The Big Island of Hawaii for Foodies

The Big Island of Hawaii attracts all sorts of travelers all year round, adventurers, beach-seekers, newlyweds, you name, but it is also a destination that is full of food adventures, which is my focus for this Wanderlist. There is no lack of diversity when it comes to food, a very telling representation of the mixed cultures that make up the Hawaiian Islands, and whether it is a farmer or a chef, the people of this island are very keen on celebrating their rich food history.

81-6581 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750, USA
Greenwell Farms showcases coffee growing and processing at its farm in the mauka (mountains) outside of Kona. Tours are available every day and depending what season you arrive in Hawaii, you will see coffee blossoms or cherries and the various stages of harvesting, drying, and roasting of coffee. There are always coffee samples available, too! For the curious tourist or coffee enthusiast, Greenwell’s tours are informative and fun. No reservations required. Greenwell is open from 8:30am - 4:00pm.
36-221 Manowaiopae Homestead Rd, Laupahoehoe, HI 96764, USA
Mushrooms on Hawaii? Yes! Farmer Bob Stanga is cultivating four types of specialty mushrooms in the Hilo area and doing tours to show you! The mushrooms are bottle-cultivated in that they are grown in special containers containing a mixture of corncob, wheat bran and eucalyptus saw dust. Then they are placed in special rooms with natural light left to do their thing. On the factory tour you can see the entire process and sample the mushrooms at the end. You’ll quickly see why the natives and chefs can’t get enough. If plain old mushrooms aren’t enough then how about lavosh bread or cookies made with or dipped in mushroom dust? Trust me, once you go mushroom you will never go back, they are to die for. The Hamakua team have cooked up plenty of mushroom food products, there is literally something for everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of eating mushrooms you’ll enjoy the aesthetically pleasing factory space as Bob’s wife Janice was a former interior decorator and you will see her touches everywhere, including the mushroom artwork. The prettiest factory I have ever seen! Visiting the factory and doing the tour is another way to support local tourist and agriculture on the islands which is important as 90% of their food comes from elsewhere. By supporting a local farmer, they have an opportunity to feed their community and educate others about the paradise around them and the food options available to them.
1570 Maikalani St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
OK Farms (named for Ed “O"lson and Troy “K"eolanui) is one of Hilo’s largest farms with more than 500 acres. They are well known for macadamia nuts, lychee, hearts of palm, citrus fruit, rambutans and lots of spices all of which you get to see, smell or taste on the tour. Besides the 20,000 macadamia nut trees (all hand harvested) they are also growing coffee that produced that is now award-winning. OK Farms are huge supporters of the local community and work with tons of students and youth groups to teach them the importance of farming and eating locally-grown foods. One of the best parts of the tour is a rare look at the famous Rainbow Falls from “the other side” only accessed via OK Farms, its a pretty amazing view! Great for foodies to check out and understand local Hawaiian food and farm culture.
123 Lihiwai St
In a new(ish) location overlooking the bay, this perennial Big Island favorite weaves local, organic, and free-range produce into culinary alchemy. Deceptively simple dishes dance on the taste buds; the rich umami of the mushroom potpie and the spicy ahi poke do a particularly fabulous fandango, along with the jalapeño-hamachi-belly sushi roll. The peppered beef carpaccio has a dedicated following, pairing soft grass-fed beef with sea salt and fried capers—as does the half-pound burger that comes topped with Gorgonzola. Even vegetarians can indulge here, starting with the cauliflower grilled with black-garlic aioli and moving onto a taro-quinoa veggie patty beside hand-cut fries. Make sure to save room for the legendary chocolate lava cake!
and, Kamehameha Avenue, Mamo St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
The Huffington Post named the Hilo Farmers Market the best in the United States. For fresh local flavors, the market is open every day except Sunday. The big market days are on Wednesdays and Saturdays where more than 200 vendors including farmers and crafts people gather to sell their goods. If you’re looking for local souvenirs to take home or just a place to grab a quick fresh and tasty lunch, the Hilo Farmers Market will provide a beautiful morning or afternoon of shopping and eating.
50 E Puainako St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
It may sound weird to have a suggestion to visit a grocery store, but if you want to understand the local Hawaiian farmers and their products, there is no better place to do it. KTA has been in business for five generations supporting farmers as a core part of their product set. They started by buying from farmers out the back door and have it has been the life mission of the store to support and promote the farmers on the island of Hawaii. From the deli area that has about a dozen pokes, all different recipes from employees families passed down the years, to a bakery that does the same, everything about this store screams community. Visit a KTA and buy your groceries, check out the bios of the local farmers and producers, pick up real made-in-Hawaii gifts (cheaper) and support the agricultural small businesses in the area.
16-701 Macadamia Road, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Living in Hawaii, I find it’s not hard to appreciate macadamia nuts. After moving to the Islands, I did not waste any time determining my favorite kind of chocolate-covered mac, Mauna Loa. As with many other companies, mac nut orchards dot the Big Island, which has a great growing environment for the unusual nuts. The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Company operates a visitors’ center on the Big Island along with their orchards and processing plant. A tour of the area includes a farm to final product education and, of course, free samples for your enjoyment. I always keep several boxes on hand to give to my house guests to welcome them to Hawaii, but mac nuts are also a great gift for tourists to bring back home.
235 Keawe St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
This place near downtown Hilo is not much to look at, but it has great sushi. Fresh fish, cool staff and more importantly, this is where the locals go to eat. They have a wide variety of choices, but I recommend sticking with the sushi, plenty of options there including inventive rolls with local ingredients like macadamia nuts.
274 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
If you are a fan of mochi, this is a MUST stop on your visit in the Hilo area. The place is tiny, there is usually a long line, takes cash only, and parking is a bear, but once you take one bite into their massive (and most famous) strawberry mochi you will be hooked for life! They have a wide variety of flavors and all the mochi is fresh, dry where it needs to be dry, and with perfectly seasoned filling.
69-275 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738, USA
Don’t look out, look down at the garden that Chef Jayson Kanekoa has planted in the area between the resort’s restaurant and the pool, a main thoroughfare that most people don’t realize supplies herbs like basil, taro for chips and other dishes and even coffee for a Kona rubbed prime-ribbed. The culinary team at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort is sourcing local seasonal products from all over the island, easily done with so many farms to choose from. The care they take comes through in all the menu items.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure