When we first started visiting Hawaii, the Big Island in 2004, we had a hard time finding great restaurants. Since then, the number of restaurants and the overall quality has improved dramatically. We’ve definitely found some winners.
We’ll start with our personal picks and then move on to the wisdom of the crowds with TripAdvisor, and finish up with recommends from guidebooks.
Go Visit Hawaii Picks
The following restaurants are ones that we particularly like after multiple trips to the Big Island. We tend to focus on restaurants with great views and Hawaii regional cuisine. We don’t our recommendations lightly. In fact, we create this list as if we’re giving it to our family and friends. For us dining is a big part of our Hawaii vacations and we want to make every dining experience count!
Best Beach Views & Most Romantic: Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid is located right by the beach, with lovely sunset views The CanoeHouse at the Mauna Lani serves fresh, locally grown Hawaii regional cuisine with beach and sunset views. Lava Lava Beach Club is a bit more on the lively side with amazing sunset views. Some of the Lava Lava Beach Club tables are right on the sand. Kamuela Provision Company at the Hilton Waikoloa Village is right on the water’s edge. For a great lunch with an ocean view, we really like Napua at Mauna Lani Beach Club.
Great Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine without the Beach Views: Merriman’s in upcountry Waimea offers fantastically prepared farm-to-table, Hawaii regional cuisine with excellent service. Roy’s Restaurant at Waikoloa Beach Resort. Their 3-course prix fixe menu is always very good value. We’ve never had a bad meal at Roy’s. I recommend you make reservations and if possible request a seat by the window next to the lake. Sansei in Queens Marketplace in Waikoloa is popular with locals and visitors.
Best Sushi: Sansei at the Queens Marketplace at Waikoloa Beach Resort.
Best Malasadas: Tex Drive-In off Highway 19 in Honoka’a (near the mile 43 marker) Check it out if you are going to Waipio Valley
Some of Hawaii’s More Unique Restaurants: Kilauea Lodge in Volcano has an atmosphere that reminds us of an Appalachian mountain lodge with the historic fireplace. In Hawi, we really like the eclectic bamboo-inspired decor and very, very tasty food at Bamboo Restaurant. Near the Hamakua Coast, a great place for lunch and a farm tour is at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. If you want to have a delicious and unique vanilla-infused lunch, reserve in advance. We haven’t dined at the newly opened The Rim restaurant, but wanted to mention it for their outstanding volcano view of Halemaumau.
Best Cheap Eats: Cafe 100 in Hilo. You can easily eat here for $5 or less at Cafe 100. Another good winner for cheap eats is Yong’s Kal-Bi Korean Restaurant in Waimea. The food is delicious and for around $10, you’ll get a large plate full of food.
Best Pub Hawaii-Style: Kona Pub and Brewery in Kailua-Kona. We particularly like their kalua pulled pork nachos. They’ve recently added a lilikoi (passion fruit) brew that’s really good.
Best Non-Touristy, Reasonably-Priced, Slightly Upscale Restaurant: (Long title, eh?) Cafe Pesto is a local favorite and has locations in Hilo and on the Kona side at Kawaihae Harbor. You won’t feel like you’re paying overpriced resort prices here and the food is very good and fresh. This restaurant is located by a working, industrial-like harbor so the views may not be ideal.
Top of My List for Next Time: We’d love to check out is Huggo’s on the Rocks in Kona. We tried to get there last time, but couldn’t get a reservation.
TripAdvisor & Yelp
When I first published this post, Yelp wasn’t on our radar. Now we use Yelp quite often both on the web and on our mobile phones. It’s a great place to check restaurant reviews.
Thousands of TripAdvisor members rate Hawaii restaurants. I’ll organize the TripAdvisor restaurant listings by geography. Some of the geography they use is a bit odd, but we’ll make it work for us. We’ll start on the Kohala Coast/Waimea area and work our way around the island counter clockwise. So as not to create information overload, I’ll try to only list the areas that you’ll likely be nearby.
Kohala Coast (Including Hawi, Waimea/Kamuela, Waikoloa)
- Hawi and Kapa’au Restaurants (These small towns on the northern part of Hawaii have just a few restaurants.)
- Kawaihae Restaurants (There are only two restaurants listed here, but they very well liked and recommended by locals.)
- Kamuela Restaurants (This is where TripAdvisor uses some strange geography. They lump in restaurants in Waimea (Kamuela) with restaurants at the Mauna Lani resort area and Mauna Kea/Hapuna Beach areas.)
- Waikoloa Beach Resort Restaurants
- Kailua-Kona Restaurants (TripAdvisor lists over 100 restaurants here.)
- Keauhou Restaurants
- Captain Cook Restaurants
- Volcano Restaurants
- Hilo Restaurants (There are over 100 in total)
- Pepeekeo Restaurants (There is only one restaurant listed here, but it’s the popular What’s Shakin’ place that’s known for their smoothies.)
- Honokaa Restaurants
- Fodor’s has an interactive list.
- Hawaii The Big Island Revealed is usually very reliable guidebook for restaurant recommendations.
Though this article was originally published in 2008, we keep it updated with each visit. Restaurants and chefs come and go, so we like to keep the list as up to date as possible.
Do you have a favorite restaurant on Hawaii, the Big Island? Please comment to share your favorite.