Chinatown Honolulu: Exploring the cool spots, shopping and dining venues around this historic and fun district (updated 2023)

Chinatown Honolulu
Chinatown, Honolulu: A Vibrant Cultural Hub in Hawaii’s Capital City

Chinatown, Honolulu is located on the western edge of downtown Honolulu. The streets around Chinatown is always busy with shoppers and friendly vendors in a variety of streets bustling with fervor and energy. One of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States, the Honolulu Chinatown is an interesting mix of unique old Hawaiian buildings mixed in with modern shopping malls and outdoor food markets and venues worth exploring.

Filled with delicious food venues, you’ll encounter a wide variety of Asian cuisine covering traditional Chinese food favorites, dim sum venues, Vietnamese, Malaysian to Pan Asian inspired venues that are worth digging up to experience here.

Chinatown Honolulu – great eats, cool places to explore and enjoy the multi-ethnic and cultural experiences

Where is Honolulu Chinatown located
Honolulu Chinatown and the historic district

Where is Honolulu Chinatown located

Chinatown is located in the general vicinity of North Beretania, Nu’uanu street and extending all the way to the harbor area. This entire area is known as the central part of Chinatown with large market areas including the Maunakea, Oahu and Aloha marketplaces.

History of Chinatown in Honolulu
Chinatown Oahu – downtown historic district Chinatown

History of Chinatown in Honolulu

Most of the Chinese laborers that came to Hawaii worked in the plantation fields and after their contracts expired moved to this area that was populated with Chinese descendants. Many of these laborers became merchants and started small businesses or services to provide other Chinese people and local people in the area.

The Chinatown area endured a terrible plague and fires that were started to eradicate the disease and people and most of the Chinatown area burned to the ground. What is remaining are the most recent buildings started from 1901 and rebuilt to develop new business, malls and services in the area.

There are quite a few of the striking buildings built in the early 1900s that are tourist focused or merchant buildings now servicing the local community.

What to find in Chinatown?
Honolu Chinatown attractions, historic buildings and places to visit

What to find in Chinatown?

It’s fun to explore the Chinatown district and just wander around the various open-air markets and check out the fresh fruit and vegetable stands, herbal and tea shops, traditional Chinese Medicine healers and a variety of specialty food stands selling every local food favorite dish ranging from Dim Sum, Noodle soups, seafood and even an area that sells Filipino food specialty dishes.

Chinatown is eclectic and fun to explore and find some cheap souvenirs or unique finds in the area that you can take home with you.

Many of the neglected parts of Chinatown has been turned into art galleries and boutique stores and becoming an eclectic arts scene and venue for locals and visitors to the area.

Top 8 places to visit around Chinatown

Chinatown 4 1
China town Honolulu – at Oahu Marketplace

1. Oahu Marketplace

A tourist driven venue with tourist inspired shops, stands and curio places selling everything Hawaiian from Aloha wear, jewelry and adornments along with leis, ukuleles and other fun inexpensive souvenirs you can buy here.

Chinatown Arts district
chinatown oahu

2. Chinatown Arts district

Located on No’eau and Bethel Street, you can find the arts district with art galleries, boutique stores and contemporary Hawaiian art featured from local artists in the area. The flagship building in the arts District is the classic Hawaii Theater building

3. Historic Wo Fat Building

One of the most scenic and prominent buildings in Chinatown and IG photo worthy, this building is fun to explore and capture in photographs. This was the oldest restaurants in Chinatown to visit and maybe have a nice meal. It is going through a major renovation to restore it back into its old glory days in Chinatown as a restaurant and hotel space.

Chinatown 15 1
Hawaii Chinatown – historic treasures

4. Historic Hawaii Theater

One of the iconic architectural buildings in Chinatown, the Hawaii Theater is a classic and fun to walk around. Hopefully you can also attend many of the outstanding events or performances held inside and take a fun tour of the interiors

5. Hawaii Heritage Center

Located on 1040 Smith Street, the Hawaii Heritage Center is part museum and center promoting the history, culture and diverse ethnic experience in the area. They sponsor walking tours of the Chinatown area and you can find more details to exploring the center and walking tours here for information.

The center contains a small museum exhibit space with artifacts and informational displays covering Hawaii’s multi-ethnic cultural groups and their collections are on display at the center.

Maunakea Marketplace
Chinatown Hawaii at Mauna Kea Marketplace

6. Maunakea Marketplace

A building housing a food court area, fruits and vegetable stands and Asian produce. You can also find some stands selling inexpensive jewelry, tourist souvenirs, clothing fashion and accessory stands in kiosks along with a variety of Asian inspired foods of Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese foods

Chinatown Cultural Plaza
Oahu Chinatown at the cultural plaza

7. Chinatown Cultural Plaza

Another more contemporary Asian mall with Dim Sum, noodle houses and seafood restaurants with an outdoor courtyard. You can find souvenir, accessory and beauty shops, worship displays and places of spiritual devotion along with other boutique stores in the plaza area.

A fun area to watch the local card games and other gambling games takes place outside and fronting the river is animated and fun to watch.

8. Kuan Yin Temple

A beautiful small temple dedicated to Kuan Yin, it is peaceful and quiet here with a colorful temple and grounds worth visiting. Check the details to visiting here for more information.

Address170 N Vineyard Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96817

Try these iconic and delicious restaurants in Honolulu Chinatown

If you are looking to try some of the signature restaurants and dishes that stand out when you visit Chinatown, then consider these delicious places to eat:

Little Village Noodle House: This beloved spot is famous for its Chinese comfort food. Try their dim sum, handmade noodles, and delicious dumplings.

The Pig and the Lady: Offering Vietnamese-inspired cuisine, this restaurant is a local favorite. Don’t miss their pho, banh mi, and creative dishes that feature fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

Ethel’s Grill: A hidden gem known for its homestyle Hawaiian comfort food. The loco moco and plate lunches are highly recommended.

The Tchin Tchin! Bar: Visit this cozy and trendy bar for craft cocktails and a fantastic selection of wines and sake. It’s a great place to unwind after exploring Chinatown.

Fort Street Café: A classic diner-style restaurant that serves delicious breakfast and brunch items. Their pancakes and loco moco are particularly popular.

Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant: For exceptional dim sum and traditional Cantonese cuisine, this restaurant is a go-to spot. Try their barbecue pork buns, dumplings, and roast duck.

Marian’s Catering: Known for their garlic chicken, Marian’s is a local favorite for a quick and tasty meal. Their plate lunches are a fantastic value.

Maguro Brothers: Seafood lovers should visit this spot for fresh poke bowls and sashimi. They also serve delicious sushi and chirashi bowls.

The ARTS at Mark’s Garage: This gallery and event space often hosts pop-up restaurants, food trucks, and culinary events featuring a variety of cuisines. Check their schedule for special dining experiences.

Jin Din Rou: For Taiwanese cuisine, Jin Din Rou is a top choice. Try their soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, and other Taiwanese specialties.

Livestock Tavern: This modern American tavern offers a fusion of flavors with a farm-to-table approach. Their craft cocktails and creative dishes are worth trying.

Lei Low Bar: While not a restaurant, this tiki bar offers a unique experience with a wide range of tropical cocktails in a cozy atmosphere.

Remember that Chinatown in Honolulu is a dynamic area with many hidden gems, so don’t hesitate to explore and try new flavors as you wander through its bustling streets. Enjoy your culinary adventure in Chinatown!

How to get to Chinatown, Honolulu
Biki bike rentals in Honolulu are easy and a fun way to explore areas of Honolulu

How to get to Chinatown, Honolulu

Transportation getting to Chinatown is easy with a variety of options that are inexpensive and fast, here’s some options.

Public Transportation

The Bus can get you from all locations from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu and passing through to Chinatown one the one way road at N. Beretania. Prices are $2.50 one way and $5 for an all day pass which is a great deal

Taxi or UBer

This is the fastest option, but you pay for the convenience with higher prices and considering gas cost, this is reflected in higher fares for taxi or Uber rides in the city

Biki bikes

You can rent a bike for $4.50 for half hour intervals or a 24 hour period for $12 which a good deal if you plan on visiting many areas around the city that are short distances.

Honolulu Trolley system

The Trolley systems stop at Chinatown and allows you to get off and on with a full day pass or multi-day pass use to visit the major attractions in the downtown area for a decent fare.

Nearby attractions from Chinatown area
HIstoric downtown Honolulu in Oahu, attractions, monuments and historic buildings

Nearby attractions from Chinatown area

There are many local attractions close to Chinatown that are worth visiting on foot, biki or a short Uber drive to experience these fun locations. This includes:

Aloha Tower

Iolani Palace

State Capitol Building

Hawaii State Museum

Kakaako district

Hawaii Mission homes complex

Kamehameha statue and Ali’iolani Hale

Check out our post to visiting Downtown Honolulu here for more inspiration and images.

Inside tips to visiting Chinatown in Honolulu

Check out more inside tips, places to visit and the markets and places to try the local cuisine.Explore the Historic Streets:

Take a leisurely stroll through the colorful streets of Chinatown, Honolulu, and soak in the rich history and vibrant atmosphere. Don’t miss the iconic Maunakea Street and its bustling markets.

Try Local Cuisine: Indulge in a culinary adventure by sampling the diverse flavors of Chinatown. From dim sum and fresh seafood to exotic fruits and traditional Hawaiian-Chinese fusion dishes, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

Visit the Markets: Immerse yourself in the lively markets of Chinatown, where you can find an array of goods. From fresh produce and spices to unique trinkets and artwork, these markets offer a glimpse into the local culture.

Explore the Art Scene: Chinatown is home to numerous art galleries and studios showcasing local talent. Take the opportunity to appreciate the works of talented artists, including paintings, sculptures, and traditional crafts.

Experience the Festivals: Plan your visit to coincide with one of the many festivals celebrated in Chinatown. From the vibrant Chinese New Year festivities to the annual Lantern Floating Hawaii, these events provide a captivating cultural experience.

Discover Hidden Gems: Don’t be afraid to explore the side streets and alleys of Chinatown. You’ll stumble upon charming hidden gems, such as specialty shops, tea houses, and temples, offering a deeper insight into the local culture.

Embrace the Nightlife: As the sun sets, Chinatown transforms into a lively nightlife destination. Discover trendy bars, jazz clubs, and live music venues where you can enjoy an evening of entertainment and unwind.

Take a Cultural Tour: Consider joining a guided tour to learn more about the history, architecture, and stories behind Chinatown’s landmarks. Local guides can provide fascinating insights and ensure you don’t miss any hidden treasures.

Be Mindful of Safety: Like any urban area, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions. Stay in well-lit areas, travel in groups if possible, and keep your belongings secure.

Support Local Businesses: By shopping at local businesses and dining at family-owned restaurants, you contribute to the vitality of Chinatown’s community. Show your support and appreciate the unique offerings of this cultural enclave.

Check out these other articles on Honolulu
Exploring the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu

Check out these other articles on visiting Honolulu

If you are visiting Honolulu, check out all these fantastic attractions and historic sites to visit around Oahu area

Visit to Iolani Palace

Tour the historic downtown Honolulu district

Top things to do around Honolulu area

Popular adventure experiences in Oahu

Waikiki things to do

Top places to eat in Honolulu

Explore Kakaako distict

Conclusion to visiting Chinatown, Honolulu
Chinatown Oahu – historic district

Conclusion to visiting Chinatown, Honolulu

Visiting Chinatown in Honolulu is an enriching experience that offers a glimpse into the vibrant fusion of Chinese and Hawaiian cultures. From its historic streets and diverse culinary scene to its bustling markets and thriving art scene, Chinatown captivates visitors with its unique charm.

By exploring the hidden gems, embracing the festivals, and immersing yourself in the local culture, you’ll create unforgettable memories. Soak in the sights, flavors, and stories of Chinatown, and leave with a deeper appreciation for its rich heritage. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, an art aficionado, or simply seeking a captivating cultural experience, Chinatown in Honolulu awaits you with open arms.

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Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.