Why You’ll Want to be a VIP at the 2019 Hale ‘Aina Awards at ‘Alohilani Resort in Waikīkī

Great food is still on the menu. But the rest of our Best Restaurants celebration has changed.
Alohilani Resort


You’ve probably read the story before. To be honest, we love telling it. Thirty-six years ago, the HONOLULU Magazine team sat down in front of a big piece of paper taped to the wall and started tallying 520 votes. The result was a list of 14 names. The Third Floor. ‘Ono Hawaiian Foods. Campadres. McDonald’s.  


Decades later, the pens are gone. Votes are cast online. This year, more than 8,000 people cast their ballots for their favorite places to eat. And the now annual Hale ‘Aina event has grown from a winning restaurants potluck (yes, each brought a platter of food) and one of the first events with food stations (held in the non-air-conditioned Honolulu Theatre for Youth scene shop in 1990) to an elegant gala in Waikīkī for thousands. How things have changed.


SEE ALSO: 2019 Hale ‘Aina Award Winners: The Best Restaurants in Hawai‘i


For our 36th year, we decided to make a change in our Hale ‘Aina festivities. For the first time in 10 years, our big best restaurant party has moved to a new location. On Saturday, Sept. 7, several of our Gold-award winners will be serving their amazing dishes on the Swell Deck of the ‘Alohilani Resort.


Here are our inside tips for this year’s event


1.  Keep cool by going VIP.

For the first time, VIP tickets give you more than a special sitting area, which some regulars will tell you is worth the price by itself. VIPs will enter an hour earlier than everyone else as well as have access to the exclusive air-conditioned—that’s right, air-conditioned, inside and outside—Longboard Lounge. That’s the only area where you can find Herringbone’s raw bar and Square Barrels’ elevated burgers. Once you walk in, look down. The floor is a window into the aquarium below.


2. When you first arrive, walk all around.

Restaurants including MW, 53 by the Sea, Arancino at The Kāhala and Merriman’s Honolulu will be stationed around both the lower and upper pool decks. Don’t miss any of them.


3. Arrive early.

You will want to snag one of the cushy lounge chairs in front of the Swell Deck fire pits.


4. Watch the sunset.

The deck has an amazing view. The sun is will set at 6:42 p.m. so grab a glass of a signature wine and look west.



5. Get a Lyft.

Validated parking is available, but if you would rather not deal with driving, Lyft is offering a special discount for that night. New users will receive $5 off their first four rides; if you already have an account it’s 20% off each way.


6. Bring your ticket.

If you don’t print it out, you will have to spend a little more time at registration.


Saturday, Sept. 7, 5:30 (VIP) and 6:30 (general admission) to 9:30 p.m. Buy tickets at hnltix.com.