Where to Eat on the Big Island, Hawaii

332 Keawe Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
This open-air, family-run gem has an old-school Hawaiiana feel, but takes a fresh, sustainable approach to sourcing its ingredients. Expect classics here with a local twist, like island-style onion soup topped with provolone and beer-battered jumbo shrimp with a dipping sauce of miso, ginger and Japanese Furikake seasoning. Aficionados of adult beverages may want to sample the Volcano Winery’s red blend or one of the state’s craft beers on draft, especially Pineapples’ private-label brew with—you guessed it!—the restaurant’s signature fruit in the mix. It also showcases local art and musicians, who play nightly from 6:30pm. Closed on Mondays.
HI-11, Naalehu, HI 96772, USA
For travelers who find themselves driving on the southern end of the Big Island, a stop at the Punaluu Bake Shop should be required. The shop is clean, has an outdoor picnic area, and has a case full of tremendously delicious bakery items. Malasadas are a Hawaiian favorite food and perfect for breakfast, but the bakery also sells sandwiches, ice cream, and some local souvenirs and kitchen items.
1 North Kaniku Drive
Is it is possible to be romanced by a property or courted by a restaurant? My luxurious and beautiful dining experience at the Fairmont Orchid Resort’s Brown’s Beach House Restaurant had me hooked as soon as I arrived on the resort property just after sunset. Immersed in aloha, and comfortably seated on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, a solo voice and the sound of ukulele danced through the air in concert with the tropical ambiance. Sustainably grown and locally sourced foods are exquisitely prepared to please the palate, and an air of romance is enhanced with the lull of the surf rolling into the sand, only steps away. For a truly memorable experience, private dining is available on a knoll under swaying palm trees. Reservations recommended.
75-5663 Palani Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
A little peckish for lunch, I dropped in at Splashers on a recommendation from a street artist on Alii Drive. Though I was on my own, I quickly felt embraced by the local aloha and friendly atmosphere of the restaurant. I people watched - a group of overdressed business people from the mainland meeting clients in Kailua-Kona sat to my left, a family of four sat several tables in front of me, and a few couples were seated along the railing of the open air grill for prime views of the shops below and the ocean beyond Alii Drive. Blue water cups reminded me of a diner while the open air atmosphere reminded me I was in the tropics. The food (I ordered fish tacos) was filling and flavorful, the bar was preparing for a busy afternoon and evening of cocktails and beers, and staff were fluttering about tending to their late lunch crowd. Sitting on top of the Kona Farm Direct cafe, you will definitely want to grab a coffee after lunch to keep you going the rest of the afternoon.
969 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Invented in Hilo, the Loco Moco is a very local breakfast item with its own following. Most restaurants put their own little twist on the meal. Cafe 100 in Hilo serves theirs in more than 30 varieties, though the basic loco moco is simply rice, a hamburger patty, and Hilo-style brown gravy with an egg on top. The Loco Moco is a cheap and still substantial meal that can be eaten any time of the day.
45-690 Pakalana St, Honokaa, HI 96727, USA
On the Northshore of the Big Island is a local little drive-in that serves hot malasadas and loads of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options including burgers, pancakes, miso soup, and other sorts of local and American food. The prices are good (a malasada will only set you back a buck or so). It’s a bit of a drive from both Hilo and Kona, but you can enjoy the Big Island’s changing landscape on the way around the top of the island.
1 N Kaniku Dr, Waimea, HI 96743, USA
Prepared on Norio’s signature cedar plank, Norio’s Crispy Salmon, Kulana Farms 31 Day Dry Rib Eye, or sustainably caught Hawaiian Ahi will tantalize your tastebuds and leave you craving more. You can eat at a sushi bar or at tables in the comfortable dining room located within the Fairmont Orchid Resort. Open for dinner only (6 to 9 p.m.); reservations are recommended.
72-100 Kaupulehu Drive
A beautiful example of locally sourced food on the Big Island, Ulu Ocean Grill at the Four Seasons Hualalai works with more than 160 farmers and fisherman to put together a menu full of culinary masterpieces. Every guest will find pleasure in their dish while watching the sunset and listening to soft Hawaiian music play with the trade winds. Private dining areas are available, or sit beachside by a fire pit, to add some more romance to the evening.
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.
27-999 Mamalahoa Hwy, Pepeekeo, HI 96783, USA
What’s Shakin’ is a fantastic local food spot located outside of Hilo, on the Big Island, along what is labeled the ‘Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive.’ They are known for their fresher-than-fresh smoothies, but also boast a menu that’ll appease even the hungriest of visitors. Walk up to the window, order up some grub, and then sit at the picnic benches and enjoy the afternoon as the friendly staff prepares your order. We ate here on the first and last day of our visit, it’s really that good.
76-6246 Ali'i Drive
This tiny joint on the Big Island serves what many consider the planet’s best poke (raw-fish salad). In fact, Yelp ranked it No. 1 among America’s top 100 places to eat in 2014. Go traditional with just salt, limu kohu (seaweed), and inamona (a roasted-candlenut relish) for toppings. Or opt for a more contemporary twist with anything from onions to avocado aioli, perhaps paired with a side of crisp kimchi cucumbers. Be forewarned: This casual spot runs on island time so don’t expect exact adherence to business hours.
75-6129 Alii Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
Since 2013, patrons from around the world have found this little place in Kailua-Kona and raved about the fall-from-the-bone ribs marinated in homemade Kona Coffee Steak Rub and the pineapple slaw. Like home cooking at a backyard BBQ, you’ll be greeted with smiles, seated outdoors under umbrellas, and served a beachy BBQ to remember. And, if you don’t get quite enough, TJ’s bottles up their BBQ sauce and Kona Coffee Steak Rub so you can bring the flavors home.
61-3616 Kawaihae Rd
Open for dinner under the stars from Thursday through Sunday nights, flavors, live music, and dance harmoniously come together for an incredible evening out at Blue Dragon Restaurant and Musiquarium. The menu focuses on the freshness factor and celebrates items made with ingredients from their own organic farm and more than forty Hawaii ranchers, farmers, and fisherman who provide the freshest foods to the table. The ambiance at Blue Dragon can be electric with live music every night that spans genres and encourages guests to get up and dance in the open air restaurant underneath the stars.
15-2969 Pahoa Village Road
In the tiny, quirky town of Hilo, a perfect date night starts with a stroll on the elevated sidewalks along the Victorian-style storefronts to check out the local creative scene. It ends at Kaleo’s Restaurant, where flip-flops are welcome and smiles guaranteed in the finest restaurant in town. The farmhouse appearance of Kaleo’s is indicative of the warmth put into the menu—a locally inspired selection of flavors that includes such dishes as Dynamite, a seafood and mushroom dish with veggies baked in spicy mayo, or the hearty Kaluna steak and potatoes. Cap it all off with a Chocolate Lava Cake while you reminisce over your molten experiences at Volcanoes National Park. But before digging into dessert, enjoy the live music—it creates a lovely atmosphere to let the romance sizzle.
681 Manono St #101, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Local-style comfort food gets the portions it deserves here, filling the soul and the stomach. Massive pancakes, kalua pork hash, and an all-day Big Island Breakfast Menu are the main draws. Seafood eaters shouldn’t miss the poke bowl (pronounced POH-keh): cubed raw fish seasoned any way you wish.

65-1227B Opelo Road
Chef Peter Merriman’s flagship restaurant in Waimea is known for some of Hawaii’s best farm-to-table foods. At the forefront of the local menu movement, his award-winning dishes include Bulogogi Spiced Kauai Prawns, Hirabara Farm Earth Grown Lettuce, and an Original Wok Charred Ahi that can be paired with a carefully selected wine from a global list of vineyards. But, for the most authentic flavors, check out seasonal Hawaiian choices that could include a Waipio Taro Enchilada or mahi mahi served with mushrooms from the Hamakua region on the Big Island. No matter what you choose to indulge in, it feels good to eat at Merriman’s when you know the restaurant sources ingredients locally, gives back to the Island community, and even offers a culinary scholarship. After you’ve enjoyed the beautiful meal, be sure to pick up the Merriman’s Hawaii Cookbook so you can indulge your palate at home as well.
68-1330 Mauna Lani Dr #116, Waimea, HI 96743, USA
Feeding a healthy body and soul, Under the Bodhi Tree is commited to serving local, organic, and gourmet vegetarian and vegan foods from their Kamuela cafe. Beyond the menu, the restaurant supports the community with a fitness program and local fundraisers. While you’re lunching on the Fungus Humungus, a mushroom and quinoa dish, or the Better than Beef veggie burger, you can inquire about local yoga classes or find out when the next 5k comes to town. There’s no way to leave without feeling the radiating blush of healthier living.
51 Kalakaua St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Charming, with plenty of aloha, Moon and Turtle’s easy-breezy atmosphere is great for sipping a mint julep and enjoying wild boar fried rice. The interesting menu and fresh flavors welcome everyone to visit—in fact, it’s so popular that reservations are recommended to make sure you get a seat in the quaint quarters. The chef’s creative and thoughtful foods grab the most attention with items like smokey sashimi, eggplant pork, and even a delectable mac and cheese. The service is pretty amazing, too!
374 Kinoole St, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Perfect for a breakfast or lunch, drop by Short n Sweet Bakery Market Cafe in Hilo for a refreshing bite to eat that will kick start your day and send you off on an afternoon of volcanic adventures or gallery gawking on the Hilo side of the Big Island. Maria and Dien, your bakers, create all their breads and sweets from their kitchen. You will taste the homemade goodness in their sandwiches, pastries, and custom cakes. Because I have an enormous sweet tooth, I couldn’t leave the shop without some of the scrumptious toasted coconut marshmallows, or the lilikoi marshmallows, or the kona coffee marshmallows...
75-5699 Alii Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
Scandinavian Shave Ice is Hawaii Island’s most iconic purveyor of the frozen treat—though it’s not quite so big a deal on this island as some of the others. That said, Scandi’s is everything you want your shave ice shop to be. Dozens of flavors to choose from, including some with no added sugar? Check. Choice of ice cream for the center? Check. Snow cap and other, more exotic, toppings available (like li hing mui powder or mochi)? Check. Sassy servers? Check. The result is a carefully sculpted ball of colorful ice the size of your head (go for the small size!), with a soft but cohesive texture, flavors more subtle than they look, and the ice cream in the center rather than the bottom—meaning you get to it even quicker! Yum.
79-7251 Hawaii Belt Rd, Kealakekua, HI 96750, USA
Teshima’s Restaurant is a historic Japanese diner on the west coast of Hawaii Island in Kealakekua. Welcoming and reasonably priced, the diner serves Hawaiian Japanese comfort food. The set meals are the best value, a sampling of small dishes that might include sashimi, sukiyaki, fried fish, rice, and sides of cucumber, cabbage, and miso soup. The ahi is excellent (and the wasabi so soft and fresh), but the restaurant is really known for its shrimp tempura: Every local we asked about Japanese food told us to try it here. You can get it on its own, or as part of the “deep sea trio” of shrimp tempura, fried fish, and sashimi.
79-7399 Hawaii Belt Rd, Kealakekua, HI 96750, USA
Rebel Kitchen is a welcoming food joint in Kainaliu, just up from the Donkey Balls Factory. Choose from a selection of reasonably priced sandwiches and burgers made from local ingredients (there are a few mains, too, like jambalaya and coconut curry shrimp) or just kick back with an island beer, kombucha, or homemade lemonade. Happy hour is 4–6 p.m., there’s a garden to the side if you want to eat outside, and that oh-so-moreish ketchup and hot sauce on each table? It’s made in-house, and bottles are for sale.
61-3616 Kawaihae Road
This unassuming trailer in a parking lot opposite a port in Kawaihae serves what may be the best shave ice on Hawaii Island, and possibly in the whole state. Why? First up, the syrups (divided into artificial, creamy, and fruit) really taste of what they are supposed to. This is one shave ice where you need to be careful which flavors you combine, because they don’t just bleed into each other. (Also note that the li hing mui comes with the powder, too, so get ready for that strange salty/sour/sweet hit.) More importantly, however, is the texture, which is smooth and creamy and more like compacted snow than ice. It was so different from anything we’d had before that we asked the staff whether they used a different machine than everyone else. Nope—they just make it using the technique their grandmother passed down to them.
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