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The Ultimate Guide to Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii

I did not ever think that I would be writing an ultimate guide to Kapolei, Hawaii post, but I am.  The little city I grew up in is starting to boom, so I’m starting to think that it deserves an ultimate guide of its own.

*Note: while the Ko Olina Lagoons are included within the Kapolei zip code, they will be excluded from this guide, as I have already written about the area in The Ultimate Guide to the Ko Olina Lagoons.

How to Get Around Kapolei

Rent a Car

Renting a car is not a bad option for making your way around Kapolei.  It gives you more freedom to get where you would like to go, and parking won’t usually be an issue.  If it is, there’s probably another parking lot just across the street.

Take the Bus

Hawaii’s bus system is actually quite effective.  For just $5.50/day, you can get on and off of The Bus an unlimited number of times. However, the bus does not make a ton of stops in Kapolei.  (It does make a decent number though, so if you’re on a tight budget, it’s not a bad option.)

Take an Uber

I was going to add “or taxi” to the title of this section, but I realized that there aren’t many taxis zooming around Kapolei, so I decided to stick with Uber.  Because the drives between the things to do aren’t absurdly long, Uber can be a decent option in the Kapolei area.

 

Where to Stay in Kapolei

Although Kapolei has been growing exponentially over the past few years (we now have a Walmart, Costco, and Target lol), the tourism industry has been slow to realize it.  That means that there are limited places to stay in Kapolei itself.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Oahu Kapolei

The Embassy Suites is the most recent addition to the places to stay in Kapolei.  It has quite a few amenities, including a business center, a fitness center, and a pool. Rooms start at $246 per night, although this price depends on the season.

Hampton Inn and Suites Oahu Kapolei

The Hampton Inn and Suites is connected to the largest shopping area in Kapolei.  It’s amenities also include a business center, a fitness center, and a pool.  Overall, prices are comparable to the Embassy Suites, but it is possible to find individual nights for oddly cheap prices.  Rooms start at $132 per night, although this price depends on the season.

Airbnb

As always, Airbnb continues to be an option. There are hundreds of rentals in the area, ranging from $35 per night to $654 per night.  Here are some tips to help you choose the Airbnb that’s right for you.

 

Where to Eat in Kapolei

Kapolei surprisingly has a ton of delicious food places – if you know where to look.

Plantation Tavern Kapolei

Plantation Tavern

Two words: poke nachos.  I’ve written an entire post on the best places to get poke on Oahu, but I felt it would be almost sacrilegious to put poke nachos on that list as well, so I didn’t.  That being said, that does not mean that the poke nachos from Plantation Tavern are not delicious.  The cubes of spicy shoyu ahi (you can get it not spicy if you’d like) paired with the fried wonton chips create a perfect bite. (*Note: The price of the poke nachos depends on the market price of the ahi used to make the poke that day. Usually it’s around $18 for a hefty portion.  I’ve split it before and was completely satisfied with half a plate.)

If you’re looking for more local treats, they’ve also got a trio of musubis (3 Kine Musubi), saimin, and some spam fries. (If you are currently puzzled by the terms “musubi” and “saimin,” please refer to Part 1 of the Hawaii Food Bucket List).

Bonus: If you’re looking for somewhere to have a night out, Plantation Tavern also has a full bar. 

My Café

This brunch place has a very casual feel to it. In addition to having to order at a counter instead of having a waiter or waitress take your order, the dishes themselves have a homey feel to them.  The fluffy omelets seem to burst at the seams with fillings like kalua pig and locally-grown tomatoes or grilled chicken and avocado.  Don’t forget to try the flight of pancakes, which includes cookie butta luva (cookie butter), chocolate taro haupia, and lilikoi (passion fruit) pancakes.

Limon Rotisserie

There are very few places on the entire state of Hawaii where you can get Peruvian food, and Limon Rotisserie is one of them. Empanadas, ceviches, and a whole chicken are just a few highlights from the menu.

Kapolei Moena Cafe

Moena Café

If you are from the mainland (a.k.a. the continental U.S.) and you are looking for somewhere on par with your tasty brunch experiences, head to Moena Café.  Along with traditional breakfast items, like omelets and benedicts, Moena Café serves up some dishes with local twists, like the short rib loco moco or the sweet bread French toast.

Moena Café also has a dinner menu with dishes like a kim chee burger, pulehu chicken, and katsu-style pork loin.  They also have poke nachos as an appetizer for $18, but, because I have not had a chance to try it yet, I cannot compare it to the poke nachos at Plantation Tavern. (If you have tried both poke nachos, please tell me in the comments which one you like more and why.  It will be greatly appreciated lol.)

Agu Ramen

There are many places to get delicious Japanese ramen noodles in Kapolei, but Agu Ramen will always find its way towards the top of the list.  Choose from tori ramen (made from a chicken-based broth), tonkotsu ramen (made from a pork-bone-based broth), spicy ramen, or one of Agu Ramen’s specialty options.

La Tour Café

This casual dining location doesn’t have a local spin like every other place on this list, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have pretty good food.  If you’re looking for a menu that’s more American and European-centric, La Tour serves up some pretty good burgers and salads, as well as delicious macarons and kouign amanns for dessert.

Island Shave Ice & Creamery Kapolei

Island Shave Ice & Creamery

If you’re on the look out for the best shave ice place on Oahu, Island Shave Ice & Creamery is definitely my pick.  The flavors aren’t just over-the-top sweetness, but they’re actually fruit-filled and delicious!

Eating House 1849

If you’re looking for a slightly fancier place to eat in Kapolei, Eating House 1849 should be on your radar.  Owned by locally famous chef Roy Yamaguchi, the Eating House 1849 serves up a beautiful fusion of Hawaii’s simple local cuisine and aspects of modern cuisine.

*Note: this recommendation is a bit more expensive than the others on this list.

db Grill

db Grill is another fun, Asian-inspired restaurant in Kapolei.  Their dishes are served in communal plates that feed 2 to 3 people.  Try some of their local favorites, including duck fat fried rice, Ed’s signature kalbi, DB grilled tofu salad, and beef bone soup.

 

Where to Shop in Kapolei

While there are many small shopping centers scattered around Kapolei, most are for practical use. (I mean, if you’re the kind of person who likes to visit a Safeway while travelling, search it.) Here, I’ll just be providing ones that have slightly more visitor-oriented options.

Kapolei Ka Makana Alii

Ka Makana Alii

Ka Makana Alii is a new shopping mall that opened up in Kapolei just a couple of years ago.  While relatively small, this area has everything from well-known brands, like Macy’s, H&M, and Forever21, to little local gems, like SoHa Living, No’eau Designers, and Rix Islandwear.  There’s also a very fun farmer’s market every Wednesday from 4 – 8 p.m. (Try the honey slushie treat if that booth is there that week.)

 

Where to Go to the Beach in Kapolei

Nimitz Beach Kapolei

Nimitz Beach

Nimitz Beach is a nice beach to just sit on the sand and relax.  Odds are there won’t be too many people to share the area with.  On the shore, you’ll be able to find beautiful pieces of sea glass. However, the water isn’t ideal for swimming, as there are some sharp rocks.

Tip: You may see quite a few government vehicles in the area, and that’s simply because you’re near government property.  No need to be alarmed.

White Plains

White Plains is where locals from the West side go to surf if they don’t feel like driving that far.  It very much has an indescribable local vibe that can be uncomfortable for tourists.  Be prepared to hear a ton of pidgin (the local slang – read more in this post) and don’t evercut off someone – especially a local – on a wave.

*Tip: Be sure to lock your car and hide your belongings (including any sort of bag that could look like its hiding something valuable).  Petty car theft is quite common in certain areas around the island.

 

Have you ever even heard of Kapolei, Hawaii? Do you think you’ll pay it a visit one day?  Let me know in the comments! (I’ll respond!)

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48 Comments The Ultimate Guide to Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii

  1. Keri

    You had me at poke nachos. They look soo good. I will have to visit your little town! I know I will end up in Hawaii one day. I have to see all 50 states!! I’m actually working on a post about the town that I grew up in!

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      They are!! I’m not at home right now, so I literally tried to Yelp poke nachos in the area, and it was so unsuccessful lol. I guess I have to wait until I head home again!

  2. Heather

    Wish I had known about this gorgeous little town when I visited Hawaii. Your photos are gorgeous (especially that water) and I’m jealous you got to grow up there! And holy moly, Limon Rotisserie is where I would head mock one because I LOVE Peruvian food!!

  3. Ruth

    Nice to know you were raised in this town. I have been to Oahu but didn’t make it there. It is kind of cool to know people are interested in visiting the place you are from (at least I feel good when people are interested in Puerto Rico),. I need to go back and check this city.

  4. Erica

    Hawaii is definitely on my bucket list… and I even affirmed this by reading your ultimate guide… how long / what’s the longest time of travel/ stay in Hawaii though?

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      I think that depends on what you’re looking for. Most people are happy with a 10-14 day trip. Some decide to move, and then they’ll get what we call “island fever” after a couple of years, because the island is just too small for them. For me, I’ve been there for 21 years and still haven’t seen it all!

  5. federica

    I have never heard of this small town before but for sure would be lovely visit it when in Hawaii. I always appreciate reading guides written by locals since they are more authentic and often contains the best tips.

  6. Katie

    Great information in this post. The food looks amazing and the vintage style prints/postcards are super cute. Hopefully i get to visit Hawaii soon to enjoy it all!

  7. Koushik Krishnamoorthi

    Awesome places to visit, and good to know about the city that you grew up. Most of us travel the world but never would have thought to blog the importance of their own place, nicely done.

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Thank you so much! Most of my posts are actually about my home island – it’s the place I know best, and I want others to be able to experience it at least a little closer to the way I do.

  8. Alex Trembath

    Your content on Hawaii is great, I remember the poke article. You’ve really got everything covered here. We’re big foodies when we travel so we’ll be all over these places when we eventually visit Hawaii 🙂

  9. Alexine

    Such a great guide to visit Kapolei Oahu, Hawaii. It’s one of my favorite cities to discover in the future. The hawaiian food looks really delicious I can’t wait to taste that special Ice cream.

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