This Affordable Waikiki Spot has Luau Vibes & Million Dollar Views

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Pau Hana Place Fresh Breeze Band Hawaiian Night Waikiki

With 5-star water views, live music, and a varied menu this affordable Waikiki spot isn’t exactly a Luau alternative, but it’s well worth a visit.

Located in a dirt lot across from the Prince Waikiki, this unassuming food truck complex occupies a million-dollar piece of waterfront real estate where the Ala Wai Canal meets the boat harbor.

Yet despite its coveted location, it’s one of Waikiki’s most affordable dining and entertainment experiences.

You might even say it has Luau vibes.  

What is it? It’s Pau Hana Place. And it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite neighborhood spots. 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will likely blow on mai tais, poke, and shave ice.  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you. 

But first, what is Pau Hana?

The term “Pau Hana” is a Hawaiian phrase that means “finished work” or “done with work.” It signifies the end of the workday and is often used to refer to Happy Hour or other after-work activities.

In Hawaiian culture, pau hana means unwinding with friends and family or just taking time to hang out and relax after a day of work.

Pau Hana Place Waterfront Location Waikiki
Pau Hana Place, Waikiki

Pau Hana reflects the Hawaiian value of work/life balance and enjoying the company of loved ones. And the relaxed atmosphere at Pau Hana Place perfectly captures that vibe.

My husband and I live just down the road from Pau Hana Place and have visited several times.

Since it opened in the summer of 2023, we’ve seen it continue to evolve and improve. But lately, this up-and-coming spot has finally found its footing.

And that’s why I decided this was a good time to share it with you all. Because I think Pau Hana Place is a great value and a fun night out in Waikiki.

What is Pau Hana Place?

​The complex is basically a big open-air deck with a stage for entertainment and awnings for shade.

There are two large, permanent food trucks – referred to on their website as “Wagon 1 and Wagon 2.”

Pau Hana Place Food Truck Wagon 1 Waikiki
Wagon 1

Wagon 1 serves mainly traditional Hawaiian plate-lunch cuisine like garlic shrimp, steak, fish, or chicken served with a side of rice and a salad.

Wagon 2 is more of a bar food menu featuring tacos, sliders, and pizza. Between the two, there are plenty of options to please everyone (including kiddos) so it’s a great option for families.

Pau Hana Place Wagon 2 Food Truck Waikiki
Wagon 2

Our first visit to Pau Hana Place

Our first visit in the summer of 2023 was somewhat uninspiring.

The food was average but reasonably priced (by Waikiki standards). There wasn’t much shade and there were a lot of flies to contend with as we tried to enjoy our meal.

Pau Hana Place Steak and Shrimp Plate Waikiki
Steak & Garlic Shrimp from Wagon 1

But the open-air deck with direct water views made up for a lot so we didn’t write it off. And they had only been open a few weeks so we decided to give them some time and try again in a few weeks.

They also didn’t have live music back then, at least not on the evening we visited.

Our recent return visits

A few weeks ago we gave Pau Hana Place another try, this time on a Sunday evening. We were impressed to see that they’d solved nearly all of the issues from our previous visit.

Pau Hana Place Waikiki Oahu
The colorful entrance to Pau Hana Place

They have installed a large shade structure over the main stage that makes the whole deck much cooler and more comfortable. And they seem to have solved the fly problem as well.

Sundays are now Hawaiian Night featuring the Fresh Breeze Band and we enjoyed them so much the first Sunday that we went back again a week later. 

Pau Hana Place Hawaiian Night
Hawaiian Night with the Fresh Breeze Band

According to the banner outside, the band is typically accompanied by hula dancers but that wasn’t the case either Sunday we were there.

Maybe that’s only some weeks and not all? I’m not sure. Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed the Hawaiian music while watching a beautiful sunset.

Pau Hana Place Sunset Marina Views Waikiki
Sunset Marina Views from Pau Hana Place

But on our most recent visit last week, we still ended up with a hula show! And I have to say it was the best one I’ve seen since we moved here.

As the band was interacting with the audience, they asked if there were any hula dancers in the house. Well, this is Hawaii and there were a lot of locals in the audience and what do you know… 

Turns out, a lady sitting with a group of friends having a “lei-making party” stepped up to the dance floor to perform. And guess what, she was amazing!

And then she did a second dance where two young ladies (who I assume were her daughters) joined her. They were obviously just learning the hula and a little nervous but they jumped in and did a fantastic job.

The smile on all three of their faces, as they swayed gracefully to the music, was something I will never forget.

Pau Hana Place Hula Dancers Waikiki Oahu
The impromptu hula show – so awesome!

I don’t know about you but I could watch hula all day long, I find it mesmerizing. And this spontaneous performance was truly something special.

What I love about Pau Hana Place

The Local Vibe

On both of our recent visits, the relaxed crowd was comprised of far more local residents than tourists. I love that. The locals on this island know a good thing when they find it.

Live Music & Entertainment

They have live music almost every night of the week and it’s frequently Hawaiian or island music. There’s also a dance floor space and it appears they occasionally have hula dancers or other entertainment on certain nights.

Pau Hana Place Live Music Schedule Waikiki Oahu
This week’s live music schedule

You can check their full event calendar here.

BYOB

I’m still amazed at the number of places in Hawaii that are BYOB (this is not a thing in Florida restaurants where we used to live). I’m not sure what magical loophole in the law here allows this but I’m here for it.

Pau Hana Place BYOB Waikiki Oahu
BYOB from the ABC Store

It may not last forever, it’s possible they could be waiting for a liquor license. But for now, it’s nice to just swing by the ABC Store across the street and pick up beverages to go with dinner.

Big Tables for Large Groups or Families

There’s a very social atmosphere here thanks to large tables perfect for friends and family to gather and enjoy the food, music, and views.

If you’re visiting with a group or a large family, getting a table at Waikiki’s popular restaurants can be a challenge. But here I bet you could pop in any night of the week and score a big family table.

Pau Hana Place Atmosphere Family Friendly
Sunday’s Hawaiian Night vibes

I’ve got a big family group visiting this summer and you can bet I’ll be bringing them all here one night.

Free Parking

We don’t use it since we can walk here but, trust me, free parking in Waikiki is not a thing. And Pau Hana Place has a huge dirt lot with plenty of available parking for customers. 

Pau Hana Place Free Parking Waikiki
Free Parking

Tip: If you’re staying elsewhere on the island and want to come down to Waikiki for the Friday night fireworks, park here and have dinner first. Then take a stroll through the marina toward the Hilton in time to watch the fireworks afterward.

That’s a win-win!

What I don’t love

There isn’t much to dislike about Pau Hana Place but there are a couple of things that could be better.

The Food

Ok, to be fair, I don’t dislike the food. And all things being equal, I can’t say I’ve had truly great food at a Luau either. But a Luau is more about the whole experience than the food and that’s true at Pau Hana Place, too.

The food quality is fine. Is it delectable cuisine? No. Don’t come here expecting a 5-star meal. But it’s good food with a 5-star view and great entertainment (and those last two make up for a lot).

We’ve tried several things on the menu and so far the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken from Wagon 1 is my favorite.

Pau Hana Place Hawaiian Chicken Wagon 1
Hawaiian Chicken from Wagon 1

Wagon 2’s Kalua Pork Sliders are my husband’s favorite. We’ll keep going back and trying more things. The good news is between the two trucks they do have a pretty extensive menu.

au Hana Place Kalua Pork Sliders Wagon 2
Kalua Pork Sliders from Wagon 2

The only other thing I don’t like is that they still have a bit of a fly problem (but it’s much improved since our first visit). Choose a table away from a trash can and it’s less of an issue. 

Is Pau Hana Place a Luau Alternative? 

We’ve been to plenty of Luaus around the island – most recently Germaine’s Luau, the Mauka Warriors Luau, and the Hale Koa Luau – and I can confidently say that an evening at Pau Hana Place is not a replacement for the traditional Hawaiian Luau experience. 

If a Luau is within your budget while visiting Hawaii, you should absolutely go to one. I think it’s an essential part of the Hawaiian cultural experience. 

But Hawaii is an expensive destination to visit and attending a Luau is one of the most expensive things to do in the islands. For larger families especially, it can be a stretch to add a Luau to the itinerary. 

And while you won’t find Polynesian fire dancers here, and I can’t guarantee a spontaneous hula performance, an evening at Pau Hana Place is well worth adding to your itinerary. 

The bottom line?

Pau Hana Place is a great place to unwind on a beautiful deck and enjoy a reasonably-priced meal with live music. In my book, that’s a good time any night of the week. 

Waikiki Luau on a Budget Oahu Things to Do
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Looking for more great meals and affordable places to eat in Waikiki?

Start here:

The 10 Best Cheap Eats in Waikiki (#4 is literally a hidden gem!)

7 Divinely Delicious Waikiki Breakfast Spots You Can’t Miss

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