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.
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.
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.
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.
Rumor Has It…
Rumor has it that a Marriott hotel is currently being built in Kapolei as well. There has been no expected opening day announced yet.
Where to Eat in Kapolei
Kapolei surprisingly has a ton of delicious food places – if you know where to look.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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!
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 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 or Costco while traveling, search it.) Here, I’ll just be providing ones that have slightly more visitor-oriented options.
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. And if you’re really adventurous, there’s also a booth that sells only poi, a traditional Hawaiian purple pudding-like food.)
Currently, Ka Makana Alii is expanding to add a very large addition to the mall. This new section is reported to be more health-oriented, as it will attach to the current 24-Hour Fitness. At the moment, the only stores that have been announced to be in this section are PetSmart and Foodland, a local grocery store.
Where to Go to the Beach in Kapolei
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 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.
Staying on Oahu for a while? Check out the Ultimate Guide to the North Shore, Oahu!
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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