8 Inside Tips for Doing the Hale ‘Aina Awards Right

How to find a table, take the perfect picture and other inside tips for our best restaurants event from HONOLULU’s event planner.
Hale Aina
Photo: Kelli Bullock


There are a few things I’ve learned from attending the Hale ‘Aina Awards event for the past seven years: I will always discover a new favorite restaurant, I’ll always leave full and I will never have trouble finding a friend who wants to go with me. Our best-restaurants event offers everyone a chance to wine and dine on dishes from some of Hawai‘i’s top, most buzzed-about places in one chic spot in a single night. Think of it as the most convenient culinary crawl of the year. For our 35th annual event, 10 of our Hale ‘Aina-Award winning restaurants will serve a combination of menu favorites and one-night-only dishes at The Royal Hawaiian.


Orchids Halekulani Hale Aina
Pipi kaula Poke salad with gohan crouton and chili pepper-water foam by orchids at halekūlani will be one of the dishes served at the 35th annual hale ‘​aina awards. 
photo: courtesy of orchids at halekūlani


Events manager Jeff Alencastre has been planning the last 12 Hale ‘Aina events. He knows everything about the night under the stars so we tapped into his insider knowledge for tips on how to find a place to set your plates, snap the perfect photo and avoid footwear-related fails on the big night.


1. Find a quiet place to talk in Helemoa Gardens.

This area is usually less crowded and quieter than the buzz in the Coconut Grove. And don’t worry about missing the live music. The performances play there on a big screen.


2. If you’re looking for an open table, head closer to the Johnson Brothers bar.

This will be located in between the Coconut Grove and Helumoa Gardens and tends to have more room. The fact that its by a bar is just a bonus. 


3. Put your selfie first.

The spot with the best lighting is at the bottom of the stairs of the Coconut Grove. Not only that, but you can get the signature pink of The Royal Hawaiian as a backdrop, then turn around to pose against the lights of the event.


4. Get spirited.

Cocktails are popular, so grab yours first then finish off with wine.


5. Watch for the next star chef. 

Kapi‘olani Culinary Arts students volunteer to prep and serve with our award-winning chefs. Look for them, so you can say you met them back in the day.


6. Wear wedges.

I spent my first year struggling to dig stilettos out of the lawn of the Coconut Grove. Pick your favorite flats, stacked heels or wedges to avoid getting stuck.


7. Eat your dessert first.

Mom and Dad are not around, so why not start with the sweets? The lines are always shorter at those booths—this year, it is Stage and The Pig & The Lady—at the beginning of the event.


8. Uber or Lyft it.

Yes, parking at The Sheraton fills up quickly. Plus, since you’ll be wining and dining, you might want to get a pick up to take you home. (If you do decide to drive, check out our Waikīkī Parking Guide.)


The 35th Annual Hale ‘Aina Awards event is Sunday, Sept. 30 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Royal Hawaiian. Tickets range from $150 to $1,500 for a reserved table for six with wine service. See the full menu and find out more details at hnltix.com.