Eating on the Cheap in Waikiki- Trip Report


Eating on the Cheap in Waikiki

Although eating in Waikiki is known to be expensive, with upscale dining options every few blocks of the Waikiki strip…there are ways to eat well in Waikiki without having it cost an arm and a leg.  There are ways to eat on the cheap in Waikiki.

I’m a huge fan of eating.  I wouldn’t say I am an absolute foodie, though.  Gone are the days of enjoying leisurely time at a restaurant since now we have a baby who can’t stay quietly with us in a restaurant for 2 hours.

Since we are staying in Waikiki for 5 weeks, it was prudent to stretch out our food budget and not eat out every day.

Here my Trip Report on Eating Cheap in Waikiki:

Groceries on the Cheap

We rented a car to drive into Waikiki and then used it the next day to buy as much as we could at Walmart and Don Quijote’s.  Both are open 24 hours of the day and located within one block from each other.

At Walmart, we bought eggs, waffles, a large pizza (‘fresh’ not frozen), 3 bottles of wine (don’t worry this will last us for weeks, not days), butter, and milk (also diapers and an infant bathtub).

Don Quijote’s is a Japanese supermarket that has everything that you could think of, lots of variety (a number of different sake options if you peruse their alcohol section) at good prices.  There are three Don Quijote supermarkets in Honolulu, one being located at Waikiki.

At Don Quijote’s we bought vegetables, fruit, and meat.  A week of groceries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was about $140 USD and we ‘supplemented’ this with a few meals out or with takeout.  The meat was very fresh at and some cuts were actually cheaper than at home, in Canada.  We found some Okinawa sweet potato (I’ve never had it before and was inspired by Mr. Tako Escape’s Okinawa trip) and gave it a try, it was delicious and I was amazed at the vibrant purple colour.  It has a very unassuming light tan colour when you see it at the grocery store.  The colour is the same nutrient that colours blueberries and other high antioxidant fruits.  In fact, it has 150% more antioxidant than blueberries.

At Don Quijote’s there were also a lot of pre-made meals like chicken katsudon and bentoboxes.  All were within the range of $5.95 to $9.50.  As you can see below, we bought a few of them.

In fact, one ‘special’ bento box of the day (they only make 25 of them a day) was $3.99.  It was fried fish on a bed of rice and seaweed, macaroni salad, cabbage, and a few pieces of chicken karaage and it was delicious.  So much healthier than fast food (and more economical too).  Here’s the bento box below- can you believe that was $3.99?

We cooked a lot in our Airbnb.  Here we fried up some steak, boiled some Okinawa sweet potato, and sauteed some cabbage for dinner.  This homemade steak dinner cost us about $7 per person. Other examples of meals cooked at home include some spaghetti and meatballs, marinated beef ribs, fried noodles, and pork chops.

I fried up some yakisoba, the package (noodles and sauce) was $1.99 and the thinly sliced beef was $4.60.  For each serving it was around $3.50.


We didn’t just eat in though, we did check out some other cheap eats.  Fancy restaurant visits were rare though, because of our baby.  Baby GYM did seem to enjoy the ambient noise of food courts, so we went to the Ala Moana foodcourt.

Shirokiya japan village walk

This is in the basement underneath Nordstrom and is probably one of the best food courts in Honolulu, known as the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk.  It is located in the Ala Moana mall.  We usually grab some ramen here at the Ramen Gashoken (link to their Instagram page) shop and the broth tastes very rich especially since they add a bit of spicy kick to it.  The regular ramen is $11.75 per bowl.

Probably one of the best things about Shirokiya Japan Village Walk is that there is $1 beer.  $1 for a pint of beer.  Enough said!  Probably the cheapest place in town and the Primo beer (Hawaii’s beer) tastes decent too!  It’s a light beer but I’m not a beer afociondo.  If that’s not good enough, then $2 Heineken pint should be enough to convince you to head to Shirokiya Japan Village Walk.

In addition to cheap eats, the decor is very pretty, with cherry blossoms hanging from the ceiling (well, fake cherry blossoms anyway).

cheap takeout

After reading Retire by 40’s food summary fro his trip to Waikiki, I had to try Maguro Brother’s Hawaii, since he said it was the only place he wished he ate at twice!

We attempted THREE times to go here without success.  First was before 5:30pm (they are only open from 5:30-9pm at the Waikiki location), then it was on a Sunday (it was closed), then it was on a holiday (it was closed).  The anticipation was obviously killing me!

Finally, the day came to try out Maguro Brother’s (our forth visit), we arrived right at 5:30 and there was already a line up.  We ordered the King Salmon ($11.50) and the Limu (meaning seaweed or algae) Hawaiian poke ($8.50).  The tuna in the poke was very very fresh.  It was very good and worth attempting to go there four times.

We got take out (there’s no room to sit down and eat) and then sat on one of the many comfortable seating arrangements on the ‘grand lanai’ at the new International Market Place (completely revamped and now upscale) and enjoyed the evening ambiance.

I did go there a second time when my friend was visiting, and had the spicy mayo poke.  I also tried her ube poke.  It was pretty good.  So I ate there twice!

Maguro Brothers

cheap restaurant

Sansei Sushi has a happy hour that gives you 50% off their menu.  It is located at the Waikiki Marriott hotel building.  The Happy Hour is on Sundays and Mondays from 5:30-6:00pm.  The doors open right at 5:30 (5:15 if you sit at the bar) and you have to do all your ordering by 6pm to get the 50% off deal.  There’s usually a huge line up and they don’t take reservations.

I’ve had the crab ramen with asian truffle broth (regular price $18.50, $9.25 after discount) and it was delicious and very flavourful but not a big portion.

Here’s another popular dish their panko crusted Ahi Tuna sashimi roll it was yummy!  It was $6.75.

This early bird dinner specials at Sansei is perfect when you have a young baby in need of their bedtime routine soon!  We got out of there pretty quick though because baby GYM started crying despite us alternating rocking him in his stroller with our non-dominant hand while we tried to scarf food down as fast as we could.

frugal cheap treat

Leonard’s bakery is famous for their malasadas and pao doce.   Malasadas are a Portuguese donut minus the hole.  I tried the ‘original’ flavour and the Li Hing flavour (which is a local favourite because it has sweet and salty flavours).  It’s about a 30 minute walk from the Waikiki strip.

Each malasada is $1.15 and the ones with cream in it are a little bit more at $1.50.

Across Leonard’s is Safeway if you need to pick up more groceries.

Finally, when you’re walking on the Waikiki strip and if you’re interested in a sweet treat, you can always head into one of the Honolulu Cookie Company shops and have a sample (or a few) of their delicious shortbread cookie samples.

There you have it, a quick run down of some of the places we ate at in Waikiki.  For more food pics of the food I ate in Waikiki, add me on Instagram!  I had a delicious Acai bowl from Island Vintage Coffee that was NOT frugal (it was $9.50) but it was a nice splurge.

Readers, do you have any other cheap eats or must eats places in Waikiki that you would recommend?

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About genymoney

GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle.

22 comments on “Eating on the Cheap in Waikiki- Trip Report

    • @Helen- Thank you! Yes, the shortbread cookies are great when one has low blood sugar from walking too much. I ‘rotate’ them so they probably don’t recognize me as there are different salespeople when I go in for my snack haha…..

  1. Food pictures look so good. Grocery shopping is the best way to save money while traveling. Thanks for cost breakdown, I always like see what the cost are in other places.

    • @Steve- It’s a HCOL area especially for groceries. Milk is $5+ per gallon here. Fruits are expensive, we found gala apples for $0.99/lb but it’s usually over $1.50. Pineapples are the same price as in Vancouver (or maybe more expensive) and $0.99/lb but they are delicious!

  2. I was in Waikiki almost ten years ago. How time has flown by. I am planning to go back with my wife (not sure if I want to take the kids) next year. I am definitely going to try some of these goodies.

    Last time I was there, I had the opportunity to try the king Logan. They are the biggest Logan that I had ever tried, the size of a golf ball. You can get it at Chinatown.
    Leo T. Ly recently posted…The #1 Financial Goals That You Should AchieveMy Profile

    • @Leo- My husband comes every year for the past 10 years so I’ve been here for the past three years since we’ve been together. That would be a great trip- can’t go wrong with Hawaii. It’s a food lover’s paradise in Waikiki- you and your life will love it! I haven’t been to Chinatown yet this trip (maybe we will rent another day of car and go there because it’s a bit too far to stroll there with baby) mmm golf-ball sized Longan sounds really good!

  3. Oh wow! All of that looks so delicious… I’m getting super hungry now because it’s close to 7 pm in Toronto so it’s time for dinner!

    I’ve never been to Waikiki, but I will be going one day! Thanks for sharing your costs and tips here. If I do go, I’m going to remember this page haha. And $1 for beer? That is dirt cheap! Most of the prices you show here are pretty sweet deals. I find that nothing is ever a good deal in Canada, especially when it comes to Japanese food 🙁

    Also, shopping at groceries to cook on some days is a smart idea while travelling. I can’t find myself eating out every single day to be honest… I personally get sick and lose enjoyment from eating out too much lol.
    fin$avvypanda @ recently posted…10 New Year’s Resolutions that Will Improve Your Finances for 2018My Profile

    • @Fin$savvypanda- Thanks haha hopefully it helps you with your travel planning process! I guess if I were here for a few days it’s okay to eat out, but I don’t like eating out for breakfast too much (actually the only time so far was for an acai bowl) when I am traveling.

  4. Good idea for you guys to go grocery shopping out there. You can’t go out to eat everyday, might as well take full advantage of your AirBnB by using the kitchen to cook.
    Ohh $1 beer, I don’t drink a lot nowadays but paying a couple of dollars for a few pints of beer won’t hurt. I’ve never been to Hawaii before but with all the Japanese food pics you took over there it makes me wanna have my first vacation over there soon.
    Kris recently posted…Financial Mistakes Part 2 – The College YearsMy Profile

    • @Kris- Omg you should totally go to Hawaii, you are just across the pond- I think there are probably lots of direct flights from SF to HNL. Start collecting your credit card points now! I am in Japanese food heaven here. Wednesday’s post is about travel hacking here.

    • @Enoch- Oh tell me about it! Today I didn’t leave the airbnb except at 5pm to try and get baby GYM to have a photo with santa. Traveling with children is completely different than traveling without children!

  5. So jealous of your trip!!! When we were in Maui we ran into a retired NYC cop that gave us a list of awesome recommendations for great deals and food. We had some great seafood for some amazing prices I love Hawaii. My uncle lives on Kauai and he grows most of his food, he has a fantastic lifestyle. There truly is something amazing about the islands.
    Damn Millennial recently posted…Market Monday: Tax Reform PlanMy Profile

    • @Damn Millennial- Oh that’s so cool you have an uncle of Kauai and he grows most of his own food! I really liked Kauai (went 2 years ago) as it was so laid back and there are chickens everywhere! Nice that you found a local (I assume he moved to Maui after retiring in NYC) to give you recommendations.

  6. GYM, My wife and I have never been to Hawaii. It must be beautiful. You are motivating me to start planning. We are such “stick in the muds”. You have a new born and are spending 5 weeks in Hawaii. We have no such responsibilities that can compare and a walk around the block is a big trip for me. I need to re-prioritize. 🙂 Tom
    Tom @ Dividends Diversify recently posted…Partying Like It’s 2007 (Part 1)My Profile

    • @Tom- It it totally beautiful! I wouldn’t label yourself a stick in the mud though 😉 I have high travel needs/ wanderlust addiction. When you go to Hawaii, please have a mai tai, enjoy the sun and sit at a nice restaurant patio. If you see a person with a baby in a stroller walking by who is staring intently at you looking longingly at the mai tai you are enjoying on a nice restaurant patio, that’s probably me.

  7. I bought a coconut malasada at the farmer’s market in Waikiki and it was so good. Also tried several local fish including mahi mahi and loved it. Since it was my first time there, I had to eat a spam musubi:) Great food report, I wish I kept track of everything like you are. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.
    Caroline recently posted…Income, Expenses And Goals – November 2017My Profile

    • @Caroline- Of course spam musubi for $1.89! They are delicious, I just had one today. Who knew spam could taste so good? Hope you had/are having a lovely time in Hawaii!

  8. Wow! Where was I when Don Quijote had those special bento boxes for $3.99? That’s cheap!!

    Glad to see that you’re trying a lot of the popular places around Waikiki as well as the beer garden. They get super packed on the weekends.

    Don’t forget to try fresh coconut juice. Yum! Not sure if they still sell around the area. Ugh, there’s so many places to eat at I can’t think of any at the moment lol. Oh! If you want Hawaiian food, I would say to try Highway Inn near Kaka’ako.

    Okay, I’m getting hungry now lol. Your pictures didn’t help too lol.

    • @Melanie- I think they have it every day but only 25 of each bento box so it sells out by 11 or 12 I think! I just passed by the sign “Highway Inn” today and it looked new- thanks for the recommendation!

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