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Alan Wong's Honolulu, Oahu
Foodies take note: This restaurant is on the third floor of an office building with no views, yet it's packed every night because chef Alan Wong is just that good. Here, haute cuisine meets Hawaii regional cuisine, and the result is a fine-dining experience where farm-fresh ingredients take center stage. Reservations are essential. alanwongs.com
What to order: The seafood medley, a lasagna-like dish with lobster, shrimp, and scallops.
What to do nearby: Check out the art galleries clustered around Bethel Street and Nuuanu Avenue in Chinatown. At the Bethel Street Gallery, for instance, you'll see Gauguin-esque paintings, intricate pottery, and ink drawings done by local artists.
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Haliimaile General Store, Maui
Open for more than 20 years, this island institution is chef Bev Gannon's signature eatery. The building's warm yellow hues set the tone for the comfort food that emerges from the busy kitchen. Gannon is one of the champions of Hawaii regional cuisine and wholeheartedly celebrates the local bounty. bevgannonrestaurants.com
What to order: Start with the sashimi napoleon with its layers of smoked salmon, ahi tartare, sashimi ahi, and crispy wontons with wasabi vinaigrette. Then dive into a plate of the macadamia-nut-crusted catch of the day -- whether it's mahi mahi or opah, it's always delectable.
What to do nearby: Ride a horse (accompanied by a Hawiian cowboy) through pastures and eucalyptus forests on the Piiholo Ranch, an 800-acre cattle farm 2,000 feet above the Pacific.
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Morimoto Waikiki, The Modern Honolulu hotel, Oahu
Feast your eyes on the gorgeous dishes at this sleek new restaurant from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto -- each one is a work of art. Only the best ingredients (think Wagyu beef, tuna flown straight from Japan's famous Tsukiji fish market, and local Kona lobster) make it onto the menu, and the food always tastes as good as it looks. One last tip? Never pass on dessert. morimotowaikiki.com
What to order: The omakase, or "chef's choice," which often includes a toro (bluefin tuna belly) and hamachi (yellowtail) tartare, pork belly, roasted lobster, or Wagyu beef.
What to do nearby: Catch the sunset at Magic Island (really a peninsula) in Ala Moana Beach Park. Bring your camera and grab a bench; the views are said to be some of the best on Oahu.
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Mama's Fish House, Maui
In a coconut grove near a powerful surf break, Mama's puts the focus on the fish. From ahi to ono to opah, they have it all -- and put a call-out to the fisherman who caught it right on the menu. This mama might just cook better than your own. mamasfishhouse.com
What to order: Mama's Stuffed Mahi Mahi (caught by Brian Yoshikawa offshore from Hana). It's filled with lobster, crab, and Maui onions, and baked in a macadamia-nut crust.
What to do nearby: Spend some time in charming Paia. It's an old sugar-cane plantation town that's got cute coffee shops, eclectic boutiques, and galleries, all with brightly colored storefronts.
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Merriman's, Big Island
More than just a restaurant (no, really -- there's an organic farm, too), Merriman's is beloved for its farm-to-table approach. Chef Peter Merriman's seasonal offerings are so fresh and tasty -- purchased from local farmers and fishermen if not picked right on location -- that even simple dishes are divine. merrimanshawaii.com
What to order: The grass-fed Hawaii Island filet mignon with Nakano cream corn and sake-marinated Hamakua mushroom.
What to do nearby: Drive your rental (it should be a 4WD) to the 14,000-foot summit of inactive Mauna Kea volcano. The lunar-like landscape will make you'll feel as if you're on the moon, and you can see all the way to Maui on a clear day.
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Pahu i'a, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu, Big Island
Awesome views and a huge aquarium define this airy restaurant situated yards from the water's edge. Talented chefs prepare sophisticated, seafood-heavy dishes, but there's a barbecue on the beach on Saturdays if you're craving a juicy steak. Keep the night going a little longer with an after-dinner drink upstairs in the Lava Lounge. fourseasons.com
What to order: The butter-poached Keahole lobster with baby bok choy, leek nage, and a Waimea yellow-beet corn cake.
What to do nearby: Spend a day at Kekaha Kai State Park. There's a nice swimming beach, trails for hiking, and picnic tables if you want to bring a lunch.
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