavenly and heavily fruit-drowned pancakes and Belgian malted waffles that attract a line well before 7am. They are well worth the wait at this smallish diner just a short drive away from Waikiki. The restaurant’s popularity has even given birth to two locations in Japan. Locals and tourists alike feast on the huge three-egg omelets and enjoy specialty breakfast sandwiches and quesadillas.
What you’re getting: Belgian malted waffles or buttermilk pancakes.

Koko Head Café 
Wake up early to get a seat in this popular spot

Headed by former Top Chef Lee Anne Wong, this gem of a bistro is found just off of Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki and commands long lines for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant’s followers will wait -- come rain or shine -- for the Corn Flake French toast and the fresh local poke omelet. Your best bet? Avoid primetime lines and arrive a tad early or near closing time to get a seat. It is worth waking up early as the food is super ‘ono! (That's Hawaiian for “delicious,” if you're new here.) Plus, the strong cocktails can induce an after-brunch-siesta on the beach.
What you’re getting: Corn Flake French toast or poke omelet.

Kakaako

Morning Brew 
Breakfast served all day at an industrial hip spot

The newly redeveloped warehouse district of Kakaako is quickly turning into Honolulu’s epicenter of hip culture, fashion, arts, and food. Morning Brew, a coffee shop with roots on the opposite side of the island, is fueling that development out of the district's SALT building. The original shop in Kailua has the laid-back feel of a mom and pop cafe while the newer location oozes industrial, hipster chic. Enjoy freshly brewed coffee while overlooking graffiti-inspired art that adorns many of the old warehouses in the district. And no need to wake up early as breakfast is served all day until closing at 6pm.
What you’re getting: Vegan banana pancakes or grilled steak breakfast burrito.

Arvo Café 
Tropical French cafe meets HNL South Shore culture

The original Arvo Café has moved from its location inside the flower shop to its own space in the courtyard of the Salt complex across from Moku’s. Arvo 2.0 is going through a soft opening with shorter hours that will change soon. However, the biggest change will happen towards the end of the year when the Aussie-inspired cafe gets its liquor license and offers a pre-dinner menu along with drinks. But, as of now, you can still rub elbows with the beautiful coffee crowd seated outside on long, umbrella-topped benches and enjoy your Vegemite toast and flat white cappuccinos. Arvo will also be introducing locally made artisan bread and more regionally sourced ingredients. Take home a tee or tote so you can continue living the cool life.  
What you’re getting: Loaded avocado toast or a matcha chia seed pudding.

Moiliili

The Nook Neighborhood Bistro 
A hidden gem serving hand crafted and ingredient focused dishes.

Found near the University of Hawaii at Puck’s Alley, The Nook’s Boozy Bistro menu offers such dishes as the Asian-inspired mochiko chicken served over mochi waffles topped with bacon-maple syrup. Or there’s an ulu custard parfait topped with macadamia nuts, fruits, cacao nibs, and local honey. Wash it all down with the uniquely spicy Curry Up Already cocktail made with curry powder and mezcal. Plenty of parking makes this spot a smart bet, if you're driving.
What you’re getting: Mochiko chicken or the ulu custard parfait.

Waikiki

Goofy Café & Dine 
No cartoons here -- just great locally sourced goods

Don’t expect to find Mickey, Minnie, or Goofy serving you an order of Big Island honey French toast, as this restaurant takes its name from the right-footed surfing slang, not the Disney character. You will find a menu full of breakfast specials made from locally sourced eggs, greens, honey, and a whole lot more. The café, found just off busy Ala Moana Boulevard, caters mostly to tourists walking by, but locals still enjoy the cozy, beach house feel with the arched roof and surfboards hanging from the rafters. The only thing that's missing is a sandy floor. Aside from having eggs Benedict and omelets, Goofy’s also offers healthier local fruit topped açaí bowls and local greens smoothies. Breakfast ends at 11am, but the café has a lunch and dinner menu along with a full bar. It's well worth the Waikiki parking struggle.
What you’re getting: Big Island honey French toast or local greens smoothies.

Mahina & Sun’s
Mahina & Sun’s | Olivier Koning

Mahina & Sun’s 
The off-the-main-drag spot to chow down and be seen

The cool kids have made the Surf Jack Hotel the place to be seen and Mahina & Sun’s is definitely the place to be seen eating. The restaurant overlooks a small hotel pool, where the hip strut their stuff in boardshorts and bikinis. Enjoy pork adobo fried rice, which comes with over-easy eggs on top and sip a spicy Smokey Mary made with vodka, charred local tomatoes, local hot sauce, chili water, and citrus. Transform your cocktail into a Maria by choosing tequila or mezcal. Don’t miss out on their thin-crust, naked pig pizza topped with fromage blanc, uncured bacon, and sweet onions. All tables also come with a bottle of locally made Adoboloco hot sauce that goes well with almost everything on the menu. Beware that hotel parking isn’t cheap, even with restaurant validation, so street parking might be your best bet.
What you’re getting: Pork adobo fried rice, Naked Pig Pizza, or a Smokey Mary cocktail.

Bill's Hawaii 
A one-of-a-kind international spot for a "G’day mate" brekky

With restaurants all over the globe from London to Tokyo, Australian chain Bill’s knows how to brunch, and they offer diners a unique Ozzie experience to start the day right. Nicely designed interiors invite brunchers to dine in delight in the spacious restaurant with high ceilings, wooden walls, and big windows overlooking bustling Waikiki. Dine on its Full Aussie breakfast that comes with fresh local eggs, cumin-roasted tomatoes, and fennel sausage. Sip on homemade hibiscus and lime soda while you sit back on the plush chairs. The restaurant, which offers validated parking, is located on Beachwalk Avenue, so after stuffing yourself, you can wander down to the beach to catch some waves and rays.
What you’re getting: Full Aussie breakfast and ricotta hotcakes.

Ward Village

Scratch Kitchen & Meatery 
The Milk and Cereal pancakes will make you crave footie pajamas and cartoons

Ward Village is another hotspot for shopping, entertainment, and eating that's gone through recent changes. And Scratch Kitchen & Meatery is the best place to hit for an awesome brunch. While its original Chinatown location closed, fans of the “Milk and Cereal” pancakes can still indulge in the taste of their childhood with this unique dish. The Brekky menu also includes a Latin-inspired calentado dish served with barbacoa. Don’t ignore its lunch and dinner menus if you arrive after 3pm. Chef and owner Brian Chan comes with the experience from successful Honolulu restaurants, and he’ll almost definitely keep serving great food for years to come.  
What you’re getting: Milk and Cereal pancakes, calentado, or chilaquiles.

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Marco Garcia is a freelance writer and photographer in Honolulu who will do almost anything for eggs. Follow him on Twitter @marcoinhawaii.