Sometimes you just need to get away from it all and, more often than not, a healthy dose of umbrella drinks, ukuleles, and hula skirts will do the trick. And while you may not be able to jaunt off to the beaches of Hawaii for the weekend, you can still escape the concrete and neon of Korea and transport yourself to paradise at these tropical-themed cafés and restaurants in Seoul.
Hula Hula (훌라훌라)
Restaurant, Asian, Fusion, American, $$$
Hawaiian-themed cafés and restaurants have recently become a bit of a trend in Seoul, but Hula Hula stands out from the rest thanks to its relaxing atmosphere, pastel-perfect interior, and, of course, its food. Delicious as they are Instagram-worthy, the poke bowls and musubi dishes on offer here are quite filling, but not so much that you won’t be able to squeeze in dessert at one of the nearby cafés. As an added bonus, Hula Hula is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring along your pup.
Inspired by the beauty of Oahu, North Shore brings a bit of the island life to Seoul, boasting a beachy interior and casual Hawaiian dishes. Our favorites include the Hawaiian avocado burger which is served with a slice of juicy pineapple, and the barbecue platter – a heaping pile of pulled pork, ribs, and bread that can feed up to three. Of course, no visit to the restaurant would be complete without ordering the incredibly Insta-worthy Duck on the North Shore, a one-liter cocktail of lemon juice, pineapple juice, coconut cream and blue curacao topped with floating rubber ducks.
Is there any better way to waste away a summer afternoon than sipping tropical cocktails on a breezy balcony? The folks at Tiki Island don’t think so, and neither do we. This two-story tavern overlooking the streets of Itaewon serves up decent pub grub and craft beer but specializes in tasty tropical cocktails (not to mention tiki bowls!) that are beautifully presented. A spacious balcony equipped with shaded picnic tables is the perfect spot for day drinking with friends or a casual date.
Tucked away on an otherwise unremarkable street in Hongdae is Bonjour Hawaii, an institution that touts itself as a French and Pacific restaurant but has clear East Asian influences, as well. Three roomy floors bedecked in bright colors and shabby beach décor provide the perfect setting to escape the hustle and bustle of Seoul while an eclectic menu completes the atmosphere. Start your day with the ‘Hawaiian Sweet’ brunch platter, or if you’re particularly hungry, go for the BBQ Lunch set, a decent serving of grilled shrimp, chicken skewers, pork, and plenty of sides nicely decorated with tropical flowers. Not in the mood for food? Grab a spot on the patio an enjoy a Hitachino beer or a piña colada served in a pineapple.
Headquartered at Waikīkī Beach, Aloha Table has been serving up Hawaiian fare in Korea since 2012 and currently has five locations across the country, including one in the upscale neighborhood of Cheongdam. Popular menu items include the Poke Rice Bowl with octopus, avocado and salmon, Kalua Pig Saimin, Huli Huli Chicken, and hand-drip Kona coffee. Grab a seat at one of the floor-to-ceiling windows, which are kept open during warmer months, for a particularly relaxing lunch.
Transport yourself to the islands of Indonesia at Bali in Mangwon, a bohemian-esque eatery serving up tasty treats and beachy vibes. The restaurant serves up what it refers to as “surfer-made Balinese food and drink,” including Indonesian classics such as Nasi Goreng, Bakwan Jagung, and Padang chicken curry. The gorgeous interior replete with wooden accents, rattan placements and macramé wall hangings adds to the restaurant’s appeal, making it a neighborhood favorite.