Post Overview: Best Cheap Eats Honolulu & Best Cheap Eats Oahu
Visiting Oahu isn’t affordable by any stretch of the imagination. Who knew paradise came with such a steep price tag? Thankfully, there’s plenty of great options for those in search of the best cheap eats on Oahu.
I’ve visited the island more than six times over the past three years and have found a few great spots I’d like to share. I’ll start with the best cheap eats on Honolulu and then cover the best Oahu cheap eats, in case you plan to venture past the buzzing city limits.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Best Cheap Eats Oahu
Honolulu Cheap Eats
We first tried this place in Kyoto and I’ve been dreaming of it since. Seriously, just ask my husband. When I found out this udon-heaven was a mere 20-minute walk from our hotel, I just about lost it. It instantly became the thing I was looking forward to most during our visit.
Finding the spot was easy, the long (long) lines gave it away. Thankfully the line moves quickly so it’s hardly worth consideration. Folks don’t tend to linger at this restaurant, the food is made to be eaten quickly so you can get back to the beach.
Ordering is easy, simply scan the menu and decide on your bowl of choice. You can choose between soup or rice dishes. I suggest getting the soups because that’s where they shine. You can watch the workers making the noodles behind the counter, this stuff couldn’t be fresher.
After you let the folks know which dish you want, they’ll quickly make it for and then hand it off so you can put it on your tray (cafeteria style). At this point you’ll pass by tempura and onigiri before getting to the counter. I can’t resist either of these sections and stock up on both (the tempura is some of the best I’ve had).
We love this place so much and don’t think any list outlining the best cheap eats in Honolulu is complete without it. Heck, Marukame Udon is our first stop whenever we land in Oahu. It’s also typically our last meal before we fly back home. I can’t get enough of this stuff, it’s so good!
Helena’s Hawaiian Foods
If you’re searching for authentic Hawaiian food while visiting Oahu, make a beeline for Helena’s Hawaiian Foods. Opened in 1946, this restaurant has been attracting both locals and visitors for 64+ years.
There’s no denying that Helena’s is a staple in the community, so much so that the restaurant earned a prestigious James Beard Regional Classic Award in 2000. The award is given to beloved locally owned restaurants that have a timeless appeal and are known for offering quality food that reflect the character of the community.
Arrive a few minutes before opening for a chance to score a table. This is one of the most popular cheap eats in Honolulu so crowds are practically guaranteed all days of the week. Everything on the menu is exceptional, but don’t sleep on an opportunity to try the kalbi ribs and Laulau.
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Musubi Cafe Iyasume
If you’ve visited Oahu before then Musubi Cafe probably needs no introduction. This place is known for making the best musubi on the island. Musubi is best described as rice balls stuffed with delicious fillings (salmon, plum, etc), topped with seaweed.
My favorite flavors are the salmon may onirigi and the plum onigiri. Both are SO good!
Everything is made to order and comes out super fast. I’m consistently blown away by the quality and speed, not to mention the price. Each rice ball is less than $5, ensuring Musubi Cafe Iyasume a spot on our list of the best cheap eats in Honolulu.
If you’ve never had spam before, try the classic spam musubi (there’s more than 23 variations to choose from!).
Located in Chinatown, O’Kims was highly recommended by our AirBnb host and we’re so glad we followed through with the recommendation. This local gem offers a modern twist on beloved Korean staples and completely lives up to the hype.
The restaurant is unassuming, but don’t let the exterior fool you. The outdoor patio is very charming but seating is limited. The menu is well curated and creative, it seems like they change it often.
The miso egglplant appetizer is a must-order and the truffle mandoo (4 types of mushrooms, zucchini, mushroom paste) is guaranteed to satisfy. I ordered Korean Chicken as an entree and loved it to the last bite. The portions were huge!
But it seems like quality is not something they’re willing to sacrifice. Even with the long lines and large portions, everything came out hot and delicious, couldn’t ask for more when searching for the best cheap eats in Honolulu.
You can’t come to Oahu without trying poke at least once (or twice). Poke is a rice bowl topped with raw fish and seasonings. If you love sushi then you’re bound to like this stuff.
We popped into Maguro Spot while searching for the best poke on Oahu and were completely impressed by the quality of fish and delicious flavors. The best surprise of all was the price though, it was very affordable! As such, Maguro Spot deserves a place on any list outlining the best cheap eats in Honolulu.
This isn’t a sit down restaurant, so you’ll need to grab your bounty to go. There’s two tables outside, but they’re usually taken. If you’re keen on sitting down, just wait a few minutes because they turn over quickly.
In terms of prices, I consider this the most affordable poke on Oahu. When flying solo, I opt for the medium size ($10) which never fails to fill me up. The extra large size can easily feed two adults for $18. Considering the prime location a stone’s throw from Waikiki Beach, I consider this a win.
Paia Fish Market
We’ve been frequenting Paia Fish Market since we first discovered it 5 years ago. This is a great place for fish tacos which we often crave while visiting Hawaii.
Originally opened in 1989, Paia has spread like wildfire and currently boasts 2 locations on Oahu and 3 on Maui. The reason for their success is their commitment to serve local produce in large portions at a fair price. Everything is made to order and comes out super fast, the only challenge at this restaurant is managing the (well deserved) long lines!
I’m partial to the fish tacos and never pass on the opportunity to order those. However, folks seem to rave about the fish sandwich (voted best in Hawaii) so I plan to try that during my next visit. Regardless of what you order, there’s no drying that Paia Fish Market is one of the best cheap eats on Oahu.
A lot of people consider Ono Seafood to have the best poke on Oahu and after trying 20+ places, I can’t say I disagree. At first glance the prices may seem steep but the generous portions earn this gem a spot on this list of best cheap eats in Honolulu.
The fish is so fresh and the sauces are unforgettable. Paired with perfectly-cooked sushi rice and you’ve got yourself an easy win for lunch. I enjoyed Ono Seafood so much it’s the Oahu restaurant I’m looking forward to returning to most when we revisit Hawaii next winter.
Nico’s Pier 38
Nico’s Pier 38 is one of the most popular cheap eats spots in Honolulu but not without reason! This beloved Oahu staple churns out top-notch seafood dishes every day of the week and the generous portions make meal-splitting easy.
Seafood is the name of the game at this restaurant, with the fish of the day stealing the show. To better understand this local gem it’s important to know that it started as a restaurant for local fishermen and longshoremen. Located right on the pier, this is the place to go for fresh seafood.
The menu expanded to local favorites like chicken katsu and beef stew for those who couldn’t stomach the idea of fish after a day at sea. So you can find a bit of everything at this popular Honolulu cheap eats spot. If you’re visiting during the day don’t miss an opportunity to check out the fish market!
Rainbow Drive In was recommended by our taxi driver during our first visit to Oahu. We mentioned we were interested in visiting Oahu on a budget and he suggested this classic drive in for great quick burgers and fries.
Opened in 1961, Rainbow Drive-In doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon. Intrigued, we made our way over and found ourselves rubbing elbows with locals and tourists alike (a great sign).
Honestly, as someone that isn’t a big fan of fast food, I wasn’t expecting much from these burgers yet found myself pleasantly surprised by the flavorful bites! These burgers really hit the spot and the crispy fries were merely icing on the cake.
Overall, this is a great quick stop for cheap eats on Honolulu. It’s located a short walk from the downtown core, but you definitely don’t need a car to get here (just know you’ll get your steps in!).
Cheap Eats Oahu (Outside of Honolulu)
Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp
When it comes to garlic shrimp, Oahu shines. There’s two big names on the island, Fumi’s and Giovanni’s. I think Giovanni’s is more popular (they have a ton of publicity) but after trying both spots, I prefer Fumi’s. The shrimp is larger and more garlicky, making it one of my favorite spots for cheap eats on Oahu.
My husband and I enjoy this little stand so much we swing by every time we visit Oahu. It’s a tried and true classic in our arsenal and after 6+ visits, we’ve yet to be let down.
Fumi’s is a great example of perfecting a single dish rather than offering a robust menu. Shrimp is all you’ll find on the menu and there’s a handful of flavors to choose from. I can’t imagine anything tasting better than the spicy garlic shrimp so that’s my go-to order.
Generous portions of delicious food at a fair price earns Fumi a spot on any list mentioning the best cheap eats on Oahu.
Seven Brothers was started by — you guessed it — seven brothers! This delicious little restaurant offers some of the best burgers on the island and I find the coconut shrimp irresistible as well.
Offering creative twists on classic American fare, Seven Brothers is one of the best cheap eats on Oahu and shouldn’t be missed by anyone craving a good burger or solid classic American meal. Everything is made to order and the ambiance is super cozy.
As with most Oahu cheap eats listed so far, expect long lines. This place is popular (especially since the wives of a few of the brothers have large social media followings).
Waiahole Poi Factory
If you’re looking for authentic Hawaiian food, make a beeline for Waiahole Poi Factory. This food stand/restaurant is located in the stunning Waiahole Valley and offers a limited menu of beloved Hawaiian staples you’d find at a traditional Hawaiian Luau.
The restaurant has a pretty cool history, to boot. Originally constructed in 1905 as a fully fledged poi factory, it was operational until 1971 before being transformed into an art gallery by a local couple.
The couple pursued yet another transformation in the 1980s when they refurbished the kitchen in an effort to produce poi again. The kitchen was used by local families in the community for trying our different food processing ideas.
Then in 2009 the space underwent yet another transformation into a restaurant for homemade Hawaiian food and hand pounded poi. The mission is to preserve and share traditional Hawaiian cuisine with all who visit. The best part? The prices are fair, making this one of the best spots for authentic Hawaiian cheap eats on Oahu.
The Waiahole Poi Factory lives by the motto “Hānai i ka `ai, hānai i ke aloha”. Its essence is translated as “To nourish with food, to nourish with love.”
Best Cheap Eats Oahu (Post Overview)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the best spots for cheap eats in Honolulu and best cheap eats Oahu, hope you enjoyed!
Honolulu Cheap Eats
- Marukame Udon
- Helena’s Hawaiian Foods
- Musubi Cafe Iyasume
- Maguro Spot
- Paia Fish Market
- Nico’s Pier 38
- Rainbow Drive-In
- Ono Seafood
Oahu Cheap Eats
- Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp
- Seven Brothers
- Waiahole Poi Factory
Map of the best cheap eats in Honolulu + Oahu