Hawaii Eats: Rainbow Drive-In

This wasn’t my first trip to Hawaii, but it was my first Eatinerary [averagetraveller.com] trip with a local food focus. I’d been to Waikiki before and I’d eaten where the tourists eat. The food right along the main drag of Kalakaua Avenue is what you’d expect along any busy tourist street. If you do your research and are somewhat picky you can still find some good eats. There are even a few places that are known for serving decent local food, although you’ll probably have to pay a bit of real estate premium.

My favorite spot to go when I’m staying in Waikiki is the Rainbow Drive-in [rainbowdrivein.com]. To get there is easy: go towards Diamond Head down Kalakaua. Around 5 blocks after you pass the statue of Duke Kahanamoku [honolulu.gov] take a left on Kapahulu Avenue just after the Aston Waikiki Beach (the same turn you’d make to get to the H1 highway). A little less than a mile later you’ll see the rainbow sign on your right. It’s about a 5 minute drive from tourist central, and you could probably go by foot if you allow 20-30 minutes.

Rainbow Drive-In Sign Waikiki Oahu Hawaii

Built on generous portions of simple food at affordable prices, the Rainbow Drive-in has been a local institution since 1961. Serving traditional plate lunch style foods, they are famous for the Mix Plate which is a combination of fried mahi mahi, boneless chicken, kalbi marinated BBQ steak, creamy macaroni salad, and two scoops of white rice. They also include a small cup of tartar sauce for your mahi and serve it in a convenient box for takeout.

Mix Plate from Rainbow Drive-in Hawaii

Rainbow Drive-In isn’t exactly a secret, having been featured on many travel and cooking shows as well as on the TV show LOST. Knowing that this eatery is a bit of a gateway restaurant to Hawaiian food for tourists they are even kind enough to post a menu description to explain what everything is. As this is a counter service joint it’s preferable that you know what you want before you get to the counter. The counter staff are very friendly so I’m sure they would answer any of your questions, but you might feel bad slowing down the efficient flow that they have which allows them to keep their prices low.

Rainbow Drive-In Menu Description

While the fare could not be confused for haute cuisine, the food is authentic, generous, and affordable. We ate there with 4 adults and 5 children for under $40 all in and left with just enough room for a little off-site dessert. That’s a great price by any standard and it’s a steal for a place so close to Waikiki! I ate there twice in two days and would have gone back to sample more of the menu if I had spent more time in Waikiki.

Rainbow Drive-In

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16 thoughts on “Hawaii Eats: Rainbow Drive-In

  1. While not technically a drive-in, it was funny because when we were on the islands, my wife and I looked at each other and said how awesome a drive-in could be in Hawaii. Year-round movies under beautiful skies. Only problem could be sky-high real estate costs.

    You in with me to start this endeavor?

    • If I could work legally in the US I’d be all over just about any business venture in Hawaii. While the paperwork goes through we should probably spend some serious time on the island scoping out possible locations – specifically how far away they are from nice beaches and restaurants…..

  2. I’m guessing the off-site dessert probably cost you guys more than the dinner did. That’s a fantastic price, and there’s pretty much no Mahi Mahi that I don’t like. It’s definitely going on the list.

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