While in Honolulu for last year’s marathon, I discovered Loving Hut, Simple Joy, the vegan-friendly Green Papaya, and the not so vegan-friendly Roy’s. Staying in an apartment with full kitchen, it was not restaurants, but farmers markets–such as the one at Kapiolani Community College–that topped the list for fresh, local produce and economical home cooking.
This year, I decided to stay in Waikiki and experience Honolulu without wheels, catching an airport shuttle bus ($15) to the hotel, and getting around by foot and public transport. Over the course of a week, I easily saved $400 for car rental and parking (which alone costs over $30/day at some hotels!).
Unsure of the availability of nutritious vegan foods, I had baked myself a couple loaves of whole-wheat sourdough bread, okara quinoa carob cookies, and prepared batches of protein bars and sesame halvah bars, too. I packed so much that I overloaded the baggage scales before leaving Japan.
I have to commend All Nippon Airways for its comfortable flight (how did we ever live without personal movie screens?) and vegan meal service. The two meals–ratatouille with 100% whole wheat roll, and a spinach wrap sandwich, both accompanied by salad and cut fruit–seemed better quality than the standard “beef or chicken” fare. Be sure to order ANA’s “strict vegetarian meal” when you make your reservation!
During my one week stay in Waikiki, I found plenty of choices within walking distance and/or by “The Bus” service ($2.50 per ride–Take No. 4 toward Nuuanu and get off at University and S. King intersection) that were vegan and budget-friendly, too.
With one exception (noted below) all outside meals were around $15/person, including tip:
- For a late-night dinner, a friend introduced me to Sorabol, a Korean restaurant open 24-hours a day. I had spicy tofu stew, a bowl of brown rice with red beans, and a wide variety of vegetable kimchees.
- Green Papaya for vegetarian pho and their green papaya salad.
- Whole Foods Market, where I ate curry, samosa, tofu, and brown rice from the prepared foods bar, and picked up fresh fruits (apple bananas and apples) that were organic and less expensive than Waikiki convenience shops.
- Peace Cafe, where the Oahu Vegan Meetup group had arranged a marathon eve meet-up dinner. The simple menu resembled my own cooking style, so I felt at home eating a barbequed tempeh platter with brown rice, cole slaw, and cornbread.
- Down to Earth (a few blocks west on S. King Street) for curry and broccolli, hijiki salad, and raw spring roll.
- Peace Cafe (again!)–“Popeye” (miso-tahini, spinach, and tofu) served over brown rice, followed by an unsweetened and rich matcha soy latte. Other customers told me the Italiano sandwich (marinated vegetables) on ciabatta was very good, and I’m looking forward to try their soba salad, too.
- Back to Down to Earth for a bunch of kale, for making fresh-ground peanut butter and kale sandwiches for breakfast!
- Another vegetarian and fellow marathoner praised Yardhouse (a beer pub on Lewers St.) for its salad made with Gardein chicken strips. If only Roy’s and others would borrow a page from Yardhouse to better accommodate vegetarian and vegan customers.
- The most memorable meal was a veggie sushi sampler at Yuzu, a new restaurant at the Ala Moana Hotel. I had no idea how beautifully crafted it would be: The eggplant appeared like giant clam, the pureed carrot like sea urchin, and the tomato like maguro, among other things. In addition were sushi from shiitake and erengi mushrooms (I recommend the brown rice option). I also had a generous portion of salad made from locally grown baby lettuce and watercress with dressing made from tantalizing yuzu. Although the tab (around $25) was higher than other places, I look forward to my next visit!
- Ruffage, a hidden gem on Kuhio Drive, just minutes walk from my hotel. While not vegan, they has quite a few vegan menu items, including a tempeh sandwich and vegetarian burrito (which I ordered without cheese).
Even better news, according to the organizers of the Oahu Vegan Meetup group, is that I have barely scratched the surface of vegan-friendly restaurants! With a little preparation and some walking (an activity much-neglected in the U.S), Honolulu’s vegan dining scene is surprisingly convenient and reasonably priced to fuel marathons, or any other way you choose to experience paradise!