Local Hot Spot

Cover Story

July 7, 2024

Story By: Dining Out Team | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Spicy Ahi “Nachos” ($25)

Moani Waikiki is all about family, food and music. The restaurant is the Keolanui family’s dream turned into reality.

They would gather together and entertain friends and family in their tutu’s garage and hoped to share that magical experience with the world. That dream came true in 2019 when Moani Island Bistro & Bar opened in Kapolei. Two years later, the family opened a second location in Waikiki.

In addition to offering local-style dishes and tasty drinks, Moani Waikiki also features live entertainment. With family as its foundation, the Keolanui ohana strives to keep service a top priority with a mission of “making every guest feel like they’ve been personally invited and welcomed into our home.”

We spoke to owner Kapua Keolanui to learn more about Moani Waikiki’s unique story.

DO: Can you elaborate on how Moani is a family-owned and Hawaiian-owned restaurant? How does this family dynamic influence the restaurant’s operations/offerings?

KK: As a Native Hawaiian ohana, we are honored to have two thriving establishments on the island of Oahu. Both located in regional shopping centers, our community and partnerships have helped us establish a foundation as a gathering place for ohana to enjoy good times, good food and good music. Opening our flagship location in 2019, we recently celebrated our five-year anniversary there, and will be celebrating three years of Moani Waikiki this July!

Being a locally owned and operated restaurant group, we have an “all hands on deck” approach to service. Our family, staff and partners help us cultivate an environment that offers a home-style Hawaii experience. The essence of our restaurants is to emulate the experience family and friends have had at Tutu’s house in Kuliouou.

Our operations are rooted in community, as we have created annual events that extend the Moani operations beyond the borders of our restaurants. West Fest Hawaii and The Breakfast Ball Golf Tournament have become gathering places for the community to engage with each other and support the art of local island music! Our Moani ohana welcomes you to join us!

DO: Is there any special meaning behind the restaurant’s name?

KK: Moani means gentle breeze. As a musically driven family, we attribute that Moani feeling — “the breeze” — to that “good feeling” you get when you hear a special song that takes you to a special time or place.

DO: Can you describe the menu’s style and the importance of offering family-style portions?

KK: At Moani, the very foundation of the restaurant surrounds the experiences our friends and family have had at Tutu’s home in Kuliouou, Hawaii. Always a welcoming space for ohana to gather, with ono food and music to be enjoyed, Tutu’s home helped us create the family-style dining experience. The family-style portions encourage sharing and trying many different items from the menu.

DO: What are some of your best drinks/dishes?

KK: • Spicy Ahi “Nachos” ($25), guacamole, wonton chips, tobiko • Pele’s Prawns ($20), coconut, lava sauce • Dad’s Boneless Pork Chops ($30), cremini mushroom pan gravy, truffle essence •Miso Salmon ($32), braised bok choy, steamed rice and pickled ginger •Lilikoi Dutch Mule (call for cost), passion fruit

DO: What’s your favorite dish on the menu?

KK: My favorite dish is the Whole Fried Fish (market price), Hawaiian chili finadene and watercress salad, and a side order of Poi ($8).

DO: How excited are you to be celebrating three years in Waikiki?

KK: Having joined the International Market Place ohana in the midst of the pandemic, we have had a unique experience becoming an embedded part of the Waikiki resort community.

Being in the heart of Waikiki as a local and Hawaiian-owned company has been a blessing overall.

Representing our community and having a space for locals and visitors alike to gather, enjoy ono Hawaii comfort food, local music and an authentic island experience is what we continue to celebrate as we reach each milestone.

DO: What’s in store for Moani in 2024?

KK: Moani Waikiki is looking to continue fostering new relationships within the Waikiki community and be a place where culture, music and ohana are cel ebrated. We’re excited to get to know the legacy events hosted by organizations within the community.

DO: Can people host gatherings/events at Moani?

KK: Moani Waikiki offers our space for private events. Whether people are looking for a completely private occasion or a large party dining experience, our team is ready to curate and host a party of any size.

For guests looking to have a private event at Moani Waikiki, they may reach out to the restaurant directly to book a meeting so we can create a tailored experience surrounding the occasion they are celebrating.

2330 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best