Today, we complete the series on how to find the best Hawaii restaurants with a visit to the Big Island. Since this is our final restaurant visit, I thought I’d post a dessert photo.
We have to say that finding great restaurants on the Big Island seems to take a bit more effort. That being said, we’ve definitely found some winners. We think that the addition of the Queens MarketPlace in Waikoloa and the Shops at Mauna Lani have added some nice new alternatives for those staying around the Kohala Coast.
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 don’t take these recommendations lightly. 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: The CanoeHouse at the Mauna Lani serves fresh, locally grown Hawaii regional cuisine with beach and sunset views. Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid is located right by the beach, with lovely sunset views. A couple of honorable mentions are Kamuela Provision Company at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and the Coast Grille at the Prince Hapuna Resort. They both have outdoor seating with super sunset views.
Great Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine without the Beach Views: Roy’s Restaurant at Waikoloa Beach Resort. Their 3-course prix fixe menu is a 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. In the same shopping center, you’ll also find the Eddie Aukau Restaurant and Surfing Museum — a tasty farm-to-table new comer to the Big Island.
Best Sushi/Seafood: 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.
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.
Top of My List for Next Time: Merriman’s in Waimea. As a Hawaii affectionado, I’m a bit embarrassed that we’ve never dined at the original Merriman’s restaurant. We’ve been to others, but not the one in Waimea. Another restaurant 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 aim to keep it refreshed with each visit. Restaurants and chefs come and go, so we like to keep the list as up to date as possible.
I know there are some nice very readers who live on the Big Island, so I’d love for them to share their recommendations in the comments.