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Visit Chinatown on your Hawaiian Vacation for Diverse Food and Gifts


While on your Hawaiian vacation, why not immerse yourself in the local ethnic cultures of the islands? Chinatown, like in many other major cities throughout the United States, is a great place to sample diverse food and gifts that you can’t get anywhere else. Chinatown in downtown Honolulu is one such place. This emerging Arts District is slowly coming into its own, attracting a whole new caliber of residents and tourists alike.

Chinatown is located right next to the Arts District so it enjoys much of the overflow of this new sophistication where art galleries, theaters, chic restaurants and boutiques are starting to flourish. Chinatown, like many of its kind throughout the country, has had its share of bad publicity as a less than savory attraction in a city known for its beauty and tourism. Today, the Chinatown you’ll find in Honolulu is shedding that stigma and becoming a place of pride. Merchants of all ethnic heritage — Vietnamese, Laotian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Korean and Caucasian – work with a common goal in mind: to serve their customers and propagate their craft.

You’ll see the merchants set up in the wee hours of the morning, and stay until late at night. After all, many of them live and work in the same place, as many of the buildings feature apartments above. Chinatown is a place you can go to purchase fresh produce, fish, chicken and beef, baked goods, and candied fruits and vegetables, as well as noodles, tea, char siu and even duck eggs. Come for lunch and grab some yummy dim sum at one of the many establishments right in the heart of the district.

Make a visit to Chinatown a must do if you’re in Honolulu for any extent of time. You can look forward to a varied experience that spans just 15 blocks. Here, you can go to an herbalist, stop in for some spiritual healing at a Buddhist temple, purchase beautiful jade jewelry, check out an art exhibit, or experience a dragon procession if you time it right. Pick up your souvenirs here. You’ll pay twice as much for the same items in the more touristy Waikiki.

Hit Maunakea Mall chock full of 400-square-feet stalls that fit several different vendors in a relatively small space. If you’re looking for some dinner to pick up to cook in your condo unit later, this is the place to get freshly harvested fish to fit any budget. There are fish heads, and then there’s Bluefin Belly Sashimi at 60 bucks a pop. As you walk through the streets, you’ll witness butchers slicing and dicing huge slabs of pork, poultry or fish. Sample what you like and take some back to your hotel to snack on later. You won’t be able to resist!

Give Chinatown another chance. It’s not the red light district it used to be! A stroll through the historic district of the area will have you enjoying a day of delicious dining, dancing, cultural performances and shopping.

If you’re looking to augment your stay with a more formalized expedition, try Hoku Hawaii Tours for a Circle Island Tours to explore our beautiful island.