What better way to tour Oahu than like a James Beard Award-winning chef? Local Robynn Mai’i shares her favorite spots.

Waikiki Beach
M Swiet Productions/Getty Images
Aida Mollenkamp

Photo: © Sean Marrs

Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.

Meet the insider: Robynne Mai’i, chef-owner of Fête 

Robynne Mai’i catapulted to culinary stardom as the winner of the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific, becoming the first woman of Hawaiian ancestry to be recognized with the honor. Here, the seasoned chef and adventurer shares some of her favorite spots on Oahu.


Waiahole Poi Factory Hawaiian Food
A dish at the Waiahole Poi Factory

Courtesy of Waiahole Poi Factory

At Waiahole Poi Factory, dishes are inspired by the food you would find at a traditional luau, and the team has been preserving native methods of cooking for over 100 years. “The Sweet Lady of Waiahole ice cream is not to be missed.” At Yakitori Hachibei, finish “your yakitori experience with a cup of chicken ramen.”


Ten Tomorrow Store Interior
Ten Tomorrow

Nikki Tanaka

“Be sure to stroll through the neighborhood of Kaimuki. There are so many cute little small businesses and locally owned shops to explore. Ten Tomorrow is my favorite local designer right now.” If you’re feeling peckish, pop in for “artisanal baked goods at Breadshop by Chris Sy. The Curb Kaimuki does brilliant coffee but also specializes in natural wine and artisanal chocolate.”


Hau Tree Cocktail
A cocktail at Hau Tree

Kaimana Beach Hotel

Grab a piña colada with a rum float at Hau Tree at the Kaimana Beach Hotel. “It’s a beautiful venue.” Bar manager Jen Ackrill is “so funny, and I love her cocktails. Bonus: They do low-ABV cocktails really well, too. Even though they don’t have it on the menu, you can always get a burger and fries.”


White Sands Hotel Pool Bar
The pool bar at the White Sands Hotel

White Sands Hotel

White Sands Hotel is ideal “for a throwback, nostalgic feel of Waikiki. Along the same vein but more luxurious is The Kahala Hotel & Resort. They both evoke the same era, although the White Sands is a little more laid-back and fun.”


Honolulu Museum of Art Courtyard
Honolulu Museum of Art

Courtesy of the Honolulu Museum of Art

Honolulu Museum of Art “reminds me of an island version of smaller museums in Paris, with the mix of galleries and garden spaces.” Or, take a boat to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. “I’ve done it about 10 times in my lifetime, and every time I have been so moved. It gives you pause and reflection out on the water.”

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